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Chris Matthews’s thought bubble: we cut the deal to create Israel and we can’t go back on it

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The first abdication tonight was that Chris Matthews led his show with a discussion of Obama’s new political tone. When even the NBC nightly news had led with the Rick Perry gauntlet to Obama on Israel. So Matthews buried the political lead.

Then when he did get to the Israel story, second in the lineup, Matthews framed the story by asserting strongly, I think Rick Perry is trying to appeal to evangelicals in Iowa. I.e., Matthews signaled that he didn’t want to talk about N.Y. Jews, let alone Jewish money, and it was guest John Heilemann of New York magazine, going further than he did in his piece on Obama, to say that Obama had alienated “a lot of Jewish donors,” because of his Israel attitude. 

“It is a real problem,” Heilemann said. “Because people forget that back in 2008… [before the internet craze for giving to Obama], the core of his support of the financial community, the core of his support in terms of fundraising was Wall Street donors… He can’t afford to lose any major bundler support…”

This kind of talk makes Matthews uncomfortable.

He changed the subject immediately to Jewish voters. And talked about our “sensibility.” Jews love America, he said. “Of course they also love Israel,” but they love this country because it’s secular and not going to turn into any “theocracy,” which is going to push them around; and Rick Perry scares them on this front, because he has an evangelical belief in the end times, and Jews won’t be saved when the rapture comes…

Matthews refused to take Heilemann’s point: Jewish money is in play, and some of it can be stripped from Obama.

It is important to understand that George W. Bush played this game in 2000, and McCain tried in ’08. Bush’s transition team reached out to neoconservative Douglas Feith to be Under Secretary of the Pentagon — Douglas Feith a nobody lawyer — just days after Sheldon Adelson gave the last third of $300,000 to the Republican National State Election Committee. Adelson and Feith were both involved with One Jerusalem, which was opposed to the division of Jerusalem pushed by Bill Clinton in the Camp David negotiations earlier that year. And of course Bush filled his administration with neocons.

My point is that by playing the one-Jerusalem card, there is actually a lot of pro-Israel money in the Jewish community that Republicans think they can get or, just as important, can maybe alienate from Obama.

How many Christian Zionists do you see demonstrating outside the U.N.?

I think I know where Matthews stands on Israel. He buys the dream. He reveres Jews as he reveres Catholics, because they are equal constituents in the classic Democratic coalition that built the America he’s been successful in. And in his pat history-book-on-the-nightstand way, Matthews says to himself: Look, that was the deal after the second World War, OK, the Jews got Israel because the world needed to respond morally to the Holocaust. Jews had been persecuted for centuries. And it was a good deal, Truman had guts, and you don’t go back on such an important deal, and the U.S. is the enforcer of that deal…

Matthews is old school. I think he’s going to go to the grave with this understanding. He went to Israel in the last year. I wonder if he saw any of the people being persecuted by an ethnocracy…

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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