As the negotiators meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, to try and ink an Iran deal, so much is happening in U.S. politics that you need a kaleidoscope to figure things out. Obama’s pivot away from Israel has created a vacuum inside U.S. politics, and everyone and his brother is rushing in to support Israel.
The New York Times reports that Israel has become the new litmus test inside the Republican Party. Certainly the presidentials are elbowing one another out of the way on the issue. Scott Walker says he’d kibosh an Iran deal if he becomes president; Jeb Bush throws his father’s best friend, Jim Baker, under the bus for criticizing Israel.
But the Dems aren’t far behind. It looks like Chuck Schumer is going to be the next minority leader of the Senate, if the retiring Harry Reid has his wish. And Chris Matthews does an entire segment on the Republicans fawning over Israel and another on Schumer’s elevation and doesn’t mention the Israel lobby once, let alone the pot of gold under Sheldon Adelson’s rainbow, awaiting the Republican candidate who does the most to support Israel. (So I guess our website is still in business for another day, filling in the blanks.)
OK let’s slow it down. First, here’s John Kerry, supposed on his way to buying chocolates in Lausanne this morning, and looking upbeat.
Here’s Kerry with a lot of important men at a table in Switzerland.
And here’s the Iranian Foreign Minister on the phone. Serious.
Next, here’s the Peter Baker piece in the New York Times on how Republicans have become the hard-core support-Israel party. Baker quotes from James Baker’s speech at J Street. See how quickly he got thrown under the bus.
In his speech on Monday night, Mr. Baker said he had “been disappointed with the lack of progress toward a lasting peace” between Israelis and Palestinians and recalled that Mr. Netanyahu had once spoken out in favor of a Palestinian state as part of an eventual solution.
“Since then, his actions have not matched his rhetoric as settlement construction has continued unabated and last week, under intense political strain, he announced his opposition to a two-state solution,” Mr. Baker said. …
Within minutes, conservatives on Twitter blasted Mr. Baker, who served under Mr. Bush, and who had just been listed as an adviser to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor now poised to run for president. By the next morning, Jeb Bush authorized his spokeswoman to publicly differ.
“While he respects Secretary Baker, he disagrees with the sentiments he expressed last night and opposes J Street’s advocacy,” said the spokeswoman, Kristy Campbell. “Governor Bush’s support for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu is unwavering, and he believes it’s critically important our two nations work seamlessly to achieve peace in the region.”
The Times is halfway-straightforward about the donor circus:
The shift in the party’s attitude toward Israel stems from several factors, according to Republicans — a greater sense of solidarity in the fight against Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks increased support for the Jewish state among evangelical Christians and the influence of wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate. And the more Mr. Obama feuds with Mr. Netanyahu, the more Republicans feel motivated to come to the Israeli leader’s defense.
Bill Kristol has tweeted out the Times piece, triumphantly:
“Bibi would probably win the Republican nomination if it were legal.” Support for Israel Becomes New Litmus Test
Kristol is quoted in that piece:
Mr. Kristol, emailing from Israel where he was meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, described the shift as a result of broader underlying trends in American politics as the political left grows more “European” and the political right grows more “Reaganite.” He added that “the conservative belief in American exceptionalism is akin to Zionism.”
The Times should have mentioned that Kristol once bragged about purging Jim Baker and other alleged “Arabists” from the Republican Party. He didn’t do that by appealing to Christian Zionists, but in the back rooms. Sheldon Adelson gave the Republican Party hundreds of thousands of dollars as George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000.
Here’s Scott Walker saying that he’ll scotch the Iran deal as soon as he becomes president.
As I say, Chris Matthews did an entire segment last night on the Republican loyalty to Israel without one g-d word about the Israel lobby, or the wealthy donors the Times mentioned. Liberals and leftwingers will never be able to win on this issue till they identify the opponent. Matthews really owes it to his viewers to have Jim Lobe on. Lobe says that the Republican antics are about getting money from big conservative Jews:
Now, it may be that Bush feels he has to say such things in order to appeal to the Republican base constituencies, including ardent Christian Zionists who are most likely to vote in the party’s presidential primaries. But I sense that this is more about campaign finance and wooing Adelson and very wealthy colleagues, such as Paul Singer, in the Republican Jewish Coalition. Readers of this blog, of course, remember last year’s so-called “Sheldon Primary” at Adelson’s Venetian casino resort in Las Vegas where a sizable number of presidential hopefuls “kissed the ring” of a man who probably contributed more money to defeating Obama in 2012 than any other. It was also where Chris Christie, that tough guy from New Jersey, felt obliged to personally apologize to Adelson for referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories.” It was at that same event that Jeb Bush himself was the featured speaker at an exclusive dinner at his company’s private airplane hangar at the Las Vegas airport.
Of course, Adelson and his Israeli wife, Miriam, have also long supported Netanyahu. At the Israeli leader’s speech before Congress earlier this month, the couple was seated as House Speaker Boehner’s guests of honor in the front row of the House gallery. Later that night, Adelson co-hosted a fund-raiser for Graham, who, as noted above, had already vowed to follow Bibi wherever he may lead. Indeed, Graham, whose hawkishness on Iran has never flagged, could well emerge as the Newt Gingrich of the 2016 presidential race. Gingrich, whose 2012 presidential campaign was virtually singlehandedly kept afloat by some $15 million contributed to it by the Adelsons, made it clear that, for Adelson, Israel was priority number one.
Jeb’s latest statement of devotion, of course, comes on the eve of Boehner’s trip to Israel, a gracious “thank you” from Bibi for the speaker’s cooperation (possibly lubricated by Adelson’s promises for more campaign funding for Republicans?) in arranging Netanyahu’s address to Congress.
Speaking of Lindsey Graham, here he is on an important errand. Trita Parsi is justly snarky about it.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) March 22, 2015
Are the Dems so much better? Robert Menendez is working hard against the Iran deal.
Oh and Chuck Schumer, who has called himself Israel’s guardian, could replace Harry Reid as the Senate minority leader. Bloomberg’s Richard Rubin says the nod is controversial, and why– because of Schumer’s ties to big Wall Street money.
Democrats weighing whether to support Schumer will look closely at his ties to Wall Street and the New York-based financial industry, particularly amid the rise of Warren, who was brought into the Democrats’ leadership team this year.
Neil Sroka, a spokesman for Democracy for America, said the next Senate Democratic leader should be someone from the [Elizabeth] Warren wing of the party or sympathetic with it.
Chris Matthews also said last night that Schumer raises a lot of money. And why? MJ Rosenberg explains this:
The bagman: Schumer to head Senate Dems b/c he can deliver the cash from AIPAC & Wall Street.
The next Senate Democratic leader. And this is why. pic.twitter.com/s9kWLj7fe3
— MJ Rosenberg (@MJayRosenberg) March 28, 2015
The rightwing is happy! Josh Block of the Israel Project:
Schumer, New Co-Sponsor of Iran Oversight Bill, Tapped to Succeed Reid as Sen. Minority Leader