A few weeks back Chris Matthews of MSNBC went on a tear against the “neocons and the piggish money behind them” in response to a scare ad saying that Sen. Rand Paul’s support for a nuclear deal with Iran is “dangerous.” In an angry populist speech, Matthews said:
The cloth-coat regular Republicans who send their kids to war are not the ones who pay for these ads. They are totally different people. The ones who send their kids to war and come home maimed, and wondering what they hell they were doing it for — those people are not impressed by these goddamn ads.
Matthews was roundly blasted by neoconservatives for sounding such a populist message. But Matthews isn’t going away. Now that the Iraq war is being reviewed and re-embraced, he is taking on the neoconservatives hammer and tongs. Last night he was at the porcine theme again, talking about big “pig” donors who “want wars.”
What I see… is an auctioning of souls. I’m watching politicians saying what they’re supposed to say in order to win the backing of some wealthy bullying benefactor, someone who wants politicians to do what they tell them to do, do everything they tell them to do – a person we would have called back in the sixties – a pig….
All the people we used to call “pigs” want is what they wanted back in the Vietnam era: they want wars….
I’d like to see some character out there, wouldn’t you?
Wouldn’t it be great for some of the Republican candidates to stand up to the money guys and say: “If you want a presidential nominee who will do what the Bushes did, go from war to war – look elsewhere.”
Matthews has hinted at the role of the Israel lobby in this mess. Last week, for instance, he said that Jeb Bush was trying to please “a Jewish group with a lot of hawks in the room” when he celebrated the Iraq war.
While it is important to separate Jews from neoconservatives (physically, spiritually and intellectually), Alex Lazar at the Center for Responsive Politics says what Matthews does in a report on Lindsey Graham’s backing: “Jewish Conservatives Form Infrastructure of Graham’s Potential 2016 Donor Base.” Two names figure prominently:
Before launching his 2016 exploratory committee, known as Security Through Strength, Graham benefited from some big contributions to West Main Street Values, the super PAC set up by Graham allies to help him win re-election in 2014.
Those who gave big bucks to the super PAC include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as businessmen from Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.
Two individuals to keep an eye on from this list going forward are Larry Mizel and Sam Fox. Fox, a former ambassador to Belgium during the George W. Bush administration, gave $50,000 to the super PAC. Mizel, a Colorado businessman, ponied up double that amount at $100,000.
Mizel is also chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group; a board member on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the country’s largest pro-Israel lobbying group; and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) board of directors. Fox, for his part, is a former chairman of the RJC.
Lazar also says that several board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition have given to Graham, including the “big kahuna” Sheldon Adelson, who wants to nuke Iran.
Adelson, in fact, co-hosted a fundraiser for Graham’s exploratory committee in February; Mizel and Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the RJC, were among the attendees.
Lazar and Matthews aren’t the only ones bringing religion into this political discussion. Graham himself quipped that he will have an “all-Jewish cabinet” given all his pro-Israel support.
Then of course there’s Marco Rubio. His $10-25 million backer is Norman Braman, who has said that the U.S. must stay strong economically and as a military power in order to sustain Israel.
Eli Clifton notes Graham and Rubio are rivaling one another as hawks:
Graham may be challenging Rubio’s position as the most hawkish candidate in the GOP’s primary field and the recipient of millions of dollars in RJC-affiliated campaign contributions. Given his expected campaign kickoff next month, however, he may have already raised the required $15 million.
I emphasize Chris Matthews because I sense he’s reached a breaking point on the media silence around these issues. He’s now repeatedly bashed the moneyed neoconservative push for war and also brought Jewishness into it, by which he surely means Zionism. I don’t think he’ll lose his job. He’s too careful, which is to say, vague. He has made it a point to stress American popular support for Israel, or distinguish the Republican support for the settlement project from the Democratic support for Israel, or describe the wonders of his own trips to Israel, or say that no American president can allow Iran to get a nuclear weapons. But he seems to have snapped on the general hypocrisy surrounding the political question of US support for militarism in the Middle East; and we can hope that in weeks/months/the year to come when the Democrats also disappoint him, he will begin to explain the differences between Zionism and Judaism, and begin to advance the idea that democracy might be a good thing for Israel and Palestine.
One other point re Matthews. Last night he said that Johnny Carson broke his own vow of silence on talking politics after his neighbor Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968; he came out for laws against handgun sales on the Tonight Show. Chris Matthews surely loved Bobby Kennedy. I’d make this challenge to him: Bobby Kennedy died in part because our policy in Israel and Palestine maddened a Palestinian American– 20 years after George Marshall, the secretary of state whom Matthews honored for “character” on his show the other day, said that US recognition of Israel would lead to endless unrest. It’s now been almost 70 years of unrest in that region, extending into neighboring countries in part because of neoconservative warmongering, with a massacre in Gaza just last summer. Maybe it’s time for our country to go back to the drawing board?
P.S. A year ago NPR’s Ailsa Chang did a report on Lindsey Graham’s support for Sheldon Adelson’s gambling interests, without saying a word about Israel. I think that Israel is the real game here, for Adelson and Graham, which would make that NPR report disinformative.