Usually the media downplays any hint that strongly identified Jews acting out of Jewish motives are able to influence American politics or anything else. But Sheldon Adelson’s conference of Republican hopefuls apparently was too obvious, especially in the wake of his donating around $100 million to Republicans in the 2012 election cycle (and “much more in 2016“).
So the LATimes made it official: Republicans who are serious about being nominated for president had better genuflect before Jewish money: “2016 Republican hopefuls hope to woo Jewish donors.”
The occasion was a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in which Adelson was only one of many politically active Jewish billionaires. And what do Jewish billionaires care about?
During speeches Saturday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all addressed the key concerns of Adelson and many group members — the threat of a nuclear Iran, their desire to strengthen U.S. ties with Israel, and what they view as the waning prestige of the U.S. abroad. With varying degrees of deftness, the candidates each touched on their own ties to Israel and Jewish tradition.
Ah yes, the real issues facing America. I guess we are supposed to believe that, like every neocon who ever graced the op-ed pages of our elite media, these rich Jewish Republicans are absolutely certain that American interests are being served with their obsession about Israel.
For his part, Adelson is looking for a candidate who is on board with nuking Iran. Last year he made the following comments to an appreciative audience at Yeshiva University:
What are we going to negotiate about? I would say ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’
The two clear winners in the groveling sweepstakes are Kasich and Walker:
Kasich, who had been sitting next to Adelson at the Saturday luncheon, addressed him by name repeatedly throughout his post-meal remarks, as if the conversation was one-on-one.
He also reminisced about his push to build a Holocaust memorial on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse.
“I want people to know about courage, and principle, and about the Jewish faith and the Jewish people so that it will never happen again,” he said to applause.
That’s good. And it’s an especially good touch to mention the importance of principle, since obviously Kasich himself is a deeply principled person who would never let personal ambition lead him to compromise his deeply held beliefs.
But let’s face it. Holocaust memorials are a dime a dozen these days. So I’m thinking it’s still wide open for Walker.
And he delivers!
Walker emphasized that he decorates his house during the holidays with Christmas lights as well as a menorah candle. He also noted that his son’s name, Matthew, means “gift from god” in Hebrew.
Tough to beat that. Walker has deeply internalized the identity of his masters, to the point that his own religion has to share space with Sheldon’s. And that deep personal identification with his master’s religion means that he’s a good bet to carry out Sheldon’s dream of bombing Iran into the Stone Age.
Walker also has luck on his side. I’m betting he’s thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t name his son Siegfried.
But, you might be thinking that these are clumsy and obvious attempts to suck up to big money. Adelson and his pals will see through them in a heartbeat. They’re sophisticated guys after all, and anyone can claim to put up a menorah at Christmas. At the very least, Walker should have showed the audience his home movies documenting his Christmas menorah and maybe highlighting the Kosher labels on the food served at Christmas dinner. And those priceless shots of little Matthew playing with a dreidel would have been a huge hit.
So there’s still some room for improvement. How much better to combine fealty to Israel by emphasizing that other policy so near and dear to the hearts of wealthy Jewish Republicans — the immigration amnesty/surge bill. Jeb Bush nailed it:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is being encouraged to run by many Republican donors, headlined a private VIP reception and dinner in Adelson’s airplane hangar Thursday night, where he made the case for immigration reform and demurred on questions about his presidential plans. The top billing for Bush at the more intimate event was an early signal of Adelson’s leanings at a time when no clear leader has emerged for the 2016 GOP nomination.
Bush was obviously quite aware that, like the rest of the RJC (see also here and here), Adelson is a social liberal, as he proclaimed in the Wall Street Journal in December: “I’m basically a social liberal.” Not much of a chance that a socially conservative Republican will get the nomination.
But Chris Christie obviously has very poor handlers, stumbling into a major faux pas:
For Christie, Saturday’s tryout showed the potential for missteps when governors wade into foreign policy at this early stage. During an otherwise warmly received speech, Christie’s mention of a helicopter flight over “occupied territories” — terminology used by Israel’s critics — during his trip to Israel sent murmurs and whispers of surprise through the conservative audience.
To be sure, Christie did his best to apologize for stating the obvious (Sheldon and his buddies much prefer “disputed territory” which implies that Israel is asserting a legitimate claim to the West Bank, presumably based on G-d’s promise in Genesis): “he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”
But even that didn’t go over well. Zionist hardliner Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America (who said that Mearsheimer and Walt’s book on the Israel Lobby was a reincarnation of the Protocols) concluded that the governor “either doesn’t understand the issue at all, or he’s hostile to Israel.”
Gov. Christie has much to learn.
The groveling by Republicans before Jewish money was so bad that Forward editor J.J. Goldberg made fun of it:
Amid mounting alarm that anti-Semitism is on the rise in key spots around the globe — and fears that Israel could be a prime target — a prominent Republican group has come up with a unique approach to fighting back: gather a bunch of Jewish zillionaires at a casino in Las Vegas, announce plans to buy the White House in 2016 and invite leading politicians to come, hat in hand, and beg for permission to be the candidate. …
Now, before you go accusing the Post (or me) of spreading anti-Semitic stereotypes, consider what the word means. Merriam-Webster defines “stereotype” as “an often unfair and untrue belief.” The World English Dictionary calls it “a set of inaccurate, simplistic generalizations.” Cardwell’s 1996 Dictionary of Psychology defines it rather more broadly as “a fixed, over generalized belief.” Nobody’s definition seems to include a straightforward recitation of facts that one would prefer remain hidden. That probably falls under the category of “a no-no.”
Of course, there are a whole lot of other facts that the organized Jewish community would prefer remain hidden and undiscussed in polite circles—the power of the Israel Lobby and Jewish influence in the media being probably the two biggest 800-lb. gorillas.
I suspect that Goldberg’s humor comes from a position of power. He can say such things to a Jewish audience knowing that there’s no possibility that the role of Jewish money in politics will become widely discussed in the mainstream media.
But seriously, this was a disgusting display. American politics at its worst.