by James M. Wall
I have a good friend, well educated and well informed, who says she gets her news from Jon Stewart. No Way! But guess what, I found a You Tube clip from Stewart which turns out to be best analysis yet about the AIPAC conference at which all three presidential candidates appeared and tried their best to outdo one another in pandering to hardline supporters of Israel.
Trouble is, as Stewart points out, AIPAC is so yesterday. He even described their members as the “Elders of Zion”, a reference to their age and loss of power, not to those ancient documents that inspire anti-semitism. Obama, Clinton and McCain spent precious campaign time with a bunch of old guys–and ladies–believing they were speaking to the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the country. They were not, and when they wake up to that fact they are really going to feel foolish.
Lets face reality here, the Mearsheimer-Walt book on the Israel Lobby exposed AIPAC as, well, a lobby, not another branch of the US government. Washington is full of lobbyists; the list is long: The NRA, teachers, labor unions, farmers, corporations that do business in Latin America, oil companies, environmentalists that frighten us about global warming.
Good folks, for the most part; they throw nice parties. But since they are so clearly biased for their causes, members of Congress have learned to take them–and their money, thank you very much– with gratitude and a grain of salt, depending on how much influence they still have in specific districts and states.
Now Stewart tells us that AIPAC, which has recently had two of its top staffers hauled into federal court with allegations they took secrets belonging to the US government and gave them to Israel, is fast losing its grip on the American government. Once Mearsheimer and Walt brought the Israel Lobby into public view, they lost much of their once-vaunted power.
Power words best when its flaws are not exposed to light. AIPAC now has competition, the J Street lobby, which has set up shop in DC. J Street brings new money from Jewish and Progressive sources who are tired of having AIPAC claim they are the only players in town who understand Israel. Candidates for Congress now have two places to go to obtain money for their campaigns, the old guys with money and the new guys with money.
Obama, Clinton and McCain must not have gotten the memo. They spoke to AIPAC as though it is still the 1980s. Obama, especially, lost some of his glow as the new kid in town when he tried to outdo Clinton and McCain in bragging about his Jewish influences and his trips to Israel. Between them they have maybe a half dozen trips. Not really very impressive, as travel to the region goes.
Obama is the smartest guy in the race and he should not be making mistakes when he speaks on foreign policy. With his best informed Middle East experts removed from his campaign team, at least until he had wrapped up the nomination, Obama went to the AIPAC conference with only a few hardline Zionists in the speech writing room, Someone gave him false information which led him to include a big No No in his speech,
Obama promised AIPAC he would give Israel full control over an undivided Jerusalem. Which Jerusalem, east, west, Old City, suburbs, settlements? He did not bother to say. Obama qualified his gaffe within a few hours, saying, oops, not really. It will be the involved “parties” who will have to reach a final decision on Jerusalem, among themselves.
It is time for Obama to call up those Middle East experts he dispatched to his farm club, valuable players he sent down until he could win the Democratic pennant. Now is the time to bring them back up for the Show. The World Series looms. Until then, his supporters can be grateful he has Jon Stewart to remind him that just because AIPAC used to be the only Jewish game in town, nothing lasts for ever.
Daniel Levy, writing on the the Century Foundation and the New American Foundation blog, reminded us, and hopefully Obama, that he is not alone Obama is our first cyber space candidate. A handy laptop on his travels will keep him in touch with progressive blogs and web sites that will reassure him that with AIPAC’s power fading, change is possible, even in the Middle East. There are younger Jewish generations in town, many of whom remember their Jewish ethical training. And many of them turn to Jon Stewart for the news.
As many of you know, the title of this posting is drawn from a title of a book by the late, great, Molly Ivins. What a terrible shame she is not around to cover this campaign. It is going to be a doozy.