Gingrich, bowing out, thanks Adelsons


Newt Gingrich, bowing out of the race for the Republican presidential nod, thanked Miriam and Sheldon Adelson for helping to sustain his campaign.

“We share a combined concern about the Middle East and a combined concern about American security and the survival of Israel,” Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, said Wednesday in remarks that effectively handed the GOP nomination to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

Gingrich held the lead in the first caucus state, Iowa, but a barrage of negative ads by pro-Romney SuperPACs—fundraising bodies not officially affiliated with a candidate—crippled Gingrich, who vowed retribution. He and his supporters would later run negative ads against Romney. Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who dropped out of the race last month, narrowly won in Iowa.

Gingrich recovered in substantial part because of $25 million funneled by the Adelsons to SuperPACs backing him, but ultimately could not catch up with Santorum or Romney.

“While they weren’t directly associated with the campaign, it would be impossible for me to be here and thank everybody without mentioning Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who singlehandedly came pretty close to matching Romney’s SuperPAC,” Gingrich said in his remarks.

Gingrich and Adelson have been friends since Gingrich’s term as House speaker in the mid-1990s, coming together because of shared thinking about Israel and skepticism of the motives of the Palestinians, along with a shared antipathy of labor unions. Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul, has clashed repeatedly with unions.

Adelson defended Gingrich when he drew criticism from Romney for saying the Palestinians were not a people.

Adelson reportedly has assured the Romney camp that he will now direct his efforts to backing the presumptive nominee.

Romney’s only remaining rival, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has virtually no chance of challenging him in the delegate race.

Israel top foreign policy issue at GOP debate


Israel was the foreign policy topic most often raised by viewers ahead of a Republican presidential debate.

Fox News Channel launched the foreign policy round of the debate on Thursday night by noting that Israel was by far the biggest word in its foreign policy “word cloud” culled by Google from questions compiled ahead of the debate.

Moderators asked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and entrepreneur Herman Cain how they viewed the attempt this week by the Palestinian Authority to win statehood recognition through the United Nations.

Both candidates earned loud applause from the Orlando, Fla. audience by chiding President Obama for creating distance between the U.S. and israeli governments.

“You don’t allow an inch of space to exist between you, and your friends and allies,” Romney said.

31 senators sign resolution against 1967 borders


U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced a resolution calling an Israeli return to 1967 lines “contrary to United States policy and national security.”

The resolution introduced June 9 is co-signed by 29 other senators, including at least two Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

It declares “that it is the policy of the United States to support and facilitate Israel in maintaining defensible borders and that it is contrary to United States policy and national security to have the borders of Israel return to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967.”

In a major Middle East policy speech last month, President Barack Obama called for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to be restarted on the basis of 1967 borders with “mutually agreed upon land swaps.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected these borders as a starting point, calling them “indefensible.” The Palestinians say they will not return to the negotiating table unless the 1967 borders are used as the basis for discussing borders in the negotiations.

The 36th contenders: Both pro-Israel, different on all else


When South Bay Republican Craig Huey, who has never before held public office, finished second in the May 17 special election to fill the empty seat in California’s 36th Congressional District, he didn’t just surprise political observers.

He also surprised the only candidate who got more votes than he did in the first round of the race to replace former Congresswoman Jane Harman.

“I think everyone thought it would be Debra Bowen,” first-place finisher and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said in an interview with The Jewish Journal.

In a first round of voting that included 16 candidates, Huey finished behind the Democratic Hahn but managed to edge out the better-known Bowen, also a Democrat, who has served as California’s Secretary of State since 2007. The final margin between the second- and third-place candidates ended up being fewer than 1,000 votes.

The election was California’s first ever “jungle primary” — a system that was voted into practice by Californians in a 2010 ballot initiative that replaced the old system of party-based primaries. And although many expected the runoff to be between two Democratic candidates — the district has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans — the two candidates in the election on July 12 will be from opposing political parties.

Hahn and Huey differ on nearly every issue — tax policy, the future of the country’s health care system and gay marriage, to name just three — but the two seem in almost complete agreement when it comes to unhesitating support for Israel.

At least Hahn thinks so: “There’s a lot of things that we’re miles apart on, but I don’t know if there’s any differences in the way that we would support Israel,” she said.

Huey, speaking in an interview after President Barack Obama’s speech at the State Department on May 19 (but before he spoke to the AIPAC convention on May 22), disagreed.

“I’d like to have Janice Hahn be clear on her position with regards to President Obama calling for a freeze on building in Israel,” Huey said. “I would like her to be clear on whether or not she supports the call to take the boundaries back to 1967, which would make Israel unsafe.”

Hahn was asked about Israeli settlements at a candidates’ forum sponsored by Democrats for Israel last month. She said that the focus on settlements was unhelpful to the peace process, but she also said that the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in March 2010 to announce the approval of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem at precisely the moment when Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country “probably didn’t help the peace process.”

Asked on May 23 about Obama’s two much-dissected comments about using Israel’s pre-1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Hahn said she “was concerned by his remarks [at the State Department], as were many of my Jewish friends.” 

Hahn’s worry was that the president “would put conditions on Israel in terms of where they started in the negotiations about the ’67 borders — without putting a similar condition on the Palestinians and what they had to do to come to the table.”

Huey, who runs a direct-marketing business and publishes multiple Web sites to help guide voters to support conservative candidates in elections, raised more money than any other candidate in the electoral race — mostly by personally lending his campaign $500,000.

He was not surprised by his own good showing in the primary: “It was quite a surprise to Washington and to the political elite and to the news media,” Huey told The Jewish Journal. “It was not a surprise to me, no, based upon what I was hearing from the folks in the district. They’re very upset with the status quo and the policies that are backed by the special interests.”

In terms of policies, Huey supports term limits of 12 years for representatives in Congress and would repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which he termed “Obamacare.” He would vote against all tax increases, for an end to the estate tax and for making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He supports Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) call to abolish the Federal Reserve. And although Huey hasn’t been endorsed by the Tea Party, he said he does have “a lot of Tea Party support because they like my economic message.”

Craig Huey (Photo by Marta Evry)

“But,” he added, “I also have longshoreman support and union support, because they like my message.”

Huey’s Web site includes endorsements from a handful of elected officials, a few dozen business leaders and hundreds of “our neighbors” — but as of early this week, it didn’t list any unions that support him.

Hahn’s Web site, by contrast, listed dozens of unions’ endorsements. They were printed just below a lengthy list of national, state and local elected officials who have thrown their support behind Hahn.

Most of Hahn’s positions differ from Huey’s: “It’s such a clear choice on so many issues,” Hahn said. “Social Security, Medicare, a woman’s right to choose — there’s just so many issues that we’re so different on.”

“He wants to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, the poor and the disabled,”

Hahn said of her opponent. “I believe that there are other ways to cut spending and bring in revenue.”

Speaking specifically about the budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and approved by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives last month — which Huey said he would support — Hahn called it a bad idea. “The Ryan plan would dismantle Medicare,” Hahn said. “And the seniors I talk to are very worried about that.”

How would Hahn balance the budget?

“First of all, I would bring our troops back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Hahn said. She also would vote to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts — “millionaires and billionaires ought to be paying their fair share of taxes,” she said, adding that Obama’s health care bill deserves a chance to work.

“I believe that [Huey] does not represent this district,” Hahn said. I believe that his interests are just so to the right of this district.”

“He ain’t gonna win the July runoff,” Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant and the publisher of the “California Target Book” said of Huey’s chances. “The question is, is he really going to spend more of his own money in a race that he really can’t win?”

In the first round, 56 percent of the votes cast were for Democratic candidates, while 41 percent of voters went with a Republican candidate.

Huey, however, remains confident he can swing enough independent voters to make it a race.

“What we’re finding is that people are very upset about the huge, $1.6 trillion budget deficit,” Huey said when asked about his crossover potential.

He also talked about the national debt, which he described as “$427,000 of debt for every man, woman and child.”

“The issue of the debt is something that really angers people,” Huey said. “We’re paying 12 billion a month in interest and a lot of it is going to China — and people don’t like that.”

“The independents get it,” Huey added.

Huey and Hahn did appear at events together in advance of the primary round of voting, and the two campaigns are still negotiating when and where the candidates will appear between now and the second round.

Marty Kaplan: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Streets


The power has gone out in a typical American town.  Wait—it’s not just the electricity.  The phones don’t work, either.  Portable radios are dead.  Cars won’t start. 

But then lawn mowers and cars and lights inexplicably start and stop on their own. What’s going on?  A meteor?  Sunspots?  Or are there, as Tommy’s comic book suggests, aliens among us, preparing for a takeover? Suspicion poisons the air. Neighbor turns on neighbor. A scapegoat is blamed. A shot is fired.  Panic, madness, riot.

And while the humans behave monstrously, the real monsters watch from a nearby hilltop, working a little gizmo that messes with the power on Maple Street and marveling how easy it is to manipulate these earthlings into destroying themselves.

In what is arguably the best “Twilight Zone” episode ever, “” target=”_hplink”>declared their willingness to return to the table and negotiate a shared sacrifice. The monsters are on Wall Street, where state pension funds were sunk into toxic sub-prime mortgage-backed securities.  The monsters are on K Street, where lobbyists are fighting financial industry oversight. The monsters are the politicians who are using Wisconsin’s deficit as a pretext to ” target=”_hplink”>so be it” language of their leadership, you’d think that the federal deficit is caused by the very people who who’ve been suffering the most in this recession.

But the monsters aren’t low-income ” target=”_hplink”>health insurance to cover them; or ” target=”_hplink”>Pell Grants; or people who think their government’s job includes preventing their air and water from ” target=”_hplink”>billionaires who’ve benefited from a massive transfer of wealth from the middle to the top and whose political puppets protect them from paying their fair share of taxes.

They’re the corporations whose cash has convinced Congress to deregulate industry after industry, despite all evidence that it is the enforcement of rules – not the magic of the marketplace—that protects the public’s rights.

They’re the defense contractors and pork appropriators who’ve used the cover of “national security” to shield the Pentagon’s budget and its procurement process from the cuts and reforms that even Republicans like the Secretary of Defense are advocating.

They’re the front groups and propagandists, like FreedomWorks and Fox, who use class warfare and culture wars in order to turn Americans against their own economic interests.

They’re the Supreme Court justices whose Citizens United decision, overthrowing a century of settled law, has made our campaign finance system an open sewer, and whose indifference to ” target=”_hplink”>coming case promises to throw sick people back onto the tender mercies of insurers and to destroy our best hope to curb Medicare costs – further ballooning the deficit and providing cover for even more draconian cuts.

The game in Washington is to use the deficit as camouflage for destroying government’s capacity to promote the general welfare.  The game in Wisconsin and other states whose new Republican governors and legislative majorities are feeling their oats is to shelter the income of the wealthiest, and to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class. 

At the end of the episode, Rod Serling says this:  “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men.  For the record: Prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own—for the children, and the children yet unborn.  And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the twilight zone.”

Sometimes it’s hard to watch the news and not think that things are surreal.  The other day, when what’s been happening in Madison reminded me of what happened on “Maple Street,” I suddenly realized the theme music that goes with it.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.