Hidden Agenda?
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 13, 2003

The Jewish question is out of the closet.

First a Virginia congressman inserts all five toes into his mouth by saying that the Jews are pushing us into war with Iraq.

Then Pat Buchanan, who once complained about Israel's "amen chorus" in Congress, argues that a bunch of neoconservatives who happen to be Jewish are pushing us into war with Iraq.

This is getting ugly, fast.

There are plenty of good reasons to be against bombing Baghdad. But to portray President Bush's heartfelt desire to rid the world of a dictator and his weapons of mass destruction as part of a Jewish conspiracy is, somehow, insulting.

What's at work here, in varying degrees, is the old "dual loyalty" charge that is tossed at Americans of different ethnic extractions, but especially Jews. Do they really have the best interests of the US of A at heart, or are they just trying to help their ancestral homeland?

That's sad. Actually, many Jews are worried about spinoff effects from a war with Iraq – Saddam raining Scuds on Israel, for example, or an upsurge in Palestinian terror attacks.

Let's stipulate up front that it would be good for Israel, as well as America, to be rid of Saddam. Does that mean Jewish Americans harbor ulterior motives? After all, Saddam's ouster would also be good for Britain, and Spain, and many other places.

Jim Moran, a Democratic congressman from Alexandria who has not been a fan of Israel, had this to say the other day:

"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

Translation: The Jews are pulling the strings here.

Moran, who has a troubling history including taking a loan from a lobbyist he was doing legislative business with, apologized. Ari Fleischer said Moran's comments were "shocking" and "wrong." Tom Daschle called them "totally out of line." "Intolerable," said Terry McAuliffe. Virginia Sen. George Allen, a Republican, said the remarks were "deplorable and offensive not just to Jewish Americans, but to all Americans."

But the condemnation, it's fair to say, has not reached Lott-like levels.

"Charges of 'dual loyalty' and countercharges of anti-Semitism have become common in the feud, with some war opponents even asserting that Mr. Bush's most hawkish advisers – many of them Jewish – are putting Israel's interests ahead of those of the United States in provoking a war with Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein," says the Washington Times.

"MSNBC talk-show host Chris Matthews said war supporters in the Bush Pentagon were 'in bed' with Israeli hawks eager to take out Saddam. That line of argument has spurred a furious counterattack, with many saying that some of the criticism has crossed the line from legitimate policy debate to classic anti-Semitism."

Buchanan, the three-time presidential candidate who recently launched the magazine American Conservative, joins the debate with a big cover story (one of the benefits of running your own magazine). The MSNBC commentator has long argued for an isolationist foreign policy, been at war with elements of the Republican Party (as demonstrated by his defection to the Perotistas in 2000) and fended off charges of animosity toward Israel.

"The War Party may have gotten its war," he writes. "But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged. In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: 'Can you assure American viewers . . . that we're in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?'

"Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table, and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated firefight, our neoconservative friends are doing what comes naturally, seeking student deferments from political combat by claiming the status of a persecuted minority group. . . .

"David Brooks of the Weekly Standard wails that attacks based on the Israel tie have put him through personal hell: 'Now I get a steady stream of anti-Semitic screeds in my e-mail, my voicemail and in my mailbox. . . . Anti-Semitism is alive and thriving. It's just that its epicenter is no longer on the Buchananite Right, but on the peace-movement left.' . . .

"Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic charges that our little magazine 'has been transformed into a forum for those who contend that President Bush has become a client of . . . Ariel Sharon and the "neoconservative war party."' . . .

"The neoconservatives are trying to fend off critics by assassinating their character and impugning their motives. Indeed, it is the charge of 'anti-Semitism' itself that is toxic. . . . Neocons say we attack them because they are Jewish. We do not. We attack them because their warmongering threatens our country, even as it finds a reliable echo in Ariel Sharon."

Then Buchanan throws down the gauntlet:

"We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords."

A cabal? "Colluding" with Israel?

David Frum dismisses the argument: "Buchanan's authority to decide which wars are in America's interest and which are not is rather badly tarnished by his own opposition to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and the opposition of many of his neo-isolationist pals to the campaign against the Taliban. Even more bizarre is this sudden concern for 'friends and allies' from a man who has spent the past decade and a half denying that America needed either."

Moran, meanwhile, is getting spanked pretty good, first by National Review's Jim Geraghty:

"Moran has been criticized for his remarks, but he isn't facing a tsunami of public outrage the way Trent Lott did when he made comments last year that suggested he supported segregation. The early indication is that voters in his district – which includes the Pentagon – are bothered, but not yet up in arms.

"Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher, a frequent critic of Moran, wrote in his Tuesday column that the congressman is 'not fit for public office.' Fisher said in an interview that the column had generated many more reader responses than usual. According to Fisher, about 30 callers left messages saying they were furious with the congressman, and about 80 callers said that Moran is right and that 'Jews control the country.'"

Ramesh Ponnuru pulls no punches: "The claim is false, and a congressman whose view of the world – and of the role of Jews in it – is so distorted that he believes it can reasonably be said to have placed himself on the anti-Semitic fringe of American politics."

Josh Marshall whacks Moran from the liberal side:

"Lest there be any doubt, Congressman Jim Moran's comments really were way beyond the pale. And frankly I think the response has been too muted. Joe Lieberman said: 'The comments made by Jim Moran recently were deeply offensive and morally wrong. Such sentiments are inconsistent with the ideals of tolerance and diversity upon which our nation was founded. Comments like these have no place in our public discourse.'

"That sounds a touch mild to me. I'm not in the business of saying people should resign. That's for their constituents to decide. But this is a fairly big deal. I guess that given the nature of the statement it's really up to a non-Jewish pol to lower the boom on Moran."

As if Moran didn't have enough problems, Roll Call reports on "why he's dyed his hair from a distinguished white to a cartoonish
blond, which has left Hill insiders giggling yet again."

Slate's Michael Kinsley discovers a group that furthers the notion of unstoppable Jewish power:

"On its Web site, this organization paints a lurid picture of Zionists spreading their party line and even indoctrinating children. And yes, this organization claims that the influence of the Zionist lobby is essential to explaining the pro-Israel tilt of U.S. policy in the Middle East. . . .

"According to this Web site, the Zionist lobby is, like most political conspiracies, a set of concentric circles within circles. The two innermost circles are known as the 'President's Cabinet' and the 'Chairman's Council.' Members allegedly 'take part in special events with members of Congress in elegant Washington locations,' 'participate in private conference calls,' and attend an annual 'national summit.' In the past members of these groups have met 'in a private setting' with President Clinton, with Vice President Gore, and with the president of Turkey, among others. If this Web site is to be believed, these Zionist-lobby insiders have even enjoyed 'a luncheon with renowned author and commentator George Will.'"

The shadowy organization? AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.