A campaign on social media be whipping up opposition to Schumer taking over Harry Reid’s job refers to him as a “traitor” and suggests that he receives his “real paycheck” from pro-Israel organizations.
The liberal website Daily Kos ran a cartoon in which the character representing Schumer was called a traitor and switched from holding an American to an Israeli flag.
One of those taking the lead in questioning Schumer’s right to criticize the Iran deal was Stephen Walt, the Harvard professor who co-authored a notorious paper which accused American Jewish lobbying on behalf of Israel of harboring dual loyalties, a classic anti-Semitic charge.
Walt called anyone who opposes the Iran deal one of “Netanyahu’s marionettes.” He circulated a comment Schumer made in 2010, saying, “I am a shomer [guardian] for Israel and I will continue to be that with every bone in my body,” suggesting that it proves that Schumer is not really loyal to the US.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the newly installed director of the Anti-Defamation League, blasted Walt’s message, saying, “Hurling accusations of disloyalty are a slap in the face to [Schumer’s] lifelong record of public service. There is room for a legitimate debate on the Iran deal, however charges against Senator Schumer – and any other members who articulate on fact-based but alternative views – are beyond inappropriate.”
ANTI-SEMITISM FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
Even more disturbing to many liberals was that the realization that the anti-Semitic character of the attack on Schumer, whose loyalty to the US and the Democrat party should be beyond question, came from the White House itself. The divisive rhetoric which Obama has used to discredit any criticism of the Iran deal, using such anti-Semitic code words as “shadow moneyed lobbyists,” “foreign interests” and “warmongers,” has implanted a dark undercurrent of hatred and discrimination into what should be a sober, serious debate over one of the most serious foreign policy issues of this generation.
The vicious nature of the attack on Schumer prompted the editors of the Tablet, a secular-liberal on-line publication, to accuse the White House of attempting to “play the dual-loyalty card. It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the President of the United States – and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.”
While the editors of the Tablet do not take a position for or against the Iran deal, they are outraged by the accusation that Schumer owes his “loyalty to a foreign government [as] bigotry, pure and simple.” They condemn “this use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool” as a “sickening new development in American political discourse.”
OBAMA WARNS AMERICAN JEWISH LEADERS
The vicious administration attacks on the opponents to the Iran deal, and dark suggestions that the opposition is being orchestrated by disloyal American Jewish friends of Israel began last week with a personal warning by President Obama to American Jewish leaders. He accused them of spending millions of dollars in advertising against the deal and spreading false claims about it.
The next day, in his speech at American University, Obama denounced the opponents of the deal as “lobbyists” doling out millions to promote the same kind of hawkish rhetoric that encouraged the US to go to war against Iraq. While he didn’t mention Aipac by name, the liberal media picked up the intent, and took it as a green light to start using anti-Semitic code words and explicit references to Jews and negative Jewish stereotypes to characterize anyone who publicly opposed the Iran deal.
CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria suggested in a broadcast discussion that if Schumer were to oppose the deal he would be able to raise more money from “wealthy supporters.”
The media reporting of the lobbying battle over the Iran deal concentrated on the funding of the ad campaign run by the opponents of the deal, while ignoring the huge public relations operation launched by the White House to sell the deal to the American public, in addition to paid ads and intensive lobbying efforts by liberal groups, including J Street, in support of the agreement.
ANTI-JEWISH SLURS IN THE MEDIA
Suddenly, the New York Times felt it appropriate to describe Schumer as “the most influential Jewish voice in Congress,” reporting that he had come out against the deal. A few paragraphs further down in the same story, it suggested that Congressman Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had reacted “as if on cue” to Schumer’s announcement to publicly oppose the deal as well.
The Washington Post report on the reaction to Schumer’s announcement referred to two California Democrat senators who support the Iran deal by their Jewish identities, and suggested that Bill Nelson, a non-Jewish Democrat senator from Florida, who also supports the Iran deal, demonstrated courage by defying unnamed “powerful Jewish figures” in his state.
RECYCLING OLD ACCUSATIONS
The thinly veiled anti-Semitic insinuations against the opponents of the deal, first issued by the president and then by those in the media who have followed his lead, were doubly insulting because they suggested that those opposing the deal had been “bought.” Even those who accused Schumer and others of dual loyalty for opposing the deal fail to concede a critical point. One need not be disloyal to the US to fear that any deal which ultimately gives Iran access to nuclear weapons risks the possibility that Iran will try to use those weapons to carry out its threats to destroy Israel.
Unfortunately, this kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric is not new in national political debates. Elliot Abrams, writing in the Weekly Standard, notes that FDR’s conservative, isolationist opponents used to refer to him as “Rosenfeld” for scheming to send more US help to the British fighting alone against the Nazis after the fall of France in 1940. In 1991 and again in 2003, critics of the “Israel lobby” in Washington blamed it for getting the US into both the first and second Gulf Wars.
The main difference is that the attempt to discredit opposition to the deal by using anti-Semitic code words and stereotypes emanates from the White House itself.
A HARSH NON-JEWISH CRITIC OF THE DEAL
Ironically, the harshest criticism of Obama’s handling of the Iran deal does not come from a Jewish or pro-Israel source. Last month, the Washington Post reported that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, accused President Obama of deliberately negotiating a bad deal with Iran which he knew would “wreak havoc” on the Middle East because Obama felt that it was “ideologically” the right thing to do, regardless of the negative consequences to US allies in the region.
Bandar compares the Iran deal to the failed nuclear agreement President Clinton signed with North Korea more than 20 years ago. Except, according to Bandar, Clinton was acting with the best of intentions using the best information available, while Obama fully understands that this deal cannot and will not stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
OBAMA’S DEFEATIST MINDSET
Bandar’s analysis is consistent with the view of New York Times columnist David Brooks, who has been highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, and believes that its shortcomings are the result of Obama’s refusal to make any serious foreign US military commitment, regardless of the provocation.
According to Brooks, Obama’s approach to Iran is the logical extension of the liberal defeatist mentality first created by the American public’s rejection of the Vietnam War, followed by the left-wing belief, which was the launching pad of Obama’s national political career, that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was unjustified.
Similarly, William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Obama’s priority in managing foreign policy is to do whatever it takes to avoid direct and prolonged military confrontations even in what he has termed “necessary wars” such as in Afghanistan.
Obama will not hesitate to use threatening rhetoric, such as drawing a “red line” against Syrian President Assad’s use of chemical weapons. But, when push comes to shove, he will take every opportunity to retreat in the face of strong will, while claiming, at the same time, that the US had achieved its strategic objectives. That is what he did when Assad let the international community destroy most but not all of his chemical weapons. That is what the Iran deal does now. It lets Iran keep its nuclear infrastructure and lifts the sanctions, while enabling it to build nuclear weapons in a decade or even sooner, if it wants.
One does not have to live in Israel or be Jewish to understand that Netanyahu is right when he says that the Iran deal guarantees that it will be able to become a nuclear power, sooner or later, and everyone in the region understands that.
CYNICAL REVIEW PROCESS DESIGNED TO FAIL
The current congressional review process is a cynical end run around the Constitutional requirement that international treaties must be ratified by a 2/3 vote in favor by the Senate before becoming binding. The daunting requirement that opponents of the deal must raise a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto means that the political deck was stacked against them from the outset.
Just a few months ago, the White House agreed that Congress would have the right to read and review the full agreement, and vote keep their sanctions on Iran in force if they were not satisfied. But since the deal was announced on July 14, Obama and the administration have done everything possible to discredit criticisms raised against the obvious weaknesses and unexpected concessions to Iran in the final agreement. The deal violates previous assurances the White House had given Congress and the American public. The administration has even conspired to keep key details of the international inspections in Iran secret from Congress.
The international sanctions on Iran have already been canceled by a unanimous vote of the UN Security Council, engineered by the White House, before the members of Congress even saw the final deal.
Even if the opponents of the deal do succeed in overriding Obama’s veto, Iran’s international isolation will already have been broken.
The administration’s pretense that opposition to the deal is solely the product of Jewish lobby manipulation, is both dishonest and insulting. Public opinion polls show that the American people as a whole view Iran as this country’s sworn enemy, and are deeply distrustful of the nuclear deal, despite months of intense administration efforts to deny its flaws and promote its purported benefits. Most of the public understands that Iran got all its objectives from the deal, and that the US, in return, got nothing but a relatively brief delay in Iran joining the nuclear arms club.
Schumer waited for three weeks after terms of the final deal were released before announcing his opposition to it, but even then, he did not actively lobby his fellow Democrats to join him in voting against it. This angered Jewish activists who had expected Schumer to play a leading role and use his considerable influence in the uphill political battle to defeat the deal. Instead, as veteran political analyst Seth Lipsky wrote, Schumer announced his opposition and then, “poof!” he disappeared from the debate.
Lipsky, like other Jewish activists, did say that they were happy that Schumer did come out against the deal, at some peril to his personal political ambitions, but they knew that he was capable of doing much more to encourage his colleagues to join him in opposition to the agreement.
A particularly troubling indication that Schumer was not taking an active role in the debate was the announcement just a few hours earlier that New York’s other Democrat senator, Kirsten Gillebrand, would be supporting the deal. One can assume that she would have discussed the issue with Schumer, and deferred to his judgement if he had pressed her strongly to oppose it. Obviously, he didn’t.
Schumer has long been known as one of the most PR obsessed politicians in Congress. Former Senator Bob Dole is credited with being the first to say “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a news camera.”
But immediately following the announcement of his position Thursday, he made himself unavailable to discuss the issue with the American media.
He released a carefully balanced statement explaining in detail the reasons for his opposition to the deal, but he canceled a scheduled press event the next day, and did not appear on the Sunday news interview programs, where he could have warned millions of Americans about the dangers the deal poses to Israel, American interests in the region and world peace.
Schumer’s critics suspected that he may have cut a deal with the White House to minimize the damage of the announcement to his political ambitions. CNN political commentator Errol Louis wrote, “you have to admire his skill at carefully walking through a political minefield without surrendering his power, his principles or his political future.”
But other Jewish leaders recognized that just coming out against the Iran deal, publicly opposing a deal which Obama views as one of his presidency’s most important accomplishments, required significant political courage by Schumer.
Agudath Israel was quick to applaud Schumer’s announcement, and noted that he “has spoken out consistently and forcefully over the past several years about the grave threat a nuclear empowered Iran would pose to America and its allies, especially Israel.”
The statement noted that Schumer “is the first and thus far the only senator of his political party to publicly announce that he will be voting against the position of the administration. His high rank among his Democratic Senate colleagues surely created an incentive for him not to buck the leadership of his party. Fortunately, however, Senator Schumer made his decision “solely based on the merits … without regard to pressure, politics or party.” For this he deserves our sincere admiration and deep appreciation.”
Several other influential Jews in Congress, including Engel, have also come off the fence and announced their opposition to the deal. But Schumer was always considered to be the legislator who could wield the most influence with his Democrat colleagues in an effort to kill the deal, if he chose to use it. As a senior party leader, he is skilled and experienced twisting arms, bargaining, and trying to get undecided colleagues to get off the fence or even change their minds in order to vote his way.
But after coming out against the Iran deal, satisfying his constituents and his conscience, he seemed to be moving to the sidelines of the political debate.
BETRAYED BY THE WHITE HOUSE
Schumer decided that he could not endorse the deal, especially after its many obvious flaws had been exposed. But at the same time, he did not want to alienate the White House, or seem to be disloyal to his party’s president.
As a courtesy, he informed the White House Thursday of his plans to announced his opposition to the deal at a Friday morning press conference.
The first move by the White House was to disrupt the planned announcement by leaking the news to the left wing Huffington Post on Thursday night, which then posted the story while everyone else was watching the GOP presidential candidate debate on Fox News.
The next day, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, sent a clear message to Senate Democrats from Obama suggesting they punish Schumer for expressing his opinion. Earnest called upon Schumer’s colleagues, to “consider the voting record of those who want to lead the caucus.”
Schumer has now become a target of left wing Obama supporters. The progressive MoveOn.org, web site, funded by international currency speculator George Soros, has launched a drive among its 8 million followers to deny Schumer or any other Democrat who votes against the Iran deal any campaign contributions. Move.on announced Monday that 23,000 liberal activists have pledged to withhold $11 million in campaign contributions from Democrats who dare to oppose the Iran deal.
LEARNING A TOUGH LESSON
Perhaps the rough treatment Schumer is now receiving from his longtime liberal friends has taught him a lesson. After several days of silence after he announced his opposition to the Iran deal, he began to speak out against it Monday. On Tuesday, for the first time, Schumer publicly urged other senators and congressmen to cast their votes against the deal, and urge the US government to demand a renegotiation with Iran.
Speaking in Rochester, New York, Schumer described his decision process in deciding to reject the deal. “If you believe the Iranian regime may change, then you say OK, it’s a gamble. But if you think they’re going to be the same horrible regime they are now, you don’t want the United States and the other nations of the world putting the stamp of approval on Iran being a threshold nuclear state.”
Schumer said he is convinced that, “Iran will not change, and under this agreement it will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power. Better to keep US sanctions in place, strengthen them, enforce secondary sanctions on other nations, and pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.”
Schumer also said he does not believe Obama’s claim that the only alternative to the current deal is a war with Iran. “I believe we should go back and try to get a better deal. The nations of the world should join us in that,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to respond, declaring once again, “It’s absurd to say we’ll get a better deal,’’ and insisting that Iran “won’t come back’’ to the negotiating table
Congressional opponents of the deal refuse to accept the insistence by Obama and Kerry that resistance is futile, and that a future nuclear Iran is a fait accompli. They are determined to keep fighting it, regardless of the long political odds against them, until a final vote is taken in September to override Obama’s veto.