Another Republican Attempt to Use Iran for Political Gain

Congress can take action against any Iran deal with or without Senator Bob Corker’s amendment.

— by Steve Sheffey

The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), enjoys broad bipartisan support and was on its way to an easy passage.

But last week, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) indicated that he would introduce an amendment requiring Congressional hearings and a vote on a non-binding “joint resolution of disapproval” on any Iran nuclear deal reached by the Obama administration.

This is not a bipartisan effort: Corker does not have a Democratic co-sponsor. This is another Republican attempt to manipulate legitimate concerns about Iran for political gain.

Almost everyone supports the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Why not let it pass with strong bipartisan support and vote separately on a bill to authorize a joint resolution of disapproval?

Corker wants all or nothing. He is willing to put the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act at risk to gain a talking point Republicans can use against Democrats who oppose his amendment.

More after the jump.
Boxer pulled the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act from consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to avoid a vote on the Iran amendment. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also opposes voting on Corker’s Iran amendment.

Corker’s amendment is unnecessary: Congress does and should have a role in the process. But Corker’s amendment does not give Congress any authority to block a deal with Iran; it just creates an opportunity for more grandstanding. As Boxer pointed out, Congress can take action against any deal with or without Corker’s amendment.

Some in Congress want a deal with Iran that is so airtight, so perfect, that it would be impossible to achieve. They do not seem to realize that the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiations table will not by themselves stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The alternative to diplomacy is not more sanctions — although more sanctions will surely be the first response if diplomacy fails — but either war or containment.

That is not to say that opponents of the interim deal process want war: They do not. They sincerely believe that merciless sanctions will stop Iran, even though Iran’s nuclear program had accelerated as sanctions increased, but has slowed down significantly since the interim agreement was put in place and a limited sanctions relief was granted.

The Obama administration’s position is that we need to give diplomacy a chance because:

  • Diplomacy might work (although President Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton all give it a chance of less than 50% to succeed).
  • The case for even tougher sanctions, and if necessary, military action, will be much stronger. We will be much more likely to maintain the international coalition, that is essential if we are to have any chance of success, if we first try diplomacy and thereby convince the world that there really is no alternative to more sanctions or military action.

Obama has been clear that diplomacy might not work, and has been equally clear that we will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, repeatedly stating that no option, including the military one, is off the table. He has boxed himself in: He cannot allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons without his presidency being judged a failure by his own standard.

If nevertheless you do not think that Obama will use military force, even if it will be the only way to stop Iran, then you should support diplomacy and oppose congressional initiatives that would complicate diplomatic efforts and make it harder for diplomacy to succeed. If diplomacy does not succeed, military action will be the only option left.

Now is not the time for Congress to upset the apple cart. There is no reason that Corker’s amendment needs to be voted on now — as opposed to later in the process — other than to create an election-year issue for the Republicans.

Senators Boxer and Menendez are good friends of the pro-Israel community. We should commend them for refusing to play Corker’s game.

My Republican Haggadah: An oldie but goodie

Editor’s Note: This “Republican Haggadah” first appeared in the Huffington Post in 2012. However, except for the references to the 2012 Presidential election the humor is timeless. Enjoy!

— by Steve Sheffey

Jewish history is littered with sects, groups of people kind of like Jews who celebrate the same holidays and have many of the same customs, yet are somehow different.

Today’s sect is known as “Jewish Republicans,” few in number but very loud. Like most Jews, they celebrate Pesach, but they’ve got their own Haggadah. The differences between their Haggadah and ours are instructive.

After drinking the first cup of wine, most Jews wash their hands, but the Republicans stay seated and wait for the water to trickle down.

Most Jews then eat a green vegetable, but the Republican Haggadah follows the ruling of Rabbi Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be. (Reagan does have this in common with Moses: Neither ever set foot in the land of Israel.)

More after the jump.
Next we break the middle of the three matzot. Most Jews break the middle matzah into two roughly equal pieces, replacing the smaller piece on the Seder plate and hiding the larger piece as the afikoman. The Republican Haggadah asks the leader (or in Republican parlance, the Seder CEO) to keep 99 percent of the matzah for himself and let the other participants share the remaining 1 percent.

The Torah speaks of four sons, but the Republican Haggadah speaks of four candidates: The simple candidate (Santorum), the wicked candidate (Paul), the candidate who does not know how to answer (Romney), and the simple candidate who thinks he’s the wise candidate (Gingrich). They have no wise candidates.

The highlight of the Republican Haggadah is its version of “Dayenu” — “it would have been enough.” The Republican motto when it comes to President Obama is “nothing is enough” — no matter how much President Obama does for Israel, it’s never enough for some of our Republican friends:

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama increased security assistance to Israel to record levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama boycotted Durban II and Durban III.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama cast his only veto in the U.N. against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama opposed the Goldstone Report.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama immediately intervened to rescue Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama gave orders to give Israel “whatever it needs” to put out the Carmel fire.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama maintained the U.S. policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

There’s probably nothing President Obama can do to convince some Republicans that he’s pro-Israel. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d accuse him of not being able to swim. They made their mind up before he was elected that he could not be trusted and they ignore everything that contradicts their biases.

The ultimate message of the real Haggadah is hope (sound familiar?). Let’s hope that just as the vast majority of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008, the vast majority of us will remember who we are and what we value and vote to re-elect President Obama in 2012.

GOP Negotiations Are On Cruz Control

According to Ezra Klein:

One thing that’s gotten lost in the debate over the shutdown is how much Democrats have already conceded to Republicans on spending. This is partly the consequence of the direct spending cuts in the 2011 debt-ceiling deal and partly the consequence of sequestration (which was, of course, also part of the 2011 deal). Still, the bottom line is that Republicans have been so successful at making Obamacare concessions the issue that Democratic concessions on spending have gone almost unnoticed.

Meanwhile, Jedd Lugum of Think Progress tweets out what kind of “compromise” the Republicans are demanding from Obama.

Republicans Seek to Fight Against Obama in Syria

Republicans who had been criticizing President Obama for refusing to arm the Syrian opposition, suddenly became critics of any intervention whatsoever when the president proposed the limited strike.

— by Steve Sheffey

Republicans proved during the Syria debate that they will oppose President Obama simply for the sake of opposing him, all for partisan gain. Politicians used to at least pay lip service to a bipartisan foreign policy, but no longer.

Former Congressman Barney Frank summarized the situation accurately:

Many Republicans who had been criticizing President Obama for refusing to arm the Syrian opposition, and some of whom advocated American combat aircraft establishing a “no fly” zone against the Syrian air force, suddenly became critics of any intervention whatsoever when the president proposed the limited strike to penalize President Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons. Democracy does not require people who oppose a president’s military actions to stay silent in the interest of bipartisanship, but what we have here is the exact opposite: partisan opponents of the president completely reversing their position once the president moves in the direction they had previously attacked him for not taking.

Continued after the jump.

The argument that they are now critical of his doing anything because he is not doing more is not a serious one. There is a significant body of Republicans prepared to attack Obama for any decision he makes, even if that requires them to reverse positions they previously held.

Courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen.

President Obama outlined his foreign policy in his U.N. speech. The bottom line on Syria is that we have achieved all of our objectives without firing a single shot. On Friday night, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. That was a major victory for the U.S.

The U.S. position on Iran is also clear: Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. A diplomatic solution is better than a military solution, but all options must remain on the table. Iran is willing to talk only because economic sanctions are taking their toll; it would be foolish to ease up, until and unless Iran backs up its conciliatory words with actions.

Israel and many others remain skeptical about Iran’s intentions. A senior Administration official said on Friday that:

The Israeli government has every right to be skeptical of the Iranian government, given the statements that have come out of Iran in the past — extraordinarily inflammatory statements about Israel, threats towards Israel’s existence — given that history, I think it is entirely understandable and appropriate for the Israeli government to be deeply skeptical…

We’ve made clear that words need to be followed by actions, and ultimately it’s going to be the actions of the Iranian government through this diplomatic process that is going to make the difference. And so when we consider things like potential sanctions relief, we’re going to need to see a meaningful agreement and meaningful actions by the Iranian government before the pressure that’s in place can be relieved… The bottom line for us is that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.

GOP Must Condemn Comparison of IRS to Gestapo by Tea Party Group

— by David Streeter

Last night, sent a fundraising appeal with a graphic that labeled the IRS “Obama’s Gestapo.” As unacceptable as their graphic was, the fact that they were looking to raise money off of their Gestapo comparison is even more offensive.

We’ve repeatedly seen Tea Party groups engaging in this type of behavior, and we demand that Republicans, including Tea Party mouthpieces Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), condemn this crass political stunt.

Message to NRA & GOP: Stand with ADL and B’nai B’rith Against Beck

— by Aaron Keyak

Glenn Beck’s use of disgusting imagery, showing a leading Jewish American as a Nazi, at the National Rifle Association’s convention was deeply offensive. The NRA and Republican leaders must stand with the ADL and B’nai B’rith in condemning Glenn Beck — especially those who selected him to give the NRA’s keynote address. This isn’t only about what Beck said, but the disturbing fact that his stunt was embraced with applause and cheers by attendees at the NRA’s national convention. The NRA’s crowd is the Republican base and all Americans must take note.

Report from ABC News after the jump.
ABC News reported:

Glenn Beck roused the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this weekend with his attacks on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but he also aroused criticism by a major Jewish group for depicting the mayor giving a Nazi salute.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League called Becks’ comments “deeply offensive on so many levels,” and B’nai B’rith called for Beck to apologize.

“Glenn Beck, the keynote speaker at the NRA’s annual convention, trivializes the Holocaust when he compares New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Adolf Hitler,” B’nai B’rith told ABC News.

“The casual use of Nazi imagery or words serves to undermine the atrocities of the Holocaust. Glenn Beck should apologize,” the organization said. […]

Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, objected to the image and Beck’s comments:

“While he doesn’t say it, it seems Glenn Beck is implying through an image of Mayor Bloomberg in an apparent Hitlerian salute is that the mayor’s policies on gun ownership and other issues are turning New York city into a Nazi-like state. That suggestion is outrageous, insensitive and deeply offensive on so many levels,” Foxman said.

“Glenn Beck should know better. He has drawn similar inappropriate analogies to the Holocaust before. We wish he would stop trivializing the history of the Holocaust to score partisan political points,” he added.

House GOP Oppose Measure Targeted Against Iran

(NJDC) On Friday, House Republicans voted unanimously against a measure that would have kept up the pressure on Iran. The Motion to Recommit put forward by Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) contained an amendment that explicitly banned the export of helium to these “hostile nations that seek nuclear weapons or missile technology” — which specifically included Iran.

The bill ultimately passed with one nay vote, which means that Republicans owe an explanation as to why they opposed Representative Schneider’s amendment. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to augment sanctions, Republicans appear to have let party politics trump common sense — and sent exactly the wrong message.  

State Republican Leaders Use Anti-Semitic And Mysogynic Slurs

Oklahoma Republican Leader Mispeaks Anti-Semitic Slur

On Wednesday, Oklahoma State House Majority Leader Dennis Johnson used the phrase “try to Jew me down” on the House floor. He offered an apology afterward that reportedly included the line “Jews run good small businesses, too.” The Tulsa World reported:

In debating in favor of a bill that would repeal a 70-year-old ban on “loss-leader” selling, Johnson, a small business owner, said service and not price were the key to success.

He then acknowledged that some customers “try to Jew me down.”

Johnson, R-Duncan — who, with Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks, is the third-ranking member of the majority leadership — immediately apologized, adding that “Jews run good small businesses, too.”

“Jew down” is a slang term for haggling and is generally considered derogatory.

New Hampshire Republican Uses “Vagina” As Synonym For “Woman”

According to the Concord Monitor:

Rep. Peter Hansen, an Amherst Republican serving his second term, wrote in an April 1 email to the all-House email list that “children and vagina’s” were missing from a fellow representative’s anecdotes during the debate over whether to repeal New Hampshire’s 2011 “stand your ground” law.

The email was posted Monday on a liberal blog, and Hansen’s remark was condemned yesterday by NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire.

“We are shocked and disgusted by this derogatory comment,” said Policy and Community Relations Director Sara Persechino in a news release. “Rep. Peter Hansen was elected to represent the citizens of his district and this state; referring to women as ‘vaginas’ is not in line with New Hampshire’s value of equality for all.”

Hansen said yesterday his comment was being taken out of context.

It boggles the mind to imagine that there is any conceivable “context” in which it would be vaguely appropriate to refer to a woman as a “vagina”. Perhaps the “honorable penis” from Amherst, New Hampshire should apologize to his colleagues, his constituents and all Americans who were shocked by his mysogyny.

Meanwhile in Michigan, Democratic legislators are forbidden to use the word “vagina” to refer to actual vaginae. Details after the jump.
Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown gets censured after talking about Kosher dishes and her vagina

Last year Michigan was considering a Republican supported bill requiring an invasive transvaginal ultrasound be placed in a woman so that she could see her fetus before an abortion could be legally obtained.

State Representative Lisa Brown (D-Commerce Township & West Bloomfield Township) spoke passionately against the bill and was censured by the Speaker for using the word “vagina.” She and Rep. Barb Byrum (D_Onondaga), who proposed a bill banning vasectomies, were both barred from speaking for the remainder of the session.

I’m Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have two sets of dishes. One for meat and one for dairy, and another two sets of dishes on top of that for Passover. Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissable but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’

If you’re regulating vaginas, I don’t know how we’re supposed to not talk about them.

According to the New York Daily News:

Brown defended her right to say “vagina” at a press conference Thursday, arguing that it’s the “anatomically, medically correct term.

“If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Brown asked. “What language should I use?”

GOP Must Avoid Cuts To Iron Dome and Social Safety Net

Iron Dome hits Hamas rockets fired on Israel

— by Aaron Keyak

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) demanded that Republicans join with President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats in working to avoid the impending sequestration.

For all of their talk about opposing the sequester, Republicans have not taken meaningful action to avoid these catastrophic budget cuts. Sequestration will affect far too many of the top priorities of the Jewish community. These indiscriminate cuts may range from social safety net programs that help the least fortunate among us to Israel’s foreign aid and funding for missile defense programs like Iron Dome.

Sadly, as the President works to protect our nation’s social safety net and stands by our national security interests, Republicans are once again appeasing the far right elements of their party at the expense of the American people and our allies.

More after the jump.
According to Politico, many Congressional Republicans are in favor of letting the sequester take effect — including House Speaker John Boehner:

There seem to be three distinct camps: Most congressional Republicans appear willing to let the sequester happen since they can’t replace it in time. Others want the cuts to be even deeper […].

House Speaker John Boehner and the House GOP leadership represent the largest GOP faction — those who wish there was a better way to slash the deficit, but barring that, are willing to let the across-the-board cuts take effect on Friday as planned […].

This pro-sequester group includes GOPers like Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.), Mike Turner (Ohio) and Mike Pompeo (Kan.), who have all said they prefer a different way to cut government spending. But if there’s not a solution on the table by March 1, they think the sequester should be implemented […].

Another group is made up of people like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has been loudly proclaiming that the cuts are not nearly deep enough.

“It’s a pittance. I mean, it’s a slowdown in the rate of growth. There are no real cuts happening over 10 years,” Paul said on CNN this week of the sequester […].

“I think the sequester happens and it will be in some ways a yawn because the histrionics that are coming from the president saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to shut down and get rid of meat inspectors’ — I mean, is anybody not going to stand up and call his bluff on that ridiculousness?” Paul added.

Politico also noted that Republican Governors are calling on Congressional Republicans to act:

Ask Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert what they think of Hill Republicans’ strategy on the sequester, and you get the exact same response: “What strategy?” […]

Their message for House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders: It’s not OK to just sit on the sidelines. It’s time to do something to stop the automatic cuts, and fast.

JTA reported on sequestration’s devastating impact for the Jewish community:

[D]ozens of Jewish organizations [are] grappling with the potential loss of federal funds from the so-called sequester, a measure adopted by the U.S. Congress last year to force itself to confront a hemorrhaging national debt and return the country to sound fiscal footing. Unless a budget compromise could be found, draconian across-the-board cutbacks of 8.5 percent were to have automatically taken effect on Jan. 1. The impact of those cuts was designed to be so devastatingly painful that Congress would in effect force its own hand […].

As the new deadline nears, some Jewish organizations are preparing for the worst, identifying non-essential services to be axed while lobbying federal officials to protect vital programs.

According to Globes, sequestration would have dire consequences for Israel’s missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome:

The pending US budget sequester on March 1, 2013, is liable to reduce military aid to Israel by over $700 million in the 2013 fiscal year, pro-Israeli sources in Washington told “Globes”. The cut includes a $250 million reduction in current aid, which is due to total $3.15 billion, and the possible loss of all financial aid for joint US-Israeli missile defense programs, amounting to $479 million, for a total of $729 million in reduced aid. In the best case, if the aid for anti-missile programs is only reduced, rather than eliminated, Israel will lose $300 million in aid.

The same article also included Israel’s perspective:

Top officials in Israel’s Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Defense are drawing up a strategy for dealing with the problem. One source believes that Minister of Defense Ehud Barak’s sudden visit to Washington, just after his previous visit, was related to the sequester. Until recently, Jerusalem believed that the Congressional Republicans and the White House would reach a last-minute budget compromise, and that Israel would avoid the budget axe, but this assessment was disproved a few days ago, when the Republican House leaders decided to go on recess.