Congress Ends “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy

Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

Today’s 65-31 vote to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that prohibited gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving openly in our nation’s armed forces is truly historic. The repeal sends a clear message that any willing and able American can and should be allowed to proudly serve our country. As a world leader, it was appalling that we allowed legal and public discrimination to take place against some of the brave men and women who volunteered to serve their country on the field of battle. We applaud President Barack Obama for shining a bright light on this issue, and we commend the leadership of both the House and Senate for protecting the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.
Marc R. Stanley is the Chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council. David A. Harris is NJDC’s President and CEO. Rep. Jared Polis is a Democratic Congressman from Colorado.

Calling on Republican Leaders to Condemn Antisemitism in Texas GOP


Texas Speaker of the House, Joe Strauss (R) is a member of Reform Synagogue Temple Beth-El in San Antonio.

— Marc. R Stanley and David A. Harris

It is appalling and shocking that in this day and age, leaders of Texas’ Republican Party have injected charged religious rhetoric into the race for Speaker of the House. Just a few weeks ago, emails appeared calling for current Speaker Joe Strauss, a Jewish Republican from San Antonio, to be ousted in favor of ‘conservative Christian leadership.’ Now another email chain has surfaced, this time between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee, Rebecca Williamson and John Cook, echoing that sentiment. Adding insult to injury, we now have a member of the State Republican Executive Committee insisting that Christians ‘do the best jobs over all,’ and invoking the dreaded ‘some of my best friends are Jews’ line.

“When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions,” he [John Cook] told me [Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer], explaining that he only supports Christian conservative candidates in Republican primary races.

“I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right. … I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.” …

Cook said his opposition was not about Straus’ religion, although he prefers Christian candidates.

“They’re some of my best friends,” he said of Jews, naming two friends of his. “I’m not bigoted at all; I’m not racist” … Cook was absolute that his position was not bigoted.

“My favorite person that’s ever been on this earth is a Jew,” he said. “How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s ever been on this earth.

This invocation of religion and dialogue asserting that ‘Jews and other non-Christians need not apply for GOP leadership positions in Texas’ is completely unacceptable and has no place in our public discourse. It is detrimental to our political process and, among so many other things, erodes community and interfaith relations. Unfortunately, this type of extremist rhetoric is nothing new; we have seen certain leaders and members of the Republican Party bring religion into the conversation repeatedly in previous election cycles. It’s repugnant, and it has to stop.

Republican leaders cannot continue to sit idly by while the extremist factions of their Party continue to grow and grow. National Republican leaders, including incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, must immediately condemn the actions of their fellow Party leaders and members and call on them to apologize for this well-documented, egregious behavior.

This is yet another example of how the agenda of the increasingly extremist and growing right wing simply does not reflect the values of the American Jewish community. The GOP claims to be engaging in a significant outreach effort to the American Jewish community, but given that this is how Republican leaders continue to go about it, it is not surprising that the dramatic majority of American Jews continue to support the Democratic Party.”

Marc R. Stanley of Dallas, Texas is the Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and David A. Harris is the President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

If You Are Worried About Iran, Help Pass START Now

— Marc R. Stanley, Michal M. Adler and David A. Harris

So many in the American Jewish community – reflecting Israel’s leaders – are rightly gravely concerned about the dangers posed by Iran. Indeed Iran has become the foremost issue on the pro-Israel agenda. What if there was a measure with bipartisan support facing the United States Senate that could help contain Iran – and only days left to pass it? What if a handful of members were working to stymie progress on this measure?

In reality, there is precious little time to pass the START treaty in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Despite the leadership of President Barack Obama and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), a small group of senators – led by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) – seem intent on blocking this paramount treaty… some, perhaps, for political reasons. Yet the stakes are simply too great for politics to get in the way.

The arms reduction and verification aspects are plenty important. But what passing START will mean for the improving U.S.-Russia relationship – and our joint cooperation on confronting Iran – is even more crucial. As scholar Michael O’Hanlon noted yesterday in listing the reasons to pass START, ‘Most of all, the U.S.-Russia relationship is now helping apply greater pressure on Iran. Moscow has agreed to far tighter United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran’s high-technology trade, and it recently refused to sell Tehran advanced surface-to-air missiles.’

Can anyone deny that Russian cooperation is essential to ensuring a nuclear-free Iran? Can anyone deny that not passing START will be a dramatic blow to U.S.-Russian relations – and a disaster in terms of our Iran policy? Where is the outcry? Our actions – in this case, our action or inaction on START – will have profoundly important repercussions.

The time has come for those in the American Jewish community who care deeply about confronting Iran to help pass START now. We can do no less, and we have no time to wait. We must lend our voices to the debate now.

In convening an extraordinary meeting in the White House today, placing a brilliant spotlight on this issue, President Obama explained the reasons as clearly as possible when he noted that ‘this goes beyond nuclear security. Russia has been fundamental to our efforts to put strong sanctions in place to put pressure on Iran to deal with its nuclear program. …We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia’s strategic nuclear arms. And we can’t jeopardize the progress that we’ve made in securing vulnerable nuclear materials, or in maintaining a strong sanctions regime against Iran. These are all national interests of the highest order.’

As a community, we simply must lend our voices and help pass START now. We can do no less.