Israel

The Ben Carson Show (Setting Star)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Start with the idea of a “Thing ‘Everybody’ Does”, but what it really refers to is a bit more particular and circumstantial, such as a thing every [fill in the blank] does; to further refine that we might invoke notions of sociopolitical empowerment in order to explain that the blank should be filled by some context of something every [not of the group] does when addressing the group.

For instance, the notion of something every white person does when talking to a black people; or something every man does when talking to women. It is a different actual something depending on the people, relationships, and circumstances, but the underlying device is the same.

To cross boundaries and show solidarity by insulting people in an inherently patronizing manner.

Donald Trump comes to mind, for instance.

Or the setting star of Dr. Ben Carson.

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum yesterday and raised a few eyebrows with his bizarre delivery, effectively reading a history of Israel for reasons no one could explain. He also kept pronouncing “Hamas” as “hummus,” making it seem as if Carson had very serious concerns about the influence of ground chickpeas in the Middle East.

But for my money, the really notable part about Carson’s strange appearance was his thoughts on, of all things, the $1 bill. ABC News reported:

Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition today, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told a story about how the Star of David came to be on the U.S. dollar bill.

Only one problem: There’s no Star of David on the dollar bill.

Apparently, Carson believes that if you look at the back of a dollar bill―on the right, just above the eagle―you’ll see stars in a shape resembling the Star of David. The presidential hopeful told his audience yesterday about a wealthy Jewish merchant, Haym Salomon, who is believed to have helped finance George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.

“Salomon gave all his funds to save the U.S. Army and, some say, no one knows for sure, that’s the reason there’s a Star of David on the back of the one dollar bill,” the retired neurosurgeon argued.

(Benen)

We might add that this bit about the Star of David on the dollar bill works its way into Masonic conspiracy theories, and pretty much rely on a presumed stereotype of evil, manipulative Jews.

You know, the whole “Freemasons run the country!” thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Ben Carson Show.

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Image note: Top ― Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP) Right ― Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.

Benen, Steve. “Ben Carson adds the $1 bill to his list of off-the-wall theories”. msnbc. 4 December 2015.

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The Lindsey Graham Show (Establishment Avenger Strikes Again)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

It is so worth paying attention to Lindsey Graham.

The senior U.S. Senator from South Carolina continues his trek through the Republican presidential contest, quietly posturing himself as the only sane candidate in the room.

The Establishment Avenger strikes again:

Instead of joining the other candidates in jockeying over whose pro-Israel credentials are the greatest, underdog candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took an unusual approach. For the first 20 minutes of his remarks, he eviscerated rival candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for what he described as Cruz’s alienating stance on abortion and other social issues.

“How many of you believe we’ve got a problem with young women as Republicans?” Graham asked the RJC crowd, which was largely old, white and male.

“How about abortion?” continued the anti-abortion senator. “I believe that you can be pro-life and win an election. But if you are going to tell a woman who has been raped she has to carry the child of a rapist, you’re losing most Americans,” he said to a cheering room. “Good luck with that.”

“Not the speech you thought you were going to hear?” Graham asked the audience. “[It’s] not the speech I thought I was going to give.”

(Schulberg)

While Donald Trump went about his signature brand of uniquely awful spectacle, and other Republican candidates pitched their pro-Israeli bona fides, Mr. Graham “found his purpose”, according to Jonathan Easley and Jonathan Swan, of The Hill; we might beg to differ insofar as the Establishment Avenger is simply following his purpose, having wanted a piece of Sen. Cruz (R-TX) from the outset.

Really, what are the chances that Lindsey Graham, playing the role of Sane Republican in the Room, can endure long enough to emerge as the last viable contender to unseat the insanity gripping the season two months before the voting begins? Nonetheless, it is so worth paying attention to the Lindsey Graham Show.

This is the GOP’s only hope.

I know, I know. It slays me, too.

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Image note: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Easley, Jonathan and Jonathan Swan. “Five takeaways from Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum”. The Hill. 3 December 2015.

Schulberg, Jessica. “A GOP Presidential Candidate Just Told A Room Full Of Donors To Get Real About Rape and Abortion”. The Huffington Post. 3 December 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Typing in Stereo)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“On Thursday, Republican front-runner Donald Trump delivered a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in which he essentially praised members of the organization for being a bunch of Shylocks.”

Scott Eric Kaufman

Daring openings are what they are, and Scott Eric Kaufman of Salon delivers one that might well be, according to murmur and buzz, worth its punch.

Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed chose a more sober lede that pretty much makes the point:

Donald Trump repeatedly invoked stereotypes about Jews and money during a speech to a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on Thursday.

Zack Beauchamp summarized for Vox―

The nicest thing that you can say about these comments is that they play on ancient stereotypes of Jews as money-grubbing merchants. The meanest thing you can say is that they’re outright anti-Semitic.

―and pointed to some social media reaction, including Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, who tweeted his critique: “The time that Trump spit on a Jewish audience and everyone pretended they were in a water park”.

(more…)

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

(more…)

A Reckoning, and Its Toll

Paramedics help a wounded woman after an ultra-Orthodox Jew attacked people with a knife during a Gay Pride parade Thursday, July 30, 2015 in central Jerusalem. Israeli police said several people were stabbed. (Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Ultra-Orthodox Jew Yishai Schlissel walks through a Gay Pride parade and is just about to pull a knife from under his coat and start stabbing people in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Schlissel was recently released from prison after serving a term for stabbing several people at a gay pride parade in 2005, a police spokeswoman said. (Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP)Via Associated Press:

An ultra-Orthodox Israeli who fatally stabbed a teenage girl at a Jerusalem gay pride parade has been indicted on a murder charge.

Jerusalem’s District Court indicted Yishai Schlissel for murder on Monday for last month’s deadly attack, along with multiple attempted murder charges for those he wounded.

Mr. Schlissel stands accused of murdering Shira Banki, age 16. Celebrate justice, but remember the price.

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Image notes: Top ― Paramedics help a wounded woman after an ultra-Orthodox Jew attacked people with a knife during a Gay Pride parade Thursday, July 30, 2015 in central Jerusalem. Israeli police said several people were stabbed. (Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP) Right ― Ultra-Orthodox Jew Yishai Schlissel walks through a Gay Pride parade and is just about to pull a knife from under his coat and start stabbing people in Jerusalem, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Schlissel was recently released from prison after serving a term for stabbing several people at a gay pride parade in 2005, a police spokeswoman said. (Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP) Bottom ― Shira Banki died 2 August 2015 from wounds sustained in a 30 July terror attack against the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem. (Photo: Banki family)

Associated Press. “Yishai Schlissel Charged With Murder In Jerusalem Gay Pride Attack”. The Huffington Post. 24 August 2015.

Berger, Miriam. “Man attacks Jerusalem gay parade, just weeks after release from prison for similar attack”. The Star-Tribune. 30 July 2015.

Shira Banki, 16, wounded in the 31 July 2015 terror attack against Jerusalem Gay Pride, succumbed to her injuries and died 2 August 2015.

The Price: Shira Banki Is Dead

Shira Banki, 16, wounded in the 31 July 2015 terror attack against Jerusalem Gay Pride, succumbed to her injuries and died 2 August 2015.

“Bad things happen to good people, and a very bad thing happened to our amazing girl.”

Banki family

Shira Banki, 16, has died from wounds sustained in a terror attack against the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem on 30 July.

Three days after being critically wounded by an ultra-Orthodox man that went on a stabbing rampage at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade, Shira Banki, a 16-year-old Israeli teen succumbed to her wounds Sunday afternoon. Five other people were wounded in the attack.

Police confirmed that the suspected stabber is Yishai Schlissel, a Haredi man from Modiin Ilit who stabbed three participants in the 2005 Gay Pride march. He was recently released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence.

Banki was a high-school student from Jerusalem, studying at the Hebrew University High School. She took part in Thursday’s parade to show solidarity with her LGBT friends. She is survived by her parents and three siblings; her family decided to donate her organs.

In a statement issued Sunday, her family said: “Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old – full of life and love – who came to express her support for her friends’ rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short. Bad things happen to good people, and a very bad thing happened to our amazing girl. The family expresses hope for a less hatred and more tolerance.” The family requests the public respect their privacy as they grieve.

(Kubovich)

This is the price of conscience and tradition and privilege. There are those who would covet your body and soul alike, and this is what it is worth to them.

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Image note: Shira Banki died 2 August 2015 from wounds sustained in a 30 July terror attack against the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem.

Kubovich, Yaniv. “16 Year Old Stabbed in Jerusalem Pride Parade Succumbs to Wounds”. Haaretz. 2 August 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (I Wish My Brother George Was Here)

Then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to reporters on the war on terror as his brother, then-President George W. Bush, looks on at the White House in 2006. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Over the course of about six weeks, Jeb Bush managed to take his obvious new pitch and grind it into dust. Starting with the idea of telling voters, “I am my own man” in February, the Republican half of our expected dynastic grudge match buried his own message in derisive laughter before March expired.

The problem, of course, is twofold. Cottage politics and pocket slates are what they are; the neoconservatives backing the Iraq Adventure during the previous Bush administration had been at it since Nixon sat in the Oval Office, and we have certainly seen famous names from the Clinton camp resurfacing in the Obama White House. During those six weeks, though, not only did Jeb Bush manage to surround himself with familiar hawks, he also managed to surround himself with other Bushes, leading to Steve Benen to quip, “After Jeb Bush turned to his mother, father, and brother to help raise money for his super PAC, I joked last week that the Republican might have to turn to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, for the next fundraising appeal. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it’s tough to joke about these guys.”

Watching the former Florida governor assemble the family’s foreign policy team, and the family for fundraising, most observers simply chuckle at the idea that he is so independent of his familial influences as he might otherwise claim. As such, the lede from Robert Costa and Matea Gold for the Washington Post verges on hilarity:

After spending months distancing himself from his family’s political legacy, Jeb Bush surprised a group of Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush, as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy.

And, really, what do you do with a paragraph like that?

Is there anything about that sentence that isn’t … you know … just … weird?

Let’s try it this way:

•After spending months [verbally, in sound-bites] distancing himself from his family’s political legacy [while assembling longtime Bush White House and campaign allies for the coming run], Jeb Bush surprised a group of [apparently naïve, or else supremely inattentive] Manhattan financiers this week by naming his brother, former president George W. Bush [who takes his foreign policy advice from God], as his most influential counselor on U.S.-Israel policy [since GWB’s foreign policy in the Middle East was so … er … ah … whatever].

Okay, you’re right. It isn’t funny.

Nor is Jeb Bush “his own man”, whatever the hell he expected we would think that to mean in the first place.

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Image note: Detail―Then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to reporters on the war on terror as his brother, then-President George W. Bush, looks on at the White House in 2006. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Costa, Robert and Matea Gold. “One of Jeb Bush’s top advisers on Israel: George W. Bush”. The Washington Post. 7 May 2015.

Benen, Steve. “Jeb throws the ‘I am my own man’ pitch out the window”. msnbc. 1 April 2015.

The Carly Fiorina Show (One Percenter Hope Pilot Episode)

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists, who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses, packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Welcome to the Carly Fiorina Show. By most accounts, it will be a short run. Then again, compared to the rest of the clowns in the GOP campaign car, one might expect Ms. Fiorina would bring some significant, serious presence to the present.

These are, of course, Republicans.

Former Hewlett-Packard Co Chief Executive Carly Fiorina on Monday announced she is running for president, and took a shot at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who she said represents a political class that Americans are “disgusted” with.

Once one of the most powerful women in American business, Fiorina registers near the bottom of polls of the dozen or so Republican hopefuls and has never held public office.

She is positioning herself as an outsider with real-life experience earned through years in the corporate world.

As Alistair Bell and Bill Trott report for Reuters, the newly-minted Republican candidate faces the obvious consideration:

Fiorina, 60, said the former first lady and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, belong to an out-of-touch political elite.

“She reminds people that there is a huge disconnect between that political class and the hopes and concerns of hard-working Americans everywhere,” she told reporters on a conference call.

“I see that disconnect everywhere I go. I see people just disgusted, honestly, with the way the playing field is tilted against them, the disconnect between what they’re thinking about and what they perceive people in Washington are thinking about,” Fiorina said.

Previously described as the “anti-Steve Jobs”, Ms. Fiorina will likely struggle to define herself as the anti-Hillary. Reuters puts her at less than one percent in a recent poll; this is problematic, but hardly an impossible challenge. Given the early critique of Hillary Clinton’s performance, one wonders whether Fiorina will last long enough to endure the sort of scrutiny normally reserved for the former Secretary of State.

And these are, after all, Republicans. There really is nothing to be done about that.

She said on Monday that her first phone call as president would be to the prime minister of Israel to assure the Jewish state of America’s support.

The second call, she said, would be to the supreme leader of Iran to warn him of U.S. sanctions unless he allowed unfettered access for inspectors to Tehran’s nuclear program.

Boilerplate is as boilerplate does; it serves a function of some sort. But calling Hillary Clinton out of touch, or an elitist, and then pandering to Israel are not exactly compelling opening bids. If she wishes to double her support to somewhere near two percent, Carly Fiorina will need an actual pitch.

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Image note: Carly Fiorina speaks at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 24 January 2015. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Bell, Alistair and Bill Trott. “Former HP CEO Fiorina enters 2016 race, takes shot at Clinton”. Reuters. 4 May 2015.

An Inevitable Point

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, 4 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.“Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu not only addressed his GOP Congress, but also seems to be an ideal GOP candidate: He loves to bomb the Middle East, he will do anything to win an election, and enjoys meddling in other countries affairs!”

Lalo Alcaraz

Inevitable, yes, but it is also arguable that Congressional Republicans have more respect for the Israeli Prime Minister than their own Speaker.

Just sayin’.

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Image note: Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, 4 March 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ouch.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister’s backing of the Iraq War.

“Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed,” Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “He was wrong” ....

.... “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush,” Kerry replied. “We all know what happened with that decision.”

(Thompson)

No, I mean, like, really. Ouch.

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Image note: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Thompson, Catherine. “Kerry Blasts Netanyahu: He’s ‘Wrong’ On Iran Deal Like He Was On Iraq War”. Talking Points Memo. 25 February 2015.