Why Hillary Clinton’s friend, Robert Reich, is backing Bernie Sanders

Robert Reich writes: Not a day passes that I don’t get a call from the media asking me to compare Bernie Sanders’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax plans, or bank plans, or health-care plans.

I don’t mind. I’ve been teaching public policy for much of the last thirty-five years. I’m a policy wonk.

But detailed policy proposals are as relevant to the election of 2016 as is that gaseous planet beyond Pluto. They don’t have a chance of making it, as things are now.

The other day Bill Clinton attacked Bernie Sanders’s proposal for a single-payer health plan as unfeasible and a “recipe for gridlock.”

Yet these days, nothing of any significance is feasible and every bold idea is a recipe for gridlock.

This election is about changing the parameters of what’s feasible and ending the choke hold of big money on our political system.

I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change. [Continue reading…]

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For Sanders — unlike Clinton — there is no such thing as a noble cold war

Peter Beinart writes: In the final days before she and Bernie Sanders face the voters of Iowa, Hillary Clinton is leveling the same attack she leveled against Barack Obama. She’s saying that on foreign policy, she’s the only adult in the race.

In their January 17 debate, Sanders declared that, “What we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran. … Can I tell you that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don’t think we should. But I think the goal has got to be, as we’ve done with Cuba, to move in warm relations with a very powerful and important country in this world.”

When the debate ended, Team Hillary pounced. Ignoring the second half of Sanders’s statement, the campaign released a video of foreign-policy advisor Jake Sullivan asking, “Normal relations with Iran right now? President Obama doesn’t support that idea. Secretary Clinton doesn’t support that idea, and it’s not at all clear why it is that Senator Sanders is suggesting it. … It’s pretty clear that he just hasn’t thought it through.” Hillary herself added that Sanders’s comments reflect a “fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to do the patient diplomacy that I have experience in.”

The language echoes Clinton’s attack on Obama after he pledged in a July 2007 debate to meet leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea without preconditions — a pledge she called “irresponsible and frankly naive.” That attack, like this one, was contrived: Obama wasn’t planning to rush out to meet Iran’s supreme leader any more than Sanders would rush to build an embassy in Tehran. [Continue reading…]

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Wall Street declares war on Bernie Sanders

Bill Black writes: Wall Street billionaires are freaking out about the chance that Bernie Sanders could be elected President. Stephen Schwarzman, one of the wealthiest and most odious people in the world, told the Wall Street Journal that one of the three principal causes of the recent global financial trauma was “the market’s” fear that Sanders may be elected President. Schwarzman is infamous for ranting that President Obama’s proposals to end the “carried interest” tax scam that allows private equity billionaires like Schwarzman to pay lower income tax rates than their secretaries was “like when Hitler invaded Poland.”

Schwarzman and Pete Peterson co-founded the private equity firm Blackstone. Peterson leads the effort to destroy the safety net in America. His greatest dream is to privatize Social Security so that Wall Street could increase its revenues by tens of billions of dollars. Blackstone is a major owner of Sea World, and it was in this sphere that Schwarzman went beyond his delusional rants about Hitler and became vile. When an Orca killed its trainer, Schwarzman lied and blamed the death on the trainer, claiming that Sea World “had one safety lapse — interestingly, with a situation where the person involved violated all the safety rules that we had.”

Schwarzman’s claim that the global financial markets are tanking because of Bernie’s increasing support is delusional, but it is revealing that he used the most recent market nightmare as an excuse to attack Bernie. The Wall Street plutocrats, with good reason, fear Bernie – not Hillary. Indeed, it is remarkable how vigorous and open Wall Street has been in signaling through the financial media that it has no problem with Hillary’s Wall Street plan. CNN, CNBC, and the Fiscal Times, under titles such as: “Here’s Why Wall Street Has Little to Fear from Hillary Clinton,” pushed this meme. [Continue reading…]

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How to determine which Democratic presidential candidate is beholden to wealthy Jewish donors

Politico reports: If Bernie Sanders defeats Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination, he’ll be the first Jewish presidential nominee of a major political party.

But when it comes to his views on Israel, some Jewish Democrats are scratching their heads in confusion.

“His voting record on Israel recently is fine, absolutely fine,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a media consultant and former Clinton White House aide who supports Clinton. “I haven’t heard him once talk about it on the campaign trail. It’s as though he doesn’t utter the word Israel. It just strikes me as odd.”

But over his career Sanders has cast some votes and made critical statements about Israel that unnerve some in the pro-Israel community. That’s all the more puzzling, some say, given his own heritage as the son of a Jewish immigrant father from Poland whose family was wiped out by the Nazis — and someone who spent time working on an Israeli kibbutz.

As Clinton has struggled in recent days to prevent Sanders from notching twin victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, she has zeroed in on what she calls his naive statements about Iran — a country that Israel happens to consider its greatest enemy.

How many Democratic primary voters might have qualms with Sanders is unclear, however. President Barack Obama himself has grown increasingly critical of Israeli policy toward Iran and the Palestinians. Many liberal voters agree: A recent poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found that only 4 in 10 Democrats consider Israel to be playing a positive role in the Middle East.

“The faction of the Democratic base that supports a strongly pro-Israel point of view is shrinking,” said Matthew Duss, president of the left-leaning Foundation for Middle East Peace.

But the Democratic Party still features a strong network of wealthy Jewish donors, such as the Hollywood mogul Haim Saban and American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen, who hold candidates to high standards when it comes to Israel. It also boasts better political organization than liberals who pressure Israel to take a more conciliatory line with the Palestinians and Iran. [Continue reading…]

Some Jewish Democrats are scratching their heads in confusion? If so, that’s probably because Sanders hasn’t offered himself to the highest bidder.

At the same time, there’s no evidence that Sanders has a progressive view of Israeli-Palestinian politics. As Joseph Dana writes:

The problematic and least radical aspect of the senator’s foreign policy is his unwavering support for Israel. When it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Mr Sanders’s economic radicalism falls by the wayside.

He has endorsed continuing military aid to Israel along with economic aid to the Palestinians, which has proven to be an effective tool for both Israel and the United States to exercise undue influence over Palestinian decision-making, as evidenced by the withholding of aid after the PLO pursued statehood recognition at the United Nations. Additionally, the senator has seldom condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and said nothing of Israel’s aggression in Gaza over the last decade.

Some have argued that Mr Sanders’s support for Israel is because he is Jewish. Yet, he has barely spoken about a faith-based connection to Israel. He has only cited his religion as an inspiration for progressive activism, especially regarding the struggle for civil rights equality.

Instead of taking a progressive stance, Mr Sanders relies on the security-based narrative that Israel has spun over the international community for decades. Where is the passion and critical thinking that has captured the imagination of millions of Americans and has demonstrated that fresh conversations are possible?

For a politician running a campaign against the “rigged” political and economic system that continues to disenfranchise millions, he is surprisingly content with the prevailing Washington orthodoxy on Israel (and also gun control, but that is a separate issue altogether).

The perplexing part is that Mr Sanders’s orthodoxy comes at a time when American diplomats in Israel are signalling a readiness to chart a new course on the conflict, one that doesn’t accept Israeli PR at face value.

For American single-issue voters whose sole concern is the resolution of the Middle East conflict, the 2016 presidential election won’t be different from any other: there won’t be a single candidate who ranks this as their primary issue (or even top foreign policy issue).

Is this a failure to acknowledge the defining issue of our times? On the contrary, it’s a reminder to be wary of polemicists who pound their podiums when talking about “the defining issue of our times.”

Indeed, if it turns out that throughout this election season, the subject of Israel rarely comes up, on balance that’ll probably be a good thing.

After all, when the subject does get raised, more often than not it is simply for the purpose of finding out who has the least amount of shame in presenting him or herself as a loyal Zionist.

Let’s be thankful if we are subject to as few as possible of these obsequious and obscene exercises.

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How to create a better politics

I didn’t watch President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, but news reports alerted me to this passage:

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

It’s easy to view politics as a marketplace in which trading is taking place as competing constituencies haggle over power. From that perspective, the only question is which group best represents your interests and if no such group exists, politics then becomes a dull spectator sport. Such a marketplace is inevitably dominated by the loudest voices.

Even if that characterization is reasonably accurate, it is likely to have a constricting effect.

Politics seen as jostling power groups, makes those groups into somewhat static entities and it saps a spirit of inquiry.

If the activity of asking and answering questions — an activity that needs to be driven by curiosity — seems pointless, it gets replaced by a much less constructive exercise: the solidification of opinion through affiliation.

In other words, politics is reduced to the question of who you want to stand with and who you stand against.

In the Republican response to Obama’s speech, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said:

Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

It would be easy to dismiss these appeals from Obama and Haley to reduce the level of rancor in politics as simply calls for a cosmetic change — as though politics can be reformed by making it more pleasant. But I don’t think these calls for a tone change should be trivialized.

The dynamic at issue is driven by the cycle of attention-seeking and attention-giving.

Donald Trump’s success has had less to do with either his financial independence or his alignment with a large segment of the population, than it has with his skill in co-opting the services of the mass media.

He took reality TV to the next level (cliche intended) by turning a presidential campaign into a form of mass entertainment. Trump supporters commonly say that a significant part of his appeal is that they find him entertaining. The tedium of politics has been turned into a raucous circus with Trump as ringmaster.

He couldn’t have done this without the help of a media which salivates at each and every opportunity to boost ratings and make more money.

Ultimately, this is an issue of American values. If creating wealth is the axis around which American life turns, then the media will inevitably function like every other branch of commerce.

The health of any society, however, requires a balance between self-interest and collective interests.

If government, the legal system, the media, education, medicine, and the arts, are controlled by commerce then we all end up as the slaves of profit.

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America divided

John Brockman asked contributors to The Edge: what do you consider the most interesting recent scientific news? Jonathan Haidt responded: If you were on a selection committee tasked with choosing someone to hire (or to admit to your university, or to receive a prize in your field), and it came down to two candidates who were equally qualified on objective measures, which candidate would you be most likely to choose?

__A) The one who shared your race
__B) The one who shared your gender
__C) The one who shared your religion
__D) The one who shared your political party or ideology

The correct answer, for most Americans, is now D. It is surely good news that prejudice based on race, gender, and religion are way down in recent decades. But it is very bad news—for America, for the world, and for science—that cross-partisan hostility is way up.

My nomination for “news that will stay news” is a paper by political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, titled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization.” Iyengar and Westwood report four studies (all using nationally representative samples) in which they gave Americans various ways to reveal both cross-partisan and cross-racial prejudice, and in all cases cross-partisan prejudice was larger.

First they used a measure of implicit attitudes (the Implicit Association Test), which measures how quickly and easily people can pair words that are emotionally good versus bad with words and images associated with Blacks vs. Whites. They also ran a new version of the test that swapped in words and images related to Republicans vs. Democrats, instead of Blacks vs. Whites. The effect sizes for cross-partisan implicit attitudes were much larger than cross-race. If we focus just on White participants who identified with a party, the cross-partisan effect was about 50 percent larger than the cross-race effect. When Americans look at each other or try to listen to each other, their automatic associations are more negative for people from the “other side” than they are for people of a different race. [Continue reading…]

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America moving left — and right

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Peter Beinart writes: By the time Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, in part because of her support for the Iraq War, the mood inside the party had fundamentally changed. Whereas the party’s most respected thinkers had once urged Democrats to critique liberal orthodoxy, they now criticized Democrats for not defending that orthodoxy fiercely enough. The presidency of George W. Bush had made Democrats unapologetically liberal, and the presidency of Barack Obama was the most tangible result.

But that’s only half the story. Because if George W. Bush’s failures pushed the Democratic Party to the left, Barack Obama’s have pushed it even further. If Bush was responsible for the liberal infrastructure that helped elect Obama, Obama has now inadvertently contributed to the creation of two movements — Occupy and Black Lives Matter — dedicated to the proposition that even the liberalism he espouses is not left-wing enough.

Given the militant opposition Obama faced from Republicans in Congress, it’s unclear whether he could have used the financial crisis to dramatically curtail Wall Street’s power. What is clear is that he did not. Thus, less than three years after the election of a president who had inspired them like no other, young activists looked around at a country whose people were still suffering, and whose financial titans were still dominant. In response, they created Occupy Wall Street.

When academics from the City University of New York went to Zuccotti Park to study the people who had taken it over, they found something striking: 40 percent of the Occupy activists had worked on the 2008 presidential campaign, mostly for Obama. Many of them had hoped that, as president, he would bring fundamental change. Now the collapse of that hope had led them to challenge Wall Street directly. “Disenchantment with Obama was a driver of the Occupy movement for many of the young people who participated,” noted the CUNY researchers. In his book on the movement, Occupy Nation, the Columbia University sociologist Todd Gitlin quotes Jeremy Varon, a close observer of Occupy who teaches at the New School for Social Research, as saying, “This is the Obama generation declaring their independence from his administration. We thought his voice was ours. Now we know we have to speak for ourselves.”

For a brief period, Occupy captured the nation’s attention. In December 2011, Gitlin notes, the movement had 143 chapters in California alone. Then it fizzled. But as the political scientist Frances Fox Piven has written, “The great protest movements of history … did not expand in the shape of a simple rising arc of popular defiance. Rather, they began in a particular place, sputtered and subsided, only to re-emerge elsewhere in perhaps a different form, influenced by local particularities of circumstance and culture.”

That’s what happened to Occupy. The movement may have burned out, but it injected economic inequality into the American political debate. (In the weeks following the takeover of Zuccotti Park, media references to the subject rose fivefold.) The same anger that sparked Occupy — directed not merely at Wall Street but at the Democratic Party elites who coddled it—fueled Bill de Blasio’s election and Elizabeth Warren’s rise to national prominence. And without Occupy, it’s impossible to understand why a curmudgeonly Democratic Socialist from Vermont is seriously challenging Hillary Clinton in the early primary states. The day Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, a group of Occupy veterans offered their endorsement. In the words of one former Occupy activist, Stan Williams, “People who are involved in Occupy are leading the biggest group for Bernie Sanders. Our fingers are all over this.”

It’s true that Americans have grown more conservative on some issues over the past few years. Support for gun control has dropped in the Obama era, even as the president and other Democrats have pursued it more aggressively. Republicans also enjoy a renewed advantage on combatting international terrorism, an issue whose salience has grown with the rise of the Islamic State. Still, in an era when government has grown more intrusive, African American activists have grown more confrontational, and long-standing assumptions about sexual orientation and gender identity have been toppled, most Americans are not yelling “stop,” as they began doing in the mid-1960s. The biggest reason: We’re not dealing with the same group of Americans.

On issue after issue, it is the young who are most pleased with the liberal policy shifts of the Obama era, and most eager for more. In 2014, Pew found that Americans under 30 were twice as likely as Americans 65 and older to say the police do a “poor” job of “treating racial, ethnic groups equally” and more than twice as likely to say the grand jury in Ferguson was wrong not to charge Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death. According to YouGov, more than one in three Americans 65 and older think being transgender is morally wrong. Among Americans under 30, the ratio is less than one in five. Millennials — Americans roughly 18 to 34 years old — are 21 percentage points less likely than those 65 and older to say that immigrants “burden” the United States and 25 points more likely to say they “strengthen” the country. Millennials are also 17 points more likely to have a favorable view of Muslims. [Continue reading…]

Still, these measures are relative.

In a recent poll of support for Trump among Millennials, 32.2% of young adults aged 18-24 said they would support his ban on Muslims entering the U.S. They were outnumbered by 46.4% being opposed, but the fact that opposition was not found in an overwhelming majority is telling.

As much as it might be true that the Bush era provoked a backlash that pushed America leftward, the ideology of the war on terrorism can be viewed by its advocates as a success in this sense: the core issue perceived by most Americans is their experience of insecurity and any remedy for that insecurity must make them feel safe.

Many Americans express opposition to policies instituted in the name of counterterrorism and yet simultaneously harbor the multifaceted fears which have become a core component in American consciousness.

Insecurity comes in many forms — economic insecurity, fear of police brutality, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants — but whenever the problem is fear, the remedy is security.

The fact that fear has become the foundation of the American zeitgeist is evident in the varieties of isolationism found across the political spectrum.

Isolationism on the right calls for increased defense spending and stronger borders, while on the left it promotes anti-interventionism and a broad disengagement from global affairs.

This inward turning has happened not only collectively, but also individually. No generation has become less trusting of others than are Millennials.

Millennials Less Trusting of Others

Where trust is so lacking, how can mass movements grow? Where will a sense of human solidarity take root?

Consider the tepid response to Donald Trump’s proposal to exclude Muslims from America. As much as he might have provoked many expressions of principled outrage, why has he not been countered by calls for a massive increase in refugee intake?

The United States is almost 30 times the size of Germany and has four times the population. If the U.S. was to match Germany in its willingness to welcome refugees, President Obama, following Chancellor Merkel’s lead, would be saying we need to accept four million and not a paltry 10,000.

There are 300 cities larger than 100,000 population across America and if all were to accept an average of 500 refugees, this would only amount to a modest intake of 150,000.

The number of Syrian refugees granted asylum in the U.S. in 2015 amounted to one per 172,000 Americans.

Let’s suppose that Americans were to feel collectively strong enough that 1,000 would still feel safe if they were to welcome just one refugee in their communities. This would result in an intake of 322,000 refugees.

The issue here has much less to do with an economic burden or national security, than it has with xenophobic paranoia.

That paranoia might be at its highest concentration in Trump’s America, but it seems to exist in varying dilutions across much of the rest of this nation.

Among the presidential candidates, as the self-declared socialist, Bernie Sanders should have taken the boldest stand on Syrian refugees and he has called on his supporters to sign a petition saying “we should not turn our backs on these refugees escaping violence in the Middle East” — a feel-good sentiment. But when it comes to a call for action, all he appealed for was this:

Support continuing the refugee program that promises to resettle 10,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, who are escaping violence in their home country.

Perhaps he and those in his campaign who arrived there from the Occupy movement personally favor a more radical response to the refugee crisis but have refrained from advocating for this because they believe it would undermine Sander’s electoral viability. Or perhaps this timidity is their own.

Either way, this purported antidote to “anti-immigrant hysteria” nevertheless seems to accommodate rather than challenges America’s more pervasive fears.

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Hillary’s unbreakable bond with Bibi and her commitment to fight for Israel

Hillary Clinton writes: I will do everything I can to enhance our strategic partnership and strengthen America’s security commitment to Israel, ensuring that it always has the qualitative military edge to defend itself. That includes immediately dispatching a delegation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet with senior Israeli commanders. I would also invite the Israeli prime minister to the White House in my first month in office.

The dangers facing both our nations in the Middle East require bold and united responses. We must remain committed to preventing Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to vigorously enforcing the new nuclear agreement. I would move to step up our partnership to confront Iran and its proxies across the region, and make sure dangerous Russian and Iranian weapons don’t end up in Hezbollah’s hands or threaten Israel. I also will combat growing efforts to isolate Israel internationally and to undermine its future as a Jewish state, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. I’ve spoken out against BDS in the United States and at the U.N., and will continue to do so.

For me, fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy — it’s a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security. [Continue reading…]

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Iran deal furor reveals a split among Jewish Americans

Lisa Goldman reports: The frenzied lobbying in Washington over the international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program has drawn attention to two unprecedented ruptures — both of which potentially have significant long-term consequences for Israel’s place in U.S. domestic politics.

For decades, unconditional support for Israel had been a point of unshakable bipartisan consensus inside the Beltway, even as bipartisanship on most other issues became a distant memory. A majority of Jewish voters continue to choose the Democrats; deep-pocketed Jewish donors remain vital to the electoral prospects of candidates from both parties, but partisan distinctions meant little when it came to Israel. And the pro-Israel lobbying establishment, first and foremost the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has always worked hard to span the aisle on Capitol Hill, while political leaders from both parties routinely pay tribute to the lobbying group at its annual convention.

The Iran nuclear deal has thrown that consensus into crisis, leaving Jewish Americans divided between a Democratic-voting majority that polls show support the Iran deal (in numbers proportionally larger than the wider U.S. population) and a conservative minority that includes some very powerful donors, and supports the GOP-led opposition to the deal. And AIPAC’s leading role in campaigning against the deal has prompted President Barack Obama to publicly challenge the group in a manner unprecedented for a U.S. leader over the past two decades. [Continue reading…]

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Israel could lose America’s Democrats for a generation

James Traub writes: Last week, I went to hear Secretary of State John Kerry defend the Iran nuclear deal at the Council on Foreign Relations. Richard Haass, president of the organization, began by asking Kerry to explain what “we have gained by this agreement.” The first thing the secretary said was that he was “very proud” of his “100 percent voting record for Israel” as a senator. The second thing he said was that nobody had worked harder than he had to bring peace to the Middle East. The third thing was, “I consider Bibi” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “a friend.” What we have gained, Kerry summed up, is “safety and security … for Israel and the region.”

I found it astonishing that Kerry had answered a question about the most consequential diplomatic agreement the United States has signed over the last four decades as if he were the foreign minister of another country. Wasn’t the “we” in question “the American people”? Of course, Kerry’s political instincts were perfectly accurate. He knows that he and President Barack Obama don’t need to persuade the Democratic left of the deal’s merits and needn’t bother trying to convert Republican conservatives. He needs to reach the people who view American national security as not just inextricable but indistinguishable from Israeli security.

On the way out, I saw once such personage and asked, jokingly, whether he had come around on the deal. He hadn’t, of course, but he conceded that he would have to live with it. On the other hand, he added darkly, he knew very well what would happen if Congress voted against the agreement and then overrode Obama’s veto: “They’ll blame the Jews.”

No, they won’t. Most Americans who hate the Jews also hate Obama and Iran, and so will be happy to see the deal go up in smoke. Maybe they’ll thank the Jews. What will happen, though, if Congress overrides Obama’s veto — thus destroying the signal foreign-policy achievement of his tenure, humiliating the president before the world, and triggering a race for nuclear weapons capacity in Iran and across the Middle East — is that Democrats will blame Netanyahu and Israel. And it won’t just be the American left, which already regards Israel as an occupying power. The fraying relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party will come apart altogether. Pro-Israel Democrats like Hillary Clinton will have to begin calculating how high a price they’re prepared to pay for their continued support. [Continue reading…]

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Iran nuclear deal gets support of House Israel backer, Sander Levin

The New York Times reports: Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the longest-serving Jewish member now in Congress, said Tuesday that he would support the Iran nuclear accord, lending a hefty voice of approval in a chamber deeply skeptical of the deal.

“Israel’s security has and always will be of critical importance to me and our country,” Mr. Levin said in a lengthy statement explaining his decision. “I believe that Israel, the region and the world are far more secure if Iran does not move toward possession of a nuclear weapon. I believe the agreement is the best way to achieve that. In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult.”

Mr. Levin’s remarks came as members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee began a sharp grilling of three cabinet secretaries sent to Capitol Hill for the second time by President Obama to defend the agreement. While many Republicans have lined up against the accord and some Democrats rushed in early to defend it, the administration is most deeply concerned with congressional Democrats, especially Jewish members and those from heavily Jewish districts who have expressed skepticism. [Continue reading…]

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Facebook expands in politics, and campaigns find much to like

The New York Times reports: “Facebook is going to be the advertising monster of 2016,” said Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a Republican technology firm that ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 digital effort. “They have the largest audience, a dominant set of tools for advertising, and the most aggressive approach to allowing campaigns to leverage their data to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.”

Campaigns can now include what Facebook describes as a “call to action” at the end of their videos — in most cases, a link that allows users to donate to the campaign or sign a petition.

Video represents a tremendous growth area generally. When Facebook announced its new video capacities in September 2014, it had one billion video views a day. Now, the site gets four times as many.

Another innovation allows a campaign to upload its voter file — a list of those they hope will turn out to vote or can be persuaded to do so — directly to Facebook, where it can target those users. Integrating this deep and rich source of information about voters also allows campaigns to find and reach other Facebook users who resemble, in behavior and interests, those in their existing voter file.

The emphasis on reaching increasingly segmented voters reflects the narrowing of the electorate, in which campaigns are devoting more and more money and effort to finding their supporters and turning them out on Election Day, rather than trying to win over uncommitted voters. [Continue reading…]

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O’Malley is right: Climate change helped create conditions for rise Of ISIS

Joe Romm writes: Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley linked climate change to the rise of ISIS earlier this week. Conservatives pounced. Score this round for O’Malley.

For three years now, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Indeed, when a major peer-reviewed study came out on in March making this very case, Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley said it identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought.

Titley, a meteorologist who led the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change when he was at the Pentagon, also said, “you can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.”

Compare the words of Admiral Titley — former Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (!) and currently Director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risks. — with O’Malley’s (video here): [Continue reading…]

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Why Hillary Clinton is moving left on every issue except Israel

Peter Beinart writes: From immigration to campaign finance reform to criminal justice, Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy is clear: Move to Barack Obama’s left, to energize liberal voters. Except on Israel, where she’s moving to Barack Obama’s right, to energize hawkish donors.

The latest example is a just-released letter about her opposition to the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS). Among the most significant things about the letter is one of the people to whom it’s addressed: Haim Saban. (Hillary sent similar letters to at least two other Jewish organizational officials, Malcolm Hoenlein and Jack Rosen). Saban is neither an expert on the Middle East nor on Jewish law or culture. He’s a guy who writes large checks. These days, if Joseph Ber Soleveitchik or Abraham Joshua Heschel wanted to correspond with a presidential candidate, they’d first be asked to donate to his Super PAC.

And Saban isn’t just any mega-donor. He’s a mega-donor who thinks Barack Obama has been bad for Israel. As Connie Bruck reported a few years ago in The New Yorker, Saban was so suspicious of Obama’s views on Iran in 2008 that he considered backing John McCain. Saban’s preferred approach: “I would bomb the daylight out of these sons of bitches.” Not surprisingly, one Saban advisor told Bruck, “I don’t think Haim feels particularly positive about Bibi’s performance. But he certainly isn’t happy about Obama’s.”

Reading Hillary’s letter in light of its recipient, a few things become clear. First, don’t expect her to express much concern for Palestinians. In his campaign book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama emphasized the common humanity of Palestinians and Israeli Jews. “Traveling through Israel and the West Bank,” he wrote. “I talked to Jews who’d lost parents in the Holocaust and brothers in suicide bombings; I heard Palestinians talk of the indignities of checkpoints and reminisce about the land they had lost. I flew by helicopter across the line separating the two peoples and found myself unable to distinguish Jewish towns from Arab towns, all of them like fragile outposts against the green and stony hills.”

Compare that to Hillary’s letter. Yes, she reaffirms her support for two states. But only because “Israel’s long-term security and future as a Jewish state depends on having two states for two peoples.” Not because Palestinians have legitimate grievances or aspirations. And Hillary reaffirms that support in a letter to Saban, a man who, like her, supports Palestinian statehood because it preserves Israel’s Jewish majority but has so little regard for Palestinians that at an event last November, he endorsed Sheldon Adelson’s contention that they are an “invented people.” [Continue reading…]

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Large majority of Democrats say Israel has ‘too much influence’ over U.S. foreign policy

The Times of Israel reports: Three quarters of highly educated, high income, publicly active US Democrats — the so-called “opinion elites” — believe Israel has too much influence on US foreign policy, almost half of them consider Israel to be a racist country, and fewer than half of them believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors. These are among the findings of a new survey carried out by US political consultant Frank Luntz.

Detailing the survey results to The Times of Israel on Sunday, Luntz called the findings “a disaster” for Israel. He summed them up by saying that the Democratic opinion elites are converting to the Palestinians, and “Israel can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America.”

He said he “knew there was a shift” in attitudes to Israel among US Democrats “and I have been seeing it get worse” in his ongoing polls. But the new findings surprised and shocked him, nonetheless. “I didn’t expect it to become this blatant and this deep.”

“Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America, while at the same time it is losing the Democrats,” he said. On US politics, “I’m right of center,” he added. “But the Israeli government and US Jews have to focus on repairing relations with the Democrats.”

Luntz put a series of largely Israel-related questions to 802 members of the opinion elites and his findings have a 3.5% margin of error. The survey, sponsored by the Jewish National Fund, was conducted last week. Among the key findings: [Continue reading…]

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