President Barack Obama is using anti-Jewish language to sell the Iran deal.
Some critics made that claim a week ago, when Obama complained about “the money” and “the lobbyists” on the other side of the debate over the Iran nuclear deal. This week, Obama proved it.
On Thursday, Obama led a conference call with left-wing activists in which he repeatedly railed against his political opponents by using the old canard of rich Jews using their money to exert control.
Accusing critics of the deal of being “opposed to any deal with Iran”–i.e. of advocating war–Obama railed against “well-financed” lobbyists, as well as the “big check writers to political campaigns,” and “billionaires who happily finance super-PACs.” He complained about “$20 million” being spent on ads against the deal—a subtle reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC–whose support he had repeatedly courted when running for office).
Some of Obama’s references were thinly-veiled attacks on specific (Jewish) individuals—columnist Bill Kristol, for example, the Weekly Standard publisher and former New York Times resident conservative who served in the George H.W. Bush administration, and also helps run the Emergency Committee for Israel, which opposes the Iran deal; or billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is a prodigious Republican benefactor, super PAC donor, and well-known hawk on Israel issues.
On the call, Obama twice accused his opponents of being the same people “responsible for us getting into the Iraq war.“ That sweeping, and largely false, characterization of the opponents of the Iran deal repeats the sensational accusations of The Israel Lobby, a widely discredited 2007 book that accused a group of pro-Israel, and largely Jewish, individuals and organizations of pushing the U.S. into war with Iraq, and seeking to drag America into a new war with Iran.
Obama’s deliberate, and jarring, choice of words clearly worried even some sympathetic Jews.
Nathan Guttman, of the left-leaning Forward, which covers Jewish issues, wrote of the call that “what many liberals hear as a powerful rallying call to avoid entering another military quagmire in the Middle East could seem tone deaf to some in the organized Jewish community.” Obama’s claims about the Iraq War, he added, were “likely to make many in the community feel uneasy.”
Of course, there is a large, well-funded effort to oppose to the Iran deal. There is also—as the president well knows—a large, well-funded effort to support it. The radical group J Street is spending millions on its ads; other groups have already used Hollywood stars in theirs.
There are also liberal Jews, like Times columnist Tom Friedman, who abuse the term “Israel lobby”—knowing it is a vicious slur. Presumably, that is why Obama thinks he can get away with it.
Yet a Republican who did the same thing would be criticized as antisemitic.
As the Republican Jewish Coalition noted Thursday, in a press statement objecting to Obama’s remarks, “Jewish groups—including Jewish Republicans—came down hard on the first President Bush for similar remarks.”
Indeed, Democrats spent this week bashing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for saying that the president “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
Obama himself criticized Huckabee for those remarks from abroad. Wolf Blitzer of CNN said that Huckabee had “essentially, essentially” likened Obama to Adolf Hitler. He pressed every Republican who appeared on his show to slam Huckabee.
Yet if Obama and his supporters are so concerned about comments that portray the president as an antisemite, he should stop trying to act like one. At the very least, it shows he knows he cannot defend the Iran deal on its merits.
On the call, Obama’s case for the agreement was weak.
He claimed it has the most rigorous inspections regime ever—ignoring the fact that unlike the inspections under the New START treaty, the Iran deal excludes Americans from participating. He said that while it was possible military force might be needed if Iran raced to the bomb after the deal expired in 15 years, the U.S. would be better prepared for war then—ignoring the likelihood that Iran would be, as well.
With his peculiar mix of arrogance and self-pity, Obama told the conference call that while he had a “bully pulpit,” the fight was up to them: ”I can’t carry it by myself,” he said.
He urged them to become informed about the Iran deal. But the more Americans know about the deal, the more they reject it. So Obama is, once again, demonizing his opponents for political gain.
In his heart, Obama is probably not an antisemite. That is all the more reason to deplore what he is doing.