When former vice preisident Joe Biden spoke of the civility he practiced in the Senate with segregationist Democrat senators James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, my friend Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), among others, saw an opportunity, and jumped all over him.
He condemned Biden’s remarks and demanded he apologize.
“Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people and for everyone,” Cory said in a statement. He followed up with a tweet of a photo of black marchers in the Memphis sanitation workers strike of 1968 holding signs that said, “I am a man.”
Cory is right. Biden should not be praising segregationist senators. Segregation is affront to the Biblical insistence that all humans are equally God’s children and that we are all one human family. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the greatest American of the twentieth century by dismantling segregation, a movement for which he paid with his life.
But how does this square with Cory’s bizarre comments about being open to meeting with the foremost antisemite in America, Louis Farrakhan?
Asked whether he would meet the Nation of Islam leader at a campaign event in Nevada, Cory said, “I don’t feel the need to do that, but I’m not one of these people that says I wouldn’t sit down with anybody to hear what they have to say.” He then added that he is very acquainted with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam from his time as mayor of Newark, N.J., stating, “I am very familiar with Minister Louis Farrakhan and his beliefs and values.”
What Cory should, of course, have said, is this:
“I just condemned a former vice president of the United States for saying he hung out with segregationist senators. So of course I would not meet with Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews ‘termites,’ ‘satanic,’ and referred to Hitler, who murdered six million Jews, as ‘a very great man.’ I have enjoyed wide moral and financial support from the Jewish community throughout my political career. In addition, I served as President of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s L’Chaim Society at the University of Oxford and I’ve spoken at synagogues throughout the United States who treated me with love and respect. I would never insult the my Jewish friends and supporters by meeting with a man who demonizes Jews and incites violence against them, especially a time of rising global antisemitism.”
But Cory did not say any of that. Instead, he left the door open to meeting a man who employs Nazi terminology about Jews. (Everyone knows the one thing you do with termites is exterminate them.)
To make matters worse, rather than apologizing himself or repudiating his comments, Cory had an unnamed staffer call jewishinsider.com to say he condemns Farrakhan’s comments. It was a cynical move. Firstly, Cory did not do so himself. Second, the aide’s remarks were made to a publication known to be read exclusively by leaders in the Jewish community. Was Cory attempting to have his cake and eat it too, to pander to followers of Farrakhan on the one hand, while trying to hold on to Jewish leaders on the other? Was he hoping that his comments to “Jewish Insider” would not reach beyond the Jewish media, which is what appears to have happened?
About a month ago the Washington Post ran a front-page story by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Kevin Sullivan titled: “Cory Booker and the Orthodox rabbi were like brothers. Now they don’t speak.”
The story duly notes how Cory and I met — my wife found him idling at our Simchat Torah dinner, where he’d been stood up by a date — and how we studied, talked, and bonded over Jewish texts for thousands of hours during our years together at Oxford. The thoughtfully written piece also explained the impact of these years on Cory’s life and politics, as well as the evolution and abrupt end to our decades-long friendship when Cory voted to give genocidal Iran $150 billion and legitimize their nuclear program by voting for the Iran deal. Prior to his vote I would never have believed that Cory would legitimize a regime which is committed to a second holocaust.
Cory’s Iran vote endangered America’s foremost Middle East ally and the world’s only Jewish State. Our relationship floundered because Cory chose to support Barack Obama’s catastrophic deal with genocidal Iran. In doing so, he betrayed the people — both in the United States and in Israel — whom he’d sworn to stand defend.
Amazingly, in his discussion with the Post, Cory dismissed the entire Iran episode as nothing but a sideshow. “I have lots of friends I disagree with over the Iran deal,” he explained, “and we’re still friends.”
But friends don’t let friends fund terrorists who are out to murder their people. It’s time for Cory to condemn the disgusting antisemitism of Louis Farrakhan and make clear he will never legitimize a man who believes in the greatness of Hitler by breaking bread with him.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.