Follow Me on Twitter This Election Cycle: @neuroticdem …

October 1st, 2012

… and learn more about President Obama’s strong pro-Israel record, and why I’m supporting him for re-election in 2012.

One last point to make here: Note that whenever Obama talks about Israel, especially on the world stage, he talks not just about the importance of Israel as a democratic ally in a volatile region — but about the absolute need for a safe and secure “Jewish” state. This is an extremely significant choice of words from the American president — a strong, consistent signal to the Arab world — at a time when many deny that there should even be an inherently Jewish character to a democratic state of Israel.

Here, for instance, is President Obama in his speech to the United Nations, Sept. 25, 2012:

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear — a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine.

I have heard Obama speak twice about Israel to small Jewish audiences — the first in Cleveland during the presidential primary in ’08, and the second last June in Washington, D.C. I have absolutely no doubt he gets Israel in his “kishkes” — and that is why he has made stopping Iran’s nuclear capability one of his signature foreign policy objectives. (And if you doubt the Obama-led sanctions regime is having an impact, please read: Israel Finance Minister says Iran Economy on the ‘Verge of Collapse.’):

Israeli officials appear increasingly ready to acknowledge the effect of recent American and European sanctions designed to restrict Iran’s lifeline oil exports.

“The sanctions on Iran in the past year jumped a level,” Israeli finance minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio, noting that as finance minister, he follows Iran’s economy. “It is not collapsing, but it is on the verge of collapse. The loss of income from oil there is approaching $45-50 billion by the year’s end.”

For all of the facts on President Obama’s policies designed to stop Iran, please read and share this.

[UPDATE: Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic has compiled a list of some of Obama’s strongest statements about Iran here: “Obama’s Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon.”]

For all of the facts about President Obama’s policies that strengthen Israel — including information about how Obama restored Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge” — please read and share this.

And for information about how Obama’s general policies reflect Jewish values, please read and share this.

I knew from the moment I met Obama that he had a quintessentially Jewish soul. In ’08, when I asked him to sign an autograph for our  son, he asked — when he heard the name — if our son was named for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. How many people in public office today — let alone the president — even know who Rabbi Heschel was? (How many Jews know him?) How many of our leaders could cite Heschel on a dime in a rope line?

Many of Obama’s critics on Israel — some of whom are my dear friends — like to tell me that while Obama says the right things, it doesn’t ultimately matter; it’s just words. But as Rabbi Heschel said: “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out in a sound, ends in a deed.”

That’s why when Obama speaks repeatedly not just about a safe Israel, but a secure Jewish state, its significance should not be understated.

Rabbi Heschel also famously said: “Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

That’s why I’m doing all I can — through my writing on Twitter this year — to help re-elect President Barack Obama. Please follow me @neuroticdem. Thanks.




What Mitt Would Actually Do

January 13th, 2012

Here, in a nutsell, is what scares me about Mitt Romney. From Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker, Jan. 16, 2012:

By lineage and temperament, Romney, the likely nominee, is the pragmatic moderate he quite convincingly played on the Massachusetts stage. His problem now, and possibly his (and the nation’s) salvation later, is the suspicion that he changes his opinions to suit the political (and, one would hope, substantive) circumstances. No one, maybe not even Romney, knows if Romney means what he says. But as President, especially if the Republicans complete their takeover of Congress, he would be under irresistible pressure to do what he says. And what does he say? That he would let states recriminalize abortion; that he would seek constitutional amendments outlawing new same-sex marriages and requiring two-thirds congressional majorities for tax increases; that he would sabotage “Obamacare” (never mind that “Romneycare” was its prototype) and seek its repeal, destroying its cost savings and consigning tens of millions to the ranks of the uninsured and untreated; that he would replace unemployment benefits with unemployment “savings accounts”; that he would supercharge income inequality with further huge tax cuts for the wealthy; that he would gut financial regulation; that he would “double Guantánamo,” reauthorize torture, and deport undocumented aliens en masse (including President Obama’s Kenyan uncle); and more.

Read more

Can We Talk?

November 2nd, 2010

Nothing like an election to get my neurotic juices flowing again.

I’ve been out of comission for awhile. Keeping up with a blog — doing it right — is tough work. But I didn’t think I could let this Republican House takeover go by today without commenting.

I’ll admit it’s hard, personally, to see how far we’ve come in two years. Watching returns tonight on CNN, I was reminded of watching returns two years ago — literally jumping up and hugging my wife when Ohio was called for Obama, and thus the presidency.

There is no shortage of pundits out there offering an explanation on why things have gone so awry for the Obama administration. GOP obstructionism only goes so far as an explanation. The influx of “secret” money is disturbing, but — as David Brooks argued in a recent column — ultimately not consequential. There is real disillusionment out there — much of it felt by the same people who voted for Obama two years ago; some of those, my friends.

I like much of what Obama has done — from health care to restarting the peace process in Israel to the auto industry bailout; from pro-consumer regulatory reform of the banks to a stimulus package which, by all nonpartisan estimates I’ve seen, created or saved thousands of jobs. I even like his cerebral approach, though I see why others wouldn’t.

What’s more, Obama said he would do all of these things, during his election campaign. When in history have we seen a candidate so roundly punished for following through on campaign promises?

I’m not sure I could say, with any real authority, why this wave election happened. What I’m wondering tonight is this: can we, on opposite sides of the spectrum, talk to each other, instead of screaming at each other? Can we try to understand each other, and find common ground?

I don’t have any real hope that those in Congress, or on CNN or Fox, will suddenly stop the shouting. I’m talking about the rest of us — friends, neighbors, family members. Me and my Uncle Randy.

I’m certainly guilty of shouting myself at times. I wonder: could this blog be re-energized around political conversations about issues that we disagree on?

Could any blog?

Stay tuned.

Big Day for Democrats

May 19th, 2010

The final votes hadn’t even been counted last night when CNN’s GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos was already attempting to throw cold water on Democrat Mark Critz’s victory in Pennsylvania’s 12th District.

The win means very little, Castellanos argued, given that Critz campaigned against Obama’s health care bill.

Talk about some desperate spin.

First off, Critz isn’t exactly anti-health care reform. While he says there are shortcomings in the recently-passed bill, he wants to fix them, rather than repeal the bill and start over. Much to the consternation of Republicans. Read more here.

The election to replace Democratic icon John Murtha in Pennsylvania was the only head-to-head race yesterday. It’s a district that McCain carried over Obama. As the Washington Post notes, it’s the archetypical swing district, a “must win” for Republicans hoping to win back the House in the fall:

The [National Republican Congressional Committee] has spent $958,897 — one tenth of their cash on hand — and nine (9) shady outside groups have spent more than $445,000 to defeat Democrat Mark Critz. Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele guaranteed victory for Republican Tim Burns.

PA-12 is the only district in the country that Senator Kerry won and President Obama lost. According to non-partisan political independent analysts, PA-12 is exactly the type of district that House Republicans need to win this cycle.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s independent analyst Charlie Cook:

Republicans have no excuse to lose this race. The fundamentals of this district, including voters’ attitudes towards Obama and Pelosi, are awful for Democrats.

And here’s National Journal’s Amy Walters:

If [Republicans] can’t win the only district in the country that voted for both John Kerry and John McCain, what does it say about their ability to win other GOP-tilting seats this fall?

Republicans predicting a GOP tidal wave in the midterm elections have in fact now lost the last two special Congressional elections, in Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.

Critz won, as the LA Times reports, not just by presenting himself as an outsider, but by focusing on creating jobs, jobs, jobs, and on stopping the out-sourcing of American jobs. His opponent, Republican Tim Burns, lost because he tried to nationalize the election — to make it an anti-Pelosi vote — instead of focusing on the district’s woes. (Read more from Politico, which asks this morning: “Where’s the wave?”)

Meanwhile, also in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak outflanked Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter from the left. Sestak, a consistently reliable liberal who among other things favors gun control (Specter tried to make an issue of Sestak’s support for an assault weapons ban), won, as E.J. Dionne notes this morning, by knitting together an impressive left-right coalition.

To get a sense of Sestak’s sweep, consider that he carried all but three of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. He carried Obama strongholds – he got 63 percent in Lancaster County, for example – but also swept through smaller counties in the central and western parts of the state that had supported Clinton.

My cousin Nate, who works for the Sestak campaign, believed Sestak could upend Specter, a three-decade titan of the Senate, back when Sestak was down 20-points in the polls. “We’re gonna do it!” Nate texted me yesterday, as he worked in and around Philadelphia to get out the vote. Kudos to Nate — and all those who worked hard to elect Sestak.

There is much hard work ahead for Democrats, who surely have uphill battles across the country with unemployment hovering near 10 percent. But let’s also learn something from Pennsylvania 12, and from Nate’s commitment and irreducible optimism: we can win, in the fall, even in places where our opponents guarantee we can’t; our message and values still resonate.

There’s only one thing left now to do. In the immortal words of Philadelphia heroine Adrian Balboa: Win.

Obama’s Answer to Iran

May 18th, 2010

That didn’t take long.

One day after Iran announced a nuclear deal with Turkey and Brazil — a transparent stalling effort designed to ward off international sanctions aimed at curtailing its nuclear program — the Obama administration has announced its own deal with the other major powers, including Russia and China, to go ahead with tough new sanctions.

It’s a draft plan. But, still, for those of use who care about Israel and Middle East stability, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement today is nothing short of huge.

As the negotiations on the draft resolution were in their final hours on Monday evening, a senior administration official said that one of the most critical sections of the proposed sanctions were modeled on a resolution passed last year against North Korea, after its second nuclear test. That resolution authorized all nations to search cargo ships heading into or out of the country for suspected weapons, nuclear technology or other cargo prohibited by previous United Nations resolutions …

Other elements of the sanctions resolution are aimed at Iranian financial institutions, including those that support the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The corps is responsible for overseeing the military aspects of the Iranian nuclear program. But it has also played a central role in suppressing protests against the government, and the Obama administration is betting that the organization is now despised by a large enough portion of the Iranian public that the sanctions may be welcomed by part of Iranian society. That is a big bet, however, because the corps also runs large elements of the country’s infrastructure, including its airports.

The deal, struck with the veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council (France, Russia, China, and the U.K.) plus Germany, is the Obama administration’s answer to Iran’s not-so-subtle high stakes gamesmanship.

Mrs. Clinton said the new offer [with Turkey and Brazil] would still leave Iran “in clear violation of its international obligations” because it “is continually amassing newly enriched uranium.” She also criticized what she called the “amorphous timeline for the removal” of the low enriched uranium. Reading the terms, she said, “that could take months of further negotiation and that is just not acceptable to us and to our partners.”

To those critics who say that sanctions will not hurt or deter Iran, I would ask: Why, then, is Iran going to such great lengths to undermine them?

As the Times reports:

Iran has been working mightily to ward off new sanctions, sending its foreign minister to the capitals of countries sitting on the Security Council to make the case that the sanctions amount to an American conspiracy to deprive Iran of its right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Maybe you saw this photo of a Ahmadinejad in today’s Times, raising the V for victory sign after inking the deal with Brazil and Turkey. If Obama and Clinton succeed in getting these sanctions through the United Nations, it will be the end of Ahmadinejad’s smirking.

Question Answered

May 14th, 2010

Earlier in the week, I blogged about the one question Elena Kagan needed to answer: What battle did she wage with her rabbi before her bat mitzvah?

The New York Times had disclosed that there had been a brouhaha “over some aspect of the ceremony,” without explaining what, precisely, had been at issue.

Well, thanks to the New York Jewish Week for asking — and answering — that question.

It seems that Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee had the moxie to stand on principle — even at the tender age of 12.

This issue was this: Kagan wanted a bat mitzvah; the Orthodox Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City, where her family belonged, did not have bat mitvot for girls.

Kagan went to her rabbi and told him she wanted to recite the Haftorah, just like the boys, and moreover, she wanted her bat mitzvah on a Saturday morning — just like the boys.

Her rabbi, Shlomo Riskin, told the Jewish Week that such a request was unprecedented.

To his credit, though, the rabbi worked with her. She could have the ceremony on a Friday night, he said; and instead of reading a traditional Haftorah, she could chant, in Hebrew a section from the Book of Ruth.

“I was very proud of her,” [Riskin] said. “She did very well. After that, we did bat mitzvahs all the time. … She was part of my education. This was for us a watershed moment.”

It couldn’t have been easy, in 1973, for a 12-year-old girl to stand up to her Orthodox rabbi for what she thought was right. At an age when most of us are more preoccupied with the bar/bat mitzvah after-party, Kagan not only spoke truth to power, but she forged a compromise that blazed a new path for all the girls who came after her.

Not to make of this long-ago incident than it deserves. But with abortion rights being chiseled away (women in some states will soon be forced to look at ultrasounds, and have the fetus described, before having abortions — even in cases of rape or incest) and immigrants being targeted through the law (did anyone see that Arizona just restricted ethnic studies classes, on the grounds that they promote “ethnic chauvinism”?), Kagan’s moral fearlessness could be a bold corrective.

My Question for Elena Kagan

May 10th, 2010

Elena Kagan, newly nominated by President Obama for the Supreme Court, will surely be peppered with questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Something tells me, though, that at no point will Kagan be asked the most critical question.

As the Times reports this morning:

The young Ms. Kagan was independent and strong-willed. Mr. [Bill] Lubic [her father’s law partner of 20 years] recalls her bat mitzvah — or bas mitzvah, as it was then called — in a conservative synagogue, where Elena clashed with the rabbi over some aspect of the ceremony.

“She had strong opinions about what a bas mitzvah should be like, which didn’t parallel the wishes of the rabbi,” he said. “But they finally worked it out. She negotiated with the rabbi and came to a conclusion that satisfied everybody.”

I know that Supreme Court nominees are famously tight-lipped. But Americans — and most especially Jewish Americans — must know. Solicitor General Kagan: What battle did you wage with your rabbi at your bat mitzvah?

Did it have to do with Jewish gender roles? A disagreement about the interpretation of the HafTorah? A question about who could sit with the bat mitzvah girl on the bimah?

Let others debate whether Kagan is an activist judge (though it would hard to be more activist than Scalia, Roberts, et. al), or whether she is too progressive (her senior thesis at Princeton was about Socialism in New York City! She clerked for Thurgood Marshall!) … we need to know, Ms. Kagan: what prompted you, as a 13-year-old girl, to take on your rabbi, and how did you get him to cave?

I’ve got a hunch that this liberal Jewish woman — who has taken great pains in her career to reach out to conservatives, including Scalia — is exactly what’s needed on the increasingly conservative Roberts court.