Has Jesse Jackson Lost His Mind?

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Jesse Jackson was deliberately trying to sabotage Barack Obama’s election campaign.

Amir Taheri reports in today’s New York Post that Jackson, in Evian, France for the World Policy Forum, made some wild, off-the-cuff predictions about how he thinks Israel policy would change under an Obama administration. Here’s the nut:

The most important change would occur in the Middle East, where “decades of putting Israel’s interests first” would end.

Jackson believes that, although “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.

“Obama is about change,” Jackson told me in a wide-ranging conversation. “And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it.”

It didn’t take long for the Republican Jewish Coalition to put out a nefarious press release, titled, “Jackson Confirms Jewish Community’s Concerns About Obama.” In it, RJC executive director Matt Brooks, who clearly has no shame, jumped on Jackson’s comments as if they were some sort of conclusive proof of what he’s been saying all along:

“Jesse Jackson confirmed the Jewish communities [sic] long-standing concerns with Barack Obama‘s policies on Israel and the Middle East,” said Brooks.

Never mind the fact that in September, Jackson ripped Obama for “acting like he’s white.” Forget, for a moment, that in July, Jackson was caught on tape saying he wanted to “cut [Obama’s] nuts off” and accused him of “talking down to black folks.” Put aside that Obama has a perfect voting record on Israel, has AIPAC’s stamp of approval, and has said: “I will work tirelessly as president to uphold and enhance the friendship between the two countries.” (And that he has made this kind of statement repeatedly, in a dozen different venues. See, for instance, my post: “Obama: ‘Unshakeable Commitment to the Security of Israel.’“)

No, evidence be damned. Matt Brooks has found his smoking gun!

When I received Brooks’ statement in an email, I immediately emailed a friend in the Obama campaign. This is the campaign’s official response:

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is not an adviser to the Obama campaign and is therefore in no position to interpret or share Barack Obama’s views on Israel and foreign policy. As he has made clear throughout his career and throughout this campaign, Barack Obama has a fundamental commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and he is advised by people like Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Rep. Robert Wexler, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Senator Joe Biden who share that commitment. As President, he will ensure that Israel can defend itself from every threat it faces, stand with Israel in its quest for a secure peace with its neighbors, and use all elements of American power to end Iran’s illicit nuclear program. No false charges can change Barack Obama’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security,” said Wendy Morigi, national security spokesperson.

Let me put it more bluntly. Jackson has, over the course of his career, made hurtful, anti-Semitic remarks, from Zionism is a “poisonous weed” to “Hymietown.” Comments he’s had to apologize for.

There’s a reason that Obama has so distanced himself from Jackson — and why Jackson, clearly, is so angry about it. Obama stands for a totally different kind of politics, one that is unifying rather than divisive, one that insists on seeing the best in people, and on finding common ground, despite our differences.

Moreover, as Obama told a group of Jewish leaders in Cleveland in February, speaking about black anti-Semitism:

“I understand the concerns and the sensitivities [of the Jewish community] and one of my goals constantly in my public career has been to try to bridge what was a historically powerful bond between the African American and Jewish communities that has been frayed in recent years. For a whole variety of reasons. I think that I have served as an effective bridge and that’s the reason I have overwhelming support among the Jewish community that knows me best, which is the Jewish community in Chicago.”

When Obama said that — in the same forum that he defended Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland and pledged to work tirelessly to strengthen Israel’s security — Matt Brooks apparently didn’t think it worthy of a rapid-response press release.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

UPDATE: Jesse Jackson has released a statement, saying his words were distorted. This is Jackson’s response, from the JTA.

“The recent column in the New York Post by Amir Taheri in no way represents my views on Middle East peace and security. The writer is selectively imposing his own point of view, and distorting mine.I have a long held position of a two state solution to achieve peace in the Middle East. I stand forthrightly for the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility, and a peaceful, non-violent resolution to co-existing with its Palestinian neighbors.”

And:

Reverend Jackson is not a representative of Senator Obama. He has never had a conversation with Senator Obama about Israel or the Middle East, and was not characterizing Senator Obama’s views on these issues.

The JTA also questions Amir Taheri, the author of the report. The Nation has called Taheri a “journalistic felon” for distortions in his book, Nest of Spies. Here’s the link. The article talks about how Taheri concocted a story that appeared in the National Post of Canada, about a new law in Iran requiring Iranian Jews to wear a yellow insignia — a story quickly debunked by bloggers and journalists. Here’s the nut:

Even among a crowd notable for wrongheaded analyses, Taheri stands out, with a rap sheet that leaves one amazed that he continues to be published.

I would suggest, given the level of offense these comments have cause in the Jewish community, and given the damage to Jesse Jackson’s reputation, that Taheri has an obligation to immediately release the full transcript of his conversation with Jesse Jackson. The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has so eagerly disseminated Jackson’s statements, should lead the charge for full disclosure.

Short of that, I take Jackson at his word, and consider this ugly episode closed.

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9 Responses to “Has Jesse Jackson Lost His Mind?”

  1. Loyal says:

    Finally caught up on a week plus of the ND. Great writing Josh.

    JJ has shown himself before to have human frailty. Clearly, among them is envy.

    Yes, intentionally or not, he would sabotage Barack Obama’s ascendency to the WH. Jesse Jackson has been an importnat fighter and helped to force open many of the doors that BO has walked or climbed through. BO and all of us owe him for that.

    And there are still battels that require the type of heavy machinery to open doors that JJ jas had to use over the years, including anger, outrage, demosntrations, stridency. But the ascent to the summit is made from the base camp witha much lighter load. Jesse Jackson paved the route to the base camp and has a right to be proud. If all goes well, Barack Obama will ascend from the base camp to the summit, right on time according to Robert Kennedy’s 1968 prediction.

    JJ knew it was wrong to have the extramrital affairs in which he engaged. But he was weak and he yielded to temptation. JJ knows that the interests of those he has fought his whole life for will be advanced by the Presidency of Barack Obama, and yet he engages ins subtle and not so subtle sabotage. Because his higher instincts can fail him for more base ones.

    I do not believe that JJ’s envy will prove to be a deadly sin for BO.

    Peace y’all.

    Loyal

  2. Loyal says:

    Just had this link sent to me. Dangerous BS, rhw Jewish case against BO. I will not link it but here is the URL.

    http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=78044

    Loyal

  3. Loyal says:

    Opps. looks like your new website doesn’t require the use of HTML to create a link. I would have put spaces in the address had I known. I really did not want to link it.
    Loyal

  4. Dave says:

    why does the new york post have to print that crap that is clearly spoken by one person in his own opinion. What ever happened to fit for print. I know, it is long gone.

    I think he probably is mad it is obama and not him that got this far. how many times does THAT happen.

  5. Nice work Josh – as usual. (Yes, I am still reading you everyday!)

  6. Neurotic Dem says:

    Loyal,
    Thanks for pointing out Jackson’s contributions, which are myriad, and to which Obama surely owes a debt of gratitude. What astounds me is that as Obama is poised to capitalized in the most tangible way on Jackson’s work, Jackson himself is making statements — inaccurate, nonetheless — that will cost Obama votes this election. Jackson’s comments play right into the fear that many Jewish voters have about Obama — fears stoked by endless emails and false charges on Fox — and that’s why they are so harmful.
    Dave —
    Thanks for posting. I hope people see it exactly as you put it — that Jackson’s views are his own, only.
    Eileen,
    Good to have you back in the mix! I’m behind on your blog — but plan to hop back on tomorrow or Friday. Can’t wait!

  7. Warren says:

    While comments by Jesse Jackson would not surprise me, is there any tangible evidence he made the comments as quoted by Amir Taheri? If not, then is there any evidence of his comments that were made in Evian? I am skeptical of the messenger as well as the NY Post, and they will do whatever it takes to prevent Obama (or any Democrat) become President since it threatens their interests.

  8. Neurotic Dem says:

    Warren,
    Thanks for posting.
    To your point, the Obama campaign considers Taheri hostile, and Jackson has now come out and said his comments were distorted.
    Here’s the nut, from an article in the Jerusalem Post (link here http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1222017541219):

    Jackson himself in a press statement issued Wednesday accused Taheri of “selectively imposing his own point of view, and distorting mine,” and stressed that his article “in no way represents my views on Middle East peace and security.”

    Jackson said he supported “the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility, and a peaceful, nonviolent resolution to coexisting with its Palestinian neighbors.” He did not, however, deny having made the comments or say he had been misquoted.

    Jackson also reiterated that he did not represent Obama, nor had he had a conversation with the candidate on his policy toward Israel, though he did refer to Obama as “a member of the family” and himself as a “supporter” in the New York Post piece.

  9. […] We were targeting the Jewish community — folks with names like Baruch, Tali, and Yury. We were armed with hand-outs about Barack Obama’s positions on Israel. We spoke, ahead of time, about how to address any concerns people had about Jesse Jackson’s recent comments. (See blog: “Has Jesse Jackson Lost His Mind?”) […]

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