My Republican Haggadah: An oldie but goodie

Editor’s Note: This “Republican Haggadah” first appeared in the Huffington Post in 2012. However, except for the references to the 2012 Presidential election the humor is timeless. Enjoy!

— by Steve Sheffey

Jewish history is littered with sects, groups of people kind of like Jews who celebrate the same holidays and have many of the same customs, yet are somehow different.

Today’s sect is known as “Jewish Republicans,” few in number but very loud. Like most Jews, they celebrate Pesach, but they’ve got their own Haggadah. The differences between their Haggadah and ours are instructive.

After drinking the first cup of wine, most Jews wash their hands, but the Republicans stay seated and wait for the water to trickle down.

Most Jews then eat a green vegetable, but the Republican Haggadah follows the ruling of Rabbi Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be. (Reagan does have this in common with Moses: Neither ever set foot in the land of Israel.)

More after the jump.
Next we break the middle of the three matzot. Most Jews break the middle matzah into two roughly equal pieces, replacing the smaller piece on the Seder plate and hiding the larger piece as the afikoman. The Republican Haggadah asks the leader (or in Republican parlance, the Seder CEO) to keep 99 percent of the matzah for himself and let the other participants share the remaining 1 percent.

The Torah speaks of four sons, but the Republican Haggadah speaks of four candidates: The simple candidate (Santorum), the wicked candidate (Paul), the candidate who does not know how to answer (Romney), and the simple candidate who thinks he’s the wise candidate (Gingrich). They have no wise candidates.

The highlight of the Republican Haggadah is its version of “Dayenu” — “it would have been enough.” The Republican motto when it comes to President Obama is “nothing is enough” — no matter how much President Obama does for Israel, it’s never enough for some of our Republican friends:

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama increased security assistance to Israel to record levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama boycotted Durban II and Durban III.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama cast his only veto in the U.N. against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama opposed the Goldstone Report.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama immediately intervened to rescue Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama gave orders to give Israel “whatever it needs” to put out the Carmel fire.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama maintained the U.S. policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama has repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

President Obama pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel.
But that’s not enough for our Republican friends.

There’s probably nothing President Obama can do to convince some Republicans that he’s pro-Israel. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d accuse him of not being able to swim. They made their mind up before he was elected that he could not be trusted and they ignore everything that contradicts their biases.

The ultimate message of the real Haggadah is hope (sound familiar?). Let’s hope that just as the vast majority of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008, the vast majority of us will remember who we are and what we value and vote to re-elect President Obama in 2012.

GOP Must Condemn Comparison of IRS to Gestapo by Tea Party Group

— by David Streeter

Last night, TheTeaParty.net sent a fundraising appeal with a graphic that labeled the IRS “Obama’s Gestapo.” As unacceptable as their graphic was, the fact that they were looking to raise money off of their Gestapo comparison is even more offensive.

We’ve repeatedly seen Tea Party groups engaging in this type of behavior, and we demand that Republicans, including Tea Party mouthpieces Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), condemn this crass political stunt.

Mark Sanford’s Israel Problem


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his father Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

— by Aaron Keyak

In the last few weeks, South Carolina House candidate former Governor Mark Sanford has chosen to accept support from two individuals with questionable Israel records: Former Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

As a Representative, Ron Paul was a leading opponent of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he has formed a think tank with anti-Semites and 9/11 truthers, according to a recent report. Given this, it is unacceptable for Sanford to have accepted his endorsement. After years in public service, Sanford should know better and reject the endorsement — but it seems that desperation is trumping common sense after each self-inflicted wound in Sanford’s campaign. Republicans like Sanford who seek and flaunt Paul’s endorsement cannot reasonably claim to be a friend of Israel or the American Jewish community. Period.

More after the jump.
Sanford has also accepted the endorsement of Senator Rand Paul. During Senator Paul’s short tenure in the Senate, he has quickly racked up a dismal record when it comes to Israel and Iran. Senator Paul has consistently attacked American foreign aid to Israel and he is the only Senator who refuses to rule out a containment strategy for Iran. By accepting this endorsement, Sanford is legitimizing Senator Paul’s stature in the GOP and proving how desperate he is to win.

Sanford’s decision to ally himself with Ron and Rand Paul is unacceptable and it shows that he is out of step with the American Jewish community.

Why Sarah Palin Supports Rand Paul

— by Benyamin Korn, founder of Jews for Sarah

While I in no way speak for Sarah Palin in any authorized capacity, Aaron Keyak raises a valid question as to why Gov. Palin should support Sen. Rand Paul, especially given his foreign policy views.

The answer is simple: Ms. Palin’s primary focus is on U.S. domestic policy, and particularly on the disastrous economic course of the Obama administration and its progressive allies of both parties, which she has described as “a bullet train to bankruptcy.”

Continued after the jump.
In Sen. Paul, like his father, Gov. Palin sees a vociferous opponent to the progressives’ massive expansion of Federal government, radically higher taxation (including Obamacare), and so-called quantative easing — which is really a euphemism for the Federal Reserve printing $85 billion a month to prop up the stock market, the real estate market and the tepid “economic recovery.” Before long, both Sen. Paul and Gov. Palin have been warning, Americans will experience a very rude awakening from such reckless economic stewardship.

As to foreign policy, there is certainly a debate going on within Republican circles, primarily over the scope and legitimacy of U.S. foreign interventions, but extending to the issue of foreign aid. Immediately following his week-long visit to Israel this January, Sen. Paul introduced legislation to block the transfer of 200 Abrams tanks and 24 F-16s to the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated regime of Mohammed Morsi. He also stated that his position on cutting foreign aid should apply first to countries (such as Pakistan and Egypt) which are hostile to the United States. And he opposed President Obama’s gift last month of $240 million to the Morsi regime (certainly a band-aid considering the collapse of Egypt’s economy following the Obama-backed ouster of Mubarak, but one which President Obama has now supplemented with the sale of 140,000 tear gas canisters to help Morsi suppress domestic unrest).

While the NJDC is right that Gov. Palin would probably disagree with any form of reduced support for Israel, the foreign aid debate has clearly not been a “wedge issue” between her and the good doctor from Kentucky, whose support for Israel is clear, despite his more libertarian views on foreign aid.

Republicans Should Call out Rand Paul

— by Aaron Keyak

Senator Rand Paul was featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” issue because of his expanding role in American politics as a Republican leader. Former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wrote a glowing profile of Senator Paul to accompany his ranking. It is puzzling why Palin, a self professed ardent supporter of Israel, continues to whitewash members of the Paul family (she defended former Congressman Ron Paul’s Israel record on Fox News in 2012), given their obsession with cutting American aid to Israel and their dangerous views on Iran.

Continued after the jump.
Senator Paul, a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called for cuts to Israel’s military aid at multiple points during his brief Senate career, most recently in January. When it comes to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, he was the only Senator who has consistently refused to rule out a containment strategy-placing him at odds with every single other member of the Senate as well as the Obama Administration.

It seems that Palin may think that she is helping the Republican Party and our nation by elevating Senator Paul. In reality, she is legitimizing the damaging foreign policy agenda that he represents. Republicans who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship should be calling out Senator Paul on his dangerous views, not giving him a free pass.    

NJDC Calls Stanford to Reject Endorsement From Anti-Israel Ron Paul‏

— by David Streeter

During his time in the House, former Representative Ron Paul was a leading opponent of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he’s formed a think tank with anti-Semites and 9/11 truthers, according to a report published yesterday. Given this, it is unacceptable for Mark Sanford to accept his endorsement. After years in public service Sanford should know better and reject the endorsement — but it seems that desperation is trumping common sense after each self-inflicted wound in Sanford’s campaign. Republicans who seek and flaunt Paul’s endorsement cannot reasonably claim to be a friend of Israel or the American Jewish community. Period.

CPAC Victory by Rand Paul Alarms American Jews


CPAC Straw Poll Results:
1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) – 25%
2. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – 23%
3. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) – 8%
4. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) – 7%
5. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) – 6%
6. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) – 5%

— by David Streeter

Earlier today, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) — the Senate’s only proponent of cutting aid to Israel and the sole Senator who refuses to reject a policy of containment for a nuclear-armed Iran — won the Conservative Political Action Conference’s (CPAC) annual straw poll. NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak said:

Regardless of political affiliation, American Jews should be alarmed that the Republican Party’s core activists have selected Senator Rand Paul to be their preferred standard bearer for 2016. Senator Paul has called multiple times to cut and end American aid to Israel, and has refused to rule out a containment strategy vis-à-vis Iran. Paul’s misguided foreign policy views are nothing short of dangerous, and his growing legitimacy among the GOP’s base is only another reason why the vast majority of Jewish Americans consistently support the Democratic Party.


Israel Opponent Appointed To Senate Foreign Relations Committee

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed outrage over Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) new membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee given his deeply disturbing record when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

Senator Rand Paul’s membership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be raising red flags and provoking severe concern across the pro-Israel community. The decision by Republican Senate leaders to give a bigger microphone and a prominent platform to someone who has repeatedly called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and used his leadership PAC to push an anti-foreign aid agenda is simply outrageous. As we’ve said for months, Senator Paul and his father’s acolytes are becoming legitimate forces in today’s Republican Party — and pro-Israel Republicans have repeatedly and epically failed to address this growing issue within the GOP ranks. Now this failure has very real consequences. The overwhelmingly pro-Israel American public deserves much better than a radical ideologue on the Senate’s primary diplomatic committee who has demonstrated a singular obsession with slashing aid to the Jewish state.

More after the jump.
Senator Rand Paul twice pushed for ending U.S. “welfare” (in his words) for Israel — which prompted seven Democratic Senators to author a letter firmly rejecting Paul’s proposal. Further, Paul has been a staunch opponent of general U.S. foreign aid — which has long been supported by the pro-Israel community — and even used his leadership PAC to push his anti-foreign aid agenda during the 2012 campaign.

Unfortunately, membership in the committee is not likely to cause a change in Paul’s behavior. As Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin noted (emphasis added):

Replacing them will be Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), and newly minted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Paul has been a thorn in the State Department’s side since he came to the Senate, pushing for drastic cuts in U.S. foreign aid and holding up several State Department nominees. His new SFRC perch will allow him to ramp up those activities.

What Really Happened at the Democratic Convention

— by Steve Sheffey

Last week Republicans accused Democrats of doing what they did just the week before regarding Jerusalem. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats clarified their position by amending the platform, resulting in a statement on Israel that is stronger in several respects than the Republican platform.

The voice vote was messy, but far more problematic was the Republican tribute to Ron Paul, the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in decades, and the GOP decision to let Rand Paul, who supports cutting foreign aid to Israel, address their convention in person.

Rational pro-Israel voters should not base their 2012 votes on Jerusalem because both parties have the same position.

More after the jump.
 
As many of you know, I was a delegate from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention last week. After Shabbat services yesterday, many people approached me during kiddush lunch with questions.  This article will be longer than usual.  If these issues are important to you, I hope you’ll take the time to read to the end.

Ron Kampeas accurately summarizes what happened. Republicans attacked Democrats for not including certain language on Jerusalem and when Democrats added the language back, the voice vote did not go smoothly.

We first need to separate politics from policy. The Democrats kicked the ball into their own goal. This entire firestorm could have been avoided if someone had done what the Republicans did the minute they had a chance: compare the 2008 platform to the 2012 platform for emotional issues. We’ll talk below about the policy rationale for not including the Jerusalem language, but not initially including it created an unnecessary distraction.

The Democrats then scored another goal against themselves with the voice vote. We’ll talk below about why it went down the way it did,  but the optics were terrible. Should any of this matter to pro-Israel voters? That’s where policy comes in.

To understand the Democratic platform on Israel, one first has to understand the Republican platform on Israel. This election is a choice, not a referendum. I was not able to find a link to only the Israel part of the Republican platform, but here is a link to the entire Republican platform.

Scroll down past the part about how taxes reduce freedom, past the part about repealing the estate tax, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment restricting marriage to unions of one man and one woman, past the part supporting prayer in public schools, past the part supporting a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children, past the part opposing federal funding for embryonic  stem cell research, past the part about reining in the EPA, past the part about saving Medicare by “modernizing” it (I’m not making this up),  past the part about repealing Obamacare, and you’ll eventually get to a section titled “American Exceptionalism.”  The last two parts of that section talk about Israel.

Most Democrats would probably agree with the 2012 Republican platform on Israel. I certainly do. Everything in the Republican platform on Israel is fine, but in 2008, the Republicans also said this: “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.” Now that language is gone.

Does that mean that Republicans now think Jerusalem should be divided? Does that mean that Republicans now oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem? It does by the logic of those who are attacking the Democrats, but as Buzzfeed correctly observed, “In both parties’ cases, the revisions don’t seem to reflect a dramatic policy shift, but rather attempts by party leadership to avoid foreign policy commitments in the non-binding political document.”

Only a week before the Democratic Convention, the Republicans omitted key language on Jerusalem. As Bill Clinton said, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”

Now let’s look at the pre-amended Democratic platform. Once again, you’ll have to scroll down to get the Middle East section. The Democratic platform is very strong on Israel; in many ways, it describes how President Obama has already done what the Republicans say they want to do.  But it too is not the same as the 2008 platform.

The Democratic platform is stronger on Israel. For example, as JTA reports, the Democrats say this about Iran:

“At the same time, [Obama] has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options – including military force – remain on the table.”

Specifying military force explicitly is new — the Republicans fall back on the coy “all options” language, which is interesting because that elision has frustrated pro-Israel groups and Republicans and Democrats in Congress no end in the last year, and helped bring about more explicit warnings from the White House, culminating in the explicit mention of “military force” in the DNC platform.

Here’s the GOP 2012 language:

“We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the safety of our friends.”

But what about Jerusalem? As Josh Rogin reported, “the drafters [of the platform] made a deliberate and conscious decision to reframe the Israel section of the platform around Obama’s record, to limit the section to cover his existing policies, and to intentionally avoid any and all final-status issues.”  That might not be how to win US elections, but it does make sense.

Then why did the Democrats add the Jerusalem language to the platform on Wednesday? Politics. The only chance to amend the platform was during the convention. The language was irrelevant from a policy standpoint. The platform is not meant to be a checklist of every issue. But given that no policy change was intended, and given that Republicans had the brass to allege a policy change, the Democrats decided it would be easier just to add the language and remove all doubt. So, with President Obama’s approval, they added this: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Note that this language too is stronger than the 2012 Republican platform, which omits the word “undivided.”

But what about other language that was not added? Republicans also complained that language about Hamas in the 2008 platform is not in the 2012 platform. Robert Wexler responded that the 2012 platform is stronger because it covers all Palestinian terror groups:  “The platform doesn’t say ‘Hamas,’ but it says that any potential Palestinian partner has to meet the conditions necessary for peace. That’s even stronger and of course it applies to Hamas.”  President Obama’s position is clear on the refugee issue and the armistice lines issue, both of which are final status issues that are not necessary to include in the platform.

The voice vote was blown out of proportion. I knew in advance that the platform would be amended at 5:00. Do you know where I was at 5:00? I was having dinner at Bentley’s with most of the Illinois delegation. It was a done deal. Many of the people there at 5:00 weren’t even delegates and had to get there early because they didn’t have reserved seats. When C-SPAN wasn’t zooming in on those two Arab-Americans, they showed the main floor, plainly revealing how few people were there. The Illinois section was virtually deserted.

Why the booing? Some delegates were upset because they had no notice of the amendments (they didn’t). Some delegates were upset because the “under God” language was also being added (it was). And yes, there probably were some people upset about the Jerusalem language, but it’s impossible to know how many of the nays and boos were actually from delegates. What we do know for certain is that Democratic leadership strongly backs the Jerusalem language. I was at an AIPAC lunch earlier in the day, and Senator after Senator, Congressperson after Congressperson, re-affirmed their support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And this being the Democratic Convention, all of them were Democrats.

Republican delegates exhibited anti-Israel sentiment only a week earlier. The voice vote at the Democratic convention was ambiguous, but you don’t have to guess what Republican delegates supported. Rep. Ron Paul is the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in either party for decades, maybe ever. Yet Ron Paul was honored at the Republican convention, no doubt to appease the Ron Paul delegates who were elected during the Republican primary. And Sen. Rand Paul, who is not quite as extreme as his father but who does favor cutting foreign aid to Israel, spoke at the Republican convention. Can you imagine the outcry if a Democrat who supported cutting foreign aid to Israel spoke in person at the Democratic convention?

Pro-Israel voters shouldn’t vote based on Jerusalem anyway. I was tempted to lead with this, but so many people want their questions answered first that I defied what might be good PR strategy and decided to actually answer the questions people are asking. But Aaron David Miller is 100% correct on this:

The Jerusalem issue defies logic and rationality when it comes to our presidential elections. Presidential candidates say all kinds of things in order to win elections, including repeated commitments to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And then, once in office, they turn around and seek ways to avoid doing it.

Despite all of the campaign rhetoric, no administration has changed the bottom line U.S. position on the embassy, or for that matter the status of Jerusalem, since 1967. Its fate is to be determined in negotiations.

And here’s a news flash for you. Should Mitt Romney become president and serious negotiations start between the Israelis and Palestinians, his position would conform to that of his predecessors, and might even go further to allow for Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke accurately about Michael Oren. I was in the room when the DNC Chair said “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” I don’t know if the “reporter” stayed for all of what she said, but it was obvious to me, as it should have been obvious to anyone familiar with Oren’s warnings about using Israel for partisan gain, that she was right.

The confusing part is that following the reporting of Wasserman Schultz’s comments, Oren issued a statement stating that “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Oren is right. But that’s not the point. In 2010, Oren “expressed deep concern over the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics. The Ambassador stressed that bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.”

Republicans have repeatedly attempted to use Israel as a partisan issue. Whatever Romney meant when he said he’d “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, there is no way to interpret his statement as anything but the opposite of bipartisanship. And if accusing President Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus” even as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called US military and intelligence support for Israel under President Obama unprecedented isn’t playing politics with Israel, I don’t know what is.

So while it’s true that Oren did not specifically call out Republicans, it’s also true that Republicans are engaging in exactly the behavior that Oren so rightly condemned. I was in the room. It was obvious that’s what Wasserman Schultz meant. And good for her for speaking up.

But what about the troop exercises? Someone asked me about this in shul too. Some have suggested that the US is sending Israel a signal because the number of US troops participating in an upcoming major joint military exercise with Israel is smaller than originally planned.  The reality is that the exercises were moved at the request of Israel from the spring to the fall. At that time the administration told Israel that if the date was changed, then due to troop rotations the number participating would be a bit smaller.  Time reported that only 1500 US troops would participate, but the actual number is about 3,000.

Crossposted courtesy of Steve Sheffey’s Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update.

GOP Convention, Night Two: Repelling the American Jewish Vote

— by David Streeter

Despite all claims to the contrary, meeting on the second night of its shortened convention in Tampa, the GOP appeared tonight to be doing everything possible to drive away every last American Jewish voter who might be watching. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris noted:

Tonight, American Jews saw an over-the-top tribute to one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill — Rep. Ron Paul — with Republican official after Republican official, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), singing his praises. Then Jewish voters, whom the GOP claims to prize, got the privilege of hearing from his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who shares so many of his father’s policy positions albeit with less baggage. If they can stay tuned long enough, they’ll have the pleasure of seeing vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, whose social safety net-gutting budget was so widely scored in the Jewish community &jmdash; and who holds so many positions at odds with the values of so many American Jews.

If this is the Republican Party’s idea of Jewish outreach, I can only hope they keep trying.

Video of Rand Paul at the Republican National Convention follows the jump.