Why the GOP will lose ’16 (hint: it’s spelled S-H-E-L-D-O-N)

Gross.

That’s really the only word that comes to mind after reading Dana Milbank’s account today of the recent GOP pilgrimage to Sin City to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, the 9th richest man in the world, and quite possibly the most  ideologically driven of them all. That’s not to say he can pick winners. Remember, Sheldon bombed as kingmaker in the 2014 elections (in fact, most people believe he actually blew the Republicans’ chances in the race entirely). He chose to plow $16 million of his personal coin into Republican has-been Newt Gingrich, who, let’s be serious, only runs for president these days to bolster his own marketing and fundraising schemes. The only effect was to injure Mitt Romney  in the primary. Romney never  fully recovered, and lost terribly to President Obama in November, despite of an infusion of Adelson cash later on. As they say, ‘heck of a job.

Sheldon Adelson, GOP kingmaker?
Sheldon Adelson, GOP kingmaker?

But that hasn’t stopped the first crop of 2016 nominee wannabes from jumping to Adelson’s whistle:  Republican Party players John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker spent the weekend kowtowing like sops in a display Hollywood couldn’t have sketched out better. Mindful of their party’s family values, no doubt, they guilelessly delivered themselves up to the mogul of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation empire, square in the epicenter of blackjack and booze, prostitutes and pleasure. Milbank :

Adelson was hosting the Republican Jewish Coalition at his Venetian hotel and gambling complex, and the would-be candidates paraded themselves before the group, hoping to catch the 80-year-old casino mogul’s eye. Everybody knows that, behind closed doors, politicians often sell themselves to the highest bidder; this time, they were doing it in public, as if vending their wares at a live auction.

Adelson has bestowed great generosity on Republicans — $150 million in post-Citizens United cash to their candidates and causes during the last presidential election cycle — but clearly only those that adhere to his own fervently hawkish views on the Middle East. Adelson is unabashed defender of Israel who, according to The New York Times, “opposes any territorial compromise to make way for a Palestinian state.” He is openly Islamophobic, saying at one point that “not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists,”  and defending Gingrich with vigor when the former Speaker of the House famously declared Palestinians “an invented people.”

Adelson has been known to underwrite congressional boondoggles to Israel, helping to shape their views on foreign policy. His attempt at influencing outcomes doesn’t end at the border. In 2007, according to The New York Times, Adelson started a free daily newspaper widely viewed as supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “a close friend who shares his hawkish outlook.” The NYT also noted that at one point, Adelson was rumored to be calling for the ouster of Condoleezza Rice from the Bush Administration because she  — and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — were “betraying Israel.”

Anything close to an Adelson foreign policy in the White House would be a nightmare, and most likely everyone knows it but that hasn’t kept power-desperate Republicans from taking his money. Aside from the millions he wasted on Gingrich, he’s sprinkled millions on other hawks, like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor, too.

And he’s known as a street fighter — aside from making his fortune in one of the most predatory and exploitive industries there is, in 2013 Adelson admitted he “might” have violated federal bribery laws during an ongoing investigation of his dealings with the Chinese. Adelson owns five of Macau’s 35 casinos (including the biggest, the Venetian Macau) and reportedly wants a much bigger imprint on the Chinese mainland. Investigators want to know more amid a number lawsuits alleging that Adelson bribed officials to exploit Macau, and to pursue his commercial interests in Beijing. According to Wikipedia, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands brought in $4.2 billion in Macau-generated revenue in 2011 alone.

Many have sued Adelson, but not all win. According to The New York Times, his own sons sued him, alleged he cheated them, but they lost. Meanwhile Adelson is always suing others, and sometimes he wins.  He filed a libel suit against a Las Vegas newspaper columnist, John L. Smith, who eventually had to declare bankruptcy. He won a libel suit against the Daily Mail of London in 2008. The newspaper had accused him of pursuing “despicable business practices” and having “habitually and corruptly bought political favour.” Adelson said it was “a grave slur” on his “personal integrity and business reputation”, and he won a judgment of approximately £4 million as a result.

He filed a similar suit against a Wall Street Journal writer in 2012 who called him “a scrappy, foul-mouthed billionaire from working-class Dorchester, Mass.”

Adelson may have a team of lawyers to defend his name in the courtroom, and he may be able to call in the chits when he wants to massage or push legislation his way on the Hill, but delivering the next president is a fantasy he will likely never see realized. His zealousness appears to cloud his vision when it comes to picking favorites, and his favorites risk looking tawdry and bought when they take his money. And my, they look really foolish when they beg for it. According to Milbank:

Walker, the Wisconsin governor, pandered unabashedly by giving the Hebrew meaning of his son Matthew’s name and by mentioning that he displays a menorah at home along with the Christmas tree. And Christie, the New Jersey governor, gushed about his trip to Israel and the “occupied territories.”

That was a gaffe. Pro-Israel hawks consider the term pejorative and, at any rate, the more relevant occupied territory at the moment is the Republican Party — wholly occupied by billionaires.

But will they occupy the White House? If this kind of behavior is any indication, the answer is no.

 

 

The easiest campaign promise??

Both War Party candidates (Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama) have stumbled all over themselves — and each other — to promise the government of Israel  they won’t let Iran produce a nuclear bomb.

Unless they begin to believe their own propaganda as Kennedy did (which inadvertently fired-up the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union), it’s the one campaign promise they’ll both be able to easily keep at almost no cost.

Here’s why:

U.S. Defense Sec. Leon Panetta: “Are they [Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” –Panetta Admits Iran is Not Trying to Develop a Nuclear Weapon, CBS’s “Face The Nation” Jan. 8, 2012

The Buried Lead on Iran: All Nuclear Sites Routinely Inspected, No Violations Antiwar.com

'What intelligent person would fight 5,000 American bombs with one bomb?' Iranian President Ahmadinejad

Iran to Allow Nuclear Inspectors Into Secret Military Complex
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Iran has announced it will allow international nuclear inspectors to visit its secret Parchin military complex. Iran has long said its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, but some international analysts have speculated Iran may be using the Parchin complex to do research relevant to nuclear weapons. It is not clear when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit the site. –Democracy NOW! HEADLINES, March 06, 2012

SEYMOUR HERSH: …let me say again, there is no evidence that our intelligence community or even the Israeli intelligence community has — and I know that firsthand — suggesting that there’s an ongoing bomb program. So we are now — the United States is now in the position of increasing sanctions and pressuring all sorts of economic pressure on the Iranians to stop — the whole purpose of the economic sanctions is to stop the Iranians from making a bomb that we know they’re not making. –Training Terrorists in Nevada: Seymour Hersh on U.S. Aid to Iranian Group Tied to Scientist Killings

So everyone, including U.S. and Israeli intelligence, knows that the Iranian government isn’t trying to make a bomb. Unless a seriously careless Iranian scientist slips on a banana peel and pushes the wrong 10,000 buttons in exactly the right sequence, there’s little chance Iran — which, unlike Israel with its estimated 100 secret nukes, has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty  — will build even one bomb.

How hard can it be to stop someone from doing something they’re not doing? So, is the War Party candidates’ mutual promise to the government of Israel to prevent Iran from producing  a nuclear bomb the easiest campaign promise?

Or, as with Kennedy and the nuclear arms race, Iraq, and now Iran, is THIS the main danger – – –

Little girl's sign: They lied about Iraq

For further information: Common Sense: IRAN: A Medley Against the MIC (MilitaryIndustrialComplex)

Obama vs. Romney: There Goes One Lesser-of-Two-Evils Argument

Kevin Drum, the Leonidas of the left 49-yard line, predicts the ways in which a Romney presidency would differ from an Obama presidency. Drum assumes that Romney would have a Republican majority in the Senate, so this is not a best-case scenario for liberals. I scanned the list for anything related to foreign policy and civil liberties, and here’s all I found:

We might stay in Afghanistan significantly longer than we would otherwise — though I’m not sure about this. …

Romney has talked tough on China, but that’s just campaign bushwa. He’d quickly find out that his options are extremely limited on this score. On foreign policy more generally, Obama is actually fairly tenacious, despite Romney’s bluster to the contrary, and I doubt that Romney would be able to move much further to his right.

So, on two sprawling issues that could make a difference in a tight race, it’s practically a wash. No wonder liberals have aimed so much ire at another Republican.

Deep Thoughts From The Guardian

Screen grab taken on Dec. 30, 2011

Will the Republicans ban sex in 2010 [sic]? Why did those “government-hating,” “market-worshipping” Republicans “sacrifice all the workers and retirees”? Why mustn’t we despise our corrupt, corporatist governments? Read The Guardian and find out!

Well, OK, just read one article from that august publication: Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the Republicans’ greatest difficulty in campaigning against Obama. Much of it is off-topic for this site, but here’s a relevant snippet:

It is in the realm of foreign policy, terrorism and civil liberties where Republicans encounter an insurmountable roadblock. A staple of GOP politics has long been to accuse Democratic presidents of coddling America’s enemies (both real and imagined), being afraid to use violence, and subordinating US security to international bodies and leftwing conceptions of civil liberties.

But how can a GOP candidate invoke this time-tested caricature when Obama has embraced the vast bulk of George Bush’s terrorism policies; waged a war against government whistleblowers as part of a campaign of obsessive secrecy; led efforts to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs; extinguished the lives not only of accused terrorists but of huge numbers of innocent civilians with cluster bombs and drones in Muslim countries; engineered a covert war against Iran; tried to extend the Iraq war; ignored Congress and the constitution to prosecute an unauthorised war in Libya; adopted the defining Bush/Cheney policy of indefinite detention without trial for accused terrorists; and even claimed and exercised the power to assassinate US citizens far from any battlefield and without due process?

Reflecting this difficulty for the GOP field is the fact that former Bush officials, including Dick Cheney, have taken to lavishing Obama with public praise for continuing his predecessor’s once-controversial terrorism polices. In the last GOP foreign policy debate, the leading candidates found themselves issuing recommendations on the most contentious foreign policy question (Iran) that perfectly tracked what Obama is already doing, while issuing ringing endorsements of the president when asked about one of his most controversial civil liberties assaults (the due-process-free assassination of the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki). Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama’s policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of terrorism.

Newt Gingrich and Dave Weigel Will Bomb Knowledge Back to the Stone Age

SEE UPDATE BELOW.

Dave Weigel is a history buff:

[Newt Gingrich’s] last full-on grapple with Romney came when the former governor attacked him, in a sort of more-in-sorrow-than-anger way, for saying that the Palestinians were an “invented people.” That, said Romney, was complicating things for Israelis.

“The Israelis are getting rocketed every day,” snorted Gingrich. “We’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration is making life more difficult.” Plus, he was right on the facts. “Palestinian did not become a common term until after 1977.” That’s the sort of knowledge-bomb that Republicans dream of dropping on Obama—they feel like this is right, but here’s a candidate who can say so.

I suppose we could argue over the definition of “common term.” I did a very fast, very lazy search for “Palestinian” on EBSCOhost. Five seconds’ work turned up references to Palestinians — in the Oxford English Dictionary sense of “an Arab born or living in the area of the former mandated territory of Palestine; a descendant of such an Arab” — going back to 1922.

Winning the future by annihilating the past.
That earliest reference was in The Nation, which used the term fairly often in the Twenties. But maybe The Nation lacks the common touch. What about Time magazine? Is that common enough for Newt and Dave? The magazine recommended by four out of five dentists began using “Palestinian” in the relevant sense in 1951. For a while, Time used it only before “Arab,” if that makes any difference, but as early as November 1957 the Arab part seemed to be understood:

At one time Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser commended himself to the world as a strongman of reason, more concerned to put his impoverished country on its feet than to stir trouble in the Middle East. But Nasser has increasingly resorted to the incendiary propaganda of the totalitarian dictator, has persistently used his radio Voice of the Arabs to incite the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, who brood in bitter idleness over their lost lands across the border in Israel.

By November 1960, Time considered “Palestinian” a noun:

Last week Pakistan’s Moslem President Mohammed Ayub Khan arrived in Cairo and throwing away a diplomatically phrased set speech, delivered the sharpest criticisms of Moslems by a Moslem heard in many a year.

Ayub spoke plainly on his view of the long-festering problem of refugees along the Israeli border, where more than a million Palestinians—those who fled or were ejected by Israel, and the children born to them since—still inhabit squalid detention camps in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

In fairness, I have yet to discover the first use of “Palestinian” in Highlights or the works of Michael Bay, so you can keep believing Newt Gingrich if you like.

Weigel link via Daniel Larison.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel, to his credit, has revised the article in question.