Daily Archives: 11/23/2011

No Large Menorahs This Year at U.S. Army Bases?

I guess as long religious artifacts are not displayed permanently, such as Menorahs, it may after all not be a problem, but read what Tim Mak at Politico Reports: A large cross that had been prominently displayed outside a chapel on an isolated military base in northern Afghanistan was taken down last week, prompting outrage from some American service members stationed there.

“We are here away from our families, and the chapel is  the one place that feels like home,” a service member at Camp Marmal told POLITICO. “With the cross on the outside, it is a constant reminder for all of
us that Jesus is here for us.”

“Not having it there is really upsetting,” added another. “I walk by the chapel daily on the way to chow and the gym, and seeing the cross is a daily reminder of my faith and what Jesus accomplished for me. It is daily inspiration and motivation for me to acknowledge my faith and stay on the right path.”

Camp Marmal is a German base that hosts NATO forces. The interfaith chapel in question is supervised by the U.S. Army.

The soldiers said they found great comfort in the chapel — and the cross visible outside. “Sometimes the Church and the ability to openly express religious views ultimately gets people through the deployments over here,” one told POLITICO by email.

The service member said he asked the base chaplain, a military officer, what had happened to the cross. “I had to take it down,” said the chaplain, according to the solider, without further explanation.

Pentagon spokesperson Commander William Speaks confirmed the cross was removed and told
POLITICO, “The removal was, in fact, in accordance with Army regulations” and pointed out that the Army chaplain manual prohibits permanent display of religious symbols.

“Distinctive religious symbols, such as crosses… will not be affixed or displayed permanently on the chapel interior, exterior or  grounds,” reads the manual.

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Rick Santorum On Iran: ‘The Public Is Going To Be Stunned When All Hell Breaks Loose’

Luke Johnson at the HuffPost Reports: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum warned about the possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post.

“The public is going to be stunned when all hell breaks loose. They’re going to ask, ‘Why didn’t we know?’” he said to conservative Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. He also said he believes that the U.S. could have had a chance to change the regime after the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential elections, which sparked widespread protests. “We could have been in the position during the Green Revolution [to oust the mullahs] if we had publicly condemned the regime, brought in the U.N. and rallied the world community behind the dissidents. We didn’t do that,” he said.

At the time of the elections, President Barack Obama said he had “deep concerns” about the elections and subsequent violence, but said direct involvement by the U.S. would not be “productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations.” Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights activist and dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, had no complaints about Obama’s response at the time of the disputed elections. “I respect his comments on all the events in Iran, but I think it is sufficient,” she said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate that he favored “crippling sanctions” and indicting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations for inciting genocide. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would take military action against Iran if it led to regime change.

In Tuesday’s debate, Santorum referred to Africa as a country and called for the Transportation Security Administration to single out Muslims for screening at airports.

Western powers imposed sanctions Monday focused on cutting off Iran from the international financial system. The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report earlier this month stating that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device.”

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Romney Aides Pleased With Reaction to Deceptive Anti-Obama Ad

Mat Viser at the Boston Globe Reports: Mitt Romney’s advisers are pleased with the reaction to their first TV ad of his campaign, saying they are successfully engaging with the person they view as their chief rival — President Obama — by including an intentionally deceptive quote from him in their ad.

“It’s all deliberate. It was all very intentional,” Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney senior adviser, said after last night’s debate in Washington. “We want to engage him on the subject he wants to avoid, which is his failure to create jobs and get this economy moving again.”

“They should probably order some more defibrillators for the Obama reelection committee, because their reaction was quite hysterical,” he added. “But that was the point.”

Romney’s 60-second ad, which started being broadcast yesterday in New Hampshire, shows a video clip of Obama saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” What the ad fails to mention is that the clip is from Obama in 2008 quoting from an aide of his GOP rival, John McCain.

Democrats, news organizations, and liberal groups immediately called foul, saying the quote was out of context in a way that shouldn’t be fair game even in rough-and-tumble politics.

“Seriously?” White House spokesman Jay Carney said to reporters yesterday, as Obama was traveling to New Hampshire. “I mean, an ad in which they deliberately distort what the president said? I mean, it’s a rather remarkable way to start, and an unfortunate way to start. And I’m pleased to see numerous news organizations point out the blatant dishonesty in the ad.”

In a press release announcing the ad on Monday night, the Romney campaign included more complete context for the quote. But the vast majority of voters who see the ad may not hear about the full context.

Fehrnstrom said it was the job of the media to provide the full context, not the campaign.

“You guys have it,” he said. “If you do your job [voters] will learn about it.”

With the campaign’s first ad focused solely on President Obama, it seems clear that the Romney campaign is already moving toward the general election. Some top Democrats concede that they, too, have moved to focusing almost solely on Romney, believing that he will be the Republican nominee.

“He’s our main rival,” Fehrnstrom said. “The reason that Mitt Romney is running for president is because of the sorry state of the economy. That’s the fault of Barack Obama – not Ron Paul’s fault.”

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Video: RNC Ad Uses Democrats to Destroy Obama Over Super Committee Failure

Yes. Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the failure of the Super committee, but few can beat this minute-long web video produced by the Republican National committee where it puts blame directly at Obama’s feet. Worse, most footage is actually from Liberals and Democrats saying that the President is/was missing in action.

H/T Real Clear Politics for this.

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Netanyahu Calls for Tougher Sanctions on Iran

Reuters Reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Wednesday for stronger sanctions on Iran than those imposed this week by the United States, Britain and Canada to try to curb its nuclear ambitions.

“Iran is developing nuclear weapons. If anyone had any doubts, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) report certainly dispelled them,” Netanyahu told parliament, referring to the U.N. body’s findings on November 8 that suggested Iran had worked on designing a nuclear bomb.

“It is important to impose sanctions, tough sanctions, on this regime – even tougher than those that have been imposed over the past few days,” he said, without elaborating on measures he believes should be taken.

On Monday, the United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, steps analysts said may raise pressure on Tehran but were unlikely to halt its nuclear program.

The United States named Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern,” a step designed to dissuade non-U.S. banks from dealing with it; blacklisted 11 entities suspected of aiding its nuclear programs; and expanded sanctions to target companies that aid its oil and petrochemical industries.

The United States stopped short, however, of targeting Iran’s central bank, a step that could have cut it off from the global financial system, sent oil prices skyrocketing and jeopardized U.S. and European economic recovery.

In a coordinated action, Britain ordered all British financial institutions to stop doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the Iranian central bank

Canada said it would ban the export of all goods used in Iran’s petrochemical, oil and gas industry and “block virtually all transactions with Iran,” including with its central bank, with an exception for Iranian-Canadians to send money home.

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Video: Rick Perry in the Center Seat with Bret Baier

Bret Baier at Fox News had yesterday eve Texas Governor Rick Perry in the so-called Center Seat. It is called so, I guess, because it is in center of the table width pundits from both sides grilling the candidate with Baier as the moderator. Perry is of course not the first candidate to take the seat. Here is the sixteen minute interview.

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Thanksgiving: A Jewish Holiday After All

Moshe Sokolow at Jewish Ideas writes: In 1789, in response to a resolution offered by Congressman Elias Boudinot of New Jersey, President George Washington issued a proclamation recommending that Thursday November 26th of that year “be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.”

In New York City, Congregation Shearith Israel convened a celebration on that day at which its minister, Gershom Mendes Seixas, embraced the occasion: “As we are made equal partakers of every benefit that results from this good government; for which we cannot sufficiently adore the God of our fathers who hath manifested his care over us in this particular instance; neither can we demonstrate our sense of His benign goodness, for His favourable interposition in behalf of the inhabitants of this land.”

While the celebrations at that venerable Orthodox synagogue continue unabated to this day, other American Jewish appreciations of Thanksgiving have ranged from the skeptical to the outright antagonistic. In an essay entitled “Is Thanksgiving Kosher?” Atlanta’s Rabbi Michael Broyde examines three rabbis’ halakhic positions on the subject: that of Yitzhak Hutner, who ruled Thanksgiving a Gentile holiday and forbade any recognition of it; that of Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who regarded it as a secular holiday and permitted its celebration (particularly by eating turkey), and that of Moshe Feinstein, who permitted turkey but prohibited any other celebration because of reservations over the recognition of even secular holidays.

(Coninue Reading at Jewish Ideas Daily. H/T Real Clear Religion)

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Jewish Dem Group Assails GOPers for Israel Stance, Religious Profiling During Debate

From David Streeter at the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC): Last night, Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingirch (R-GA), Herman Cain, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman participated in the CNN/Heritage Foundation/American Enterprise Institute foreign policy debate. A number of the candidates made many statements that raise concerns about their readiness to become President of the United States. Some of the highlights from the debate included:

* Paul said that Israel should “suffer the consequences” of any potential military strike it conducts against Iran’s nuclear weapons site. Paul also attacked the close U.S.-Israel strategic relationship by saying:

We don’t even have a treaty with Israel. Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel?

* In keeping with the Republican Party’s use of the Islamic faith as a straw man, Santorum expressed support for religious and ethnic profiling for Muslims at American airports. He said:

Obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely. … Those are the folks who … the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes by and large, as well as younger males.

* Cain—who has a record offensive statements about Islam and Muslims—first said that Santorum’s position on profiling was “oversimplifying” the matter. He then said, “We can do targeted identification. … If you take a look at the people who are trying to kill us, it would be easy to figure out exactly what that identification profile looks like.”

* Perry irresponsibly called for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to resign over the supercommittee’s failure. In doing so, Perry ignored that Panetta joined with President Barack Obama in urging Congress “to avoid an easy way out of [the debt] crisis.” Perry’s call for Panetta’s resignation would also remove a cabinet official who is deeply involved in strategic cooperation with Israel and widely regarded as a friend to the Jewish state

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Video: Historian, Congressman Eating up Each Other at House Hearing

The historian Doug Brinkley went wild after Alaska Republican Dan Young said he didn’t have nerves to listen to Brinkley’s “garbage.” The historian tells the Congressman that he, the congressman didn’t even graduate college so he probably is clueless. Notice how the intern behind Young reacts to this squabble.

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Pew Poll: Mormon Faith May Hurt Romney in Primaries

Reuters Reports: Mitt Romney’s Mormonism could hurt the Republican candidate with evangelical voters in his fight for party’s presidential nomination, but those voters would favor him over President Barack Obama in the general election, a poll released Wednesday concluded.

Some 15 percent of evangelical Christians, a key constituency in the Republican presidential nomination battle, say they are wary of Mormonism and will not vote for Mitt Romney, the poll found.

But those same voters were more likely to favor the former Massachusetts governor, a Mormon, in the November 2012 general election over President Barack Obama, whom they dislike more, the Pew Research Center poll conducted November 9-14 said.

“You do see the potential for Romney’s Mormonism to have an impact on the primary campaign,” said Pew research Greg Smith.

“Those who think Mormonism is not a Christian religion are more reticent about Romney and his candidacy. At the same time those people are the people who are the strongest critics of Barack Obama. Fully 92 percent of them say they have an unfavorable view of Obama,” he said.

Nearly two out of three white evangelical Christian voters in the poll did not believe Mormonism is a Christian religion and 15 percent of evangelicals would not support Romney.

Evangelical Christians may account for 60 percent of the votes cast in two of the first four Republican nomination contests, the January 3 Iowa caucuses and the January 21 South Carolina primary.

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Jewish DNC Chair Focuses Criticism on Mormon Romney

Politico Reports: There were eight candidates on stage at the Republican presidential debate, but Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz made it crystal clear that her critical eyes only saw one — Mitt Romney — so much so that she was called out for it during a TV interview Wednesday morning.

“Mitt Romney did his level best to continue to pull the field of Republican candidates as far to the right and the extreme right as possible, whether it was on immigration, where he said that even families who have been here for 25 years, as Newt Gingrich talked about, he would tear those apart,” the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said on CNN’s “American Morning.”

This is “a field of Republican candidates so obsessed with one job — Barack Obama’s — rather than American jobs, that they even refused to acknowledge that it’s President Obama who planned and executed the attack on Al Qaeda that killed Osama bin Laden,” she continued.

The Florida congresswoman, who often hits the morning TV circuit the day after Republican debates, once again singled out Romney.

“The entire field had no plan, particularly Mitt Romney, no plan on withdrawing our troops from Iraq when the overwhelming majority of the American people support that. He would leave them there indefinitely,” she said. “This is a field that is not ready for prime time when it comes to being the commander in
chief.”

At this point, CNN’s Alina Cho interjected, “There were eight candidates on the stage tough, and by my count, you’ve said Mitt Romney twice, and you haven’t named any of the other candidates by name.”

Wasserman Schultz noted that she had “also mentioned Newt Gingrich,” before continuing on to elaborate on what she called Romney’s “really disturbing views.”

“He’s done his best to continue to embrace the tea party extremism,” she said. “I think he’s earned the attention that he’s getting … particularly because he flip flops on every major issue [and] has no consistent position, no conviction [and] no core, and he wants to be president of the United States. People should know that.”

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In Illinois, Jewish Dem Age 25 in Tough House Primary With 50 Year Old Jewish Dem

JTA Via the Jewish Week Reports: A suburban Chicago congressional primary featuring two Jewish candidates is being cast by political observers as a test of the Democratic Party’s direction.

The race’s two highest profile candidates are Brad Schneider, who enjoys establishment support and has strong ties to the organized Jewish community, and Ilya Sheyman, a 25-year-old progressive activist who has proven to be a whiz at small-donor fundraising.

In addition to the race’s generational aspect — Schneider, 50, is twice the age of Sheyman — observers see the primary as a bellwether for Democrats as they head into the 2012 elections: Will the party tack left or try to hold closer to the center?

David Catanese, Politico’s campaign blogger, last week cast the choice for Democrats this way: “Go with their heart — the young, idealistic and more progressive Sheyman — or play safer with their head in supporting Schneider, who arguably could attract more independent and unaffiliated support by showcasing his business background.”

Each candidate seems to embrace the templates: Schneider emphasizes his business savvy as an MBA who heads a successful business consultancy. Sheyman touts his career with MoveOn.org, a netroots advocacy group that represents the Democratic Party’s left flank, and as a community organizer.

Neither candidate is shy about advertising his Jewishness. Sheyman’s releases routinely describe him as “a Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union.” Schneider’s official biography lists his leadership in four Jewish groups. In an interview, Schneider recalls his “romantic” first date with his wife: watching a seminal 1988 Israeli-Palestinian debate on “Nightline.”

The candidates also are aggressively “pro” on the two issues that have mattered most to Jewish political organizers in the district: abortion rights and Israel.

Marcia Balonick, the executive director of JACPAC, the 10th District-based Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs, explains why her group is withholding an endorsement for now.

“We follow a criteria that we put in place 30 years ago,” she said. “If there’s a crowded primary and two candidates give us papers that are good for our issues, we don’t endorse.”

That’s the case with Schneider and Sheyman, said Balonick, whose group gives only to candidates who support abortion rights and are pro-Israel.

Schneider’s campaign website does not elaborate on his Israel views beyond a single sentence: “Leading the pursuit for real security and peace in the Middle East.”

Schneider, however, has deep roots in the Jewish community. He is involved with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and is a member of the American Jewish Committee’s Chicago region executive committee.

Schneider, who has lived in Israel, played down foreign policy in an interview, saying the emphasis should be on jobs, education and the social safety net.

“We can’t call ourselves a great country if we aren’t taking care of the most vulnerable among us,” he told JTA.

Sheyman in an interview has a similar emphasis.

“Through hard work and support from the community and government, we were able to create a good life,” he said. “This is slipping away for families across our community.”

He also notes his own Jewish organizational connection: The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society assisted his family, which arrived in 1991.

Sheyman’s website articulates his position on Israel in great detail. The only issue on his “issues” page that features a link to a separate PDF statement is the section on Israel.

In the three-page document, titled “Standing Up for Israel,” Sheyman calls for an active U.S. involvement in brokering peace — language that suggests a familiarity with the stances of dovish Israel groups — while insisting that a “final status agreement must come from direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” mirroring Israel’s insistence that Palestinians return to the negotiating table.

Democrats see the 10th District as a likely pickup in 2012, principally because post-census redistricting has made the district — which includes a mix of wealthy suburbs and struggling towns north of Chicago — more Democratic than it was in 2010.

Mark Kirk, a moderate Republican, represented the 10th for a decade, winning close elections in a district with a substantial Jewish population by being a leader on pro-Israel issues while trending more to the center on social issues such as abortion and health care.

Kirk relinquished the seat in 2010 for a successful Senate run and was succeeded by Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), narrowly defeating a Democratic opponent by 2 percentage points . in last year’s GOP sweep. Dold, however, has disappointed those who had hoped he would maintain Kirk’s tradition of moderation.

Insiders say that although Dold has assiduously courted the Jewish community, the death knell for his prospects of winning broad Jewish support came last month when he voted for the Protect Life Act — a measure that is anathema to abortion rights supporters.

Democrats are feeling good about their prospects in the race even 12 months ahead of the election.

Lauren Beth Gash, chairwoman of the 10th Congressional District Democrats, says she tells voters not to worry too much about which candidate is likeliest to best Dold.

“Whoever wins the primary has a better chance of beating Dold,” she said.

Schneider and Sheyman have been joined in the race by John Tree, an Air Force Reserves colonel who declared last week. Tree has just started fundraising, so his strength among donors is not yet clear. Tree is not Jewish, although his wife is, and he has made much of his cooperation with Israel when he served in the Middle East as an Air Force logistics chief. His campaign has said that he has visited Israel at least a dozen times.

Schneider leads Sheyman overall in fundraising, with more than $400,000 on hand against Sheyman’s $140,000, according to Federal Election Commission returns. Sheyman, however, has surged in the most recent quarter while Schneider has stalled.

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Perry Road: Gingrich Suggests That Sending Home Illegals is Inhumane

The National Journal Reports: The former House speaker treaded into volatile territory on Tuesday at the GOP presidential debate when he voiced support for allowing long-term illegal immigrants to stay in the country — a proposal his presidential rivals were quick to characterize as amnesty.

The accusation is potentially troublesome for Gingrich, who has been surging in the polls, and one he’s already seeking to rebut by saying that it’s the only “humane” option.

“The party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families who have been here a quarter century,” said Gingrich, who denied his proposal amounted to amnesty. “I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.”

It didn’t take long for Gingrich to start taking heat for his proposals: Both Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney both characterized them as amnesty.

“Look, amnesty is a magnet,” Romney said. “When we have had in the past programs that said people who come here illegally will get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that will only encourage more people to come here illegally. The right course is to say we welcome people who want to come here legally.”

Gingrich’s remarks were the most notable part of an otherwise unremarkable debate, the 11th of the primary season, that focused on foreign policy but offered little else to change the direction of the race. It did illuminate, however, a Republican field with widely divergent views on topics ranging from the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law to monetary aid for Pakistan.

The split rested between candidates, such as ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who backed defense cuts and a reduced intervention abroad, and those who endorsed a hawkish vision for America’s place in the world, perhaps epitomized best by former Romney.

But Gingrich’s support for letting illegal immigrants stay in the country, including support for part of the federal DREAM Act that would grant citizenship to those who serve in the military, is the one moment that could ripple across the primary. Immigration is a highly sensitive issue among conservatives –- Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s defense earlier the campaign of giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrants helped sink his formerly high-flying effort. Gingrich’s defense of his proposal as the “humane” option also echoes Perry’s suggestion that those who opposed the tuition plan “didn’t have a heart,” a comment that alienated many conservatives.

The candidates currently in the ever-evolving second tier, now behind Romney and Gingrich, gave mixed performances. Herman Cain, still trying to recover from a lack of agility on U.S. policy toward Libya evident in a recent videotaped interview, delivered vague and non-specific answers to questions about a no-fly zone over Syria and whether to sustain President George W. Bush’s assistance to Africa.

Clearly trying to distinguish himself and resurrect his southbound poll numbers, Perry said he wanted to privatize the Transportation Security Administration, called for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to resign, and stood alone with his plan to impose a no-fly zone over Syria. And Paul, consistently running second behind Romney in New Hampshire and significant factor in Iowa, continues to solidify his circumscribed but fervent following, offering a firmly isolationist, libertarian philosophy on national security and foreign policy.

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