by Jim Lobe
It was Eric Alterman who observed in The Nation a year ago:
If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clichés that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson, of course, is back in the news — on the front page of the Sunday New York Times — for his suspected role as one of the anonymous donors behind the ongoing ad campaigns in key states and related efforts against the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. We don’t know whether Adelson, who, as Alterman noted, likes to boast that he is “the richest Jew in the world,” is indeed providing actual financial support to these mysteriously funded campaigns, although the Times confirmed that he is definitely part of the effort to defeat Hagel’s nomination:
For instance, the biggest individual financier of the so-called super PACs that sought to defeat Mr. Obama, Sheldon Adelson, is so invested in the fight over Mr. Hagel that he has reached out directly to Republican Senators to urge them to hold the line against his confirmation, which would be almost impossible to stop against six Republican “yes” votes and a unified Democratic caucus.
Given the more than $100 million he donated to the anti-Obama effort last year, no lawmakers need to be reminded of his importance to their future endeavors. People briefed on his involvement said Mr. Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and a longtime supporter of Israel, was calling in conjunction with the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group he has financed for several years.[Emphasis added.]
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in December, Mr. Adelson said he was prepared to “double” his investment in politics in the coming year.
But it is unclear whether he is directly financing any of the anti-Hagel advertising. An associate of his, speaking about Mr. Adelson’s thinking on condition of anonymity, said he did not believe that expensive television campaigns are the answer to every political push given that Mr. Obama’s re-election team accomplished so much of its success through online and volunteer efforts.
Now, if Adelson is personally reaching out to Republican senators to persuade them to oppose Hagel, I doubt very seriously that those on the receiving end of such calls think that the multi-billionaire casino king and single biggest individual campaign donor in the 2012 election is expecting them to carefully weigh the substantive arguments for and against Hagel. As indicated by the Times, I suspect that those senators believe they will either be rewarded or punished when they face re-election and that the reward or punishment will come in the form of dollars, either directly or through some of those super-PACs and their ads. (This, incidentally, is the kind of thing that Hagel was probably referring to with respect to “intimidation” of members of Congress below.)
The targets of this pressure must find the choice between Hagel and Adelson acutely uncomfortable. After all, Hagel is a decorated war veteran and two-term Republican U.S. senator whose nomination has been endorsed by virtually everybody who is anybody in the U.S. foreign- and defense-policy establishment (most recently on “CNN’s State of the Union” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and former NSA and DIA director — and senior Romney adviser — Gen. Michael Hayden) and by virtually every veterans’ organization whose members have historically been partial to Republicans. Adelson, on the other hand, has made clear that he would have preferred to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rather than in the U.S. Armed Forces. Indeed, it was Adelson who was video-taped telling an Israeli group back in June, 2010:
I am not Israeli. The uniform that I wore in the military, unfortunately, was not an Israeli uniform. It was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF and one of my daughters was in the IDF … our two little boys, one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow, hopefully he’ll come back– his hobby is shooting — and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF.
…All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart.
And remember that, when asked why Adelson was backing his seemingly futile presidential campaign with millions of millions of dollars, it was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who told by NBC’s Ted Koppel simply:
He knows I’m very pro-Israel. That’s the central value of his life. I mean, he’s very worried that Israel is going to not survive.
In that context, recall Hagel’s most-controversial quote in an interview with Aaron David Miller several years ago:
“The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. Again, I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel. I just don’t think it’s smart for Israel.
Now, everyone has a right to lobby; that’s as it should be. Come see your senator, your congressman, and if you can get the guy to sign your letter, great, wonderful.
But as I reminded somebody not too long ago, in fact it was a group I was speaking to in New York, and we got into kind of an interesting give and take on Iran. A couple of these guys said we should just attack Iran. And I said, ‘Well, that’s an interesting thought; we’re doing so well in Iraq.’ And I said it would really help Israel.
And this guy kept pushing and pushing. And he alluded to the fact that maybe I wasn’t supporting Israel enough or something. And I just said let me clear something up here, in case there is any doubt.
I said, ‘I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.’ I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States — not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that. Now I know most senators don’t talk like I do.”
(Of course, Hagel subsequently apologized for his use of the phrase “Jewish lobby.” But I’m not aware that Adelson has expressed any regret for his expression of disappointment over having served in the U.S. military.)
Photo: Sen. Chuck Hagel addresses audience members at the nomination announcement for Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan (right) as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)