After taping John Stossel’s show on May 16 in New York, the Mrs. and I took the 10 a.m.Acela back to Washington. Once we had boarded the train, who should come waddling up the aisle but Bill Kristol.
The Weekly Standard editor seemed cheerful, and we chatted about the surge in Mitt Romney’s popularity and prospects. I did not ask what he had been doing in New York, but thanks to the website Mondoweiss, I found out. Kristol was there for a May 15 “debate” with Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, the pro-Israel organization, at B’nai Jeshurun synagogue on the Upper West Side.
After listening to Kristol, writes Phil Weiss, “I am still reeling.”
“Kristol was treated like royalty and came off as … a Republican Party warlord,” bragging “about how all the hostile elements to Israel inside the Republican Party were purged over the last 30 years — (and) no one (now) dared to question the power of the Israeli lobby.”
“The big story in the Republican Party over the last 30 years, and I’m very happy about this,” said Kristol, is the “eclipsing” of the George H.W. Bush-James Baker-Brent Scowcroft realists, “an Arabist old-fashioned Republican Party … very concerned about relations with Arab states that were not friendly with Israel … .”
That Bush crowd is yesterday, said Kristol. And not only had the “Arabists” like President Bush been shoved aside by the neocons, the “Pat Buchanan/Ron Paul type” of Republican has been purged.
“At B’nai Jeshurun,” writes Weiss, “Kristol admitted to playing a role in expelling members of the Republican Party he does not agree with.” These are Republicans you had to “repudiate,” said Kristol, people “of whom I disapprove so much that I won’t appear with them.”
“I’ve encouraged that they be expelled or not welcomed into the Republican Party. I’d be happy if Ron Paul left. I was very happy when Pat Buchanan was allowed — really encouraged … by George Bush … to go off and run as a third-party candidate.”
Kristol’s point: Refuse to toe the neo-con line on Israel, and you have no future in the Republican Party.
Ben Ami seemed equally exultant: “We’ve won the war; we won the war,” he told the audience. Ninety-nine percent of Congress now votes almost 100 percent pro-Israel.
But Ben Ami appeared nervous about how this unanimity in the Congress behind Israel had been achieved:
“I very seriously and absolutely do believe that a significant percentage of American members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are intimidated on this issue (of Israel). … They worry about the ramifications of speaking out. … They are worried about the attacks that they will receive.”
Ben Ami said the 50 members who have criticized Israel are courageous, but, “Another 200 are scared to do it.” Haaretz.com reports Ben Ami as saying congressmen “live in fear” of the Israeli lobby.
Kristol laughed at this and dared Ben Ami to name them.
When Ben Ami brought up the destruction of Palestinian rights on the West Bank and said Hillary Clinton repeatedly raises this issue with Israel, writes Weiss, “Kristol sniggered.”
It’s a “myth,” said Kristol, that Arabs care about Palestinians. The Israeli occupation on the West Bank can last for 45 or 60 years more. Bill Kristol on Palestinian rights sounds like Bull Connor talking about Negro rights in Birmingham in 1965. Another source says Kristol predicted that Sen. Joe Lieberman, whose voting record is closer to Socialist Bernie Sanders’ than to conservative Jim DeMint’s, will be secretary of state in the Romney administration.
A former head of the Israel lobby AIPAC describes Lieberman as “the No. 1 pro-Israel advocate and leader in the Congress.”
Joe led the cheers for our last three Middle East wars — and has pushed for two more, against Syria and Iran.
About Kristol’s comments, a point of personal privilege.
George W. Bush never “encouraged” me to go third party. At the Iowa straw poll in 1999, he asked me to stay in the party, and party chair Jim Nicholson came to my home to make the same request.
At the synagogue, Kristol was never asked about his role in the Iraq War that he and his collaborators pressured Bush to wage as “Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight.”
Some 4,500 Americans died in that war, 35,000 were wounded, and 100,000 Iraqis perished, leaving half a million widows and orphans.
Result: U.S. influence in the Middle East is at a nadir. Al-Qaida has spread into Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Syria and North Africa.
Now the neocons are worming their way into the Romney camp, dropping us hints on whether John Bolton or Joe Lieberman will be the next secretary of state. Has Gov. Romney imbibed the Kristol Kool-Aid that caused the war and cost the party Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008? Hard to believe, but we should find out before November.