September 23, 2007
Novice Congressman Needs to be Relieved from DutyBy Lori Lowenthal Marcus
Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA), a former US Navy Admiral, recently revealed that he is indifferent about the well-being of US veterans of the Iraq war, that he is either careless or clueless about domestic security concerns, and that he would be grateful if voters dumped him from office. The Democrat and Republican parties apparently do not think such actions warrant even running a viable candidate against Sestak.
Is it because Sestak has connections to the powerful Wahhabi Lobby that no one cares?
Sestak, along with 3 rabidly anti-US and anti-Semitic activists, were touted as the featured speakers at Philly CAIR's first annual fundraiser on posters and internet advertisements for the event. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, and some of its highest-level members have numerous documented connections to Hamas and its foreign funders, as well as a long history of concentrated and well-funded efforts to thwart security investigations of Muslim American terrorism suspects.
The CAIR-Sestak connection is no accident: Sestak hired the former spokesperson of Philly CAIR, Adeeba al-Zaman, to run his local office. Despite interviewing her three times, Sestak claimed he did not notice that CAIR was on al-Zaman's resume. He clearly did not question her about her activities representing that organization, and yet at a mere 23 years old, how many entries could she have had in the employment history section of her resume?
In other words, this former high-ranking military leader and US official entrusted with ensuring the security of our nation did not notice or did not care that he was hiring someone whose previous job was with an organization with well-documented connections to groups involved with international terrorism.
A largely Jewish audience at a March speech angrily confronted Sestak about lending his name and voice to raise money for an organization with ties to terrorism and haters of Jews. The Congressman initially offered three justifications.
1. Sestak claimed he was going to the fundraiser because 250 of his constituents were going to be at the event. When asked why not speak to his Muslim constituents at any gathering other than a CAIR fundraiser, Sestak compared his CAIR fundraiser appearance to his meetings with Irish-American groups, Polish-American groups, and African-American groups. To Congressman Sestak, a terrorism-related organization is equal to any other constituency group.
2. Sestak said he was unaware the event was a fundraiser and that his employee, the one who had been a CAIR spokesperson, had accepted the invitation for him. But even after learning it was a fundraiser and after having received pages of documentation about the CAIR-terrorism connections, Sestak insisted on going to speak to his good friends at their event.
3. Sestak insisted that his appearance at the event would send a powerful message because he would tell the audience they must denounce terrorism and terrorists and that they should name as terrorists groups such as Hamas. But as Sestak should have known by then, his CAIR appearance would send a powerful message all right, but the message was one of validation for their activities and not a meaningful rebuke.
Fast forward to a June Washington gathering. Sestak was asked whether, given the recent revelation that CAIR was confirmed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terrorism-funding Holy Land Foundation criminal prosecution, he still would have agreed to speak at their fundraiser. Sestak's lightening-quick response was that he would have agreed to it even more quickly than he had in the spring.
Sestak went on to talk about the sacrosanct importance of negotiating with everyone, friends and enemies alike. Negotiations with consequences was his mantra throughout the session. In fact, Sestak proudly stated that he went to speak to CAIR in order to speak truth to power. Although that line may be a good one for garnering street cred, does Sestak, a member of the US Congress, really not understand that he is the power, not CAIR?
The Congressman could not come up with a single situation in which there should be consequences as the result of failed negotiations. Sestak reverentially described former Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross as his guru on Middle East topics, yet admitted he had not read Ross's book about his experience as a Middle East negotiator. In that book Ross admits the charade of continued engagement should have been aborted when it became clear Yassir Arafat was not interested in reform.
Pressed repeatedly for when and what kind of consequences he would impose on an organization with documented ties to terrorists, Sestak finally exploded:
"Go ahead and vote me out of office, you'd be doing me a favor. My sick daughter is my priority, so go ahead and vote me out of office." You'd be doing me a favor."
But during his March speech Sestak used his daughter's illness to make a very different point. He said then that through the months of her hospitalizations he was grateful for the wonderful treatment she received at Walter Reed and other government hospitals. He wanted good quality health care to be available to all Americans, not just high level federal employees. That, he claimed, was the impetus for his political career.
A softball question was tossed to Sestak about the Walter Reed Hospital scandal. Last winter it was revealed that wounded US soldiers received abysmal treatment at Walter Reed and other Veterans' Administration hospitals upon returning from Iraq. Sestak's swing at the pitch, however, was shockingly off the mark.
Sestak revealed that in all the times he visited his daughter at Walter Reed Hospital he had never taken the opportunity to find out what was happening to the wounded war veterans. He had never looked "below the deck," as he put it in Navy parlance. Next, this elected official and former Navy Admiral admitted that even after the exposure of the US veteran health care scandal, he did not attend the congressional hearings on the scandal.
No visits, no questions, and a no-show at his own committee's hearing on the scandal were Sestak's response to the veterans' health care crisis.
In less than 6 months, freshman Congressman Joe Sestak managed to insult US war veterans, Jews, African Americans, Polish-Americans and Irish-Americans. He did this publicly and proudly. But the one group he extolled repeatedly was a segment of his Muslim constituency -- the one connected to terrorism and Jew-hatred. Why? And why are both political parties ignoring what should be considered acts of political suicide? Sestak said voters would be doing him a favor by voting him out of office. Doing so would not only be a favor to Sestak, but a favor to all Americans.
Sestak should be relieved from duty.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a lawyer and writer who lives outside of Philadelphia .