Jan Schakowsky: First You Lose, then you Misquote

Several hundred people turned  out last night to hear Illinois 9th district  Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky  discuss Israel with her Republican challenger, Joel Pollak.  By the end of the night a few things were clear:

1. Pollak is much brighter and more conversant with the issues, and able to speak about them without reading from prepared notes. It is embarrassing that a multi-term Congresswoman has to write out a script for a 5 minute opening and closing statement, or have one written for her.

2. Schakowsky did not want to talk about Helen Thomas, a nasty anti-Semite and Israel-hating journalist, whom Schakowsky chose to honor at a big campaign fundraising event this year. Joel Pollak had Alan Dershowitz at his fundraiser, a liberal Democrat and defender of Israel.

3. Schakowsky was warmly cheered by the dozens of J- Street members who attended the Forum last night. Though J-Street has bashed Israel over Gaza, facilitated meetings in Congress with Richard Goldstone, fought Congressional sanctions against Iran, and basically done everything possible to make life difficult for Israel, in the process damaging U.S.-Israel relations, Schakowsky and J-Street have had a two way love affair from the group's inception. She has received more money from their PAC than any other candidate for federal office this year. J-Street , and it s chief funder, Israel-hating George Soros, have tried to weaken AIPAC by picking off many on the left.

In essence, if you work with J-Street, your goal is to make support for Israel less bi-partisan. So why does Schakowsky stick with this noxious group? My guess is for two reasons: the first is that they have Barack Obama's back as he publicly chastises Israel over settlements. Other Presidents may have opposed settlement construction, but none have been as public on the subject, or as persistent about them as Obama. Obama has invited J-Street into his small group meetings with Jewish leadership. One flack for the Democrats, Steve Sheffey, has argued that Pollak has made Israel a partisan issue. That is pretty funny, coming as it does, as he applauds Schakowsky for her record on Israel, a record that includes assisting J-Street in its designs to weaken AIPAC.

4. Schakowsky kept repeating that she had a 100% voting record on Israel. But that record reflects setting the bar lower each election cycle on what it means to be pro-Israel. Voting for foreign aid is hardly at this point a test of pro-Israel credentials. Almost all Congressmen support it every year, except when one party or the other (most recently the Democrats) includes it in an omnibus bill they know is unacceptable to the other Party for the sole purpose of getting a no vote on the record for members of the minority party. That is cynicism writ large, but really just par for the course for the Democrats. When one member has done more than any other member of Congress to promote a group hostile to Israel, , and honors an anti-Semite and Israel hater, her so called perfect record on Israel is a joke.

5. The forum last night was to be on the sole topic of Israel. Pollak observed the rules. Schakowsky could not help herself, straying into her real agenda -- and the one she really cares about -- liberal domestic spending programs. Of course, Schakowsky introduced the subject with the magic words: Tikkun Olam )"repairing the world" in Hebrew -- in other words, "good works"). Tikkun Olam are the same buzz words used by the Jews who sponsor flotillas to break the Gaza embargo, and by the Rabbis who lead the fast for Gaza. Tikkun Olam does not man running up 3 trillion dollars in deficits in two years for spending program that accomplished almost nothing, and now become debts that we will leave for future generations. Anyone in attendance last night could tell that Schakowsky was far more engaged and passionate in her few minutes talking about her liberal spending agenda, than in all the rest of her pretty flat toned responses on Israel.

6. Since Pollak battered Schakowsky on substance, Jan's team was left to create a misquote, an attempt to take viral a statement never made by Joel Pollak in the Forum. Whether the misquote was created by Schakowsky herself , or by Steve Sheffey is unclear. This is from Sheffey's debate puff piece posted on Schakowsky's website after the debate:

"Pollak also said that "President Obama has made it okay to hate Israel" and he criticized Obama's speech in Cairo.   In response, Jan pointed out that the opposite is true. Jan said that President Obama deserves praise for being the first President to tell the Arab world, on Arab soil, that the bond between the U.S. and Israel is "unbreakable." 

In a Facebook response, Pollak provided the actual comment he made:

"Jan Schakowsky is circulating a desperate fundraising email--sent from her BlackBerry after last night's candidate forum on Israel--in which she tells her supporters that I said: "President Obama has made it ok to hate Israel."

What I said -- as video of the forum will confirm -- was the following:

"President Obama's policy has made it acceptable to hate Israel openly in polite society. Helen Thomas was fired for making hateful statements about Jews, but she had vilified Israel for years, and felt comfortable expressing her views in this political climate. The Obama policy has also encouraged the world to scapegoat Israel and Jews -- not just in the Middle East, but closer to home, where Manuel Zelaya of Honduras blamed Israel and Jews when he was ousted from power."

Schakowsky -- as usual -- doesn't want to tell her supporters what I was referring to, because she held a fundraiser with Helen Thomas earlier this year, and traveled to Honduras last November to support Zelaya's attempt to return to power.

The hard truth for Schakowsky supporters is that their candidate refuses to criticize anything that President Obama has done -- and is doing -- with regard to Israel.

By singling Israel out, President Obama encouraged those opposed to or skeptical of Israel's very existence to believe that the world would soon be united against it. That has encouraged those who, like Thomas, previously kept hateful opinions to themselves.

And by wedding herself so closely and uncritically to President Obama's policy, Schakowsky has lost the trust of the pro-Israel community, in our district and across the nation."

There are many reasons why  voters in the  9th district  are turning to the challenger. For anyone attending the forum last night,  and for whom support for a strong U.S Israel relationship is paramount, the choice was pretty clear.   Schakowsky is a firm backer of Barack Obama's policies on Israel,  Joel Pollak believes those policies, have been ineffective, and worse,  endangered and isolated Israel.   Iran proceeds merrily along to becoming a nuclear power after two years of failed engagement, and delayed sanctions and for Jan Schakowsky, all is well.