What’s the use of a spin room when we have social media? Last night, the Twitterverse turned its eyes towards the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
You’ve probably already heard all of the “malarkey” from partisans representing both parties, but here’s a look at the lighter side of last night’s important debate.
Early on, many viewers thought Biden was faring better than President Barack Obama’s widely-criticized performance last week. Andy Borowitz, author of The Borowitz Report, tweeted:
As discussion turned to Iran, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu became the hot topic of discussion. Commentary magazine’s Alana Goodman observed:
You know what Biden needs? A bomb chart.Alana Goodman (@alanagoodman) October 12, 2012
Michael Koplow, program director at the Israel Institute, noted that:
Picking “Bibi” in #VPDebate bingo was clearly the right move on my part.Michael Koplow (@mkoplow) October 12, 2012
A startling video posted online Thursday night shows California Rep. Brad Sherman violently grabbing his bitter rival Rep. Howard Berman during a debate.
The confrontation between the two Jewish Democrats fighting for their political lives was shot at a Thursday night debate at Pierce College, according to a report in the Los Angeles Daily News.
Sherman put his right arm around Berman and shook him slightly as the two argued over a federal immigration bill, the paper wrote. Berman looked to the audience, shocked. Sherman let go, then stuck his face in Berman’s as a sheriff’s deputy approached.
“You want to get in my face?” Sherman shouted.
All but four of the people at Professor Thom’s bar in the East Village on Thursday night were watching the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
The other four were watching the Yankees lose to the Orioles in extra innings in their playoff series.
In a bar that leaned heavily Democratic, the cheers for the Yankees landed incongruously, one coming in the midst of what might have been a Ryan applause line in another bar.
It’s hard to get a good read on the response to a candidate’s performance in a boozy, partisan watch party at a pub. (I tried a similar thing in West Palm Beach last week, where I sat in on both Republican and Democratic debate watch events.)
As far as I could tell, though, the experience of the Democrats at the divey NYU-area sports bar last night was anxiety, followed by relief.
Wiping the sweat from my forehead after a much, much more engaging debate, and just have a few thoughts to share.
1) It was not boring. Between Joe Biden’s fulminating about Paul Ryan’s “malarkey” and the appearance of actual, warm blooded conversation between two men with opposite worldviews, it was impossible to tear your eyes away from this one. This was, of course, a sharp contrast with the last debate, which seemed to disappear into the weeds way too often.
Here both candidates connected with the audience and with each other. Will it have the game changing effect of the first debate? Probably not. These are the vice-presidential candidates, after all. But for the Obama campaign, it did probably staunch the bleeding.
2) Charming attack dog. Biden did exactly what he was supposed to do. He attacked, exhausting every Irish euphemism for baloney that he had in reserve. The greatest casualty of Obama’s listless debate performance was the depletion of excitement among Democrats. Biden helped to correct that.
One answer, early on, included the words “47%” and “Mitt’s taxes” within seconds of each other, causing Democratic debate watching drinking parties to get immediately sloshed. The only question — the one Republicans surely want us to be asking — was if he was too aggressive, if there was too much eye rolling and interrupting. As a son of Israelis, I can say that this is what normal conversation looks like at my family’s dinner table. Hard to say how the rest of America might perceive it.
Republican Jewish mega-donor Sheldon Adelson writes that Barack Obama can’t be trusted on Israel in a opinion piece posted today.
The gambling billionaire has committed tens of millions of dollars to backing Republicans this election cycle, giving millions to a pro-Romney super PAC.
In his op-ed, Adelson hit a litany of Republican talking points new and old in portraying Obama as a danger to Israel.
“[W]e need to take seriously the question: What are his second term plans when he no longer needs the Jewish vote?” Adelson wrote.
Adelson cites the November 2011 “open mic” incident in which Obama and French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy complained together about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also notes Obama’s friendships with leftist and Palestinian professors.
“Is Obama’s campaign rhetoric in support of Israel only creating “space” till after the election?” Adelson wrote. “These questions cause genuine worry in Israel.”
Adelson’s piece appared in JNS, the startup Jewish newswire that distributes content from Israel Hayom, the Israeli paper Adelson owns.
An opinion piece in the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz argued yesterday that Israel Hayom is “actively campaigning for Romney’s election.”
In an attempt to pressure African asylum seekers to leave Israel, Interior Minister Eli Yishai has announced that 15,000 immigrants from Sudan will be rounded up and detained if they do not “voluntarily” leave the country by October 15.
Not sure what’s less democratic here: an inhumane plan to indefinitely detain 15,000 people (and eventually many thousands more) or the fact that a cabinet minister thinks he can make executive decisions about entire populations of people in Israel.
Seven Israeli non-governmental organizations have filed two petitions to the Jerusalem District Court last week in response to the announcement. The first is against the October 15 detention plan. It’s been filed against the Ministers of Interior and Defense and the legal counsel of the Israeli government.
The second petition asks to rescind the Anti-Infiltration Law, which allows for the indefinite detention of all non-Jews who enter Israel asking for asylum for three or more years without due process. It has been filed against the Knesset, the Ministers of Defense and Interior, and the legal counsel of the Israeli government by the seven NGOs as well as five Eritrean asylum seekers.
Yishai’s detention plan is problematic because it is not an official government decision. No cabinet decision has been made concerning the plan. Israeli and diaspora advocates for immigrants have been asking the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice to reject the plan.
A few days before the anniversary of Gilad Shalit’s return home from captivity in Gaza, the story of another missing Israeli soldier has come to an altogether more tragic end.
Majdy Halabi, an ethnic Druze, disappeared in May 2005 near his home in northern Israel. Today, in a brief statement, the Israeli military said that his body has been found.
In 2008 his family received a phone call from a prisoner in an Israeli jail suggesting that Halabi had been abducted to the West Bank. Earlier this year three prisoners tried to negotiate a plea bargain in return for information on the location of the body. But in the end, it was a hiker who found the remains in a forest near Halabi’s home, suggesting it was a more mundane crime.
“The remains were discovered approximately two weeks ago, near the town of Usfiya, and were identified by the Institute of Forensic Medicine,” said the statement. “The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation by the Israeli Police.”
Jewish candidates are involved in some of the meanest, dirtiest races of the 2012 election cycle.
There are 435 U.S. House races this fall. Politico picked the ten “nastiest.” Of those, three feature Jewish candidates.
Politico doesn’t divulge its criteria for picking the “nastiest” races. But even an unscientific survey by the wonks at the D.C.-based political website came up with some pretty ugly contests.
Some of the picks are obvious. The California race between Jewish Democratic Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman has been covered heavily in the Forward.
As our Rex Weiner reported last week, things are really heating up in the San Fernando Valley.
The match-up, until now tense but polite, turned into a fracas when the Berman campaign launched a volley of negative TV, internet and direct mail messages charging that Sherman repaid himself for personal loans to his campaign war chest, plus interest, for a profit totaling more than $461,000 over a 17-year period.
Pulpit Freedom Sunday was, its organizers proclaimed, a success. At more than 1,500 churches around the country — mostly, it seemed from small communities outside the big cities — preachers defied the Internal Revenue Service this past Sunday and preached politics from the pulpit.
Must have been scintillating. As Stephen Colbert said, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is when “the thrill of lengthy sermons finally meets the excitement of tax policy.”
And that’s the real question, isn’t it? The aim of this exercise of civil disobedience, which more and more pastors participate in each year, is to challenge the IRS on the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 rule that says that, for the privilege of being a tax-exempt organization, churches may not openly endorse a political candidate.
As I’ve written in editorials, this rule is an entirely sensible compromise that doesn’t hamper free speech — the pastors are free to say what they want off the pulpit — and is the price all churches pay for the privilege of foregoing taxes and maintaining an opacity that few other not-for-profits enjoy.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney came out swinging Monday at President Obama’s foreign policy, promising to end any “daylight” between the United States and Israel and a tough stance toward Iran.
Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney sought to present Obama’s Middle East policy and his response to the Arab Spring as lacking leadership.
As in previous foreign policy addresses, Romney spent time criticizing Obama for his tense relationship with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains,” Romney said. “The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put ‘daylight’ between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded.” Romney argued that this daylight has “emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran.” He promised that if elected president “the world will never see any daylight between our two nations.”
The New School’s program, “The Jewish-American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads,” raised my suspicions for two reasons: the one-sided composition of its panel and its scheduling from 4 to 6 PM on a Saturday afternoon. Was this meant as a deliberate slap at pro-Israel and religious Jews, I wondered?
The announced panel featured the well-known bete noir of the American Jewish community, Norman Finkelstein, and the equally caustic critic of Israel, Noam Chomsky, who cancelled due to laryngitis. Finkelstein emerged as the moderate compared with Anna Baltzer, a 30-year old activist who has spent time in the West Bank documenting human rights abuses and is the author of “Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories.” She is currently national organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Adam Shatz, the moderator, seemed equally admiring of both panelists. He is a journalist who has reported from the Arab world for a number of publications and edited “Prophets Outcast: A Century of Dissident Jewish Writing about Zionism and Israel” (Nation Books). Together, they drew a large and enthusiastic crowd to a packed auditorium.
Finkelstein regards Israel as “a crazy state … abetted by American Jews.” And he quoted an Israeli historian who regards all of Israel’s wars, with the possible exception of 1948, as “wars of choice” rather than defensive.
Despite the widespread system failures that deprived thousands of viewers live streaming footage of the Bill O’Reilly vs Jon Stewart smackdown your Forward live blogger was here glued to a computer that was working and plugged in and was live blogging it.
7:45 Tension is mounting as the first entertaining debate of the presidential election beckons. Tall Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, against small Comedy Central funny man, Jon Stewart. Stewart has promised to have O’Reilly saying Stewart’s “Haftarah” by the end of the event, O’Reilly thinks he’ll be fine without Stewart’s 18 writers helping him out in the background.
7:50 Not to spoil you with too regular updates but, assuming that the internet holds up its end of the bargain, the tedium, mendacity, obfuscation and poor moderation of Wednesday’s debate can be left behind. No altitude sickness, no Big Bird and no votes at stake.
7:55 The debaters are in the auditorium. Repeat, people who care passionately about their positions, who have significant followings and who can speak articulately and entertainingly about the issues that matter in Election 2012 are about to engage in infotainment. They are currently quipping about air conditioning.
At the Republican debate watch party in West Palm Beach, Florida, Romney supporters were exulting. At the Democratic debate watch party ten minutes away, Obama supporters were getting into shouting matches with Republicans.
The Democratic event, hosted by the Obama campaign in Florida, was held at a sports bar on a main drag in downtown West Palm Beach. A couple of tables full of Romney backers had taken over a corner of the Obama group’s room, laughing at Romney’s zingers and applauding at his applause lines.
At first the thirty or so Obama volunteers and minor Democratic dignitaries didn’t notice. But the Romney tables got louder, and the Obama people started shouting back.
The scene, said Obama supporter Joan Waitkevicz, 65, was “like a sports match.”
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s debate viewing at another nearby sports bar was like a boxer’s dressing room after a knockout.
“I thought Romney cleaned his clock,” said Sandra Tenace, a part-time South Florida resident attending the Republican event.
Was tonight’s debate a turning point in the campaign? Republicans believe it was, and that’s important. Republicans believe Romney won and they’re energized. The money that was fleeing Romney in the last several weeks is going to come back. Romney’s campaign was collapsing until tonight, and now it’s not collapsing anymore. He’s got a second wind. That’s huge.
CBS snap poll of undecided voters: 46% believe Romney won, 22% say Obama won, 32% say it was a tie. CNN snap poll of registered voters who watched the debate: 67% say Romney won, 25% say Obama won.
A crucial point to watch for tomorrow, thanks to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: the question tomorrow will be whether Romney gets slammed for making stuff up or Obama will get slammed for letting Romney getting away with it. Some examples: Romney said Obama shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich – after all, he opposed raising them a year ago when the economy was in trouble and hey, it’s still in trouble. Actually, Obama wanted to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich only and the GOP blocked him, insisted on saving all the Bush cuts or none of them. The notion that Obama made a judgment call not to raise taxes last year is simply false, and Obama let it slide.
Romney said he doesn’t want the government deciding what healthcare he can get. Right now insurance companies decide what care you can get. Romney said it’s a bad idea to raise taxes because it will kill job growth, while lower taxes will create jobs and generate new tax revenue to close the deficit. Clinton raised taxes, got enormous job growth and closed the deficit. Reagan lowered taxes, got job growth and exploded the debt. Bush lowered taxes and got listless job growth and exploded the debt even more. Obama just didn’t parry any of Romney’s points. Romney was sharp and Obama wasn’t. He was convoluted, sleepy and unresponsive.
The first presidential debate just ended and I’ve pressed the mute button on the remote control. Without listening to the yammering of the pundits, here are some of my immediate impressions.
1) Serious Energy Deficit: I’m not talking about economics here. I mean the basic level of emotion and personality and spunk expressed between the two contenders. Mitt Romney had it and the president simply didn’t. It was like someone had replaced Obama’s coffee with decaf. If the biggest impact of these debates is the basic, visceral impression they offer of the candidates and less the words coming out of their mouths, Romney just looked more jazzed. And that counts for a lot.
2) Talking In Two Different Languages: If you were listening to what they were saying there was a repeated refrain coming from the president. He kept asking for details. Romney kept avoiding offering them, speaking instead at a higher rhetorical level. Obama would ask again, trying to punch holes by asking for more information about how exactly Romney was going to achieve these lofty objectives (like how he was going to pay for anything without raising any revenue). Depending on your perspective, you found the rhetoric uplifting or the reality checks refreshing. I have a feeling I know what might have appealed to the undecideds.
3) No Social Issues: The debate was very wonky and really dealt mostly with economic issues like taxes and the deficit. There was no talk of immigration or gun control or gay marriage, for example. If this was the only domestic-themed debate, that’s really too bad. A lot of distinction between these two could be drawn on these issues, and for those supporting the president it might have helped stop Romney from reclaiming the mantle of the center (clearly an objective of the governor’s tonight).
4) Does any of it matter?: Frank Rich had an interesting tweet at one point late in the evening. “What are going to be the replayed sound bites tomorrow? If none, it’s a non-event except for the junkies & partisans,” he wrote. Is he right? I don’t know. Maybe if I turn on the volume again I’ll have a better idea about whether or not this debate will have traction. But the level of impact of past debates did tend to hinge on whether they produced a moment, and I’m not sure that in all that wonkishness there was some crystallizing difference that was established between the two men (besides that one of them needs more sleep). Then again, there was that reference by Romney to offing Big Bird. That should at least keep the Twitterverse busy for days.
What did you think of the debate? Tell us in the comments.
This post was originally published by New Voices at their blog, The Conspiracy. Stay on top of this story and other news about and by Jewish college students at New Voices, home of the news and views of campus Jews.
If administrators at Northwestern University have their way, Chabad’s days of operating openly on the Evanston, Ill. campus are over. Apparently, they’ve just discovered that Chabad serves alcohol! To underage students!
But seriously. Underage alcohol consumption, Chabad — and underage alcohol consumption at Chabad — are all fixtures on American college campuses. This shouldn’t be news to anyone.
However, Northwestern has turned it into news by severing ties with the local outpost of the evangelizing Hasidic sect. As the student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, began reporting last week, the Tannenbaum Chabad House is no longer a recognized campus organization at Northwestern — and Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein, Chabad’s man at Northwestern, has been banned from campus. Shortly before Yom Kippur services, Klein announced to his community via email that they would be his final services at Northwestern.
Scanning our Twitter feed this morning we saw this unusual tweet from Haaretz, announcing that the paper’s employees were going on strike (the Forward has an online partnership with the Israeli paper in which we swap content).
And now Amos Schoken, the paper’s publisher, in an angry letter to his staff, lashed out, writing, “If it’s the fate of Haaretz to close, let it close now.”
Even though the method of transmission and Schoken’s response was something of a surprise, the strike was expected. Haaretz workers said yesterday that they would strike from 4 PM until midnight (Israel time) on Wednesday to protest the plan to lay off 100 employees and what they say has been management’s unwillingness to negotiate over further firings and cutbacks.
It appears that, at the very least, the strike will affect publication of the paper on Thursday.
Maria Chudnovsky, an Israeli-American mathematician, was one of 23 recipients of the 2012 MacArthur Fellow awardees announced yesterday. The Columbia University professor, who teaches in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department, was honored for her work in graph theory.
Her research started at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology and then continued at Princeton, where she earned a PhD at age 26 and went on to teach. Two years later, she was named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10,” an honor awarded to the new generation of scientific innovators.
We spoke with Chudnovsky about the $500,000 “Genius Award” and her research.
Of the 19 Jewish nonprofits that pay their top executives over $400,000, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization America are the only two that have total expenditures of less than $10 million a year.
The RJC and the ZOA each spent around $3 million in 2010. That’s compared to the tens of millions spent by Jewish federations in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, each of which pay their executive directors comparable salaries to what the top executives at the ZOA and the RJC earn.
The comparisons, which come from the Forward’s 2011 survey of the salaries of top Jewish communal executives, suggest that the chief executives at the ZOA and the RJC head up smaller operations than peers that earn similar salaries.
Though most of the Jewish communal executives earning $400,000 and head up service groups, the ZOA and RJC aren’t the only advocacy groups in the club. Top executives at the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee all earn roughly what the ZOA and RJC top executives earn. Those three groups each spent between $40 million and $65 million in 2010.
As I reported last week, ZOA national president Mort Klein got a raise to $435,000 in 2011. RJC executive director Matt Brooks earned $461,000 in 2010.
Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu once again avoided speaking to each other yesterday, as they have done for the past three years. Despite both claiming that they want to restart conflict-ending talks, there was little evidence of that in either leader’s speech to the United Nations’ General Assembly.
Abbas was on the attack from the outset. Speaking as the representative of an “angry people,” he leveled a familiar list of charges against Israel. Ethnic cleansing, settler violence, unlawful detention and the closure of the borders with Gaza all got a mention. Most were met with applause. So too, the call for Israel to be “condemned, punished and boycotted.” He noted that the Palestinian population is young and frustrated, hinting that violence could once again return. Yet, he claimed, Israeli policy and an aggressive brand of Israeli political discourse means that the Palestinian Authority, the guardian of Palestinian political and security relations with Israel, is under threat of collapse. There is only one way to understand this and only one conclusion to be drawn, he said. The Israeli government rejects a two-state solution.
Not so the Palestinians. Although time is running out, there is a chance — “maybe the last” — to return to talks. And he reassured the General Assembly that there is no need for marathon negotiations or to solve an “intractable riddle.” The solution already exists. All it needs is a return to the UN’s own terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative.
But even whilst calling for a “new approach,” Abbas actually drove peace efforts further up last year’s cul-de-sac. His announcement that he would be seeking a General Assembly resolution to grant non-member status to the Palestinians is anathema to Israel. It is also a pale echo of last year’s thwarted application for full UN membership. Abbas wants the support of the UN to draw the 1967 green line on the maps ahead of any negotiations, and for talks to then discuss changes to that line. Israel’s precondition for talks is that there are no preconditions, and thus rejects this approach. So, we can assume, will the next U.S. president.