J.J. Goldberg

Watch: Obama Kills at Correspondents Dinner

By J.J. Goldberg

Getty Images
At the White House Correspondents Dinner.

President Obama was in rare form at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, delivering zingers at House Republican leaders, Fox News, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his own Obamacare troubles. His best line of the evening, the pundits seem to agree, was this one aimed at House Speaker John Boehner:

I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the speaker of the House as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.

But the most outrageous lines came from comedian Joel McHale, the star of NBC’s Community and host of E Network’s The Soup. The workover he gave Christie must have set some sort of record. He opened his act by promising to keep it “amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.” Later, he asked, “Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? I could go half and half — I know you like a combo platter.” Then he did an incredible parody of Christie’s Bridgegate response, saying his joke was inappropriate but while it was written by his staff he took full responsibility and would appoint an independent investigation headed by himself to find out whose fault it was. But why read my summary? Watch it below.

New York magazine’s Caroline Bankoff put together a pretty good roundup of the evening, including useful statistics on how many jokes each were aimed at CNN, Fox and MSNBC and who was the most ragged-on politician of the evening (Christie). And Fox has a full transcript of Obama’s remarks, which shows either that they’re masochists deep down or that they want to use it to get their base riled up, perhaps hoping to emulate the ADL’s success in taking down Nation of Islam leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad in 1993 by running his anti-Semitic ravings as a full-page ad.

Here are the videos of Obama’s and McHale’s routines, in full:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Bridgegate, CNN, Chris Christie, Fox News, Joel McHale, John Boehner, MSNBC, President Obama, White House Correspondents Dinner

Jon Stewart Twits 'Zionist Billionaire' Adelson. Ouch

By J.J. Goldberg

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Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart took on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s self-commissioned and miraculously self-exonerating investigative report into the Bridgegate scandal last night, and led from there into a viciously funny takedown of Christie’s apology to Sheldon Adelson for referring to the territories as “occupied” during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

In Part 2 (after the jump) we go for details to Samantha Bee, “the Daily Show’s senior Zionist billionaire correspondent,” who discusses proper terminology for “occupied territories” and other (alleged) Adelson nomenclaturical quirks.

Parental Warning: some folks might find the segment offensive. It sort of follows the theme that I tossed out the other day in my post about the Sheldon Primary and the Jewish Republicans’ apparent plan to save the Jews by buying the White House. People found that offensive, too. My point was, you can’t do this sort of thing — throwing your weight around (no disrespect to Gov. Christie) — and expect people not to notice. Stewart’s point, I’m thinking, is this could get me a lot of laughs. We’re probably both right.

The Adelson segment starts at 3:24, though the Bridgegate stuff is worth watching.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sheldon Adelson, Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart, Chris Christie

Groveling Season, Las Vegas to Jerusalem to D.C.

By J.J. Goldberg

Las Vegas, March 29: Chris Christie addresses Republican Jewish Coalition. Sheldon Adelson listens. / Getty Images

With all the apologies flying back and forth these days, you might almost think Yom Kippur came early this year. In fact, tradition teaches that there’s a deep spiritual bond between Yom Kippur, which is six months from now, and Purim, which just passed on March 16. So it shouldn’t surprise to see mockery and farce flying back and forth across the Atlantic, masquerading as regret and atonement.

In Las Vegas on Saturday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apologizes to Sheldon Adelson for thoughtlessly referring to Israel’s military rule in Judea and Samaria as an occupation. In Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon meets Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey and apologizes, yet again, for trashing Washington’s efforts to end, in the words of the Bush roadmap that Israel signed in 2003, “the occupation that began in 1967.” And in Washington, Secretary of State Kerry receives a letter from a deniable Netanyahu cutout, former ambassador Alan Baker, rephrasing the insults in only slightly more decorous terms.

Christie’s apology to Sheldon Adelson was for referring to Judea and Samaria, a.k.a. the West Bank, as “the occupied territories” during his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. He made the reference in the context of acknowledging how vulnerable Israel would be without them, but still. Sheldon and Co. hate to hear the territories under Israeli military rule referred to as “occupied” (you known, those “territories occupied in the recent conflict,” in the words of U.N. Security Resolution 242, which Israel continuously refers to as the legal basis for negotiations).

Getty Images
General apologies: ex-Gen. Moshe Yaalon (left), Gen. Martin Dempsey

Over in Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe “Bogey” Yaalon continued his grand apology-and-groveling tour today with an elaborately florid embrace of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom he thanked for being a “true friend of the state of Israel and the IDF.” Yaalon is still trying to clean up the mess he’s created with his serial insults of Secretary of State John Kerry in January and the entire Obama foreign policy in March, both of which prompted furious protests from Washington, including a personal phone call from Kerry to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Yaalon semi-apologized in January with a Defense Ministry press release saying the minister “had no intention to cause any offense” (by calling Kerry “obsessive” and “messianic”). Then on March 20 he semi-apologized in a phone call to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, saying there was “no antagonism or criticism or intent to harm the United States” (when he said the administration was broadcasting weakness throughout the world and got bamboozled by Iran).

This time Yaalon went all out, delivering his message in person to Dempsey, out loud, in front the media. Here’s how the Jerusalem Post reported it:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Moshe Bogey Yaalon, Sheldon Adelson, Moshe Yaalon, Martin Dempsey, Likud, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, John Kerry, Dore Gold, Chuck Hagel, Chris Christie, Benjamin Netanyahu, Alan Baker

Lesson of Chris Christie and Ehud Olmert Scandals

By J.J. Goldberg

The state of New Jersey prides itself on its “long and strong relationship” with the state of Israel. The feeling is often mutual. But this is getting ridiculous.

Both states are sweating through major political corruption scandals reaching to the very highest ranks of government. In both cases, the central figure in the scandal saw his prospects take a dive this weekend when a former top aide, a woman confidante he’d thrown under bus, turned around and decided to testify against him. Both are erstwhile moderate white knights whose dreams of top office are probably now crushed because they forgot the oldest rule in the book — the one about a women scorned. Especially when she was your chief of staff.

One of them is former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The other is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Olmert is awaiting the judge’s verdict next Monday in a real estate bribery case, the so-called Holyland Affair, dating back to his years as Jerusalem mayor in the 1990s. Acquittal, which seemed likely, would have cleared the way for him to try to regain the prime minister’s office, from which he resigned under a cloud of investigations in 2008. On Thursday, though, prosecutors reached a plea deal with Shula Zaken, Olmert’s longtime bureau chief and close confidante for 35 years, who was indicted with him. She agreed to testify against Olmert in return for a reduced sentence if the judge agrees to reopen proceedings.

Zaken had stood by Olmert through a string of bribery and corruption investigations and trials, refusing to testify against him and even claiming responsibility for bribes prosecutors blamed on Olmert. That all changed last October, though, when Olmert, during testimony, was asked if he thought Zaken was corrupt and suggested prosecutors ask her.

The other is New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shula Zaken, Holyland Affair, George Washington Bridge, Ehud Olmert, Chris Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, Bridgegate

A GOP Plan to Save the Jews: Buy White House

By J.J. Goldberg

Miriam and Sheldon Adelson address Shimon Peres’s Israel Presidential Conference, Jerusalem, May 2008 / Getty Images

Amid mounting alarm that anti-Semitism is on the rise in key spots around the globe — and fears that Israel could be a prime target — a prominent Republican group has come up with a unique approach to fighting back: gather a bunch of Jewish zillionaires at a casino in Las Vegas, announce plans to buy the White House in 2016 and invite leading politicians to come, hat in hand, and beg for permission to be the candidate.

That, roughly speaking, is the picture that emerges from today’s Washington Post report on next weekend’s spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, or as insiders reportedly, call it, in deference to the lead role played by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, “the Sheldon Primary.”

Here’s how the Post describes it:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Venetian Hotel, Sheldon Adelson, Scott Walker, Sam Fox, Republican Jewish Coalition, Paul Singer, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Miriam Adelson, Mel Sembler, Las Vegas, Lewis Eisenberg, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Ken Mehlman, Chris Christie, Wayne Berman

What Have I Done? Lot of Watergate Under a Bridge

By J.J. Goldberg

Scene from Gov. Christie’s morning staff meeting?

The pivotal moment from the classic 1957 film “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” in which British prisoner-of-war officer Alec Guinness comes face to face with his obsessive and misguided attempt to build his legacy on a bridge. The parallel to the current moment isn’t entirely perfect, other than the narrow one of the man in the middle standing back, looking at the foolishness that brought him to ruin and asking the existential question: What have I done? It’s one of the great films of all times and won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Guinness.

I don’t know what it is that puts so many of our political scandals at, near or over a body of water. But this new one, more than any I can think of, bears a structural resemblance to Watergate.

Narrowly speaking, “Worse Than Watergate” refers to a 2004 book by former Nixon aide John Dean that reviews the George W. Bush administration and its obsessions with secrecy. In a larger sense, the phrase has become a tool used in order to magnify the seeming importance of any putative political scandal by likening it to the one we look back to as granddaddy of them. The phrase seems to emerge most often from the mouths of those who are trying to make a big deal out of nothing, as in Benghazi or Whitewater.

Last May, Mother Jones ran a useful little chart comparing the major political scandals of the last century according to two main metrics: how serious they were as violations of the public trust, and how large they loom in the public memory. Where does ChristieBridge fit it?

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Worse Than Watergate, Whitewater, Watergate, Richard Nixon, Mother Jones, Mark Sokolich, John Dean, George W. Bush, ChristieBridge, Chris Christie, Bridge on the River Kwai, Benghazi, Alec Guinness




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