According to the historical theory of
One such, in my opinion, got much less attention than it deserved. It involves the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Alphonso Johnson, who made an extraordinary statement during a talk in
After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies,
"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,"
"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'
"He didn't get the contract,"
Not even the most rabid black Democrat, in my humble opinion, should be angry at or ashamed of Secretary Johnson because of his race. What distinguishes him here from most of his counterparts in the Administration isn’t his attitude, but his honesty. As John Diullio and Paul O’Neil revealed during the first few years of this Administration, politics rules policy 100 times out of 100 in this White House. If the federal government has to spend money (and actually, as we all know, the Bush Administration has spent at record rates), it must go to reward Administration friends and punish its enemies. The extraordinary largesse shown to Halliburton in
My second point concerns the President’s new “plan” for immigration. Here I must give the President for relatively enlightened views, at least within his own party. He knows that millions of immigrants are playing a critical role in the American economy. My personal view is that the time has come to reduce the flow, as we did (drastically, actually) in 1924, and to move the immigrants within the country towards citizenship. The worst alternative, to me, is a long-term guest-worker program (it is not clear to me if this is what the President wants), which would create a permanently disenfranchised working class—surely a Republican dream if ever there was one. But the President has run into serious trouble with the House Republicans, who for some reason want to make a point of expelling a few million illegal aliens. And on Monday night, he reacted.
I personally found his proposal painful to hear. It has, frankly, nothing to do with the real issue at hand—the millions of illegal aliens in the country, and what to do with them. It will further disrupt the Reserves and National Guard, who will have to send thousands of men to Border Control offices for two-week or three-week stints, during which they will probably get in the way for at least a week while they find out what they should be doing. Meanwhile, a few border control officers will be out looking for new illegals. I hope, to paraphrase our other Texas President, that they won’t be under orders not to come back without nailing a few coonskins to the wall. Once again the President was trying to seem tough and in control, disrupting the work lives of the American men and women who do the peoples’ business without doing anything about the problem that is giving him political trouble. It was, again, all too typical of the last five years.
My last point involves a controversy that has been raging for over a month, over an article on the Israeli lobby by two political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, that appeared in the London Review of Books and on the web site of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, where Walt is a dean. It argued that
Now the controversy has drawn a new contributing from Michael Massing in the New York Review of Books. Massing begins by arguing that Mearsheimer and Walt did state their case a bit sloppily, but also takes some of their critics to task for becoming hysterical. Then, however, he gets to the heart of the matter, arguing, correctly, that while Mearsheimer and Walt talked a lot about the power of the Israeli lobby, they didn’t say much about who its movers and shakers were or how they worked. He proceeds rather impressively to fill in those blanks, and in so doing, I think, says some very important things. The Lobby is very powerful, relatively very conservative, and very influential, clearly, in the foreign policy of the current Administration.
The main central organ of the lobby is, of course, AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has 100,000 members, 20 regional and satellite offices, a $47 million annual budget and a large staff devoted largely to lobbying effective officials and propagating its message. AIPAC does not contribute to candidates but, Massing shows, it steers candidates to contributors and vica verca. Massing’s first major point is that AIPAC is controlled by its board of directors of 50 or so members, who are selected according to their ability to raise and contribute funds. (I would note that major universities select alumni to serve on advisory boards in exactly the same way, ensuring, in that case, that academics like myself are not likely to be represented.) Within the board, he says, the four prime movers and shakers in AIPAC, three industrialists and a real estate developer named Robert Asher, Edward Levy, Mayer Mitchell, and Larry Weinberg, the former owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. They are not, as he points out, mainstream American Jews from the point of view of politics—three are staunch Republicans and Weinberg is a “Scoop Jackson Democrat.” The organization courts and threatens members of Congress from both parties and every part of the country (including those where Jews are a relative rarity and the average voter probably doesn’t care very much about the details of our
Other arms of the lobby include the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, whose executive vice-chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, has according to Massing been very close to the settlers’ movement in
I would like to conclude this discussion with a couple of observations. First—and, to my mind, critically—the pro-Israel lobby, as Massing stresses, does not really represent the consensus opinions of American Jews, many of whom, like many Israelis, would be glad to see Israel offer more for peace. While it still gives more money to Democrats than Republicans it has become a close ally of the Bush Administration, which has echoed its extreme policies on every major issue in the Middle East and whose own rhetoric has given AIPAC, as Massing shows, a new weapon—accusations of coddling terrorists against anyone who will not play ball. And I could not help wondering, as I finished the article, whether those Administration policies reflect not so much a desire to control Middle Eastern oil or to fulfill Biblical prophecies in the