What issue unites pro-Israel Democrats like Sen. Frank Lautenberg and the National Jewish Democratic Council with Moveon.org, who has been badly embarrassed by the hateful, anti-Semitic postings of the kook fringe on its blog? It’s discrediting Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Pennsylvania Republican currently locked in a bruising fight for re-election to a third term.
In an op-ed in The Washington Times in August, Robert Goldberg detailed how hundreds of postings on Moveon.org’s Web site rail against Jews, using terminology like “Jew” Lieberman, “Zionist Cyber Trolls,” “Zionazis” and the like, who are said to be colluding with the Bush administration to damage the United States.
The blog Israpundit reports that following publication of the Goldberg op-ed, Moveon.org, funded by the likes of billionaire George Soros, deleted the anti-Semitic postings from its blog, and a Moveon representative lamely tried to suggest that the hate speech was posted by “right-wing” bloggers in an effort to discredit his organization. The explanation falls apart when one learns that during the period in which the hate postings remained on Moveon’s site, the organization was deleting posts that were critical of the group’s activities, and that some of the postings were winning 70 percent to 80 percent support from the Moveon.org community.
This is not good news for Senate candidate Bob Casey, who thus far has received $168,000 in “bundled” contributions from Moveon.org, which is targeting Mr. Santorum for defeat. Mr. Casey, Pennsylvania’s state treasurer, traveled to Connecticut to endorse antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont, another Moveon-backed candidate.
And he is apparently happy to take Moveon.org’s money (his campaign failed to respond to questions about Moveon.org and its support for Mr. Casey.) But, when possible, he tries to avoid coming out forthrightly against the war. In a Sept. 3 debate with Mr. Santorum on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Casey — currently running 11 points ahead of Mr. Santorum in the polls — volunteered that he would have voted for the war in 2002, but tried to evade moderator Tim Russert’s questions about how he would vote today. Eventually, Mr. Russert managed to pin him down, and Mr. Casey reluctantly said that he would vote against the war today.
In sharp contrast to Mr. Casey, who comes off as something of a left-leaning foreign-policy ingenue, there is no doubt where Rick Santorum stands on the most important issue of our time: the struggle against Islamofascism. He says without hesitation that the U.S. -led war to topple Saddam Hussein and give Iraqis a chance at democracy was the right thing to do. In 2004, the senator led the charge for the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions that helped lead to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s decision to withdraw troops from Lebanon last year — giving the Lebanese people an historic opportunity at self-government.
Regarding Iran, Mr. Santorum has been indefatigable. He has fought: to increase U.S. support for embattled pro-democracy groups inside that country; to strengthen current sanctions against American firms doing business in Iran; to put pressure on Russia and China to reassess their support for Iran and their assistance to its weapons programs; and to press for sanctions on Iran so long as it continues to flout its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On Sept. 30, President Bush signed into law the senator’s legislation imposing mandatory sanctions on entities that provide assistance to Iran’s weapons programs. The legislation passed the Senate by voice vote and received strong bipartisan cosponsorship, including Democratic stalwarts like Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Rep. Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
It’s understandable, then, why Moveon.org, which is vociferously left-wing and antiwar, would want to defeat Mr. Santorum: He wants to win the war, and he is a remarkably effective senator. But what accounts for the bizarre simultaneous attacks from Mr. Lautenberg and the Jewish group, who suggest that he is somehow “soft” on Iran? Mr. Lautenberg and company complain that because Mr. Santorum focuses on penalizing future investments in Iran, he would give a pass to firms like Halliburton (a liberal bete noire), who have lawfully invested in Iran. (Never mind the fact that prior to passage of his own bill, Mr. Santorum had clashed with the Bush administration, which objected that his bill went too far in limiting the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy.) Mr. Santorum tried to negotiate an agreement that would satisfy Mr. Lautenberg’s concerns, but to no avail.
Several American supporters of the democracy movement in Iran say Mr. Lautenberg and National Jewish Democratic Council are being disingenuous in their attacks. For example, Banafshah Zand-Bonazzi of New York, a self-described “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” says she is incredulous over Mr. Lautenberg’s attacks on Mr. Santorum. Mrs. Zand-Bonazzi (whose father is a dissident who has been jailed and tortured by the Iranian regime over his writings) says that in sharp contrast to her experience with Mr. Santorum, who has always made himself accessible to Iranian pro-democracy groups, she has repeatedly reached out to Mr. Lautenberg and other prominent Democrats like Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, but none of them is willing to meet with her. Aryo Pirouznia, a Dallas-based American Iranian activist, said he, too, finds the charges against Santorum absurd.
But with control of the Senate up for grabs, Mr. Casey and his political allies seem prepared to say just about anything if it helps defeat Rick Santorum.
Joel Himelfarb is the assistant editor of the editorial page of The Washington Times.