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(In Search of) The Amen Corner
In Dissent, Number Ninety-Five
by Brian S. Wise
17 March 2003

Jim Moran (Democrat, Virginia) and some troublesome thinking.

Representative Jim Moran (Democrat, Virginia) has issued an apology. Odds are pretty good you didn’t know there’d been a controversy, what with Moran being a Democrat and all, but some particularly interesting things were said by the Congressman about two weeks ago in a Reston, Virginia church. “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.”

It can be said that the Jewish community carries uncommon influence inside the American power structure; it cannot be said (with any sort of realism attached, anyway) that this influence is powerful enough to demand an American-lead coalition start ending third world dictatorships. America takes its relationships with Jews seriously, and should, but not seriously enough to take orders.

Now, on to the apology. “At a recent open meeting with constituents, I made some insensitive remarks that I deeply regret. I apologize for any pain these remarks have caused to members of the Jewish faith and any other individuals. I should not have singled out the Jewish community and regret giving any impression that its members are somehow responsible for the course of action being pursued by the Administration, or are somehow behind an impending war.” Uh-huh, and? “In my response, I should have been more clear. What I was trying to say is that if more organizations in this country, including religious groups, were more outspoken against a war, then I do not think we would be pursuing war as an option.”

The point is dishonest and feeble; dozens of organizations inside and outside of religion have made perfectly clear they prefer no war be fought, including the Vatican. President Bush is a religious man, but there is no Jewish organization or representative that is going to get through to him once the Vatican has been politely, and repeatedly, rebuffed. Presidents may pray nightly for guidance, but dropping bombs is a decidedly secular practice.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of two previous foibles uttered by other public figures. One was Pat Buchanan, who rather famously said that “There are only two groups beating that are beating the drums for [the Persian Gulf War] – the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.” By this he meant, “The Israelis want this war desperately because they want the United States to destroy the Iraqi war machine. They want us to finish them off. They don’t care about our relations with the Arab world.” (This famous little bit of noise was explored at significant length in Mr. William F. Buckley’s grand essay “In Search of Anti-Semitism.”)

Trent Lott’s “We in Mississippi had no trouble voting for this Old Confederate, and had he been elected, we wouldn’t be having these problems” bit also came to mind. When he said it, of course, Lott meant … well, it’s hard telling exactly what he meant, though the slip was widely attributed, in Republican circles, to one man paying tribute to an old man in the twilight of life. (Most Democrats, and a few Republicans – I was one – didn’t buy it.)

What Messrs. Buchanan and Lott have in common is, simply put, Republicanism. There were consequences of their respective nonsense; for Buchanan it was an unearthing of every public comment he’d ever made on Jews and Israel, at which time it was generally concluded (by many Jews, most Democrats and more than a few Republicans) that Buchanan was an anti-Semite, and therefore undesirable as … well, president in the first place, but just about anything other than a MSNBC talking head in the second place. And then a decade or so later Trent Lott’s past was dug apart in search of any negative comment regarding blacks, and when they were found more easily than was comfortable, Lott was tossed aside as Senate leader for the benefit of the party.

Why haven’t we heard more about Jim Moran? Probably because there are more important things going on, probably because Moran is a well established doofus on Capital Hill, a man who has admitted he probably doesn’t belong in the House of Representatives, but who sees no point in stepping down despite his ineptitude and occasional low grade Jew-bashing. It troubles, Jew-bashing, but to Moran’s degree it’s something more like a tickle than a slap, a wild thought expelled by a man who just isn’t too bright, and who doesn’t mind showing you if left along long enough.

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