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RJC (mis)plays the Buchanan card

You may recall that our own Ron Kampeas was quick to call out U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler over the Florida Democrat’s rush to pounce on what proved to be flimsy reports that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin once backed Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign. The Republican Jewish Coalition also jumped in to defend Palin.

Well, now it’s the RJC making a dubious play of the Buchanan card.

In its latest “Concerned about Barack Obama? You should be” ad, the RJC – already in the middle of a controversy regarding its recent telephone poll – declares that the Democrat’s “Dangerous Views on Israel Have Just Been Endorsed by Pat Buchanan.” At issue is Buchanan’s recent assertion during an MSNBC broadcast that “I think Barack is right, we ought to talk to the Iranians” and “he’s right to say the Palestinian people have got a terrible deal over there and their suffering ought to be recognized. That’s Obama’s position. It’s my position.”

The ad goes on to say: “The Anti-Defamation League says Buchanan ‘publicly espouses racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-immigrant views.’ Yet, Buchanan calls his views on Israel, Iran and Palestinians the same as Obama’s.”

And the final line (in bold and larger font): “Pat Buchanan says he shares the same views on Israel as Barack Obama. Those views are dangerous, reckless and wrong.”

It’s hard to know where to start with all of this, since the ad is misleading and hypocritical on several levels. So let’s begin with the easy (and short) part: What’s true about this ad?

Well, the RJC accurately quoted Buchanan and Buchanan was right in saying that Obama thinks the United States should talk to the Iranians. Everything else requires clarification, if not a correction. [UPDATE: I've been hearing from some Republicans who want to know: If, as I say next, the ad quotes Buchanan accurately, how can I be so harsh in my judgment of it? Their argument is that it's not up to the RJC to fact check Buchanan, or read his mind. Not sure I buy it, but it's fair point and I wanted to put it out there.]

While Buchanan was accurately quoted on the Palestinian issue, his comments on MSNBC were (unintentionally, I suspect) misleading at best. Obama did say during a March 11, 2007 rally in Iowa that “nobody’s suffering more than the Palestinian people from this whole process” – but the full quote clearly implied, and Obama later explicitly made clear, that he blames their suffering on Palestinian leaders, not Israel. So on the narrow point I suspect Obama and Buchanan do not agree. As for the Israeli-Palestinian situation more generally, Buchanan may think he is closer to Obama than to McCain, but on what grounds? He never says, so we (and the RJC) really have no idea.

What we do know is that both Obama and McCain favor a two-state solution, back the policy of isolating Hamas, think the United States should be bolstering Palestinian Authority President Mahmous Abbas, are committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative strategic edge and safeguarding the country’s security, and say that Israel acted appropriately during the 2006 war against Hamas and Hezbollah.

Now I guess the RJC can say that none of these details matter – if Buchanan says he’s closer to Obama than it must be so. But if we go by that standard, then we should toss out the facts in the Palin debate, and stick to Buchanan’s claim that Palin supported his 1996 presidential run.

All of this would have been enough, but the RJC decided to open up a ridiculous can of worms by citing the ADL (wonder how the ADL feels about being used in this way, especially since its director, Abe Foxman, has said that both presidential candidates are solidly pro-Israel). What exactly is the RJC trying to imply by noting the ADL’s assertion that Buchanan espouses racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views? That Obama should in some way be tainted on all of these fronts because Buchanan happens to say he agrees with him on some other issue? That Obama shares Buchanan’s alleged hangups with black people, and hence they end up in the same place on Israel?

According to this way of thinking, it would seem that the much more relevant point is that the ADL says Buchanan is racist, and he agrees with McCain on affirmative action. Or, the ADL says Buchanan is anti-immigrant, and he is now closer to McCain on the issue than he is to Obama.

To be clear, this line of attack against McCain would also be unfair, but it’s where we end up if we play out the RJC’s logic. And that’s before we ask what, based on the logic of this ad, does it say about McCain that he and Buchanan both claim the same president (Ronald Reagan) as a political heir hero. And, for that matter, what does it say about Reagan that he employed Buchanan?

Now that you mention it… Hey, RJC, why you bustin’ on the Gipper?

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