Journalist M.J. Rosenberg discusses the AIPAC convention attendees converging on Capitol Hill to vigorously lobby Congress; Obama’s surprising, repeated defiance of the Israel lobby; and how John McCain’s longevity and temperament might be the death of us all.
Our first guest up today is M.J Rosenberg, he’s formerly, I know you hate it when I say this M.J but it’s relevant, he’s formerly a staffer with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, although that was a long, long time ago, he would hasten to have me add.
But now, he’s a peace activist kind of a guy, he writes with the Huffington Post, and I don’t know what happened to your website, it looks like it’s gone, mjrosenberg.com? Is that right?
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah, I took it down, I have my whole list which goes out to thousands of people and I prefer to share my stuff that way – and the Huffington Post, I mean it goes out to Huffington Post and Washington Spectator and so I don’t need my own website.
Nobody went to read my stuff at my website, they always looked at other places.
Scott Horton:Â Okay, well, yeah I always look at the Huffington Post for the latest, and this will be an issue later on in the interview, I want to talk about your latest there about the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement, a very interesting article to me.
But first of all let’s see what kind of coverage we can get about the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting this week in Washington DC. What are the highlights so far? I guess Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken?
M.J Rosenberg:Â Well, it’s over, it ended. They say he was the big moment, his speech was for the end, and the very last thing following his speech, his speech was billed as the AIPEC delegates their marching orders and then they go up to Capital Hill.
It was interesting, we had snow yesterday when the conference was ending and people were going up to The Hill and it was on all the weather reports, they kept saying ‘there’s a big tie up around the Washington Convention Center, avoid that area because there are fourteen thousand people coming in to’. They all take cabs and buses from the Convention Center to go up to The Hill. They basically tie up the whole city. I’m not objecting to that but I’m just, it’s a big deal, they fill up the entire Washington Conference Center, which is incredible.
Scott Horton:Â So your saying when the AIPAC conference is over, everybody goes over to Capital Hill?
M.J Rosenberg: Yeah, they all, they go, they have meeting scheduled with every single congressional office. I was talking to a friend about, who works on Capital Hill, works for a Senator and I said, ‘AIPAC is up there today, is that your second worst day of the year”? Because I worked on Capital Hill for fifteen years.
He said, “Second worst? What is the worst? ” I said when all the Right to Lifers go up on January 20th and they all march with their red roses about the unborn and all that, they have even more people than AIPAC.
He said, ‘I don’t know, there is nothing like AIPAC. The Right To Lifers are easier to deal with. One, they don’t demand to see the Congressman themselves, they are happy with staff, two, if they have a staffer, they don’t demand a higher staffer, and three, they don’t give us orders, they are polite they let us make our points, they make their points.”
He says it is an entirely different thing. He can’t stand The Right To Lifers but at least they don’t come up and boss us around like they own us. That is kind of interesting.
Scott Horton:Â So, what is the worst day then, if it’s not this one?
MJ Rosenberg:Â The worst day is the AIPAC. I thought it was the second worst, after the Right to Lifers. And he said absolutely not, The Right To Lifers don’t act like they’re entitled.
Scott Horton: Oh I thought you were going to say no, it’s another event that is hosted by AIPAC, or when the Christians United For Israel come or something like that.
M.J Rosenberg: I don’t know if it’s that, but when I was up there it was awful when they come in because they demand to see the Senator or Congressman. I’ve known them to just walk in to meetings where the doors are closed, I mean nobody does that – I guess they think it’s their congress, they paid for it so hey, what can you do?
Scott Horton:Â Yeah, the Senators, they’re just the help
M.J Rosenberg:Â Exactly.Â (laughing)
Scott Horton:Â Well, I mean that’s really something else. I guess it’s funny because you know, I’m a Libertarian, so I’m not much into democracy because what right does 51% have to boss me around on any issue really.
But, when it comes down to it, I kind of admire the organization and the stick-to-it-ive-ness and the ability to simply work within the system and that is not to say that they don’t work around the system because they do. But that’s the Grant Smith interview coming up next.
But for our purposes, the Israel Lobby, AIPAC, and their associated groups, they play the game of democracy so well. I mean the way you described, they’re so arrogant, it probably backfires on them at least a little bit, but when it comes down to making sure that they have somebody there to push a Congressman or staffer or whoever, on each and every issue, they’ve go it covered, they’ve got somebody there.
When the word goes out that ‘everyone call everyone on their telephone tree and everyone email everyone on your email list’ and then everyone who gets one of these emails or phone calls actually does the thing that it’s telling them to do – send the letter, make the phone call, do the thing, they do it and they get it done.
They’re better than the AARP, they’re better than the Gun Lobby, they’re better than anyone at going up there and just making sure.
Oh and the oneÂ other thing would be if you cross them, if you’re a Congressman and you cross them they will guarantee bankroll your primary challenger and if you beat him, then they will bankroll your general election challenger, and if you beat him, then they will see you in two years you SOB. And they’re not going to forget.
M.J Rosenberg:Â (Laughing) Yeah, and it’s all very working within the Democratic system and all that.
Scott Horton:Â But it’s hardball man, they play hardball bad y’know?
M.J Rosenberg: It’s hardball but the difference between the AARP and the NRA and the other ones that you mentioned is that doing it at the orders of and for a foreign Government ….
Scott Horton:Â Ahh well, there is the rub. (Laughing)
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah, that is something and that’s it. There is no other lobby for aÂ foreignÂ government that is like that. Not even, I can’t even; nothing is close.
Horton:Â But what if we had a peace lobby like that, where everybody who was anti-war, y’know no matter what we hate about each other on any other issue, we just always worked together on anti-war and we are hardcore like this and we’re all on one big email list like this and that kind of thing.
M.J Rosenberg:Â It would be great. That’s a dream.
Scott Horton:Â That is my ultimate fantasy to have that, 300 million of us versus DC and the 300 million of us say ‘None of this. No more.’
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah, exactly, exactly but y’know, that is not going to happen. I mean it might happen, but you’re younger than me, maybe…
Scott Horton:Â Maybe we need to get the Canadians to bankroll it or the…I don’t know, the Brazilians or somebody
M.J Rosenberg:Â Certainly not the Canadians, they are even further to the right than we are these days (laughs)
Scott Horton:Â Don’t get me started on that. Do you want to tell me more about that because I don’t pay that much attention, I know they have a right-winger in power now but I don’t know much about him?
M.J Rosenberg:Â On war/peace issues, they’re crazy. He’s not just a right-winger, he’s a religious fundamentalist. I didn’t even know they had those up there and he’s crazy on the subject of Israel.
He recently went, the Canadian Prime Minister went over thereÂ and gave a speech that would shame an American President. It was just ridiculous. So, I mean I’m not going to hold that against all Canadians, but still. There are few countries for us to run and hide to when the time comes.
All in all though Canada is better on most things.
But I want to say that at the AIPAC Conference I think they have been better off had they not had it, had it been cancelled, because of the snow. I bet they were sitting there watching the weather reports hoping they would have an excuse to cancel because the purpose, what happened was they beat Obama on the Iran sanctions thing when Obama said ‘I’ll veto the bill.’
– more sanctions that would destroy the negotiations
AIPAC lost, and the Democrats all abandoned the AIPAC Bill and then AIPAC abandoned the AIPAC Bill andÂ amazinglyÂ said:
‘Well, it’s a Republican Bill and we’re bi-partisan.’
It was so ridiculous, they wrote the bill. Republicans didn’t write the bill, but anyway they abandoned the whole thing, so man they were hurting. They had lost big time.
So the point of this conference should have been that they could show ‘We’re here, we’re strong’, but it didn’t.
Obama scared them so much.
They had the Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew there. He’s defended of course his own administration and they sat there and applauded and did all that.
There was no saber rattling at Obama at allÂ because they now know he fights back. He doesn’t like them, he doesn’t like them, he doesn’t like their Prime Minister either so they’re scared of him.
And he went and he said those words in the State of the Union speech in which he said, “I will veto AIPAC’s Iran Sanctions Bill because it’s against our National Security’.
That scared them. He was all of a sudden saying, “Which side are you on?”, so they, at their conference where they could have either fought back hard or kind of rolled over, they rolled over again.
It ended with Benjamin Netanyahu giving a speech. Netanyahu’s speech is kind of a classic. It’s his usual stuff that the Iranians are the worst people in the world and they’re going to lob nuclear weapons at Israel and we’re all going to die and all this stuff.
But, he said it jokingly this time. He made jokes about it. Like he was kidding. Like ‘We all know I’m going to say this”, oh he said, the Iranians are going to start shooting SCUD missiles at the United States.
And then he said ‘They’re a threat to us but now they’re going to be a threat to you too’.
And he said, you know the phrase ‘this Buds for you’, well, AmericaÂ it’s going to be ‘this SCUDS’ for you, haha.” Everybody laughed.
Scott Horton:Â Are you kidding me? SCUDS, he threatened us with? I hadn’t realized that continental drift had sped up by 100 million percent.
M.J Rosenberg:(laughing) He didn’t threaten it, he just was making a joke, but the very fact that he was joking about it, usually it’s like gloom and doom it’s 1942 and Hitler’s taking over again….he said all of it but his heart wasn’t in it.
And then he said 25% of the speech, I know this because I counted, 25% of the speechÂ denouncing the BDS boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and said how it was terrible and anti-Semitic and college students should avoid it like the plague.
I wrote in my piece in Huffington Post that it would be like Lyndon Johnson in the middle of the Vietnam War giving a major speech and attacking SBS.
It is just like what, why are you attacking BDS? I understand you don’t like it, don’t like it either, but the point is, that’s not your problem. Your problem is the damn occupation and that’s why you got problems.
Your problem is you tried to get the United States into a war with Iran, that’s your problem. And what a diversion that is, ‘Oh, blame it on college students and activists who right or wrong, favor boycotting divestment and sanctions on Israel’.
And that is the way the speech ended, it ended with all that and they gave it a standing ovation. It was a big nothing.
Scott Horton:Â It sounds like a big nothing
Scott Horton:Â Let me ask you this before we get back into it M.J, are you aware of and/or going to the National Summit to Reassess the US Israel Special Relationship this Friday at the National Press club.
M.J Rosenberg:Â I’m aware of it; I’m not going to it. I’m too old for these meetings, I don’t do it anymore. I don’t go to anything, I stay in my house and write. That is what I do. If I actually went somewhere or, if you did an advertisement for it, I’d probably go because your ads could convince me to buy anything.
Scott Horton:Â Oh you like those huh?
M.J Rosenberg:Â I love them! You are the best! If you advertised Wal Mart, I’d shop at Wal Mart.
Scott Horton:Â I actually have, I don’t know if I have it cued up here, but I have a commercial for it, I’m actually giving the opening remarks first thing in the morning. The whole thing is 8-5.
And I’m giving the opening welcome everybody thing and then I’m hosting one of the panels later in the afternoon. But all of my guests who care about the Middle East are going to be there.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Where is it?
Scott Horton:Â It’s at the National Press Club.
M.J Rosenberg:Â At The National Press Club, what will be the website for it?
Scott Horton:Â It’sÂ www.natsummit.org. Â They have a General, a former FBI agent of two, I think at least two, they going to have a whole panel of former CIA guys including, Geraldi, Scheuer,Â and Mcgovern and a couple of others, I forget, and Phil WeissÂ is going to be there, Justin Raimondo, Scott Mcconnell from the American Conservative Magazine and Karen Kwiatkowski the former Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, and Stephen Walt from Harvard is going to be there and so yeah man, it’s going to be cool.
M.J Rosenberg: And you’re the moderator?
Scott Horton:Â No, I’m giving the opening talk and I’m moderating one of the panels.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Okay, I’m looking for your picture here
Scott Horton:Â Oh am I on there?
M.J Rosenberg:Â Well, it is everyone speaking, I don’t know where you are, but you’re obviously here
Scott Horton:Â Well, I’m not actually giving a talk, I’m just a little bit of window dressing, but that’s alright.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Well, the greats and the near-greats of the movement are there, that’s for sure. The National Press Club, how many people does it hold?
Scott Horton:Â I don’t know, but it’s going to be packed, I’m pretty sure.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah
Scott Horton:Â I guess depending on the weather
M.J Rosenberg:Â Right, oh Mark Perry’s going to be there too, I like him a lot. Okay what were we talking about?
Scott Horton:Â You showing up there so we can shake hands in person, that’d be great.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah I don’t even know what you look like. You radio guys, I’d rather not because this way I have this image of you in my mind you know.
Scott Horton: Yeah, I mean, I’m very handsome and tall.
M.J Rosenberg:Â I’m sure you are.
Scott Horton:Â Very broad shoulders.
M.J Rosenberg:Â No kidding, I need a bodyguard. (laughing) I’m going to look in to it.
Scott Horton:Â Alright, cool. So now, let me ask you this about the Israel Lobby. They had three pretty big loses in the last year.
They lost over Hagel, although not that he was great but, at least they were against him, and they lost on that issue.
And then they lost on Syria last fall, I almost think that Obama deliberately asked them to help on Syria then left them hanging out to dry, that he already was working on that deal with the Russians to get rid of the chemicals instead and that he ….
M.J Rosenberg:Â Well, he was already working on the Iran stuff at that point and he wasn’t telling the Israelis about it, so yeah he might, that is a good point.
Scott Horton:Â I’m not certain of that, I just suspect, but anyway …
And then so, now then as you said, Obama, and I think it took this really, it took him mentioning it in the State of the Union speech that ‘Listen, you better not do these sanctions , I mean it’. For them to lose on that one.
But that was a pretty severe smack down from the President of the United States and there’s been a few different articles about, how y’know there are some people in the Israel Lobby I guess mostly those who lean more Democrat who are saying, ‘Man do we really want to be opposite the President of the United States on such an important issue even if that’s, even if he disagrees with Netanyahu on this, I mean we are Americans after all right?’
There’s a little bit of dissonance going on there finally I think. I’m just wondering if you think that that means that the fight over the final deal will be a little bit less than we might have expected prior.
You know I see Josh Block and some of the other guys on twitter talking about y’know ‘No enrichment’ ….what do you think?
M.J Rosenberg:Â Â I think they’re hoping the Republicans take over the Senate this year and they think that will help them a little bit.
Scott Horton:Â Too late though right, I mean this deal is going to be April or bust right?
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah, right and looking toward the future, I can see that it’s very easy to see a Republican Senate this year, a fully Republican Congress, but it’s really hard to imagine a republican President.
It’s Presidents that present them with their problem. It’s Presidents that make state of the unions. It’s Presidents who ultimately make foreign policy, not congress, and so they’ve got to think, if they’re going to have the Democrats around for the foreseeable future, it could be the end of the lobby. I mean, I won’t get too optimistic, but even Hillary Clinton who I think is the most likely Democrat, Presidents only get pushed around so far.
I was thinking about how at the conference, at the AIPAC conference, everyone was denouncing Obama for being weak on Ukraine, you know privately they would say, ‘He’s spineless’, also in the panel discussions they would say, ‘He’s spineless, he doesn’t stand up for anything.’ And yeah, but he sure stood up to YOU didn’t he?
I mean that’s the, it’s interesting that he of all people would have picked this fight but he did, and he showed you can win.
Scott Horton:Â Interesting to me is that Israeli Nationalists would side with Ukrainian Nationalists, when they’re outright parading around with SS lightening bolts on their posters.
M.J Rosenberg:Â Â But you don’t hear about that though.
Scott Horton:Â There is such a thing as too far right guys?
M.J Rosenberg:(laughing) It’s crazy
Scott Horton:Â I was talking with Sheldon Richman and we agreed that anybody parading around with SS Lightening Bolts is not concerned that you might mistake them for a Nazi. That’s a Nazi. Unless it’s Halloween and he is like British Royalty or something. But otherwise ….
Link for reference to British Royalty:
M.J Rosenberg:Â (laughing) It’s pretty hilarious though. We’re being so indoctrinated here on this Ukraine business. You put the television on and it’s 1971, it’s the Cold War, and you want to say, this is Russia, but there is no more Soviet Union, why do you talk as if it’s the Soviet Union and we’re in this zero sum battle with them?
They so obviously missed the bi-polar world and it’s just crazy, it’s just, to listen to John McCain, that man is nuts. Absolutely nuts. I mean, it’s amazing.
We’re lucky that Obama is in there now, I think, as hawkish as he can be,Â I don’t think he’d do anything like what McCain or even Romney would do.
Scott Horton:Â Yeah, I don’t know exactly about Romney, I’m sure he’d be worse in this situation but I’m positive, I mean there is just no question I don’t think M.J, that if McCain had won in 08 that we’d all have been dead in a war with Russia a long time ago. He would have got us killed in 09 -10 .
M.J Rosenberg:Â I also agree with you that I don’t think Romney is the same. I think Romney talked that game to win the nomination and all that but I don’t think he’s out of his mind. McCain is nuts.
Scott Horton:Â McCain is out of control, he is. McCain I think would have got us into a war with Russia.
M.J Rosenberg:Â I absolutely agree, he is unbelievable. It is so ironic in a way I guess because he has such a lousy military record, he doesn’t have that kind of Eisenhower, Hagel, you know people who really saw combat. I don’t want to be mean to John McCain but he spent the entire war, when he wasn’t in the POW camp, dropping bombs on civilians from way up in the air.
He never really saw combat so unlike the model of Grant, Eisenhower, Hagel, he thinks war is just terrific. It looks pretty good when you’re way up there y’know?
Scott Horton:Â And he’s got the G.W Bush problem too, that he is the son and grandson of great men and yet he’s kind of pathetic and falls short and everybody hates him.
M.J Rosenberg:Â The guy’s pushing 80 (McCain), he really should get over it. On the other hand he still has to impress his mother, because he’s got a mother who is 104 so …
Scott Horton:Â Well that’s impressive, I’ll give him credit for….
M.J Rosenberg:Â Yeah,Â I don’t give him credit for it. And his mom has a twin sister and she is around too, which means John McCain could be in the senate for another 30 years. (laughing)
Scott Horton:Â I hope his fathers genes are favored more than his mothers on the longevity ….
M.J Rosenberg:Â Â I’m glad you said that.
Scott Horton:Â Boy oh boy, we could be in deep trouble with this guy. I keep thinking, ‘Wont’ he go away soon?’ but he just never goes away man. Bill Hicks said that Reagan was Jason under that hockey mask, but I think it’s John McCain. I said Jason, but, uh, I ruined that….sorry, sorry Bills ghost.
Alright so now, BDS, we don’t even have time to talk about it but I will recommend that people go read your article at the Huffington post, about why you’re against the sanctions in the ….
M.J Rosenberg: I’m against themÂ as it applies to all of Israel I do favor all the y’know the things like the Presbyterians and others are doing, which is the divestment from any company that does business in the West Bank or any occupied territory.
Scott Horton:Â I’m sorry for goofing around so much that we didn’t get a chance to get to that.
M.J Rosenberg:Â I like goofing around with you, it’s fun.
Scott Horton:Â Thanks very much MJ, it’s great to talk to you again.
All right everybody that’s the great MJ Rosenberg, he’s at theÂ www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rosenberg