The Jews are pushing America into a disastrous war, a Democratic congressman from Virginia said last week.
Republicans and Jewish groups are saying that the remarks by Jim Moran are the Democratic party’s “Trent Lott moment.”
There are, of course, some differences. Lott was the Senate majority leader, and Moran has no position of comparable influence. But Moran is following the Lott pattern in at least one respect: He’s made a semi-apology that cannot appease his critics.
Here’s what Moran originally said at an antiwar forum in Reston, Virginia: “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.”
And here’s his apology: “I made some insensitive remarks that I deeply regret. 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.”
So what did Moran actually mean? He told Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post that his larger point was that more religious groups should have opposed the war vocally: “If among any one of the major communities of faith in this country there was an organized consensus against the war, I don’t think we would be going to war.” He mentioned Jewish groups because he was responding to a question from a woman who had identified herself as Jewish. “If she had identified herself as a Catholic, I would have said the same thing.”
This explanation won’t wash. The Catholic church is a “major community of faith in this country” — “organized,” too — and its opposition to the war has been extremely well-publicized. The church has done everything it can to stop a war short of excommunicating Catholics who support military action against the Iraqi regime. Moran, himself a Catholic, cannot be ignorant of the church’s position. So why did Moran single out the Jews?
Moran insists that he knows in his “heart” that he is not anti-Semitic. His Democratic defenders, including Virginia’s senate minority leader, are also vouching for Moran’s heart. But the problem with Moran is what appears to be in his head, not what may be in his heart. He said that we’re going to war because of Jewish “influence.” Whether making that claim is “insensitive” is beside the point. The claim is false, and a congressman whose view of the world — and of the role of Jews in it — is so distorted that he believes it can reasonably be said to have placed himself on the anti-Semitic fringe of American politics.
Last year, national Democratic leaders distanced themselves from the outrageous conduct of congressmen Jim McDermott and David Bonior without repudiating that conduct. Let’s hope they do better this time.