Politics & Policy

The Moran Mess

The congressman compounds his offense.

More Democrats condemned Jim Moran’s comments about Jewish “influence” on America’s Iraq policy yesterday. They either accepted Moran’s apology or did not comment on it.

Moran does not appear to be worrying about this incident as a possible career-ender. In the Washington Post, Eric Weiss and Spencer Hsu report that Moran “said he is trying to mend relations with Jewish leaders, but said: ‘I don’t know if I’ll be given the opportunity. I think they need to do a whole lot of venting before they start listening.’” There is something almost admirable about Moran’s refusal to affect a penitence he clearly does not feel.

Moran also made another comment that, to my mind, compounds his offense. From the Post report: “Moran said yesterday that he still hoped to speak out on the subject. ‘I thought it would be a healthy thing for some non-Jewish citizens to be able to contribute a bit more to the dialogue on Mideast issues.’” Does Moran really believe that non-Jewish citizens are currently unable to participate in public discussions of Mideast issues? If you took Moran’s comment literally, you’d have to regard our Iraq policy as a “Mideast issue” — in which case what he’s saying is a more extreme version of what he said last week. (He claimed that the “Jewish community” was pushing us into a war, but he didn’t suggest that other people weren’t even allowed to discuss the issue.)

But even if Moran is talking about Israel and Palestine, he’s off base. “Non-Jewish citizens” contribute to “the dialogue” on that subject all the time: George Will, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Colin Powell, to pick three at random. It is true that if someone’s contribution to the dialogue is to suggest that Jewish groups have too much power in America, or that our policy toward Iraq is designed to promote distinctively Jewish rather than American interests, those groups — and many, many others — are going to criticize him.

And just for the record, I’d support regime change in Iraq even if Israel didn’t exist.


I won’t say that her latest column is her nadir. But it is plenty bad. Take this line: “[The Bush hawks’] decision last summer to get rid of Saddam was driven by their desire to display raw, naked American power.”

Now it’s certainly true that proponents of a war against the Iraqi regime believe that a side-benefit of it would be to make other dictators around the world nervous about the consequences of defying us. But that is to say that the desire to show American power is itself driven by another motive; that it is not a desire merely to show American power, but to show it deployed against regimes that behave in particular ways. A serious consideration of the motive, that is, would take you right back to the argument for regime change in Iraq. But serious argument has always been the last thing on Dowd’s mind.

It is one thing not to be convincing to people who don’t already share your views. That’s a sin of which all political writers, myself very much included, must plead guilty. But it’s another thing never to feel a need even to try.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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