What the article does not go on to note,(as Aaron Klein points out on his blog) however, is that Rosenthal’s husband, Richard Phelps, was a three-term Madison, Wisconsin, executive who worked closely with Joel Rogers, one of the founders of The New Party. Clearly, she met Obama in 1996 when he was gaining the support of The New Party for his campaign.
So once again- as with the appointment of Van Jones- Obama has put in a major position of influence a person from the left-wing of the political spectrum who, as an official whose office monitors anti-Semitism, is using her position to support J-Street, on whose Board she previously sat. Conflict of interest, anyone? Are the statements she gave to Haaretz, uttered in her official capacity, likely to help or harm the ability of Israel to defend itself against its enemies, or once again work instead to cast doubt among Israelis about the view of Israel really held by the Obama administration?
Ms. Rosenthal notes, parenthetically, that criticism of her appointment comes “from a very few people who blog a lot.” Add this blogger to that list!
UPDATE: Friday, Dec.25th
I was honored to find that I was attacked by the leading conspiracy theorist in America for my pody on the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal by President Obama, and my tying of her appointment to Obama’s contacts during his Chicago years to the Old and New Left. Writing on his own site, Andrew Sullivan calls my own blog “a petri dish of aging neocon obsessions.” Instead of dealing with the meaning of Obama’s relationship with the left wing in Chicago , he dismisses it as something that took place “over a decade ago,” as if this relatively recent period of time has no effect on the President’s current thought.
I would refer Andrew Sullivan to the post appearing on FrontpageMagazine.com by John Perazzo, who details the influence on Obama’s views of health care he learned from a Communist Party activist, (who later on moved to the terrain of other Marxist and socialist groups) Dr. Quentin Young. Young told Amy Goodman in a 2009 interview that “Barack Obama, in those early days [as a state senator]—influenced, I hope, by me and others—categorically said single payer was the best way, and he would inaugurate it if he could get the support, meaning [Democratic] majorities in both houses, which he’s got, and the presidency, which he’s got. And he said that on more than one occasion….”
As Perazzo writes, Obama’s denial that he ever held that position and never favored a public option is typical of the tactics advocated by Saul Alinsky, “who counseled revolutionaries to conceal their real motives; to say and do whatever is necessary to allay the fears and suspicions of the middle class; and to pursue incremental change where overnight transformation is not possible—knowing they can always agitate for additional change at some point in the future.”
Indeed, contra Sullivan, Obama’s old ideas are most relevant to understanding his actions today.
Next, Sullivan goes on to engage in his own form of McCarthyism, in which he accuses me of being part of a “throng of Likudniks” who want her out. “Likudnik” becomes the word to throw around like old Joe used “Red” in the 1950s. Sullivan thinks we neo-con Likudniks accuse anyone of anti-Semitism just for being critical of Israeli policy. The issue, however, is not what I or others think of Israeli policy, but the wrongheadedness of Ms. Rosenthal’s most inappropriate comments.
Sullivan implies that there are no grounds whatsoever for attacking the appointment of Hannah Rosenthal as the State Department point woman for monitoring anti-Semitism. I am simply part of the vile group that wants to get her scalp. What could be wrong for her taking offense at Michael Oren’s condemnation of J-Street? He asserts that I and others think anyone who does so is arguing that to criticize Oren makes one a “closet anti-Semite.”
Well, here are some responses to her views from leading mainstream Jewish organizations—-none of them Likudniks or on the right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum. (Sullivan, of course, simply uses that phrase to intimidate any critics from speaking out, since they will fear being associated with the Israeli right-wing.)
First: From Alan Solow and the Conference of Presidents, the umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the United States. Solow writes:
As an official of the United States government, it is inappropriate for the anti-Semitism envoy to be expressing her personal views on the positions Ambassador Oren has taken as well as on the subject of who needs to be heard from in the Jewish community. Such statements have nothing to do with her responsibilities and, based upon comments I am already receiving, could threaten to limit her effectiveness in the area for which she is actually responsible.
Second: It turns out that among those most embarrassed by her comments was our own State Department, which released this statement from Asst. Secretary of State Jeff Feltman:
The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people. Ambassador Oren plays an indispensible role in maintaining and strengthening our relationship through his day to day interaction with the Administration and Congress on issues of vital importance to both countries and his vigorous outreach to Americans of all origins and points of view.
It is clear that Feltman’s statement came because, as Politico reported, mainstream Jewish groups were “burning up the lines to the White House” in response to Rosenthal’s interview. And on his fellow blogger Jeffrey Goldberg’s site on The Atlantic, Goldberg makes the very same point I do: “Talk about sticking your nose in places where it doesn’t belong. The Obama Administration official charged with monitoring worldwide anti-Semitism makes her first target… the Israeli ambassador to the United States? I’ll be taking bets now on how long Hannah Rosenthal lasts in the job.” Perhaps Sullivan should read his colleague’s blog before shooting his own mouth off. Or is Goldberg too a neocon Likudnik?
Finally, here are some wise words of wisdom from Shmuel Rosner, a former Haaretz correspondent in Washington, D.C., for many years. He writes:
Rosenthal, a problematic pick for this job to begin with, proved to be more disastrous for the Obama administration than I expected. I didn’t write about her much when she was appointed, because I don’t know her personally, and because some Jewish friends who do know her told me that I should be careful. They told me she’s smart. They told me she’ll be great at this job. They told me that I should hold judgment.
But now it seems quite obvious that Rosenthal isn’t smart – or maybe she’s smart, just not careful, or maybe she’s smart just not the kind of smart needed for this delicate job of anti-anti-Semitism tzar. She was definitely not smart when she sacrificed her ability to execute her mission efficiently for a newspaper headline. And no – she can’t be a successful anti-anti-Semitism tzar. First, because she will hardly be able to cooperate with most major Jewish organizations – something that might become a liability for an official charged with battling anti-Semitism. But more importantly, because Rosenthal is now officially a member of the look-at-them-and-you’ll-know-why-we-don’t-trust-Obama team. Instead of being an asset to Obama, she’s a burden. An unnecessary and unwelcome distraction. Not a healthy position for an official who was just recently appointed for a job that can be easily marginalized.
I suspect that when Rosenthal either apologizes or is forced to resign- a la Van Jones-Andrew Sullivan will blog that the Likudnik neocon bloc forced her out. So I say in advance; I didn’t know we had such power and influence with the Obama administration. But if she goes, Andrew, I take all the credit due me for helping them move her out to greener pastures.