So what does one make of her case? First, as Ira Stoll has pointed out, Dan Senor is hardly a neoconservative. During the early days of the Iraq war, he was a spokesman for Paul Bremer, who as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, advocated policies fiercely opposed by neoconservatives. Bremer presided over the disbanding of the Iraqi army and de-Ba’athification, while the neoconservatives favored setting up a government headed by an Iraqi leader they believed was friendly to democracy and the West, particularly Ahmed Chalabi.
As Stoll points out, “depictions of Jews as snakes or puppeteers are classical anti-Semitic images.” Moreover, he notes, when Glenn Beck charged that the leftist billionaire George Soros was “puppet master” of the entire left — he who is openly an opponent of Israel — the left all charged Beck with indulging in anti-Semitism.
Dowd also singled out Paul Wolfowitz in her column, ignoring the key makers of policy in the Bush administration — Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld — none of whom are Jewish.
Even Jeffrey Goldberg, no supporter of Romney, responded to Dowd’s column by writing:
This sinister stereotype became a major theme in the discussion of the Iraq war, when critics charged that Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, among other Jewish neoconservatives, were actually in charge of Bush Administration foreign policy. This charge relegated George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Stephen Hadley, and the other Christians who actually set policy to the status of puppets.
And, he points out, in saying that Israel has a right to make what decisions it will take to protect its people, Romney “wasn’t actually veering wildly at all from the bipartisan consensus on this question.”
As to setting red lines for Iran, Goldberg also notes that it is “hardly outrageous” for Israel’s prime minister to try to get an assessment of what the administration thinks these are, and when it would be willing to act against Iran if need be. (Goldberg also argues in another column that an Obama administration would be more likely to sanction a military strike against Iran than a Romney one.)
Did the Times’ editors to have any embarrassment for not asking Dowd to reconsider her column before posting it? The answer quickly came from editor Andrew Rosenthal, who responded to Politico’s Byers: “No fair-minded reading of Maureen Dowd’s column supports the allegations you and others are making. She makes no reference, direct or implied, to anyone’s religion.”
Rosenthal misses the point. The very terms “puppet masters” and “snakes” are anti-Semitic images, used to discredit and inflame people against Jews, without openly calling them wrong because they are Jewish. One can use these terms while avoiding openly condemning Jews as responsible for evil policies and events, while knowing readers who always fear Jewish influence behind the scenes get the point and have their prejudices confirmed. Writing at Commentary’s “Contentions,” Jonathan S. Tobin thinks that Dowd’s column amounts to a “tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.”