The New York Times reported on the latest Senate Democrat strategy meeting that took place in Baltimore this past week. Among the issues on the table was the Iran issue, namely potential sanctions to be voted on in the form of the beleaguered Kirk-Menendez bill.
According to one of the senators and another person who was present, the president urged lawmakers to stop pursuing sanctions, saying such a move would undermine his authority and could derail the talks. Mr. Obama also said that such a provocative action could lead international observers to blame the Americans, rather than the Iranians, if the talks collapsed before the June 30 deadline.
The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others, but he urged the lawmakers to take the long view rather than make a move for short-term political gain, according to the senator. Mr. Menendez, who was seated at a table in front of the podium, stood up and said he took “personal offense.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was quick to assert that the Jewishness of “donors and others” was inferred in Obama’s statement. While Religion Dispatches disagreed, they also pointed out, “…it does look as though Menendez received more ‘pro-Israel’ money than all but 2 Senators between 2006 and 2014. Number one on that list, incidentally, is his co-sponsor on the current Iran sanctions bill, Mark Kirk.”
The Kirk-Menendez bill has been battered around Capitol Hill for nearly a year. In a recent CNN report, Kirk went on record citing their need for American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in D.C., to support their efforts to get the bill passed and an inevitable Presidential veto overridden. In light of the strong relationship between AIPAC, Kirk and Menendez, perhaps the Jewish Press was right in their observation: “‘Neocon’ used to be the code word for Jews, now it appears to be ‘donors,’ at least when used by certain politicians, including U.S. President Barack Obama.”