Despicably, a Democratic congressman recently blamed Jews for the impending war with Iraq. Rep. Jim Moran, who represents voters from the Virginia suburbs around Washington, D.C., told a local audience: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this." Then, playing to stereotypes of Jewish control, Moran claimed that "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."
Moran isn't just some backwater politician. He was elected to his seventh term in 2002 and sits on the Defense subcommittee of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Moran has apologized for what he said, calling his remarks "insensitive" and expressing regret for "any pain" the remarks caused -- but this isn't the first time he's evidenced such tone-deafness.
Last year, Moran revealed he had received more than $10,000 in campaign contributions from three Muslim men accused of raising more than $1.8 billion for Muslim charities that allegedly funneled some of the money to terrorist organizations, including Hamas. At first, Moran said he wouldn't return the contributions, arguing, "In our system of justice, you're innocent until proven guilty -- not the reverse." Moran changed his mind and gave back the money only when media attention became too embarrassing.
You'd think with this baggage, the Democratic leadership would be anxious to chuck Moran overboard, but, so far, the criticism has been tepid. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Moran's comments were "not only inappropriate, they were offensive," but she quickly added that he had "properly apologized." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's only action thus far was to say, "It's a sad day when comments like that are made."
No Democrat leaders in or out of Congress are calling on Moran to step down, as many Republicans did (including me) when Sen. Trent Lott uttered what seemed like pro-segregation views at a farewell party for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond last December. Few in the media were willing to accept Lott's apology, so where is the similar outcry against Moran, whose statements were more directly hateful than Lott's offhand, if wrongheaded, remarks?
When Lott made his gaffe, the media treated it not only as a personal failing by the senator but also as symptomatic of a deeper problem within the Republican Party. There were endless analyses in print and on television of the Republican Party's alleged history of race baiting, going back to the 1968 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon. So where are articles and news stories pointing to the Democrats' far more recent pattern of attacking Jews?
No one in the media seems to think that Congressman Moran's anti-Semitic canard has anything in common with Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson's 1984 reference to New York as "Hymietown," or current Democratic presidential hopeful Al Sharpton's vicious campaign to drive a Jewish storeowner out of Harlem in 1995, which ended in an arson attack that killed eight people at Freddy's department store.
What about Democrat Sen. Ernest Hollings' crack about his former colleague Howard Metzenbaum being "the senator from B'nai B'rith," or Democrat senator and former majority leader Robert Byrd's role as an organizer for the infamously anti-Semitic (and anti-black, anti-Catholic) Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s? How many times do Democrats have to evince anti-Semitism before someone wonders aloud whether the Party itself ought not to do some soul-searching?
Congressman Moran is likely to survive this flap. After all, he's weathered other allegations about his fitness to serve, including charges that he accepted personal loans from individuals who had pending business before Congressional committees on which he served.
The bigger question is, why doesn't the media hold the Democrats to the same standard as they do Republicans by insisting that Democrats rid themselves of bigotry in their ranks as well?