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Posts Tagged ‘John Podhoretz’

Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.’”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

Podhoretz Storms Off 92nd Street Y Stage in Spat with J Street

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

See Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel for a better informed version of this story.

Commentary editor John Podhoretz stormed off the New York’s 92nd Street Y Stage Monday night in the middle of spat with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami but denied reports that he said “students at Swarthmore College deserve to be spat upon.”

Jewish Daily Forward Jane Eisner, who moderated a panel discussion on the term “pro-Israel,” wrote in her account of the incident that Podhoretz “lost it when a member of the audience asked about the American Studies Association’s announcement Monday that it would boycott Israeli academic institutions over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”

Ben-Ami agreed that the ASA vote was “hypocritical” but then launched into a tirade against Israeli government policies, which he said “make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians.” Podhoretz angrily replied, Eisner tried to calm tempers, and he then stalked off stage.

The Commentary editor wrote following the incident that he had a “bad night,” and he clarified his remark on spitting. Referring to the Hillel group at Swarthmore College, he wrote, “What I said was that if you advocate anti-Zionism, you are calling for the destruction of the homeland of my family. You are free to do so, and I am free to revile you and spit upon you.”

“This bit of hysterical rhetoric was not my finest verbal improvisation,” Podhoretz added, but he emphasized that he did not say anyone should be spat on. “Given that an organization cannot be spat upon, the flourish here, though admittedly stupid and in bad taste, was clearly and entirely rhetorical. Aside from that, I wouldn’t change a word of what I said, though.”

A Screamingly Funny Memoir

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Not since John Podhoretz’s 1993 Hell of a Ride, a hilarious yet depressing account of working in the George H.W. Bush administration, has an insider political book satisfied as much as does Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor (Crown Publishers), Matt Latimer’s new, screamingly funny memoir of working as a congressional staffer and then as a speechwriter, first for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and later for President George W. Bush.

Latimer went to Washington as an idealistic and perhaps naïve young conservative only to have his eyes opened and his heart broken by the cynicism, cronyism and outright idiocy that pervade the nation’s capital. While there are a few notables – Rumsfeld in particular – who come off well in Latimer’s telling, just about everyone else, household name or not, comes in for an a well-earned skewering.

A reader quickly gets a taste from the book’s introduction of the fun to come, as Latimer writes about the day, in the fall of 2008, he learned of the economic crisis that was about to engulf the country. Keith Hennessey, director of the National Economic Council, was outlining the truly gloomy situation to Latimer and a speechwriting colleague when – well, here’s how Latimer describes it:

“In the middle of explaining the economic horrors that awaited us, Keith reached for something near his chair. It was a Mouseketeer cap. As in Mickey Mouse. What on earth? I wondered.

“Without a word of explanation, he placed the cap on his head. Then he continued talking as if nothing at all strange was happening…. One of the president’s top economic advisors was describing the end of the world while wearing mouse ears. There had to be a metaphor around here somewhere.”

Just a few pages later we come to Latimer’s evisceration of Spence Abraham, the former Michigan senator for whom he worked briefly as a special assistant, only a small part of which follows:

“Our office would have staff meetings that nearly everyone attended – except [the senator]. Senator Abraham had two assistants posted just outside his office door, apparently to prevent any ‘incidents’ from taking place, such as the senator accidentally bumping into someone who worked for him…. As special assistants, we also answered most of the letters people sent in. Sometimes they included moving stories, with a plea to the senator for help. I don’t know if he read a single letter.”

Of the many witty asides and sharp observations sprinkled throughout the book, here are two concerning New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, and former New York senator and current secretary of state Hillary Clinton:

“Schumer loved media attention so much that I was half-convinced he slept every night in a suit and tie and full TV makeup.”

“Hillary Clinton was also a familiar sight. She’d run for the New York Senate seat about thirty seconds after applying for a state driver’s license and was now surrounded by a retinue of aides with nasty eyes.”

Latimer puts much of the blame for the Bush administration’s shortcomings on the shoulders of Karl Rove, who was hailed as some sort of political genius during Bush’s first term before reality caught up with him.

Rove, he writes, “had promised a golden age of Republican domination, but the truth is that while Karl was running political affairs, the Republican president’s approval rating had plummeted to an improbable low. The truth is that after Karl was promoted to run domestic policy in the second term, not a single major bill proposed by the White House passed through a Republican Congress. And the truth is that Karl oversaw an army of personnel directors who hired hacks, fired qualified public servants, blackballed others, and promoted incompetent partisans who disserved the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, federal prosecutors at the Department of Justice, and the president whom Karl was supposed to serve.”

As the Bush era drew to a close, Latimer was completely disillusioned with the political process and with politicians from both side of the aisle. By Election Day 2008, he’d reached the point where, despite having “voted happily and proudly for every Republican who ever ran for everything…. I’d lost so much faith in my party that I wasn’t even sure I was a Republican anymore.”

So, did he give in to habit and party loyalty and vote for Republican John McCain, of whom he has little good to write about in the book? Latimer doesn’t come right out and say it, but his tantalizing description of the doubt and hesitation that plagued him in the voting booth would seem to indicate the answer is no.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/a-screamingly-funny-memoir/2009/11/18/

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