If the Biden campaign’s main promise was to usher in an age of reconciliation and reason in American politics, then the move of appointing Halie Soifer CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, not because she’s not qualified to represent the nice men and women of the JDCA, but because she’s out for blood. And blood and reconciliation don’t go so good together, as many Jews have learned over the millennia.
Or, as Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton (Mort) Klein put it so succinctly: “Shame on her.”
It started with this Dec. 23 tweet from Soifer: “Today, Trump appointed Richard Grenell to the Holocaust Memorial Council. As US Amb. to Germany, Grenell sought to ’empower’ far-right parties & anti-establishment conservatives in Europe. Others have been unqualified, but he’s emboldened actual neo-Nazis.”
Today, Trump appointed Richard Grenell to the Holocaust Memorial Council. As US Amb to Germany, Grenell sought to “empower” far-right parties & anti-establishment conservatives in Europe. Others have been unqualified, but he’s emboldened actual neo-Nazis.https://t.co/ipqZzvZVzt
— Halie Soifer (@HalieSoifer) December 22, 2020
She attached a 2018 story from the BBC that we, all the other Twitter users, were led to believe supported her allegation, that Grenell, a former State Dept. spokesperson under President GW Bush, is a Nazi lover and as such, I expect her argument goes, should not be part of the effort to commemorate Holocaust victims.
We’ll unpack. The brouhaha began with an interview President Trump’s newly appointed ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell gave Breitbart News, the far-right syndicated news, opinion and commentary website. In the interview, Grenell told Breitbart’s Chris Tomlinson: “There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on.”
To remind those of you who forgot, before the pandemic, many in Europe felt that the Trump victory signaled a new age in the West, especially in those European Union states who were in conflict with the left-leaning bureaucracy in Brussels. Those were heady days, when rightwing delegates from Hungary, Poland, and other rightwing-governed states were panning to take over the European parliament and sway the continent toward a more rational future, free from the invading Muslim hordes. Remember?
“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders. I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left,” Ambassador Grenell told Breitbart. And Tomlinson noted: “Unafraid to name names, Mr Grenell expressed a deep respect and admiration for the young Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz saying, ‘Look, I think Sebastian Kurz is a rockstar. I’m a big fan.’”
So where did he embrace neo-Nazis, as Soifer put it in her tweet?
The fact is that Grenell has his share of liberal bona fides: in June, Grenell was made a senior fellow at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, where he will be working, among other things, on a report on the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. So, why the neo-Nazi charge?
The BBC report Soifer attached was based on complaints from German politicians regarding the ambassador’s promise to charge up the right.
It made them nervous.
A German foreign ministry spokesman told BBC: “We have asked the US side for clarification,” and Lars Klingbeil, a top Social Democrat (SPD) official, accused the ambassador of interfering in Germany’s internal affairs. Klingbeil tweeted: “I know you are still quite new at your post, but it is not part of the job description of an ambassador to interfere in the politics of his guest country, Mr Richard Grenell, Thank you.”
And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted earlier: “When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics. This interview is awful – Ambassadors aren’t supposed to ’empower’ any political party overseas.”
When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics. This interview is awful – Ambassadors aren’t supposed to “empower” any political party overseas. https://t.co/i8oOhqEk5k
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 3, 2018
I tend to agree with the senator from the nutmeg state, ambassadors should keep their private opinions to their private journals, which, if they’re lucky, they can later sell to Simon & Schuster for lots of cabbage.
But Soifer was not accusing the Trump appointee to the Holocaust Memorial Council of speaking out of turn, she was saying he was speaking out of turn to neo-Nazis.
On that she was clearly wrong: the word “Nazi” does not appear in the entire BBC report she presumably cites. In impolite society they would have said she lied in order to score points on the folks across the aisle, and that brings us back to the hopes for reconciliation in post-Trump America.
It also takes us back to Mort Klein, who is not what you might call a reconciliatory guy.
The head of the ZOA said in a statement: “I’ve known Ric Grenell for years and my wife and I spent a week with him at his Ambassador’s residence in Berlin. I can assure you that Ric despises the Nazis, loves Israel and the Jewish people, and is devoted to human rights and tolerance.”
Mort Klein may not be the reconciliatory type. Heck, he could teach Enemy Making 101 if such a discipline were ever invented. But he does not lie. And then, gracefully, Mort Klein brought down the paddle:
“Shame on her,” he wrote. “This is especially true in light of the fact that Soifer frighteningly defended Rev. Warnock, despite his embracing Jew-hater, Israel-basher Rev. Jeremiah Wright and followers of Louis Farrakhan, calling Israel an apartheid state, while shamefully and wrongly condemning Jews of murdering innocent Israelis and comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies to those of racist George Wallace.”
Halie Soifer – you got some ‘splaining to do.