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March 31, 2014 1:48 PM Sheldon Adelson and Phantom Anti-Semitism

By Ed Kilgore

WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin didn’t come right out and call ABC’s Matthew Dowd an anti-Semite for his derisive comments about GOP presidential hopefuls going to Vegas to “kiss the ring of a billionaire casino owner.” But after suggesting that the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in question was just a wonky gathering that happened to include some potential donors—just like any other political conference in either party—she got pretty close:

Dowd’s comments frankly sound a lot like Rand Paul, who has sneered at pro-Israel conservatives. It is for this and many other reasons that his candidacy is so problematic. But now that we know Dowd finds even indirect appeals for money so distasteful, we can look forward to a condemnation of each and every confab from pols of both parties. Or was there something distasteful about the RJC itself that caused this outburst? Maybe he’ll share in the weeks ahead.

I don’t know much about Dowd’s perspective on this or other topics; for all I know, he and Rubin are engaged in a feud that goes back to his apostasy from the Bush administration’s Iraq policies. But I don’t think Dowd just pulled the idea of ring-kissing out of some pocket full of Jewish stereotypes. Best I can tell, the description of the RJC meeting as the “Sheldon Primary” originated with a quote from Jewish Republican Ari Fleischer that appeared last week in WaPo itself. In the same piece, a number of Adelson associates were quoted as indicating the event would feature an individual vetting of potential candidates by The Boss and his wife. The event was held in one of Adelson’s hotels, with several side-events he personally sponsored; the proto-candidates who appeared were personally invited to attend by Adelson. And for all of Rubin’s complaints that there’s nothing unusual about money talk at political events, there’s nobody quite like Adelson in either party when it comes to offering immense personal backing for a single candidate who meets certain personal litmus tests.

Add into that the fact that Chris Christie felt the need to personally apologize to Adelson for the use of the term “occupied territories” in his RJC speech, and the already-dubious idea that Sheldon was just one of many publicly-minded attendees at the event becomes hilarious.

For some reason, Rubin thinks it important to rebut the unstated suggestion that Jewish money is the main reason GOP poohbahs tend to talk the way they do on Middle Eastern issues. I don’t know anybody who thinks that. We all understand, as she presumes to lecture us, that general conservative war-on-terror hawkishness and conservative Christian subscription to a Greater Israel POV on the Middle East (not to mention the longstanding affection for Israel among most Americans in both parties) combine to produce the standard Likudnik rhetoric of most GOP pols whose last name is not Paul.

In any event, not paying any special attention to Sheldon Adelson is practically impossible, and almost certainly offensive to Sheldon Adelson himself.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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