It was 39 years ago today that our most paranoid of presidents resigned in disgrace, the victim of repeated self-inflicted wounds. One of his legacies is his enemies lists; he intended to create problems for his critics but it all backfired and presence on one of Richard Nixon’s enemies lists became and remains a badge of honor.
The anniversary brought to mind an item by the Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin shortly after the death of New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg; her column looked a lot like a Nixonian honor.
She was branding Lautenberg, a liberal Democrat with a lifelong history of leadership in the Jewish community and support for Israel, a virtual enemy of the Jewish state because he’d had the chutzpah to sign a letter saying Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir wasn’t doing enough to make peace with the Palestinians and, more recently, because he supported the “anti-Israel” former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.
Lautenberg has a lot of company on Rubin’s enemies list of those who thought Shamir wasn’t serious about making peace (which was true, by the way, and he made no secret of it), as evidenced by his opposition to ceding any part of the West Bank and Gaza Strip captured in the 1967 Six Day War. He didn’t vote for the peace treaty with Egypt, either. Also on that list would be such self-hating, anti-Israel scoundrels as Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and even Benjamin Netanyahu. All have been advocates of withdrawal from at least some parts of the territories and most have actually carried through with it.
Netanyahu’s break with Shamir may have been the greatest because when the younger man won back the leadership for Likud he endorsed land for peace, authorized withdrawal from Hebron, abandoned the Greater Israel concept, endorsed Palestinian statehood and is currently negotiating a potential return to close to the 1967 borders.
As for Hagel (already on many Republican enemies lists for not being sufficiently loyal to the party’s far right), he wouldn’t have been on my short list for the Pentagon job, but he’s no enemy of the Jewish state and has won the approval of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and his predecessor, Ehud Barak and the top brass of the IDF.
Another strike against Lautenberg that put him on Rubin’s list was his opposition to Israel’s settlement policy.
But worst of all, apparently, was signing that 1988 letter by 30 like-minded U.S. senators to Secretary of State George Shultz “lambasting publicly” (her words) Shamir for his obstructionism and his rejection of the principle of land for peace. He had declared, ”It is clear that this expression of territory for peace is not accepted by me.”
The letter had been initiated by two Jewish senators, Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minnesota), and signed by some of Israel’s staunchest supporters, including Senators Alan Cranston, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Ted Kennedy, Howard Metzenbaum, Daniel Inouye, John Kerry, Mitch McConnell, Bill Cohen and Lautenberg.
Those senators may not have been considered true and reliable friends of Israel by Rubin’s standards, but nearly everyone else considered them real shtarkers.
Lautenberg’s long an impressive history of support for Israel and Jewish causes and his community leadership were covered in Political Insider at the time of his passing.