Cori Bush, after serving seven months in Congress, now rates comparison to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What follows is no compliment.

Column: An Israel Critic’s ‘Worst Enemy’

Cori Bush, after serving seven months in Congress, now rates comparison to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What follows is no compliment.

When Walter F. George campaigned for his fourth full term in the U.S. Senate, Roosevelt journeyed to Georgia in 1938 to stump for one of George’s rivals in the Democratic primary. George’s crime was opposing the president’s court-packing plan. George pummeled Roosevelt’s candidate and was re-elected in the general election. Despite anger toward Roosevelt, he used his powerful status in the Senate to help his president build up the military to prepare for possible war against Japan and Germany.

After the primary, as the story goes, George overheard a Senate colleague dub the president his own “worst enemy,” and George famously countered, “Not while I’m alive.”

Bush could be her “worst enemy,” though many others – especially those in the Jewish community – may well be anxious to follow George’s lead.

Bush and her so-called progressive colleagues in the House of Representatives genuinely deserve respect for attempting to improve the lives of poor people, but their way of going about it alienated American Jews and congressional colleagues representing swing districts. That in turn could threaten the very policies that they are pushing because their anti-Israel and “de-fund the police” rants frighten the public.

As an example, Bush and others are blowing off steam while President Biden is gingerly shaping delicate legislation to rebuild our infrastructure and establish historic social policies.

Many Democrats blame Bush and friends in large part for the defeat of several swing-district representatives in 2020, narrowing the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans in the House. Jews are boiling over their ongoing Israel-bashing and possible links to anti-Semitic violence.

At July’s end, Bush said (as quoted in Jewish Insider) that she voted against a bill containing $3.3 billion in military aid to Israel because “this vote is a global extension of the work we’re doing to demilitarize our approach to safety in our own communities…Giving money to militaries with a record of committing human rights abuses is not how we advance justice – nor is it how we keep our country safe. To create a safer, more just world, we must invest in people’s livelihoods and basic needs, not militarized violence.”

During the subsequent weekend, Bush was hailed as a champion for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans who are threatened with eviction from their homes by staging a sit-in in front of the steps of the U.S. Capitol. As of Friday, July 30, neither Congress nor the White House would act to end a pandemic-era federal eviction moratorium from expiring, according to The New York Times.

While her colleagues exited DC for a seven-week vacation, Bush spent five days at the sit-in, which was inspired by her own experiences with homelessness. “I felt like I did sitting in that car – like, ‘Who speaks for me’?,” she said. By Tuesday (Aug. 3), Biden announced a new 60-day federal eviction moratorium for areas overwhelmed with the Delta variant of the coronavirus, despite doubts about its legality.

Bush merits credit for her activism, as do all the progressives who lobby for better social policies. Homelessness is a disgrace. Anyone who spends time in Philadelphia’s poor neighborhoods, as I have, understands that many Americans struggle with desperate poverty each day. Something must be done about it, and the proposed $3.5 trillion social-policy bill twinned with the $1 trillion infrastructure bill is a good start. They are right to fight for this legislation, the subject of two straight days of Senate votes this week.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, passed in a 69-30 vote on Tuesday, would finance $550 billion for airports; Amtrak passenger rail service; roads, bridges and other projects; and expanding high-speed internet access. It would also revamp existing infrastructure and transportation programs slated to expire at the end of September, the Times reports.

The following day, the Senate passed a party-line vote for a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint permitting Democrats to tackle climate change and pay for expansion of health care, child care, family leave and public education. It would eventually shape the next budget that will not be subject to the filibuster.

Both initiatives could face opposition in each chamber. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not call a vote on the infrastructure bill until the Senate formalizes the budget, and Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have warned they may not support all provisions in the $3.5 trillion bill because of its price tag.

Bush and company do not help with their political style. Republicans last week circulated a video clip of Bush defending her use of private security that she said she hired because of death threats while continuing her call to defund the police. Her words were spliced into Republican attack ads to link vulnerable Democrats to skyrocketing crime.

While Democrats from swing districts must worry how losing a few percentage points in votes could cost them the next election, Bush and other ultra-left Democrats can count on sizeable majorities in heavily urban districts like those covering Detroit, Minneapolis and the Bronx.

In so doing, they are often convinced that aid to Israel is siphoning money that could be spent on social needs here. In the process, their view is that Israel oppresses the Palestinians just as white Americans do to people of color. Some concur with Black Lives Matter’s allegation that Israel trains American police for advanced tactics in brutality.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit added to the anti-Israel confusion earlier this month when she suggested at a Democratic Socialists of America convention that there are people “behind the curtain” who exploit average Americans, Jewish Insider reported.

Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, responded, “When cities across the country and communities are reeling from these (anti-Semitic) attacks, we’d like to think that elected officials on both sides of the aisle would exercise a greater degree of caution. Because her words echoed long-standing tropes. To the extent that she was misinterpreted, it would be helpful for the congresswoman to clarify on the record what she meant.”

In Cleveland, the Jewish vote likely denied Nina Turner the Democratic nomination for a vacant House seat last week as Jews contributed money to her prime rival, Shontel Brown, the winning nominee. Turner could not resist this parting shot: “We didn’t lose this race, evil money manipulated and maligned this election.”

Didn’t Donald Trump charge that he did not lose the presidency? Hasn’t he accused others of stealing the election?

Bush, Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and other members of Congress who are regarded as far left remain a minority in the Democratic Party, but their antics could cost the American people important public policies. Their reputation might have cost Democrats a more stable majority in the Senate which would have allowed for enough senators to kill the filibuster, and now Biden and other Democratic leaders must cater to the whims of Manchin and Sinema.

Perhaps moderate Democrats will oppose provisions of the budget bill solely because they fear how their constituents will react. Republicans can exploit their antics to force elimination of clauses in future legislation. We can wonder if that drove reductions in the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

Possibly their antics can so offend Manchin or Sinema that they switch their party registration, sending Democrats back to the minority in the Senate. That means Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will again control the agenda. Of all people currently holding public office, it is safe to say that progressives and many Americans consider McConnell their “worst enemy.”

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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