“The war is escalating big time” between Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D-07) and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol’s new pro-Israel group, “with the group increasing its ad buy slamming Sestak as soft on Israel and Sestak demanding that cable TV pull the spot on the grounds that it’s a vicious smear.” Emergency Committee for Israel spokesperson Michael Goldfarb said the group is doubling the size of the buy for the new spot.
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“The crux of the ad’s attack on Sestak: It hits him for signing a letter criticizing Israel’s Gaza blockade, for refusing to sign an AIPAC letter defending Israel, and for ‘raising money’ for a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations. The ad describes CAIR as an ‘anti-Israel organization the FBI called a front-group for Hamas,’ even though CAIR has repeatedly denied this and no charges were brought against the group.”
The Sestak camp “initially blasted the ad and demanded that Comcast refrain from running it. Sestak’s camp argued that it’s highly misleading to claim he ever raised money for CAIR, because he’d only attended a CAIR event that was free of fundraising, and argued that the ad badly distorted other of Sestak’s Israel-related positions. But Kristol’s group responded, and it appears Comcast is going to continue to run the ad. Also, the group’s doubling of the ad buy means it will run on broadcast TV” during 7/23’s Phillies game.
“Now Sestak is redoubling efforts to get the ad taken down. In the new letter to Comcast, the Sestak camp basically accuses Comcast of misleading its viewers.” Sestak’s camp organized a press conference today in Philly where Jewish leaders will denounce the group’s camp against him. “The Sestak camp faces a familiar dilemma: Should it ignore the Kristol group’s attacks, or should it aggressively rebut them, which risks drawing more media attention to the group’s efforts? Sestak is opting for the latter, aggressive approach” (Sargent, “The Plum Line,” Washington Post, 7/19).
Sestak appeared on “Morning Joe” 7/20 a.m.
Sestak, on the controversial Israeli ad: “Look, my perspective on Israel is probably unique in the entire Congress. … I was actually the leader of the very first exercise that ever brought a Muslim nation together with Israel and oversaw it in a military exercise to bring it about. This is done by a right wing. And it harms Israel. One of the greatest strategic leverages that Israel has is a bipartisan support for that country. It’s a vital interest of ours, and I was out there every day trying to enhance its military.”
Sestak, on the letter he wrote to Sec/State Clinton: “I signed a letter that said we have to ensure that Israel has $10 billion every — year for its military assistance. I also signed a letter that said that as I went about the world, we have vital interests. Israel is one. We have important interests. We also have humane interests.”
Sestak, on the blockade: “I think it’s a legal — yes, I’d like to see it end. But not until we can ensure that there is a two-state solution. I think Israel has the right to have a blockade so that arms aren’t flown into those really causing harm in gaza, which is Hamas.”
Sestak, on his election: “Well, I’m in a dead heat. And we know that. But at the end of the day, this election in Pennsylvania will not be decided by what people see on the national level. They know they’ve been slammed. They know they’ve been ripped apart. But they know more than anything else they don’t trust Washington. I stood up to the Democratic establishment when it made a bad decision for that primary. At the end of the day, I believe what John F. Kennedy said, sometimes the party asks too much.”
Sestak, on which is more important, deficit or stimulus: “It is create jobs. That’s what’s most important. Let me tell you. That’s what we tried to do with the stimulus. Right now what it is is making sure that you create jobs by getting people to work” (MSNBC, 7/20).
The Blame Game
Sestak and ex-Rep. Pat Toomey (R) “agree that federal budget deficits are troubling financial problems. Sestak and Toomey blame each other for the debt, which is a theme they’ll revisit over and over.” Toomey “painted Sestak as a tax-and-spend liberal who supports budget ‘earmarks’ for political pet projects and lacks ‘fiscal discipline.’ Sestak responded quickly on a conference call, saying Toomey supported deficit spending” under Pres. George W. Bush that “did damage to American economic stability” and made things worse by helping to deregulate Wall Street.
“Both politicians … brought fiscal experts to bolster their claims. Toomey was endorsed by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, which asks candidates to sign a ‘no pork pledge.’”
Chair Tom Shatz “said it had examined 120 votes by Sestak on spending issues” and gave him a 0 rating. Shatz:”There’s no evidence that his voting pattern will change if he’s elected to the Senate. Pennsylvanians cannot afford to have someone like Rep. Joe Sestak continue to dig a deep fiscal hole for the nation.”
Sestak was joined by Moody Analytics economist Gus Faucher “who defended Sestak’s votes on controversial issues like bank bailouts and the federal stimulus package. Faucher said spending policies in the last decade ran up the deficit, with the stimulus playing a small role in that increase while helping to restart the nation’s economy.”
Toomey “seized” on a story in the Inquirer last week that noted Sestak has taken $119K in camp contributions from people “who work for companies receiving federal funding through earmarks.” Sestak had vowed to refuse or return such contributions. Toomey called earmarks a “very deeply flawed practice.”
“Sestak noted that he has submitted legislation that would alter the way earmarks are distributed.” He insisted the policy on contributions “was not done to score political points but to instill a sense of accountability in his office, though it has been tricky to keep pace with the thousands of checks that come in. Asked if he would return the money, Sestak said he had not read the story and did not know the names of the contributors who had received earmarks” (Brennan, Philadelphia Daily News, 7/20).
“Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets … respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Toomey spokesperson Nachama Soloveichik: “If you make a pledge and you don’t keep it, isn’t that being unaccountable?”
“Sestak said Toomey … has been ducking accountability for his votes as a congressman to deregulate the financial industry, create an unfunded Medicare prescription drug program, and pass tax cuts” in ‘01 and ‘03 without corresponding spending cuts. Sestak “said those votes … helped turn Clinton-era budget surpluses into today’s record deficits and damaged ‘American economic security.’”
Soloveichik: “Joe Sestak thinks letting average taxpayers keep more of what they earn somehow deprives Joe Sestak of money that is rightfully his to spend. He’s wrong. Keeping tax rates from ballooning up is essential for creating jobs and growing our economy” (Wereschagin, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 7/20).
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"Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are reviving calls to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol following the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia." Rep. Cedric Richmond, the group's chair, told ABC News that "we will never solve America's race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States." And Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson said, “Confederate memorabilia have no place in this country and especially not in the United States Capitol." But a CBC spokesperson said no formal legislative effort is afoot.