Graphic: In Focus: Michele Bachmann Timeline

National Journal
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May 29, 2013, 2:14 p.m.

“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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