Daily Kickoff

Daily Kickoff: Paris kosher deli (or supermarket) “random” comment: gaffe or strategy? | Will Booker attend Bibi’s speech? | Jeb’s Baker, Scowcroft FP

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TOP TALKER: “White House Struggles With Obama Comment On Paris Attack” by Julie Pace: “The White House and State Department struggled Tuesday to clarify President Barack Obama’s suggestion that last month’s deadly shooting at a kosher deli in Paris was random, despite the administration’s earlier assertions that the attack was anti-Semitic.” [AP]

—As much as yesterday’s episode can be described in writing, it won’t beat watching the short video clips of the two press briefings. Video: ABC’s Jonathan Karl questions Josh Earnest Video [YouTube] Video: AP’s Matt Lee questions Jen Psaki [YouTube

Jonathan Chait Op: “If Earnest and Psaki are to be taken at their word, the Obama administration is no longer willing to identify the attack on a kosher supermarket as anti-Semitic. Conceivably they have changed the administration’s position on the fly in order to avoid admitting that the president misspoke, turning a gaffe into an official line. More likely (following the general rule that one should not attribute to venality that which can be explained by incompetence) they both failed to anticipate the question and tried to bluff their way through with disastrous results.”

“The administration then tried cleaning up its cleanup: Jen Psaki @StateDeptSpox: “We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.” [Twitter]… Chait: Well, no, you haven’t. That’s the problem.” [NYMag]

Best real time summary — Chemi Shalev: “Kosher deli chosen on purpose; people inside killed randomly; Rather than clarify, White House will allow storm to develop to gale force” [Twitter]

Jeffrey Goldberg: “I just ask one thing: Please stop referring to the Hypercacher kosher supermarket as a deli. Not everywhere Jews buy food is a deli.” [Twitter]

Yair Rosenberg: “One thing’s for sure, the theory that the Jews control the American government is really taking a beating today.” [Twitter]

James Kirchick Op – “Strategy, Not Gaffes” in the Daily Beast: “The president’s refusal to acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of this crime is of a piece with his administration’s refusal to acknowledge the radical Islamic nature of our enemies. Just as the president absurdly claims that the Islamic State is “not Islamic,” he equally absurdly claims that the radical Islamist murder of Jews has nothing to do with Islam, nothing to do with anti-Semitism, and is entirely “random.”

“Now, contrary to the accusations of some of his right-wing Jewish critics, the president is not a “Jew-hater.” Rather, his failure to acknowledge anti-Semitism stems from his foreign policy “realism,” or what he imagines “realism” to be. In his coolly rationalist thinking, the president has made a calculation: he is more concerned with not angering the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims than with reassuring it’s 18 million Jews. Rather than do what is just or right, Obama would prefer not to get on the Muslim world’s collective bad side.” [DailyBeast]

Netanyahu Statement: “This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all that he has done for Israel in many fields.  Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel. I am going to the United States not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfil my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country. I intend to speak about this issue before the March 24th deadline and I intend to speak in the US Congress because Congress might have an important role on a nuclear deal with Iran.” [PMO] • Ed Rogers Op: “Two big reasons Bibi should not cancel his U.S. visit [WashPost]

Vermont bails on Bibi: “In a highly critical statement on Tuesday morning, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont called the speech arranged by House Speaker John Boehner “a tawdry and highhanded stunt that has embarrassed not only Israel but the Congress itself.” Leahy joins Vermont’s other senator, independent Bernie Sanders, in skipping the speech, as well as a number of House Democrats who have been critical of the address, which comes as President Barack Obama tries to reach a nuclear deal with Iran — an effort opposed by Netanyahu.” [Politico]

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is now the third Senator (and second Jewish Senator) to announce he will not attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. [HonoluluCivilBeat]

Congressional Black Caucus: “Don’t disrespect our president, black lawmakers tellNetanyahu” by Edward-Isaac Dovere and Lauren French: “Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus say they’re planning to skip the speech, calling it a slight to President Barack Obama that they can’t and won’t support. Israeli officials have been caught by surprise by the CBC backlash, kicked off by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights leader who said last week he wouldn’t attend, quickly followed by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and others. As a result, they’re working to set up a meeting for CBC members with Ambassador Ron Dermer or even Netanyahu himself when he’s in Washington… Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the only CBC member in the Senate, hasn’t ruled out attending, but he won’t commit to going either. “I’ve been asked that a number of times — I’m not commenting,” he said before slipping out the White House gates and onto a waiting bus to bring him back to the Capitol.” [Politico]

SPOTLIGHT ON BOOKER: “Cory Booker, biggest Democratic recipient of pro-Israel donations, faces pressure on Iran sanctions” by Jonathan D. Salant: “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker received more money from pro-Israel donors than any other Democratic candidate in the last election cycle. Now he faces pressure to join them in supporting increased sanctions on Iran.​ Booker so far has resisted entreaties to sign onto Iran legislation introduced by fellow New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen.Robert Menendez… “I think he should be on it,” said Dr. Ben Chouake of Englewood, president of NorPAC, the an influential nonpartisan pro-Israel group that raised or donated more than $150,000 to Booker.”

“The chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Greg Rosenbaum, who hosted a fundraiser for Booker last year at the Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium, said he would be calling the senator to urge him to keep his name off the bill. “We’re trying to let senators know that there is no monolithic view that the sanctions bill should be voted on or co-sponsored,” Rosenbaum said… In opposing the sanctions bill, the NJDC is aligned with J Street, whose PAC provided more money to congressional candidates for the 2014 election than any other pro-Israel organization, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”[NJ] ​

Sen. Bob Corker on Iran talks: “It’s evident that these negotiations are really not P5+1 negotiations any more,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said as he emerged from a closed-door briefing by Obama administration officials on the status of nuclear talks with Iran.” [ToI]

David Ignatius Op: “Is the moment ripe for a deal with Iran? After last weekend, I’m more doubtful. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good time to go to battle stations in a confrontation that could lead to another Middle East war. Not when Iran is isolated internationally and embattled in its neighborhood — and needs an agreement more than its leaders seem to realize.” [WashPost]

Ben Smith from BuzzFeed interviews Obama: “Foreign policy, meanwhile, has been dictated to a degree some around Obama didn’t fully expect by the priorities of other world leaders. China’s willingness to negotiate a climate deal offered a major recent victory. But Russian President Vladimir Putin.” [BuzzFeed]

SCENE LAST NIGHT: Agudath Israel’s Board of Trustees held court in the Mike Mansfield Room (S-207) on the Senate side of the Capitol. The group heard from Senators Bob MenendezRand Paul, andRon Johnson. Menendez told the hollow-square-tabled meeting that, “I will be attending the Prime Minister’s speech. His is the voice of the Israeli people.” [TwitterPictures]

2016 WATCH: “Henry Kissinger chooses Jeb Bush” by Ken Kurson: “On Wednesday night, several dozen people with the means to attend an event so pricey its invitation doesn’t list an expected contribution will gather in the Park Avenue apartment of Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis to meet Jeb Bush and add to the quickly filling coffers of Right to Rise, the PAC set up to aid Mr. Bush’s presidential ambitions… But it’s an event scheduled to take place this Thursday afternoon, February 12th, that might send the clearest signal yet of Jeb Bush’s dominance of the Republican establishment. According to two sources, including one inside the Bush organization, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.”

The trio of Cliff Sobel, a former ambassador to two sweet postings; Larry Bathgate, a former RNC Finance Chairman; and Lew Eisenberg, the current RNC Finance Chairman, forms the “Big Three” of New Jersey’s Republican rainmakers. With Mr. Bathgate having already committed to Jeb Bush, the addition of Mr. Sobel represents a major coup for Mr. Bush’s campaign as it quickly takes shape… One source told the Observer that Dan Senor, the Elliott Management executive who was one of the foreign policy advisors in both Romney campaigns but has yet to select a candidate for 2016, recently gave Jeb Bush a copy of America in Retreat, signed by its author, Wall Street Journal scribe Bret Stephens.”[Observer]

“Jeb Bush’s Foreign Policy Seen Leaning Towards His Father’s” by Patrick O’Connor: “In private, Jeb Bush has expressed admiration for former Secretary of State James Baker and former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, two veterans of his father’s administration known for advocating restraint and a tight focus on national interests, according to people familiar with those discussions.” [WSJ] • Jeb Bush turns 62 today

“Hillary Clinton Fundraising off to slow start” by Kenneth P. Vogel: “The main super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton is struggling in its early efforts to line up cash towards a fundraising goal of as much as $500 million, according to sources with knowledge of its fundraising. The group, Priorities USA Action, is trying to secure 30 or more pledges of at least $1 million apiece to be unveiled publicly when the former Secretary of State officially enters the race, sources say. But so far it has received only about ten firm commitments, and it is encountering resistance from top donors who have given to other Clinton-linked vehicles, including ostensibly aligned super PACs and even the apolitical Clinton Foundation.”[Politico] • “How A Clinton Insider Fight Turned Public” [BuzzFeed] • “Emerging Clinton Team Shows Signs of Disquiet” [NYTimes]

“The Longest Long Shots of the 2016 GOP Race” by Russell Berman: “Former Governors George Pataki of New York, Jim Gilmore of Virginia, and Bob Ehrlich of Maryland have been out of elected office for a combined 29 years. They have no devoted national followings, no networks of deep-pocketed financiers, not even radio or TV platforms with which to introduce themselves to voters beyond the borders of the states they once led… Yet all three men are spending this winter dropping in and out of Iowa and New Hampshire, greeting voters, making speeches, and searching for a plausible path to the presidency. What on earth are they thinking?” [TheAtlantic]

REAL NEWS FOR FAKE NEWS: “Jon Stewart leaving ‘The Daily Show’ this year: Jon Stewart, who pushed political comedy into a new realm with a show that relayed news by parodying the news, will leave “The Daily Show” later this year after 16 years at the helm, Comedy Central announced Tuesday night. To a younger generation of viewers who stopped watching network news, his late-night “fake” news show — which particularly delighted in skewering politicians and the media — made him a trusted messenger to millions.” [WashPost] • Video: “The best of Jon Stewart’s Jewish jokes”[JewishJournal]

Comedy Central Statement: Thank you Jon. “For the better part of the last two decades, we have had the incredible honor and privilege of working with Jon Stewart. His comedic brilliance is second to none. Jon has been at the heart of Comedy Central, championing and nurturing the best talent in the industry, in front of and behind the camera. Through his unique voice and vision, The Daily Show has become a cultural touchstone for millions of fans and an unparalleled platform for political comedy that will endure for years to come. Jon will remain at the helm of The Daily Show until later this year. He is a comic genius, generous with his time and talent, and will always be a part of the Comedy Central family.”[Statement]

REAL NEWS FOR REAL NEWS: “Brian Williams suspended for six months” by Emily Smith: “The embattled anchor was told earlier Tuesday that he will be suspended as managing editor and anchor of “NBC Nightly News” for the lengthy period.​ NBC News president Deborah Turness said Tuesday night, “We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams … for six months. The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately. We let Brian know of our decision earlier today. Lester Holt will continue to substitute Anchor the NBC Nightly News.” [NYPost] • “Israeli army official calls Williams’ account ‘generally reasonable'” [AP]

**Good Wednesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI].  Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email editor@jewishinsider.com**

ROGIN SCOOP: “President Barack Obama will soon give Congress his proposal for a new authorization for the use of military force against Islamic State fighters, and it will place strict limits on the types of U.S. ground forces that can be deployed, according to congressional sources.” [BV] • “Iran Is Ready to Take Over Iraq’s Troops” [DailyBeast]

ON THIS DAY IN… 1979: “Followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in Iran, nine days after the religious leader returned to his home country following 15 years of exile.” [AP]

GOLAN HEIGHTS: “Hezbollah and Iran are launching a new offensive in southern Syria: Pro- and anti-Syrian regime media outlets all touted the offensive, with pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reporting Monday that “Syrian army troops backed by fighters from Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards [launched] a vast battle in southern Syria.” [BI]

LONGREAD: “The Hezbollah Connection” by Ronen Bergman in The New York Times Magazine: “On Feb. 14, 2005, at 12:55 p.m., an explosion just in front of the St. Georges Hotel shook downtown Beirut. It destroyed a convoy of vehicles carrying Lebanon’s former and probably next prime minister, Rafik Hariri, killing him along with eight members of his entourage and 13 bystanders… But the investigators remained puzzled… Experts who examined his taped confession noted that the tone and production did not match those of other Sunni jihadist tapes. They found subtle discrepancies, too, between the tape and the letter, as if someone had feared that the tape, perhaps made long before the incident, was not totally convincing and wanted to flesh out the story. Then there was the question of means. The driver of the Mitsubishi truck was evidently skilled; he had reached the Hariri motorcade with incredible precision despite heavy traffic in downtown Beirut. Adass, his family and friends all agreed, had never driven a car. He couldn’t even ride a bicycle.” [NYTimesMag]

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “The Logic of an Empty $100 Million Pad” by David Gelles: “Across Manhattan, real estate developers are scrambling to meet surging demand from buyers around the world who are prepared to pay record-setting prices for new developments with opulent finishes and extraordinary views. These buyers are not all rushing to call the Big Apple home. Instead, many of them are paying record prices with the expectation that their investments will appreciate, even as they sit empty for most of the year… “It’s a repository of money, it’s in the dollar currency, and it’s in New York City,” saidGary Barnett, president of Extell Development Company, whose projects include One57.” [NYTimes]

“New F.B.I. Headquarters Enters the Bidding Phase” by Eugene L. Meyer: “Among those who submitted bids was a team led by Theodore N. Lerner, owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team and a major shopping center and office developer in the Washington area whose net worth, according to Forbes, is $4.7 billion. Lerner Enterprises’ primary partner is Silverstein Properties, developer of the three private towers at the World Trade Center. The Lerner team also includes Tishman Construction and Clark Construction. Mr. Lerner owns one of the two sites in Maryland.” [NYTimes]

ROUNDUP: “Sam Zell set to cash out of Waldorf Astoria” [Crains] • “First Look Inside Chetrit’s New Williamsburg Hotel Project” [Curbed• “Zeil Feldman’s new designs for monumental development on Eleventh Avenue: The Chinese “love eights,” Feldman noted, while 18 is “Chai” and luck for Jewish folks.”[NYPost] • “Barry Sternlicht’s Baccarat NYC Hotel to Open on March 2 at $729 a Night” [HotelChatter] • “Dan Loeb says 2015 is a haunted house market” [BI] • “David Tepper Uses Activist Tactics To Force GM Stock Buyback” [Forbes] • “Leon Cooperman ‘embarrased‘ about hedge fund’s losses” [NYPost]

STARTUP NATION: “Israel-US cyber-conference to tackle infrastructure threats” by David Shamah: “The annual DCOI, set to take place in Washington in April, brings together top cyber-security officials from both countries. Chairing the conference will be Michael Chertoff, who headed the US Department of Homeland Security from 2005-2009. The speakers will include current Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz; former INSS head and IDF Intelligence Director, Amos YadlinRichard Clarke, a senior cyber-security adviser for the White House; CSFI President Paul De Souza; and many others.” [ToI] • Clickbait: “Is This 17-Year-Old Israeli Entrepreneur Going to Build an Anti-Nuke Dome?” [VoiceOfIsrael]

TALK OF OUR NATION: “Part Asian-American, All Jewish?” by Rachel Gross [NPR]

“Urban Outfitters sells tapestry ‘eerily reminiscent’ of Holocaust garb” by Abby Phillip: The Anti-Defamation League is urging fashion retailer Urban Outfitters to stop selling a gray-and-white striped tapestry with pink triangles that is reminiscent of the garb that gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman wrote to Urban Outfitters chief executive Richard Hayne to urge the retailer to remove the item.” [WashPostNYPost]

SPORTS BLINK: “NFL Films Creator Ed Sabol Dies at 98” by Stephanie Butnick: “As Marc Tracy wrote in 2011 when it was announced that Sabol would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “Whether you know what it is or not, your understanding of the NFL has been shaped by NFL Films’ trademark mythologizing style. He is, of course, Jewish.” But Sabol, who was born in Philadelphia in 1916, wasn’t just active in the sporting world behind the camera. He was a skilled swimmer, but declined to attend the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as an alternate for the U.S. team, memorably saying he refused to swim in a pool built by Hitler.” [TabletMagBloomberg]

ISRAELEX: “Why the Israeli elections are funnier than you think” by Ruth Eglash and William Booth: “Israel is in the middle of a close national election, and the candidates are battling for laughs as parties jostle to win over a fragmented and undecided electorate. The abundance of sort-of-funny ads and dumb gimmicks is all online. Israeli law forbids televised campaign ads until just three weeks before the March 17 vote. (Hint, hint America.) Satire and humor has always had a place in Israel’s election campaigns, but now that short, snappy videos can quickly go viral, drawing mass audiences and driving home sharp political slogans, Israeli leaders are turning to the format in a big way.” [WashPost]

That’s all folks; have a great day!

**Have a tip, suggestion, or even an op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Email  editor@jewishinsider.com**