By Larry Gordon
The race to replace longtime Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy has taken a number of odd twists and turns over the last week or so. As the readers know, this publication leans toward a conservative rightist, usually Republican orientation or disposition, as does the majority of the communities in which we circulate. The fact that we originate from an established and upwardly mobile Jewish community means that, in more cases than not, we are going to be supporting Republican candidates, who, for the most part, represent issues that many of us hold near our hearts.
These issues essentially revolve around Israel policy but certainly not exclusively so. Other vital issues where so many Republicans and Democrats differ in these complicated times include reducing taxes, support for private-school education, jobs, crime, gun control, health care, same-sex marriage, and so on.
The other day a story broke in the New York Observer by Ronn Torossian reporting that the Democratic candidate to replace McCarthy—Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice—had agreed to speak at the same event hosted by the Islamic Center of Long Island on November 23 with Imam Siraj Wahhaj who, amongst other things, was an unindicted co-conspirator of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and a character witness for “the blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdul Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for being the mastermind behind the bombing.
By her own admission and to her credit, when Ms. Rice had learned who would be sharing the podium with her at the Islamic Center event, she immediately withdrew from the program. That was the right thing to do. When I met with the candidate at the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula Legislative Breakfast last Sunday morning at the White Shul, she assured me that she had pulled out of the event as soon as she learned about the controversial imam’s participation from the Observer article.
Unfortunately, at the time, she appeared upset that despite her announcing her withdrawal from the Islamic Center event, the story of her participation was still on our website. She insisted that the story was now false and therefore libelous, but I disagreed. I was advised by attorneys who practice in this specific area of the law that if a story is true when posted, just because the focus of the story exacts changes that make the original story inaccurate, it does not constitute libel in any fashion.
I directed my website people to post the news of her backing out of the event, and that was done promptly on Sunday morning. With all this back-and-forth about website stories, lost in the fracas was how in the world the top law enforcement official in Nassau County agreed to appear as a featured speaker at an entity with participants who subscribe to philosophies that are hostile to the U.S., to peace, and to the international struggle against terror. If they can invite Imam Wahhaj, who calls for destroying the United States and setting up a caliphate here according to the ISIS handbook, how does a distinguished official get involved in a place like that? Yes, she withdrew, but didn’t anyone look into what was going on there before agreeing in the first place?
I don’t believe anyone involved in Bruce Blakeman’s campaign, and certainly not the 5TJT, is suggesting by any stretch of imagination that Kathleen Rice has a soft spot when it comes to Islamic radicals and those who rationalize terror on any level. But radical imams and centers that propagate anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments are desperate to attach themselves to symbols of legitimacy and obviously Ms. Rice and all fair-minded people in and out of government need to be aware of that.
So the association was inadvertent and we accept that at face value. An error was made and reversed and this is not a reason not to vote for Kathleen Rice on November 4.
When we met last Sunday, Ms. Rice said to me with some indignation that if I am supporting Mr. Blakeman I should just go ahead and say so right here in print. I related to her the fact that we have provided generous amounts of space in this paper for numerous Democratic elected officials and that, in my estimation, it is unfair of her to suggest that I oppose her specific candidacy. Her assistant, who was sitting with her, interjected and said that while it is true that I had provided coverage for Ms. Rice and indeed featured two interviews with her, he said that none of them were featured on the front page. Frankly, on the spur of the moment, I could not recall and was impressed that he was able to do so. Later I looked back at some recent issues and saw that there was a photo of Ms. Rice with Lawrence Mayor Martin Oliner featured on our front page prior to Rosh Hashanah, taken at a pre-holiday security meeting in the Village Hall.
I explained to Ms. Rice that my position on her race with Mr. Blakeman is for the most part about Obama-administration policy of these last six years and the president’s plan going forward. The president has thrown Congress aside and plans to possibly accelerate that effort over the next two remaining years of his tenure. My position, I told her, is that because of this runaway presidency, both the House and the Senate needed to be stacked with Republicans if for no other reason than to send the president a serious and strong message about what we, the people, want going forward. The president may not get the message, but certainly by electing representatives of his party we are telling him that we approve and support his efforts—and we don’t. This precise dynamic is being played out in similar contests for elected office around the country.
None of this means that if Ms. Rice wins that she will not do right by Israel in Congress. She certainly will be a leading advocate for a safe and strong Israel as so many Democrats in Congress already are. But it is all these other policies and approaches that we need to be concerned about. Higher and higher taxes on businesses and more fees being assessed, which are just more taxes in disguise, are not the elixir that will cure what ails this country.
If six years of the Obama Democrats in Washington demonstrated anything, it is that bigger and larger government and more expansive programs are not the answer.
Bruce Blakeman is the un-Obama. The president’s vison of hope and change did not materialize. What did happen is an $18-trillion-dollar deficit that our children and grandchildren will be paying down for decades to come. The idea that more taxing and more spending would stimulate the economy did not happen. The unemployment rate is down primarily due to the huge numbers of people who have left the workforce and have given up on finding work. Household income over the last six years has gone down from $56,000 to $51,000 annually while the cost of just about everything has increased.
So who are we kidding? We don’t need more tax increases that stifle the employment markets or more health insurance regulations that make certain that employers keep people on as part-time and do not exceed 50 employees, which is the threshold for mandatory health insurance coverage.
And then there are issues that will be coming up after these elections and that Mr. Obama has been specifically waiting on so that they do not impact on the outcome, as his record to date has done enough damage to candidates. Those include issues like immigration reform and increasing the pressure on Iran so that they do not develop a nuclear weapon that can further destabilize the entire Middle East.
On the domestic agenda are issues that impact us dramatically, like tuition tax credits for those families who send their children to private schools. In her half-hour debate with Mr. Blakeman broadcast on Long Island Channel 12 on Wednesday night, Ms. Rice said she did not see why people who choose to send their children to private schools should want other taxpayers to pay for that education.
Blakeman retorted that those private school families—especially here in the Five Towns where an inordinate number of students attend yeshivas—are paying thousands of dollars in education taxes that are funding public schools. So why can’t parents decide where they want their education tax dollars spent? Rice said clearly that she was opposed to that option being enacted into law.
At the end of the day and at the end of a long election campaign, this time around the issue is the need to hold the Obama administration and the runaway presidency in check. It is a large, complex government infrastructure that legislates laws and runs this country, and that is why it is particularly important that at this point in time we turn out to vote on Election Day and elect Bruce Blakeman to Congress.
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