In the last day or two we have seen one of the most remarkable policings of the discourse that I’ve ever seen; and it seems to be one man’s achievement, Jeffrey Goldberg, in asserting that the longtime New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was anti-Semitic in writing that the Romney braintrust includes the same guys who started the Iraq war. It is remarkable because so many people inside the Beltway have heeded Goldberg; even Joe Klein in defending Dowd says that she was crude – this from a man who wrote openly of Jewish neoconservatives, which Dowd didn’t do – and so the line has held: the idea that we are allowed to debate the Jewish neoconservatives’ role in the Iraq war for the sake of Israel, well that is an anti-Semitic idea. As Goldberg says, it is the idea that the gentiles didn’t start that war, but were manipulated into it by the likes of Wolfowitz and Feith.
There has been good pushback against the Goldberg policing by MJ Rosenberg at Huffpo and Andrew Sullivan at his site. Sullivan has a photo of Dowd doctored to look like Hitler and welcomes her into the anti-Semite club. Both writers say that Dowd was right to call out the neocons for pushing the Iraq war. But in polite discourse, Goldberg has a large following. Max Fisher who is starting a new website at the Washington Post tweeted approvingly of Goldberg’s accusation— between his tweets with Goldberg discussing their favorite Jewish foods—and of course Commentary was on the case. Even New York Magazine passed along the accusation as if it might have some basis: “she peddles Jewish stereotypes and uses anti-Semitic imagery, according to a number of writers, editors, and observers.” This reminds me of the time Wolfowitz was able to deflect a question about neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute by joking, Don’t you mean Jewish? I am now waiting for Spencer Ackerman to trace the history of snake and puppet metaphors in the literature of Jew hatred..
I don’t think Maureen Dowd will be going back there for a while.
Goldberg’s most absurd claim is there was a “major” discussion of this issue after the Iraq war. This is not true. Walt and Mearsheimer said what Dowd is saying, and said more explicitly that the Iraq war was the Israel lobby’s work, but the discussion took place at the fringes. Goldberg saw to that. He condemned the view as anti-semitic then, and was joined by Marty Peretz, Daniel Goldhagen and Columbia University Journalism Dean Nick Lemann.
It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Goldberg’s dismissal of Dowd because she uses metaphors like snake and puppetmaster only forces the belief that she is right back underground, sure to pop up again before long– as it did lately when Chris Matthews asserted that the neocons “pushed” a mindless president into an “idiotic” war.