Look, I’m not calling for the guy to resign; the voters in Virginia do and should pick their Representative.
But the guy is clearly a sleaze (on his better days) and deficient in several kinds of judgment.
And, more important, I think a political tone needs to be established in which no religious or racial group is singled out (I’m quite happy to single people out based on behavior, social class, etc. etc., but you can’t help race and, to a lesser extent, religion) for political criticism.
My first acquaintance with the guy was from the New York Times article on the (bad) bankruptcy bill, in which it was disclosed that MBNA (an obvious beneficiary of the bill):
gave a $447,000 debt-consolidation loan on what critics viewed as highly favorable terms to a crucial House supporter of the bill only four days before he signed on as a lead sponsor of the legislation in 1998. Both MBNA and the lawmaker, Representative James P. Moran Jr., Democrat of Virginia, have denied that there was anything improper about the loan.
Of course not! There’s nothing outrageous about this! Actually it crosses a fairly bright line in which we wink and nod while special interests buy votes with cash used to purchase political power, and so indirectly benefits the elected official, but we reasonably get uncomfortable when the same cash is used for benefit. That’s called a bribe.
Then we had the most recent story…
“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this,” Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. “The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should.”
“At a recent meeting with constituents to discuss the impending war with Iraq, I answered several questions about why we were going to war, what the effect the war would have on our relations with the international community, and why more Americans are not outspoken in their opposition to the war.”
“I responded in a general way to questions and comments from constituents about how groups and organizations that have influence in the United States have not been using that influence to oppose the war. The reason I referenced the Jewish community is because a woman asking a question identified herself as being Jewish and I regret doing that.”
“By no means did I intend or believe that members of the Jewish community are united in their support for a possible war with Iraq. And I certainly never meant, nor do I believe, to imply that the Jewish community is responsible for or should be blamed for this war. I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone whom I unintentionally offended with my insensitive comments. I strongly support not only Israel’s sovereign right to exist, but its security – and there should never be a question of that.”
“It’s my hope that everyone -including people of all faiths – will come together and work to raise more questions about a war that I believe is ill-advised at this time.”
Which sure reads to me like “I didn’t really say what I said; I wasn’t talking about Jews in relation to the Middle East, just about ethnic groups in general.”
He tried again with a better apology a few days later:
“At a recent open meeting with constituents, I made some insensitive remarks that I deeply regret. I apologize for any pain these remarks have caused to members of the Jewish faith and any other individuals.”
“I should not have singled out the Jewish community and regret giving any impression that its members are somehow responsible for the course of action being pursued by the Administration, or are somehow behind an impending war.”
“In my response, I should have been more clear. What I was trying to say is that if more organizations in this country, including religious groups, were more outspoken against a war, then I do not think we would be pursuing war as an option.”
“I don’t blame anyone who has criticized me for making such unreflected, if unintended, comments. I have only myself to blame. As such, I deeply regret any hurt that I may have caused and sincerely apologize to anyone I may have offended.”
Now that’s certainly better, but begs a few questions; like why did he wait until the story was on CNN.com to try harder?
Eugene Volokh got an email:
Jim Moran’s been saying this kind of stuff for years. The people at my synagogue have been aghast for a long time. Some of them even supported (egads!) the Republican against him last election (these are pretty liberal Jews, so that’s a big deal). There’s been a move afoot for awhile to get a Democratic challenger to him, which makes much more sense because it’s a very Democratic district. My rabbi, Jack Moline, has called on Moran to resign. Moran is also horrible on consumer issues (esp. bankruptcy legislation), has tangled with ethical issues around money and politics and is a notorious womanizer. Funny how the major press reported the apology but there was no story when he originally made the remark more than a week ago.
I haven’t had the time to go through his contribution records; maybe someone out there can substantiate or disprove the claim in the Washington Post that:
Moran’s relationship with pro-Israel organizations and American Jewish leaders has steadily worsened in recent years over his pro-Palestinian stands in the Middle East conflict, interpretation of Israeli history and acceptance of campaign cash from individuals sympathetic to the terrorist organization Hamas or under investigation for terrorist ties.
As I’ve noted in the past, I’m not a Jew, much less a Jewish activist. But I am someone who believes that we need to make racial claims – whether by Trent Lott, Jim Moran, or Al Sharpton – a suicide play in contemporary politics.
As I’ve said above, the people of Reston will choose their Representative. But the Democratic Party hands out committee assignments.
From Rep. Moran’s biography:
Congressman Jim Moran was elected to his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2002. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee, where he serves on the Defense Subcommittee, the Interior Subcommittee, and as ranking Democrat on the Legislative Branch Subcommittee. He also is a member of the House Budget Committee. At the beginning of the 107th Congress he was elected to serve as a Regional Whip.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org …