Leaked internal emails from the powerful Democratic think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) shed light on several public controversies involving the organization, particularly in regard to its positioning on Israel. They reveal the lengths to which the group has gone in order to placate AIPAC and long-time Clinton operative and Israel activist Ann Lewis — including censoring its own writers on the topic of Israel.
The emails also provide crucial context for understanding CAP’s controversial decision to host an event next week for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That event, billed by CAP as “A Conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” will feature CAP President Neera Tanden and Netanyahu together in a Q&A session as they explore “ways to strengthen the partnership between Israel and the United States.” That a group whose core mission is loyalty to the White House and the Democratic Party would roll out the red carpet for a hostile Obama nemesis is bizarre, for reasons the Huffington Post laid out when it reported on the controversy provoked by CAP’s invitation.
The emails, provided to The Intercept by a source authorized to receive them, are particularly illuminating about the actions of Tanden (right), a stalwart Clinton loyalist as well as a former Obama White House official. They show Tanden and key aides engaging in extensive efforts of accommodation in response to AIPAC’s and Lewis’ vehement complaints that CAP is allowing its writers to be “anti-Israel.” Other emails show Tanden arguing that Libyans should be forced to turn over large portions of their oil revenues to repay the U.S. for the costs incurred in bombing Libya, on the grounds that Americans will support future wars only if they see that the countries attacked by the U.S. pay for the invasions.
For years, CAP has exerted massive influence in Washington through its ties to the Democratic Party and its founder, John Podesta, one of Washington’s most powerful political operatives. The group is likely to become even more influential due to its deep and countless ties to the Clintons. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it earlier this year: CAP “is poised to exert outsized influence over the 2016 president race and — should Hillary Clinton win it — the policies and agenda of the 45th President of the United States. CAP founder John Podesta is set to run Clinton’s presidential campaign, and current CAP president Neera Tanden is a longtime Clinton confidante and adviser.”
The recent CAP announcement of the Netanyahu event has generated substantial confusion and even anger among Democratic partisans. Netanyahu “sacrificed much of his popularity with the Democratic Party by crusading against the Iran nuclear deal,” the Huffington Post noted. Netanyahu has repeatedly treated the Obama White House as a political enemy. Indeed, just today, Netanyahu appointed “as his new chief of public diplomacy a conservative academic who suggested President Obama was anti-Semitic and compared Secretary of State John Kerry’s ‘mental age’ to that of a preteen.”
A core objective of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington is to re-establish credibility among progressives in the post-Obama era. For that reason, the Huffington Post reported, “the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to” CAP and “was joined by [AIPAC], which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.”
The article quoted several former CAP staffers angered by the group’s capitulation to the demands of the Israeli government and AIPAC; said one: Netanyahu is “looking for that progressive validation, and they’re basically validating a guy who race-baited during his election and has disavowed the two-state solution, which is CAP’s own prior work.” Matt Duss, a former foreign policy analyst at CAP, said “the idea that CAP would agree to give him bipartisan cover is really disappointing” since “this is someone who is an enemy of the progressive agenda, who has targeted Israeli human rights organizations throughout his term, and was re-elected on the back of blatant anti-Arab race-baiting.” Yet another former CAP staffer, Ali Gharib, published an article in The Nation noting that Netanyahu has all but formally aligned himself with the GOP, writing: “That a liberal institution feels the need to kowtow to AIPAC in a climate like this speaks volumes about either how out of touch or how craven it can be.”
Read the full article at The Intercept.