Moran Gets an Earful After Running His Mouth

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, September 27, 2007

At the end of the private meeting last week, the message to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) was this: "Cut it out, Jim."

That's how one participant summarized the session between Moran and six members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- five of them Moran constituents -- who were angered by the congressman's recent assertion that the organization pushed the United States into war in Iraq.

The participant said the group explained to Moran -- a repeat offender for many in the Jewish community -- that his comments were "false and seriously offensive" and told him they hope he will "check his facts better before he talks" in the future.

That source and another participant who spoke about the meeting on the condition of anonymity said they're now waiting to see how Moran will respond. Both used the expression "The ball's in his court."

As to whether that means the group hopes to get an apology or a clarification from the congressman, the source said, "I have no expectations on this." A third source familiar with the meeting said Moran neither apologized nor offered to retract his comments about the pro-Israel lobby.

The meeting was called in response to Moran's interview with Tikkun magazine in which he said AIPAC "has pushed this war from the beginning. . . . they are so well organized, and their members are extraordinarily powerful -- most of them are quite wealthy -- they have been able to exert power."

Moran's Jewish Democratic colleagues, led by influential Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), denounced the Virginia lawmaker in an angry letter last week, saying, "The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) called Moran's comments "inaccurate, wrong and unfortunate." And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) piled on, saying: "I disagree and reject Congressman Moran's characterization of AIPAC. AIPAC did not lead us into this disastrous war in Iraq. President Bush and Vice President Cheney did."

Then came the private face-to-face in Moran's office last Thursday. The meeting was called by AIPAC member Jerome Chapman, a lawyer with Arnold & Porter who has lobbied Moran for years on issues dear to AIPAC.

Chapman, who is also a constituent of Moran's, said, "It wasn't the first time he has made remarks in this vein. What I'm hoping is it's the last time." He was alluding to Moran's similar comment, in 2003, when the congressman said at a peace rally at a Reston church that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."

Chapman said he was relieved this week to see Moran voting with AIPAC on a bill to impose tough sanctions against Iran. Chapman even sent a thank-you e-mail to Moran's chief of staff saying, "Please let Jim know that I thank him for the vote."

The vote on Iran sanctions was one thing; an apology on his belief that AIPAC lobbied for the war in Iraq may be quite another.

Moran spokesman Austin Durrer said: "The congressman met with local AIPAC leaders for two hours last week and appreciated hearing their concerns. His opinion still differs from theirs, but the lines of communication will remain open to discuss the underlying issues raised in the Tikkun article."

No Potty Humor Allowed

Two "supporters" of Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) got bounced from the premises of the district courthouse in Edina, Minn., yesterday before their show even got off the ground.

The two were protesting Craig's court case in a rather unusual scatological display. Both showed up in costume: one dressed as a police officer, the other as Larry Craig. And they brought with them two old (and what looked to be used) toilets, which they set up next to the bank of television cameras outside the courthouse.

Squatting on their props, they held up oddly worded protest signs that read, "IF LARRY STAYED SIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT."

Underneath was the Web address, which, you come to find out, is run by a recent college graduate looking to make a buck and get a job. The lad is selling T-shirts of a potty-themed rendition of the artist Rodin's famous "Le Penseur" ("The Thinker") statue featuring none other than Larry Craig.

Unfortunately for the Craig impersonator, he didn't have time to start his foot-tapping and hand-waving routine, on account of the county cops shutting the duo down within seconds of them taking their, uh, seats.

The New, Improved Hold

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is the latest lawmaker to put a "hold" on a bill that would require Senate candidates to electronically file their campaign finance reports. But he denies he was the culprit who put an anonymous hold on the legislation earlier this year.

Back then, senators could follow the old tradition of putting holds on legislation without publicly disclosing who they were. But new ethics rules require senators to put their objections out in the light of day.

Ensign's spokesman, Tory Mazzola, flat-out denied to us that Ensign was the mysterious man behind the earlier hold on the bill.

"He supports the electronic filing by senators," Mazzola said, explaining that Ensign objected to the bill because he simply wanted to "improve the bill with an amendment." Ensign's amendment was rejected by Democrats as a poison pill, thus killing the campaign finance legislation until it can be resurrected again.

So, even in public, mission accomplished.

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