The NY Times writes today that the new neocon group, Freedom’s Watch (FW) is being funded by right-wing Jewish donors. The original idea for the group was conceived at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting and one of its key funders is Las Vegas gambling king, Sheldon Adelson. According to Congresspedia, others include shopping center magnate and former ambassador to Australia, Nauru and Italy, Mel Sembler. Fred Zeidman is senior lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig and was Jack Abramoff’s ostensible boss. A former director was Sam Fox, the Missouri Jewish Republican who received a recess appointment as ambassador to Belgium after the Senate refused to vote on his appointment because of his funding the Swift Boat smear campaign.
As best I can tell it seems to be a Valentine thrown by some fat cat donors to ex-Bushites like Ari Fleischer, Ken Mehlman, and David Frum, who are looking to extend their political shelf life beyond the end of the Bush presidency:
Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.
Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.
Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group.
Although the group declined to identify the experts, several were invited from the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group with close ties to the White House. Some institute scholars have advocated a more confrontational policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, including keeping military action as an option.
Like much of the propaganda spewed by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Freedom’s Watch pays little attention to truth, balance or nuance. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a “terrorist” likened to Hitler:
“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”
Returning to a fraudulent Bush-Cheney meme, Iraq and Al Qaeda are deliberately confused once again as the forces behind 9/11:
In one Freedom’s Watch ad, Sgt. John Kriesel, a National Guardsman from Stillwater, Minn., who lost his legs in a bomb attack near Falluja, pleads with Congress and the American people not to “surrender” in Iraq. As the screen shows a still photograph of the second hijacked plane bearing down on the burning World Trade Center, Sergeant Kriesel adds, “They attacked us, and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.”
And according to Fleischer, if Congress capitulates to terror then World War III (or IV if you’re Norman Podhoretz) will be around the corner:
Mr. Fleischer said: “After the president announced the surge, and even Republicans started getting nervous, there was a palpable fear among several of us that this fall Congress was going to cut off the funding and the Middle East would explode and America would likely get hit. It really wasn’t much more complicated than that.”
That’s the problem with ideologues and propagandists like this gang–it’s not very complicated. In fact, all you have to do is follow their bouncing ball of lies and vote Republican in November. You’ll feel better for it, like taking an Alka Seltzer (do people still do that?) or an Ambien (to be more up to date).
One of the main current goals of the group is to exert pressure on wavering Republicans to “stay the course” on Iraq. Congresspedia notes that one of the first FW media buys targeted Norm Coleman, a “moderate” Jewish Republican with close ties to the RJC who is up for re-election and faces a stiff Democratic challenge.
There’s a lot of wannbeism about Freedom’s Watch. They’re Reaganite wannabes:
“Ideologically, we are inspired by much of Ronald Reagan’s thinking — peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise,” Mr. Fleischer said.
While at the same time they wannabe the conservative answer to Moveon.org:
For years, the group’s founders lamented MoveOn’s growing influence, derived in large part from its grass-roots efforts, especially on the debate about the Iraq war. “A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious,” said Mr. Sembler, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”
What Sembler, of course, neglects to understand is that Moveon is a true grassroots group with hundreds of thousands of donors and Freedom’s Watch is a fatcat’s private club. Or, as Congresspedia calls it to distinguish it from the term “grassroots,” “astroturf.”
Eli Pariser also parries Freedom’s Watch’s claims of legitimacy:
“This is the fourth or the fifth group that intends to be the right-wing MoveOn,” Mr. Pariser said, naming other fledgling groups like TheVanguard.org and Grassfire.org. “So far, it’s not clear that this group is anything other than a big neoconservative slush fund. They are a White House front group with a few consultants who are trying to make a very unpopular position on the war appear more palpable.”
…Pariser…said his group’s grass-roots membership — it claims 3.3 million members — was the envy of Freedom’s Watch. “I think people see that Freedom’s Watch is a few billionaires, and not a large, mainstream constituency,” he said.
If I were a tout, I wouldn’t put any on Freedom’s Watch. Remember that million dollar wager the RJC laid down in slick advertising that desperately tried to head off a strong Jewish showing for Congressional Democrats in the last election? Look how much good that did.
The Forward, JTA, and Jewish Week have been scooped on this story and should’ve been the first to cover it.