The U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin is one of the nation’s most competitive, with most polls showing Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) with a narrow lead over former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). It increasingly appears that the Republican isn’t handling the pressure well.
Over the weekend, Thompson attacked Baldwin for having switched positions on new U.S. sanctions on Iran – the congresswoman supported the sanctions three months ago, after having opposed them previously – which certainly seems fair game. But in making the attack, Thompson said of his rival, “She’s anti-Israel, she’s anti-Jewish.”
First, let’s note that if you’re going to accuse someone of anti-Semitism, it’s important to have at least some proof. Skepticism about sanctions on Iran does not make someone “anti-Jewish,” and for Thompson to push this line suggests an ugly degree of desperation.
Second, this reminds me of my favorite Tommy Thompson story.
In 2007, Thompson was in the middle of an awful presidential campaign. As part of his voter outreach, Thompson told a Jewish group that earning money is “part of the Jewish tradition.” It was his idea of a compliment.
“I’m in the private sector and for the first time in my life I’m earning money,” Thompson told the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “You know that’s sort of part of the Jewish tradition, and I do not find anything wrong with that.”
After he left the stage, someone apparently told Thompson, who is Roman Catholic, that this was an incredibly dumb thing to say, so he went back to the podium to “clarify.”
“I just want to clarify something because I didn’t [by] any means want to infer or imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to, ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion. You’ve been outstanding businesspeople and I compliment you for that.”
In the same speech, Thompson boasted about having purchased “Jewish bonds” (he apparently meant Israel Bonds) and his long-standing support for the “Jewish Defense League” (he apparently meant the Anti-Defamation League).
And now this guy wants to attack his opponent as “anti-Jewish.” Hmm.