Rebel With a Cause

Paul Goldman


Does Moran Hate Jews?

Of course not. But the Washington Post surely despises Moran and is using a tabloid journalism to crush him with an unsubstantiated anti-Semitism charge.


The Jews have been wrongly blamed these 2,000 years for killing Jesus, so you might well want to ask me this: Paul, what does it matter if Jews, albeit indirectly, are wrongly blamed for ending the political career of one lousy congressman?


It matters for a very good reason: Because Jews get wrongly blamed for so much, we should be the first to be concerned if someone would be hurt by an unsubstantiated charge of anti-Semitism. We can not allow the suffering of Jews to be trivialized as it has been in the pages of The Washington Post this past month.

I refer, of course, to the latest charge of anti-Semitism directed at U.S. Rep. James Moran, D-8th. The Post has featured charges hurled by a former pollster, who resigned May 25, in several stories during the closing days of the primary campaign. Voting takes place tomorrow.

If Moran loses the Democratic nomination, he'll owe his defeat to the Post's blatantly anti-Moran campaign in these final hours. 

Was it fair, was it right, was it responsible journalism?

My conclusion: The Post was not trying to protect Jews from anti-Semitism but was using the suffering of Jews to defeat a Congressman it thinks is unfit for the job. 

Justice Holmes said that the First Amendment did not give you the right to cry "fire" in a crowded movie theater. But it does give a newspaper the right to cry "Moran May Hate Jews After all" in the closing days of a political campaign.... in such a way that makes this former campaign manager truly outraged by a violation of the political process.

Last year, I was the first, and only, former or current Democratic Party chairman to have properly criticized U.S. Rep. Jim Moran for his comments, which were anti-Semitic. He apologized and said he understood his mistake.

But that is a separate issue than the one having developed in these last few days.

Having been called a few names for being the only white person willing to be Doug Wilder's campaign manager in his historic campaign, and then last year being called a racist for wanting to give African-Americans the right to directly elect their own mayor here in Richmond -- now the politicians pick the mayor from among their friends on city council -- this probably makes me a little more sensitive to the latest Moran stories than most. 

After several days of lengthy Washington Post stories accusing the congressman of making an anti-Semitic remark at a March meeting, this fact is clear: The former pollster making the charge has never told The Washington Post what Moran is alleged to have said. Even today the pollster, Alan Secrest, refuses to tell anyone what Moran supposedly said.

No, I am not making that up. The charge is contained in a May 25 resignation letter from Secrest to Moran, a letter conveniently leaked, by the pollster or his allies, we must presume, to the Post

Here is what the Post wrote about the charge from Mr. Secrest, who was Mr. Moran's pollster in his many campaigns for the Congress before resigning last month in a letter alleging the anti-Semitic comment.

Secrest yesterday stood by his allegation that Moran used anti-Semitic language in the meeting, which both men acknowledge erupted into an angry exchange that led to Secrest's resignation last week. But the Alexandria-based pollster refused for a second day to disclose exactly what Moran said, beyond calling it "pejorative and disrespectful to a group of individuals in an anti-Semitic fashion."

How can we have a fair political process if, in the last week of the campaign, someone can leak a resignation letter to the virtual 800-pound media presence in order to get that media giant to print a damning charge -- remember, Secrest knows Moran's internal campaign polling data, so he knows what can hurt Moran the most -- without even knowing what the alleged anti-Semitic words were exactly? 

It is fundamentally unfair to ask someone to defend himself against words the accuser refuses to reveal. 

Or am I just too old-fashioned here? 

As I have said before, the original congressional district that allowed Mr. Moran to get elected to Congress was drafted under my watch as party chair. We also created districts that helped elect the first female member of Congress and also the first African-American. 

It was about time. 


Given the demographic make-up of the 8th congressional district, it would take utter political stupidity for the Democrats to lose it. Had it been anything other than a safe district, Mr. Moran would have been defeated for re-election long ago for past actions that need not be listed here. 

But these and other factors are not the controlling ones right now. Rather, we have a case where The Washington Post is clearly raising fundamental questions about our ability to have a fair political process. 

The Post admits it doesn't know precisely what Mr. Moran is alleged to have said. It admits to knowing that Mr. Secrest, the former pollster, sent an e-mail to Mr. Moran demanding money he said was owed (eventually paid), or else telling Mr. Moran things would get very uncomfortable for him real fast, meaning before the primary next Tuesday. 

Now, even after getting the money, Secrest has made good on this threat -- or promise, if you prefer -- leading to two huge anti-Moran stories on the Friday and Saturday before the Tuesday election. 

Does this seem fair to you?

Of course not, and for good reason: It isn't. 

Granted, one could say -- as Mr. Secrest has said -- that the former pollster has no obvious reason to want to hurt Mr. Moran since he has been paid in full and claims to speaks for no anti-Moran group. 

But I ask you: Mr. Secrest says he was morally offended by the alleged comments when they were made in March. But according to an e-mail he sent on April 30, he only threatened to go public with some unstated things unless he got paid. 

So I ask you: Why, after getting paid, this sudden twinge of conscious in late May? 

If you really were offended by something, why wait until you get paid, why not quit right in March, after the alleged anti-Semitic smear was uttered?

Did Mr. Secrest seek advice from religious and other advisors, did he agonize over it, was his soul tortured for weeks before deciding he just had to come forward? Or was it purely coincidence that he made his decision after Moran's checks cleared? 

Come on, I didn't just get off the boat from Tel Aviv looking for a Kosher Deli. 

Call it for what it is: This is a vindictive act by Mr. Secrest based on some personal motivation, some personal thing between him and Moran, not some high-minded defense of Jews from their alleged enemies. 

Yes, minority groups need defense, as do all people, more times than we care to admit. But not this way, for it uses the suffering of Jews throughout history in so cheap and insincere way. 

The Washington Post has done its work well here, as Mr. Secrest knew it would. Mr. Secrest was Mr. Moran's pollster, so his leaking the resignation letter to the media, with the charges contained therein, sets up what Bob Woodward called plausible deniability in the Nixon Era. 

The Post can say it was just reporting news - Moran's pollster quitting over such comments -- and thus hide the real motivation. 

This is not about protecting Jews; it is about getting Moran. 

I don't believe a newspaper of such power as the Post should, in the final weekend of a campaign, make huge stories with such potentially damning content based on a claim of anti-Semitism unless the accuser at least tells precisely what was said so people can make up their own minds. 

But you say: What if the words were so bad they shouldn't be reprinted? 

To this I say: I cannot imagine what such words could be, given what has been printed about Jews over the years. Even then, the reporter and the newspaper could say they knew what the words were, but they were so bad, they refused to print them in a family newspaper. 

At least then the reader - and voter - would have to judge how much they trusted the Post in such a situation. But in the instant case, the Post says the accuser has not told them what Moran is alleged to have said. 

Stories like these from the Post turns people from politics, which in the end only benefits those who rely on manipulating our fears, not our hopes. 

So, please, don't use the likes of Alan Secrest to do your dirty work. And please, please, keep us Jews out of it; we get blamed for enough things in life, we don't need to be the villains here, too.

-- June 7, 2004











































Paul Goldman, the Rebel With a Cause, was chief political strategist for the past two winning Democratic governors in Virginia and was credited with leading a "revolution in American politics" by The New York Times for his role in breaking America's 300-year-old color barrier in national politics.


You can reach him at