The Reason Why Team Obama Is Gunning for This Powerful Democrat
Erin Scott / Reuters
MP Eliot Engel and President Barack Obama were not always in agreement on foreign policy issues.
The New York congressman, who is as much a hawk in the Middle East as he is in the Democratic Party at the moment, was the best-known house democrat who spoke out against Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, the largest foreign policy initiative of his presidency.
Now Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is struggling for his political life amid a primary challenge to his left from Jamaal Bowman, a former headmaster. Obama administration alumni want him to know that they have not forgotten his voice - and that they do not particularly like what he has done since then.
Some key figures in party building, from Hillary Clinton to spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have lined up to support Angels, high-profile former Obama advisers, some of whom have immense influence over liberals across the people Across the country, Crooked Media podcasts have partnered with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to get him out of the house throw.
"Bowman is a progressive, exciting young leader Democrats should choose," said Tommy Vietor, co-host of Crooked's Pod Save America podcast and former Obama national security spokesman. "I also think that [the Foreign Affairs Committee] should be more advanced when it comes to oversight, combating annexation [the West Bank], supporting diplomacy like the [Iran deal], and breaking up parts of the US-US relationship Saudi Arabia is going to allow the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Yemen. "
"We need new thinking in this committee," Vietor wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.
In a June 10 episode of "Pod Save the World," the two co-hosts, Vietor and Ben Rhodes, Obama's former leading foreign policy hand, encouraged their audience to watch Bowman. "Despite my briefings - I hope not because of them - he rejected the Iranian nuclear deal," Rhodes said about Engel. "He has taken a fairly conventional line on issues related to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East in general."
With Angel's area code becoming the party's next big proxy fight, virtually no one believes that Engel's loss on June 23 - a result that is increasingly viewed in democratic circles - will be due to his Hawkish foreign policy views. At an event on June 3rd in his district, Engel was caught by a hot microphone and said he would be "not here" if he didn't have a primary school. In May, The Atlantic reported that he had driven the worst of COVID-19 at his home in Maryland, not at the New York City office he represented, which was one of the most affected places in the country.
The chairman of the House of Representatives asked for a briefing about Kushner's trip to Saudi Arabia
However, the fall of the chairman for foreign affairs would reverberate far beyond his district. "There is a fairly profound desire for a more progressive approach in democratic foreign policy circles, and Eliot Engel isn't here or who he is," a former Obama official told The Daily Beast. "It's not bad - it doesn't creatively move us in the direction that many of us would like to go."
During his 31 years in Congress, Engel has emerged as one of the outstanding voices in both parties who advocate a Hawkish view of Middle East politics. In 2003, he supported the invasion of Iraq. In 2004, he led a group of lawmakers pushing for cuts in the United States' contribution to the United Nations Office to Help Palestinian Refugees. In early 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech to Congress that democratic lawmakers either boycotted or condemned them and "insulted" them for President Obama. However, Engel called Netanyahu's speech "convincing" and said that he had communicated "justified concerns".
When Engel announced his opposition to the nuclear deal later this year, he said the deal Obama was working on "could in fact strengthen Iran's position as a destabilizing and destructive influence." He was one of 25 House Democrats who voted against ratification.
This record has brought Engel the iron support of pro-Israeli groups, some of whom have joined the 16-year-old incumbent in an expensive last attempt to save him. For example, the political action committee for a group called "Democratic Majority for Israel" has lowered over $ 1 million in advertisements for angels and the attack on Bowman - including a Wednesday spot that hit the challenger over years of unpaid tax bills. At least two other pro-Israeli groups have posted ads to support angels on social media.
"He was both an advocate and a leader of pro-Israel efforts in the house," said Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic majority for Israel. "He would be missed a lot and that's why we're really trying to keep him in office."
Obama's own views and visions of Middle East politics meanwhile brought him a famously icy relationship with the right-wing Israeli government and with this constellation of American pro-Israeli groups - such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has ties to the PAC. Now he is funding Angel's rescue. At their annual Washington Congress one year during Obama's term, AIPAC delegates had to be instructed not to boo the seated president.
Engel and Obama have not set the same priorities with regard to foreign policy, according to a former Obama official who said Congressman's opposition to the Iran deal "colored" his private perceptions until the end of the Obama presidency have.
"I think the most important thing is what brought Eliot Engel to this vote. It was the opposite of what President Obama stood for. "And this vote, the official added," was not the first sour taste he left in the mouth of the previous government. "
As chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Engel used his place to contribute to a democratic investigation into President Donald Trump, from the Ukraine impeachment investigation to an investigation into how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dealt with the State Department. This page of Angel's notes is more often touted by prominent advocates such as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the main prosecutor of the Trump case in impeachment against the Senate.
"Since Trump took office, Eliot has helped expose his government's abuses and hold this lawless president accountable," Schiff said in his Engel endorsement.
For his part, Bowman has not made Angel's foreign policy protocol the centerpiece of his campaign, despite criticizing the incumbent's positions and promoting advocacy from progressive foreign policy groups that oppose Angel's tough stance. If Engel lost, he could ironically be replaced as chairman by another hawk, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), who also voted against the Iran deal and is currently the next oldest Democrat on the board.
Obama alumni insist that their enthusiasm for ousting angels is not personal; many of them like him.
"The real story here is that he has this energetic, charismatic, young challenger who speaks on many of the issues that are at the heart of today's progressive agenda," said a former administration official. "It is not that he has lost people in foreign policy, but even though he is the chairman ... the Obama Wonk foreign policy constituency is not employed for him."
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