Monday, July 30, 2012

Las Vegas Big Money Behind Big Mouth and Bibiton
"HOW MUCH IS HE PAYING YOU?" Romney and Netanyahu both get backing from Sheldon Adelson.


LEADING BACKER FOR ROMNEY. Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson with his wife Miriam Ochsorn.

"If Romney gets tough on Israel’s defense and continues to repeat his small government, free market message, he could find that the war chest backing his efforts is, well, limitless. It will be interesting to see how Obama’s billionaire backers –who have so far been reticent to match GOP efforts–will respond."

Forbes Business Magazine

IT seemed like Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney could not open his mouth without putting his foot in it. Either that or he is playing to a rich but lumpen-minded gallery at home.

First stop on his electioneering from abroad tour was London, where he managed to elicit ridicule and tart replies from such presumed allies as Boris Johnson and Dareavid Cameron by suggesting the country is past it, makes stuff nobody wants, and worst of all, was not ready for the Olympics. Incidentally, he nevertheless thinks his Republicans are better qualified than Barack Obama to sustain the transatlantic relationship with the UK because of a shared "Anglo-Saxon heritage". Not that he's a racialist, mind ....

Interesting that in these cash-strapped times the man was over for a fund-raising dinner, though apparently they had to lower the price of tickets, and questions were asked about Barclays Bank finding time from its troubles to come up with some funding.

Romney also boasted of having met the head of MI6 and discussed Syria. It's not the done thing to talk about such meetings. But what's more worrying is what the spy chief might have told him and whether it registered.

Takeh it's Tacky, What do you expect?

From here it was on to Jerusalem where the Mormon Romney posed for pictures by the Western ("Wailing") Wall, where the black-clad Orthodox were saying their prayers, prompting this comment in the Atlantic Monthly:

Temple Mount Tackiness By Jeffrey Goldberg
Jul 29 2012, 8:48 AM ET Today is Tisha b'Av, the ninth of Av, a Jewish day of fasting and mourning. It is on this day that the First and Second Temples were destroyed. The Western Wall, in Jerusalem, is a retaining wall of the Second Temple. It is, especially on this day, a locus of prayer and reflection. It is also, on this particular Tisha b'Av, the location of a very important photo opportunity for an American presidential candidate.

How vulgar is this?


Well, whoever advises Romney and made the arrangements had originally scheduled a $50,000 a plate fund-raising dinner for the fast day, too, which had to be moved on to the next day when someone pointed out it might embarass some guests otherwise.

We don't know whether anyone -apart from US diplomats in the Middle East - was embarassed by Romney's pledge to support Israel if it decided to wage war on Iran, or his support for Jerusalem as the "undivided" capital of Israel - which is not official US policy.

Nor by his praise for Israeli economic success, in contrast to low Palestinian productivity, which he attributed to "cultural" differences and the "hand of providence". "As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognise the power of at least culture and a few other things, " he told dinner guests, citing a climate of innovation, the Jewish history of thriving in adversity, and the "hand of providence".

If any Jewish listeners were reminded of the old "friendly" antisemitic remark "You people are so clever at making money", those who'd paid for the dinner did not say so.

Nor did they remark on the American's modesty in referring to "the hand of providence" when it is the hand of the United States that makes Israel its biggest aid recipient. Or acknowledge that for the neighbours, having your utilities bombed and coast blockaded, or settlers uproot your olive groves and take your water, cannot be good for economic growth.

But Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, recognised Romney's comments for what they were. "It is a racist statement, and this man doesn't realise that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation," he said.

"It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority."

Although hundreds of millionaires are backing Romney, his most generous benefactor is a Las Vegas real estate developer and hotel billionaire who had previously given his backing to Newt Gingrich. Sheldon Adelson has reason to be grateful to politicians. Having purchased the Sands Hotel -- the decrepit former home of the Hollywood Rat Pack and location where Oceans 11 was filmed-- he turned the site into a massive convention centre, bringing in lots of high-spending convention delegates to fill the Vegas hotels. He expanded his empire with two high-end hotel-casino-resorts, the Venetian (1999) -- complete with gondoliers ferrying tourists down fake canals -- and the Palazzo, which opened in 2007.

Though Adelson liked to be known as "liberal" on some issues - he doesn't mind your money, whether or not you are black, or gay - he has his hatreds. One is social health care, such as Britain's NHS or what Obama is promising. Another is unions. The Venetian opened in 1999 as the only non-union casino on the Strip and has been the target of protest from the hotel workers union, Culinary 226, ever since. Many Democratic politicians in the state continue to observe the union's boycott of Adelson's properties.

Adelson's right-wing views have not stopped him doing business in 'People's China', just like Murdoch. He has casinos in Macao, and is said to have helped Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics. But now his man Romney is in Poland, and stirring up the Cold War again.

Mitt Romney is not the only politician Sheldon Adelson is supporting. In 2007 he launched the newspaper Israel Hayom to support a politician he fancied, Binyamin Netanyahu, 'Bibi' as he is widely called, and though it can't be cheap to have a freeby newspaper competing with the paid titles, the 'Bibiton' as many call it has become Israel's biggest circulation daily and Netanyahu of course is prime minister.

If Romney succeeds in making it to the White House that will be two government leaders in the pocket of the man from Vegas. And it might not be just his mouth that Mitt is shooting off.

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