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Michael Lerner: Should He Speak?

by Alexander Cockburn Saturday, Feb. 15, 2003 at 11:31 PM

Biting Satire Exposing Lerner's Ego.

CounterPunch's inbox is suddenly clogged with e-traffic about Michael Lerner being banned from speaking at the San Francisco rally. We got one list of protesting signatories studded with notables and miscreants, like Eric Alterman who normally spends his time deriding the antiwar protests, just like Marc Cooper, who clearly sees a "Let Lerner Speak" campaign as a good way of smearing ANSWER and NION (Not in Our Name).

My initial reaction was to say to Jeffrey St Clair that any move to keep Lerner from pouring out his usual freshets of idiocy is sound by definition, but on mature consideration I counsel the organizers of the San Francisco rally to slot Lerner in at some point in the proceedings

I'm quite prepared to believe that Lerner, a relentless self-promoter, has managed to piss off everybody with egocentric posturing and unity-wrecking maneuvers, and maybe his plan from the start has been to engineer a situation in which he can howl that Jew-haters have laid him low. But let the guy speak anyway. Mostly people don't listen to speeches, and if you suddenly hear Lerner's voice disturbing the harmony of the great convergence, move into a drumming circle and blot the guy out.

Every now and again Lerner writes to CounterPunch asking for our support when he'd been attacked by the neocons. Tikkun has published some good stuff such as reports by Tanya Rinehart, one the best reporters and commentators in Israel. He's a flake, but on Israel, considering the mostly awful spectrum of opinion here, he's often been constructive. Look at other American-Jewish publications and you'll see what I mean. For a good exchange which excitingly revealed Lerner's distinct limitations I refer you to his debate with Salman abu-Sitta on the right of Palestinian return.

Lerner and Hillary Clinton had a thing going for a brief moment, and then she, like so many others, realized that having Lerner around the place was like having a badly trained retriever, either jumping up and licking your face or making a mess in the corner. It reminds me somehow of Norman Podhoretz back in the days of Camelot, who conceived a passion for Jackie Kennedy and came to believe that somehow, against all the odds, she secretly reciprocated his yearning. Eventually, at some cocktail party he cornered her and pressed his suit. She gazed at him as though he was a centipede on her sleeve, and said icily, "Why, Mr Podhoretz, just who do you think you are?" Not long thereafter the jilted Poddy began his long trek to the right.

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