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Sheldon Adelson Strikes Again

Caricature of Sheldon Adelson. / DonkeyHotey

Much of the commentary following the Republican Party’s fruitless shutdown of the federal government suggests that there is only one group who can prevent the party from continuing to implode: the Republican donor class. These fellas–because they’re mostly fellas–cut the big checks. They are the Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce types, who would prefer fewer government regulations and daydream about holding a sharp knife against the throat of the welfare state. But these guys aren’t so stupid that they would embrace a tactic that would hurt the GOP’s chances of taking back the White House and/or the Senate–a tactic like the one that partially shuttered the federal government and cost the nation billions of dollars. The Reasonable Republicans support gutting the federal government’s role in the domestic economy, but they also comport themselves like gentlemen. These fellas are truly our nation’s saviors.

If only the entire party was so sane. Throwing a wrench in the plans of all Reasonable Republican donors is none other than the dean of the donors himself: Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate-cum-super billionaire-cum-largest single donor to Republican candidates and affiliated Political Action Committees. According to the Huffington Post, during the “2012 election, Adelson and his family gave more than $100 million to super PACs and other groups supporting Republican candidates.”

Adelson, of course, has made a name for himself by throwing money at sure political winners, like those eight figures he spent to get former house speaker Newt Gingrich nominated as the Republican presidential candidate. Oh, wait. Gingrich’s campaign went nowhere, regardless of how much money Adelson threw at it.

Adelson’s pet cause, however, is Israel. He spends oodles of money propping up the most hawkish elements in both the United States and Israel, demanding war with nearly every Arab or Persian person currently wandering the Middle East.

Consider a recent Adelson quote regarding U.S. negotiations with Iran. While speaking on a panel at Yeshiva University Tuesday night, he said:

What are we going to negotiate about? I would say “Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.” … You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, “OK let it go.” And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, “See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all, and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.”

And so we have the Republican Party’s biggest donor saying that we should nuke Iran as part of our negotiations to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Adelson may not realize it, but Iran already probably understands what a nuclear explosion looks like, so it’s unclear what testing one in the backyard would do other than invite global retaliation on the United States and Israel. All in all, it’s just a very strange thing to suggest nuking Iran–even the “middle of the desert”–at this juncture.

But Adelson is just one donor. A donor who is very old, craggy, and perhaps insane, but also a donor who is among the richest of the Republican lot. The search for sanity amid the Republican big-spender ranks is likely to turn up many red flags, not just the one Adelson’s waving about this week. Think about it. How insane (or stupid) do you have to be to donate a lot of money to this iteration of the GOP? Any reasonable businessman can see that the return on investment has proven to be very poor.