Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Joel Pollak on Anthony Weiner, Andrew Breitbart, and Why Sarah Palin Could Be the First Jewish President

When I called Joel Pollak on Wednesday, he was back home in Skokie for the Jewish holidays—visiting from his new home in Santa Monica. He moved there to work as an in-house counsel and editor-in-chief for conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, famous most recently for bringing down Acorn and Rep. Anthony Weiner…

Joel PollakWhen I called Joel Pollak on Wednesday, he was back home in Skokie for the Jewish holidays—visiting from his new home in Santa Monica. He moved there to work as an in-house counsel and editor-in-chief for conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, famous most recently for bringing down Acorn and Rep. Anthony Weiner.

The 34-year-old Pollak—a staunch advocate of Israel, the Tea Party, and a graduate of Harvard College and its Law School—didn’t come too close to beating 9th District Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in 2010 (he garnered 31 percent of the vote). But he seemed to spook the 67-year-old veteran, and he ran a much tougher race than the seven-termer was accustomed to. He also brought in such stars as his former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who quipped at a Pollak fundraiser last year that were the young pol to win, he’d raise Congress’s average I.Q. by several points.

Busy in his new job, Pollak says he won’t mount a rematch in 2012, adding that he has approached a couple of people to take on Schakowsky. (He says he won’t reveal their names because they both said no.) Schakowsky is vulnerable, Pollak insists, pointing to the special election earlier this month for Weiner’s seat in a heavily Democratic district encompassing parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The winner, by a healthy margin, was a Republican retired cable news executive who had never held elective office.

During our chat, I asked Pollak if he could have won in the 9th if the election had taken place a year later. I also asked for his take on Sarah Palin and Joe Walsh, how he came to throw his lot with Breitbart, and whether he played any role in taking down Weiner. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

CF: So how did you come to work for Breitbart?
I met him socially a couple of years ago. I must have spoken to him for 15 seconds. He got interested in me during the campaign, and then after the election he contacted me and was interested in possibly hiring me as an in-house counsel, as his company was growing. The more you succeed, the more open you are to liberal challenge, especially in the media where people don’t necessarily like what you’re writing and saying. I do a lot of the legal grunt work, in addition to overseeing the editors on the website. I don’t read every post before it goes out, but our editors know if there’s a question about some legal area, they clear it with me before they put it up.

CF: You’re also editor-in-chief of So you’re writing as well as lawyering?
Yes, mostly for BigGovernment, BigJournalism, and BigPeace—not much for BigHollywood.

CF: You were involved in exposing, so to speak, Anthony Weiner?  
All of us were involved to some extent in that story. Initially, I was less involved because Weiner sent the offending tweet on a Friday night when I’m not on my computer for religious reasons. So for the first 24 hours of that story, I was in the dark about what was happening. I don’t think it would have become the story that it did if [Weiner] hadn’t made the accusation of hacking. Once he made the accusation that his account had been hacked, and raised questions about whether we had hacked his account, suddenly that gave us a sort of existential interest in the story because we were defending ourselves. It gave even those of us that don’t particularly care about the personal details of a politician’s life; it gave all of us a stake in the story.

CF: What are you up to recently at Breitbart?
The examination of [Joe McGinniss’s] new book about Sarah Palin. We released an email that indicates McGinniss knew there was no factual evidence for some of the most sensational things he was saying, and he was frantically trying to reach out to left-wing bloggers to try to see if they had any evidence he could include in the book to back up what he was saying. 

CF: So given the shocking result in the NY-9, is Schakowsky vulnerable in 2012?
I like to joke that we didn’t actually lose in IL-9; they didn’t count all the votes until NY-9. [Because I ran against her], her views are now more exposed than they were before. She is really a member of the hard left. She doesn’t have to maintain a façade of moderation anymore, and she has won election anyway—why not go out and be a spokesperson for the left? And that’s what she done with her jobs bill, which is ridiculous on a policy level, but it does speak to the far left constituency in this country. When New York’s 9th can go Republican on much of the same model that we used here in 2010, focusing on President Obama’s Israel policy and focusing on the economy, I think that certainly the chances [of defeating her] will be stronger [next time].

CF: In NY-9, did the fact that this district is almost certainly going to be eliminated in redistricting play a role in the Republican’s victory? After all, it’s not a permanent addition of a Republican to Congress. 
No, because I think now that it’s a Republican seat, it may not be eliminated. It may become part of the horse-trading in the redistricting in the state. And, paradoxically, if it had remained in Democratic hands, it might have been eliminated.

CF: I know you’re a hawk on national defense and on fiscal matters. What about social issues—say abortion and same-sex marriage?
I would describe myself as more conservative on abortion. On same-sex marriage, I lean more to the libertarian viewpoint: that it’s up to states to decide for themselves. I’m very much in favor of traditional marriage, but marriage is what people want to make of it, and if people decide that they want to define marriage in a particular way, I think they should be allowed to do it.

CF: Who are you supporting for the Republican nomination for president?
I can’t really say right now, but I will say that I’m very impressed with Herman Cain—and have been since the first debate. What really has made him stand out recently is his positive message. He doesn’t waste time running other candidates down, and his ideas are very fresh, and I think that makes him an exciting candidate to watch.

CF: When we will have the first Jewish president?
I think if Sarah Palin runs, she’ll be the first Jewish president.

CF: What?
Sarah Palin is treated as Jews have been treated for generations: no matter what she does, she’s wrong. She’s either too religious or not religious enough; she’s a housewife who can’t function as governor, or she’s the governor who doesn’t take care of her domestic duties. All the things are thrown at her in the same way that Jews were targeted. She’s identified herself [with Israel] and has shown empathy for the things that the Jewish community cares about in a way that I think has yet to achieve the right recognition. She sent out a picture recently to supporters—not Jewish supporters, but her general supporters—and it’s a picture of her in front of the Statue of Liberty and she’s wearing a Jewish star. Maybe not since the Puritans founded America and gave biblical names to each other has there ever been such a positive identification with Jewish symbolism, so I like to joke that Sarah Palin will be the first Jewish president.

CF: Most people who dabble in politics would say that were Palin to become the nominee, President Obama will win a second term.
I think Obama at the moment is so politically weak that almost any Republican can defeat him, and I think that what [Palin] brings that some of the candidates lack—including some of the candidates who have done very well—is executive experience. That’s going to be her calling card, and although her term was cut short when she resigned because of the personal financial costs of having to defend frivolous ethics complaints brought by political opponents, while she was In office, she did a very good job. I think she’ll point to that if she does run.

CF: Do you give President Obama any credit for his strong speech in support of Israel at the United Nations last week?
Obama said the right things in that speech, but I think it never should have gotten to the point where this became a possibility. And it’s noteworthy that the Palestinians in their campaign for statehood were playing excerpts of Obama’s [earlier] speech and saying, “Look Obama promised us a state.” I think that President Obama early in his term placed far too much faith in the UN. Palestinians were able to use that American stance. The U.S. blocking a Palestinian state at the UN is kind of the minimum that we expect from a president—not the maximum that we hope for.

CF: What’s your take on [freshman 8th District Republican] Joe Walsh?
I think he has been very effective in making his case in the media, and by taking a few very well defined, often controversial stances, he has become an articulate spokesman for the Tea Party. Nobody really speaks for the Tea Party. That movement really did need more voices in Congress, and with Michele Bachmann focusing on her presidential campaign, it really was a gap that Joe Walsh [filled]. I think he did something politically that in some ways was very helpful and also that was politically savvy. You have to find a way quickly in an unstable political situation to become a national voice.

CF: Any plans to run for office again?
No, not right now, and probably not in the near future. But one day, certainly.


3 years ago
Posted by soccer

I keep missing the genius of Sarah Palin. She has so little of this executive experience he lauds so highly. I'm sure that while governing in Alaska she was able to dwell on the Jewish situation with the same depth as she spent on her neighbor, over there, Russia.
After our Florida ...uh...debate, Rep. Ed Gonzalez (R)Leon County, asked the musical question "why can't we get someone who can speak, who's articulate?". Such a sad minimum for a President. Cain can articulate, perhaps Harvard Law sees that in "how's that touchy, feely thing going for ya" and other soaring rhetoric provided by Ms Palin.

3 years ago
Posted by JKTN

You wrote: "She has so little of this executive experience he lauds so highly".

Sarah Palin has been in executive level politics for many years.
Some of Sarah Palin's accomplishments.

In Alaska, Sarah’s top priorities included fiscal restraint, limiting the size of government, resource development, education, equitable oil valuation as well as transportation and infrastructure development. Sarah Palin fought for ethics reform and transparency in government.

Sarah Palin has a long record of achievement and experience in public office.Prior her election as Governor, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor of Wasilla. During her tenure, she reduced property tax levels while increasing services and made Wasilla a business-friendly environment, drawing in new industry.

Under her leadership as Governor, Alaska invested $5 billion in state savings, overhauled education funding and protected Alaska’s natural resources. She created Alaska’s Petroleum Systems Integrity Office to provide oversight and maintenance of oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure and the Climate Change Subcabinet to prepare a climate change strategy for Alaska.

During Sarah Palin’s first year in office, three of her administrations major proposed pieces of legislation passed—an overhaul of the state’s ethics laws, a competitive process to construct a natural gas pipeline and a restructuring of Alaska’s oil valuation formula.

In Alaska Sarah Palin did take on the old-boy network — the oil companies and her own party — and won.

Sarah Palin is past chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multistate government agency that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment.

She also served as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) Natural Resources Committee, which was charged with pursuing legislation to ensure state needs are considered as federal policy is formulated in the areas of agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management

For the past three years Sarah Palin has worked tirelessly to fight Obama's policies and elect conservatives. (speeches,supporting candidates , fundraising, etc); she basically spearheaded the 2010 victory with her endorsements and rallies all over the country.
Sarah Palin was #1 in the fight while others were sitting on the fence.
She was (justly) credited with playing a central role after the Republicans swept last November.
She has spoken out on almost all the issues, both foreign and domestic.

She has been to India and gave a successful speech and (unscripted) Q&A session about many of the important issues facing our nation, and indeed the world at this time. ( she also gave a successful speech in Hong Kong and has been also in Israel and Bosnia)

There’s never been a candidate to get a more thorough examination by the media, the left, and the right. Sarah Palin has withstood the slings, barbs, bullets, and arrows that would have fallen a lesser person.
Sarah Palin has been vetted, especially in the past 3 years like no one else; she’s probably the cleanest politician out there. (24.000 emails)

3 years ago
Posted by PhilipJames

Soccer.... its obvious you don't have a clue regarding Palin. Instead of regurgitating the same old liberal bull crap about her, how about spending a little time checking out her accomplishments? But you won't since you don't really want to know... liberal dolt haters like you usually don't. Too much stress on the minimal brain power.
So, stay stupid and when she becomes President you can have a nervous breakdown.

3 years ago
Posted by get a grip

What the heck is Pollack talking about? Sarah Palin is a Dominionist Evangelical who looks forward to the destruction of Israel so the Rapture will come in her lifetime. She would be the first Jewish President? The insanity is beyond the pale.
And JKN, Sarah Palin has NO executive experience. Wasilla had to hire a city manager for the first time ever (and it was during HER term as mayor) because she should NOT do the job. And she got elected with a surplus and left Wasilla $22 million in debt because of the ass-hat legalities about building the sports center on land the city didn't own, but she managed to still get "excess sports center materials" to build her house on the dead lake.
As for her "fiscal restraints" as governor, she taxed oil companies to spread the wealth to Alaskans while at the same time giving $500 million to a Canadian company to build a gasline that will NEVER happen and there is a $1.5 billion penalty that Alaska has to pay to the Canadian company if the pipeline isn't built.
The woman is insane.

3 years ago
Posted by get a grip

Philipjames, how about stopping regurgitating the C4P nonsense. She has NO accomplishments. NONE! And as for nervous breakdowns, sarah is already in full meltdown. And so are you.

3 years ago
Posted by get a grip

JKTN, sarah has been talking about the political class, but at the same time she touts her 20 years in politics. Hypocrite much? Looks like.

3 years ago
Posted by cubs&sox

Get a Grip,

A more fitting screen name for you would be "Get a Life."

Or better yet, "Get Me a Brain."

A permanent political class would be someone the likes of Democrat and former KKK member Robert Byrd (D-W. VA), who was in Congress for a freakish 56 years!

As for Palin, she is one remarkable person. As a former Democrat myself, I'm blown away by the way she stood up to corruption within her own party, and then took on arrogant Big Oil.

I respect her 20 years experience as a CEO at the local and state government. Before that, she worked "real" jobs in the private sector, too. What's even better: she worked a small business with her husband.

And any woman who can work up until the day she gives birth and keep going, while also raising 5 kids, further earns my respect. As vicious as the liberals and establishment types have tried to take her down, I am amazed at her resiliency and guts. She can be the President of my country any day!

3 years ago
Posted by get a grip

Cubs&Sox I can see that you are thinking with your little brain.
Sarah Palin has NEVER been a CEO. She NEVER took on big oil other than to socialize it, but even she didn't do it, Gov. Murkowski did it, she just kept it going and jumped up the socialization in Alaska. And you still haven't addressed the bogus AGIA gasline that will never be built (even though she says it's started). She is a complete fraud and she can be YOUR president and you will be screwed because she is just all about her, she doesn't give a crap about you unless you send her money. Because MONEY is all she has ever been about.
And she NEVER worked in real jobs. Every job she & Todd had were failures.
And for YOUR information, I'm a Republican. She was a fraud the very first day I saw her on the national stage. She made me angry that she dared to compare herself to my pitbulls. She a fancy ass poodle that other dogs laugh at.

3 years ago
Posted by jkarov

I had over 20 relatives killed during the 1940's in Germany in various concentration camps.

You are absolutely delusional to think that this "comparison" to Jewish people or our history as a race, or our faith , or our identity has any relevance to Ms Palin.

To add to the breathtaking irony, Palin happens to adhere to a religous tradition that damns all Jews and other "heathen" to a fiery hellish place if we don't come around and obey their exact interpretation of the new testament.

I've read few things that are more short sighted, horrifically repulsive, and maddening than Mr Pollak's comment comparing Palin's reality-show life to the pathos and suffering of the Jews over these many thousands of years.

3 years ago
Posted by JKTN

@Get a Grip,

Apparently you so are full of hate and misinformation about Sarah Palin that you're not open to reason.

Anyway, Sarah Palin’s successful efforts to stop the cronyism and reform the energy business in Alaska were so impressive Kay Cashman, the publisher and executive editor of Petroleum News, wrote the book entitled: “Sarah Takes On Big Oil” .
This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the leadership Sarah Palin has exhibited in the area of reforming government and industry.

Sarah Palin has a history of being a reformer and taking on powerful interests for the benefit of ordinary people.

3 years ago
Posted by Southern Fried Yankee

Why does an actor's ability to imitate someone provide evidence "that the person they are making fun of, is dumb"?

I don't think that doing skits well makes Tina Fay competent to critique someone politically. That's no different than making fun of a person who looks different to "put them down" and to make yourself feel better.

Somehow I just don't see that saturday night live has any word of authority to offer here, other than that 95% of the actors and producers vote Democrat each election.

(For perspective, consider that Abraham Lincoln was ridiculed in newspaper cartoons of the day as looking like a gorilla or having the mental capacity of a gorilla).

Was the perception presented then, the reality?

Sarah was a popular governor of one of our biggest states in the United States. Seems to me that that state is bigger than Massachusettes, a lot to govern.

Frivilous lawsuits were filed against her by democrat party hacks, and were dropped eventually, after producing no evidence to support lying faleshoods against her.

The lawsuits were designed to hurt her the most, during the time she was campaigning. Isn't that what it is all about?

Palin has stood for Tea Party principles as governor of Alaska. (see her recent movie) She is anything BUT incompetent. She addressed corruption in the Alasken Republican establishment LONG BEFORE the current Tea Party movement exploded in Spring of 2010.

(For those who have just woken up like Sleeping Beauty, Tea Parties formed out of random US citizens @ 4 months after Obama began issuing his poorly thought out kingly edicts on the American people).

So, effectively Sarah was "Tea Party" years before April 2010 when the term became moderately fashionable.

Don't rule this family out. Her story is not over.

3 years ago
Posted by Carl Lambrecht

Many Christians support Jewish issues more than some Jews.

3 years ago
Posted by wodiej

Posted by jkarov -I pray that God will heal your heart of the hate and bitterness you feel from the atrocities your ancestors have endured. Gov. Sarah Palin is your FRIEND, NOT YOUR ENEMY. Regardless of her own personal beliefs, she welcomes all into the fold as Jesus did. And Gov. Palin's life is only comparative to a reality show in that the media and ignorant of the country have deemed it because they fear her virtuous and peaceful spirit.

3 years ago
Posted by scarlet/oregon

OMG Are you completely nuts or just in need of fueling the fires of this Dominionist narcissist?

There are such important issues surrounding America today that I'm sorry your intelligence is wasted on a 'Reality Show' wanna-be woman who consistently tears down our President and Country.

Shame on you for insulting the Jewish community!!

3 years ago
Posted by soccer

Sadly, Sarah has been painted into a corner. Her Sly Stone "I love everyday people" mantra is being overshadowed by so many other Republican candidates who are as inarticulate, inaccurate and insincere as her. Though I laud her good works on the Wasilla city council I fear her plunging ultraconservative-of-the-month Republican popularity will force her to take her 50 million dollars in swag back home to Alaska. Luckily her dimissive attitude to any kind of sophistication in thought, word or deed will comtinue to ring out on Fox News.
Now, how about the two Rick's, aren't they the dickens??

3 years ago
Posted by KatieAnnieOakly

So - the gist is that people should vote for Palin because she is a victim of the haters and lamestream media? And this makes sense to (some) people?


3 years ago
Posted by rainynight

Sir, you will be in trouble now! Liberals hate Jews (they love the anti-Israel Obama and his Jew-hating pastor Rev Wright), but pretend to be the greatest defenders of the Jews! Get ready, the loonies will unleash on you bigtime!

Normal, decent, intelligent people understand what you are saying, unfortunately the wemusthate bunch on the left will not even try to get it! You are in big trouble Sir!

Evangelicals want for Israel to prosper, while Obama and Rev Wright and liberals support the muslims and Palestinians who want Isreal to be wiped off the face of the earth. Yet liberals will tell you that it is Evangelicals that are bad for Isreal, who can understand the irrational liberal mind!

Good luck Sir!

3 years ago
Posted by barryg

To my left wing Liberal Jewish brethren who are posting nonsense about Sarah Palin, especially jkarov, I too lost family in the Holocaust from Ludz Poland and you have a nerve sir to comment against Sarah Palin and not against the born Muslim Barrack Hussein Obama who sides with the enemies of the Jews. How dare you? The problem with Liberal Jews is they pray at the alter of their political faith over and above the God of Israel, that is what binds the left wing Liberal Jews to the enemies of the state of Israel and the Jewish community. To those who claim some animosity to Zionism, mostly leftwingers, that term is nothing more than a cover for your true Antisemitism and hatred of the Jews. Liberal Jews wake up now before our enemies finish the job, they have their puppet in the White House, stop voting against yourselves and stop lying about Sarah Palin, especially getagrip, Alaska has a Constitution that gives ownership of their natural resources to the people of the state, you would not understand that because you are too ignorant to seek the truth. Sarah stopped big oil from stealing what was rightly the property of the people under that states Constitution unlike every other state in the US. Palin was the CEO of Alaska just like any CEO of any major Corp, she was also vulnerable to ethics complaints personally under Alaskan laws and she was forced to resign or claim BK, the latter would leave Alaska a mess. She did the Patriotic thing in handing over the Governorship to Parnell. Stop trying to ruin a truly GREAT AMERICAN WOMAN.

3 years ago
Posted by barryg

@RAINYNIGHT Not all of us Jews are ignorant, the reason for the Liberal disease is that those Jews don't put God above political religion, I used to be a Dem but changed once I realized something changed, the party is now run by the Soros Progressives and they are preaching violent occupation of the power structure and the elimination of the free vote. This is happening, the DOJ is also supporting radical measures to aid voter fraud by not prosecuting illegal left wing activity evidence the New Black Panther case. Again, many Jews are appreciative of the Sarah Palins out there and love you and those like her for it. Thank you, BarryG.

2 years ago
Posted by norf4

G-d bless you Barry G. For so long I have felt like Moses leading the faithful through the desert! At least now with youngbloods like Joel Pollak and defenders of patriotic and G-d fearing politicians like Sara (and others) there is hope for the future.

As for the Pseudo-jews like Scarlet, "soccer" and others who place their faith in flawed men and women like BHO and Jan Schakowsky; all I can say is go ahead, take another sip of that grape kool aid you've been drinking since 1988! If watching the disrespect of not only BeBe Netanyahu, but Israel itself by current occupant of the Oval Office has not been enough to remove the blinders from your eyes, then perhaps you truly are a fool. This man has alienated our country from the western-thinking arab world, he has embraced the Muslim brotherhood, and stirred the embers of the islamists throughout the world to unite against not only Israel but the U.S. and Europe. They see him, our allies and our nation as weak, and when an aggressor sees you as such, they often make their move.

The Jewish people are more divided today than in anytime in my 50 years on this planet; and historically, it is in such times our enemies set out to destroy us. Look no farther than the man you Pseudo-jews helped place in the Oval Office 3 years ago to understand why the world is uniting against Israel. Look no farther than our people's biblical history to know what the result always ends up being. But before that happens, millions will die because of the false hope placed in failed men such as BHO. You have no one to thank but yourselves for what is quickly approaching.

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