Tonight, at his “Divine Destiny” religious revival, Glenn Beck hosted right-wing Rabbi Daniel Lapin -- presumably as part of his effort to “restore honor.”
Lapin wasn't wearing a microphone (it's Shabbat), so we couldn't hear what he said tonight.
Nonetheless, there are a lot of interesting things about Lapin, whose “specialty” -- according to a June 25, 2005 Washington Post profile -- is “finding support in the Torah for what turns out to be the current Republican platform: lower taxes, decreased regulation, pro-traditional family policies.”
One of those interesting things is Lapin's relationship with Republican-lobbyist-turned-convicted-felon Jack Abramoff. According to a June 25, 2006, Post article (retrieved via Nexis):
E-mails show that Abramoff also moved client money through a conservative Jewish foundation called Toward Tradition, run by longtime Abramoff friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin. In January 2000, when Reed sent Abramoff an $867,000 invoice to be billed to a Choctaw official, Abramoff responded: “Ok, thanks. Please get me the groups we are using, since I want to give this to her all at once.” Reed responded: “Amy, Grover, Lapin and one other I will get you.”
Abramoff tapped the same cluster of tax-exempt groups in 2000 to help defeat legislation to ban gambling on the Internet. Abramoff's client, an online gambling services company called eLottery, donated money to ATR, the policy research center and Toward Tradition.
In May 2000, just before a key vote on the anti-gambling bill, the research center paid for the Scotland trip for then-House Majority Whip DeLay. Toward Tradition hired the wife of DeLay aide Tony C. Rudy, who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt public officials, saying his wife was paid in exchange for his official actions. Lapin has said his hiring of Lisa Rudy was not connected to any eLottery donations.
Just how close are Lapin and Abramoff? The 2005 Post profile reported, among other things, that Abramoff “credits Lapin with introducing him to” Tom DeLay:
Every few weeks or so Rabbi Daniel Lapin finds a reason to fly east from his home in Mercer Island, Wash., near Seattle, and spend a few days here. He might be leading a Bible study on the Hill, having dinner with his “close friend” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, breakfast with Karl Rove. Last year he came for a private Shabbat dinner with President Bush. “The president recognizes my enthusiasm for his faith,” says the rabbi.
Usually on these trips Lapin stays with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who is an old friend of the Lapin family and one of a small elite who share Lapin's very particular niche in Washington: a practicing Orthodox Jew who is a renegade among the city's Jewish establishment but moves comfortably among conservative Christians.
Abramoff is under investigation for allegedly defrauding his Indian casino-owning clients and for allegedly breaking lobbying laws. In a stack of e-mails released this week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, several scandal sidekicks made unexpected cameos. Among them were Daniel Lapin and his younger brother David, rabbis from South Africa who are heirs to a 200-year-old rabbinical dynasty and very updated ambitions.
They became close enough that Abramoff credits Lapin with introducing him to DeLay, the relationship that became Abramoff's most valuable and is now at the center of the lobbying scandal.
When Abramoff was nervous about being accepted to the tony old Cosmos Club in Washington, he turned to Lapin for help. Would it be possible, Abramoff asked in an e-mail released by Senate investigators this week, for Abramoff to claim that he'd received an award from Lapin's group, Toward Tradition, something like “Scholar of Talmudic Studies,” he suggests, or “Distinguished Biblical Scholar Award.”
“Yes,” Lapin answered, “I just need to know what needs to be produced. . . . letters? Plaques? Neither?” And then they signed off in the traditional Jewish greeting -- “Good Shabbos.”
“From my side it was tongue-in-cheek,” Lapin says, adding that he never produced the award.
Lapin became popular in conservative Christian circles in 1999, after he published “America's Real War,” a polemic along the lines of Pat Buchanan's famous culture wars speech at the 1992 Republican convention.
After he left Venice Beach, Daniel Lapin moved to Seattle -- “yachting is my religion, Judaism is my life,” he says. From there he founded Toward Tradition, a group “working to advance our nation toward the traditional Judeo-Christian values.” Abramoff is on the board, gave $10,000 to the group and helps deliver senators to its conferences, says Medved, who lives near Lapin in Seattle.
In an earlier set of e-mails, Abramoff calls his Indian clients “morons” and “monkeys.” For that, Daniel Lapin found the language to criticize his old friend, calling his insults “horrible, awful.” But he stops short of saying what Medved does, that as an Orthodox Jew Abramoff “disgraced the Torah.” Instead, he edges more toward pastoral forgiveness.
“Abramoff created an extremely effective ideological machine, and I think that bothered many people on the moderate side,” says Lapin. “Nobody claims Abramoff did anything different than anyone else. He's a friend of mine and I've seen him do many, many wonderful and decent things. My argument is that a human being is a very complicated amalgam. We've all done things we're not proud of.”
Then he said of Abramoff the same thing he's said about DeLay, and some of his other friends, in what must be his favorite metaphor:
“I think the world of him,” he said. “He's not a choirboy. But I wouldn't want to have beer with a choirboy.”