Should we worry about Sheldon Adelson?

The New York Times describes Sheldon Adelson as a poor boy who made himself rich, not especially attracted to Jewish affairs or Israel until middle age, now a major contributor to things Jewish, American, and Israeli.
His most recent prominence comes from $10 million contributed by he and his Israeli-born wife to the primary campaign of Newt Gingrich. The money was instrumental in the media campaign focused on Mitt Romney as vulture capitalist that helped Gingrich win big in South Carolina. It did not play so well in Florida, where Romney trounced Gingrich 46 percent to 32 percent. Gingrich did proportionately better in South Carolina (40 to 28 percent) but Florida is a more representative state.
Adelson''s most prominent Israeli footprint is Israel Today, a daily paper that he created in 2007 as a free giveaway, but with a serious crew of reporters and commentators. Friendly uniformed agents appear where people congregate, pass out the paper until their supply runs out, and then stay around for a while to "show the flag." Now one can pay for home delivery or go to a distribution point for a free copy. The style (closer to USA Today than Ha''aretz) and the price have made Israel Today the country''s most widely circulated daily.
Israel Today is also Adelson''s most prominent way of supporting Prime Minister Netanyahu. Reports are that Adelson does not know enough Hebrew to read front page headlines that emphasize stories that put the Prime Minister in a good light, and give less attention to what would embarrass him. According to the New York Times, supporting Netanyahu is Adelson''s way of resisting the establishment of a Palestinian state. Among the reasons for Adelson to support Gingrich is Gingrich''s assertion that the "Palestinians are an invented people," with no historic claim to a homeland.
I don''t recall Netanyahu making such a statement about the Palestinians. If he did, there would be Israelis to remind him that Jews also are an invented people, albeit with a pedigree a couple of millennia longer than Palestinians. The creation of Jewish nationhood is a topic of research among distinguished academics in Israel and elsewhere.
Adelson''s philanthropy is said to have reached the hundreds of millions of dollars. Among his projects is Birthright, a program that has so far brought a quarter million young Jewish adults from overseas to Israel for 10-day heritage visits. Other contributions have gone to drug treatment, medical research, and the care of injured veterans.
Adelson''s money is as green as any one''s, but the sources and his political preferences might not pass muster with folks who consider themselves genteel and politically correct. Hotels and casinos, especially in Las Vegas and Macao, along with a current federal investigation into charges of bribery, the size of his donations to conservative causes, and his boldness in skirting around the edges of campaign finance regulations in Israel and the United States may cause an itch among those nervous about the next edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Perhaps we are beyond those worries. There is an African-American family in the White House, and a Mormon front-runner for the Republican nomination. Old accusations about Mormon polygamy and not being true Christians may be out there in the weeds, but have not been prominent in the media. One of the former Mrs. Gingrichs failed to derail Newt''s campaign in conservative South Carolina. Neither Paula Jones nor Monica Lewinsky ruined Bill Clinton. There are 39 Jews in the 112th Congress, including five committee chairs and the House Majority Leader. Catholics and Mormons are also overrepresented in the present Congress in comparison with their proportions of the population, but less so than Jews. There are six Catholics, three Jews, and no Protestants on the Supreme Court. The Justices include one African-American, one Hispanic, and three women. While the United States has not elected a Catholic president since John Kennedy, John Kerry was Roman Catholic, and Michael Dukakis Greek Orthodox. A Roman Catholic woman and a Jewish man have been major party candidates for the vice presidency.
George Soros has wandered far to the left in his philanthropy, and can serve as a counterweight to any assessment of what Sheldon Adelson means for the nature of politics and Jewish money.
Jews, women, and gays have reached senior positions in the politics of Western Europe, where such matters have a lower profile than in the United States.
Perhaps it is time to rethink the hoary stereotypes, but it may be too early to bury them altogether. There is no shortage of anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and anti-feminine nastiness spilling out of the not so new Middle East. While it is tempting to dismiss that as uncivilized babble, any tendency toward optimism about a new world of tolerating the unconventional must undergo a longer period of testing.