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A majority of American Jewish voters had deserted Jimmy Carter in 1980, leading to speculation that the Jewish community perhaps was moving away from its longtime loyalty to the Democratic party and rendering obsolete Milton Himmelfarb's famous observation that "Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans."
The 1980 presidential election, like the Nixon-McGovern matchup eight years earlier, offered a clear choice between a Republican candidate who was unambiguous in his support of Israel and a Democrat whose record was something less than sterling. Only this time, the pro-Israel candidate was the challenger, former California governor Ronald Reagan, while the more problematic candidate was the incumbent, James Earl Carter.
Although it played out more than two years after the fact, the 1976 presidential campaign was overshadowed by the Watergate scandal, with voters still angry over President Gerald Ford's pardon of his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency to escape impeachment.
We left off last week in the midst of the 1972 presidential campaign, one of the more interesting in terms of Jewish voting behavior. On one hand you had the incumbent, Republican Richard Nixon, whose relationship with Israel during his first term was quite solid; on the other you had his Democratic challenger, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, a leading dove on Vietnam with a not especially inspiring record on Israel.
There never was much doubt that Jews would vote in large numbers for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964 - a year when even many moderate members of his own party were high-tailing it away from the GOP's outspokenly conservative standard bearer.
The presidential election of 1928 is seen by most political historians as something of a demarcation line in the history of Jewish voting loyalties. It was in that election that the Democrats first began polling landslide numbers among American Jews, as New York governor Al Smith, a Roman Catholic of immigrant stock (whose campaign manager happened to be Jewish) captured 72 percent of the Jewish vote.
Why are Jews still wedded to the Democratic party, years after it stopped making any economic or political sense for them to remain in the marriage? It's a question one hears often from bewildered non-Jews and Republican Jews (Democratic Jews - i.e. the vast majority of American Jews - seem oblivious to the question, let alone any possible answer).
The front page story in last week's Jewish Press ("Israelis Sing Bush's Praises") - coming as it did almost simultaneously with the release of a Gallup poll that, on the surface at least, seemed to dash any Republican hopes that American Jews might be warming to the GOP - inspired a batch of letters and e-mails from obviously intelligent readers who just don't get it.
A few items of interest as the Monitor catches up after a break from the regular routine: Reporting on the defeat of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in an Aug. 20 Democratic primary, the Prince of Palestine, aka Peter Jennings, once again exhibited his bias and unreliability on all matters pertaining to Israel.
The responses are finally slowing to a trickle, but the columns on Israel's friends in the media certainly elicited plenty of feedback from readers. Here's a sampling, followed by the Monitor's very own Media Friends Top Ten list (as distinguished from the earlier two lists which reflected the votes of readers).
The responses are still coming in to last week's Top 25 (alphabetical order) listing of "Media Friends" of Israel as nominated by the Monitor's faithful readers. Most of you who've e-mailed or faxed your reactions agree with most or all of the names, though a number of readers were livid over the appearance on the list of long-time radio host Bob Grant (see this week's Letters to the Editor section for a taste of their wrath).
A hundred and thirty four. As in 134. Not submissions - those numbered close to a thousand (951 when we stopped the count, with more still coming) - but names. It quickly became obvious that the Monitor had some serious whittling down to do if this Media Friends List was going to work at all.
This week the Monitor concludes its extended look at the anti-Israel proclivities of "60 Minutes" stalwart Mike Wallace. As we've noted in our earlier installments, Wallace has always displayed a palpable ambivalence - some would say that's too charitable a word - when dealing with Jewish issues, never more so than when he downplayed the plight of Soviet Jewry in the 1980's and Syrian Jewry in the 1970's.
"You and your friends won't like what you'll see on my program in a couple of weeks," Mike Wallace told an acquaintance in Jerusalem in November 1990, referring to a forthcoming "60 Minutes" report on the Temple Mount riot staged by Palestinians earlier that fall.
As the Monitor reported last month, veteran "60 Minutes" hatchet man Mike Wallace has, after a brief respite, resumed his familiar role as one of the media's most consistent Jewish critics of Israel. During a number of interviews in recent months Wallace seemed to go out of his way to inject an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian perspective into the conversation, most notably during a May 22 chat with Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.
For the best indication that President Bush's June 24 White House speech indeed amounted to what several Israeli officials described as the most pro-Israel statement ever made by a sitting U.S. president, one need look no further than the reactions it stirred in the American punditocracy.
The Monitor will return next week to the subject of veteran Israel-basher Mike Wallace. This week, though, with yet another horrific suicide bombing in Jerusalem, it seemed more relevant to focus on the fanatical hatred inculcated in Palestinian young people by their elders.