But Clinton would have defeated Bush and Dole even if each had sworn to immediately move the White House to Jerusalem, for the simple reason that, as we’ve seen in the course of this series, concern about Israel has never been the determining factor in how most Jews vote.
If it were the determining factor, Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1980 and 1984 would have received a far greater share of the Jewish vote than they did, and Clinton’s approval numbers among Jews at the end of his second term would have been appreciably lower than they were.
What made Clinton unique was that he did well, both in 1992 and 1996, with Orthodox Jewish voters, who in recent presidential elections had shown a proclivity for voting Republican due to their social conservatism and tendency to place the well-being of Israel at or near the top of their political agenda.
No doubt at least some of that Orthodox support was attributable to the above-mentioned lack of Jewish affinity for Bush and Dole. But the truth is that a not inconsiderable number of Orthodox Jews found themselves to be just as susceptible as their secular brethren to the fatal Clinton Mystique.
They were impressed when Clinton pledged, at an appearance in Brooklyn during the 1992 campaign, that if elected he would install a glatt kosher kitchen in the White House as soon as he moved in. (Needless to say, when Clinton left Washington eight years later the White House still had no kosher kitchen, glatt or otherwise.)
They chuckled when Clinton, also during that 1992 campaign, sought to simultaneously ingratiate himself with New Yorkers and puncture their cultural prejudices by telling radio host Don Imus that the nickname “Bubba” was simply Southern for mensch.
They liked the fact that he seemed to enjoy the company of Jews and appointed an unprecedented number of Jews to Cabinet and key administrative positions.
To their credit, though, large numbers of Orthodox Jews had begun to sour on Clinton by the middle of his second term, by which time it was no longer possible to pretend that his Mideast policies were not placing Israel in an increasingly untenable position.
Clinton’s apologists loved to bill him as “The Best Friend Israel Ever Had In The White House,” but it was Clinton who befriended Yasir Arafat like no previous American president, having him over to the White House more than any other foreign leader. It was Clinton who crassly intervened in Israeli elections, not once but twice – unsuccessfully in 1996 when he tried to help Shimon Peres defeat Benjamin Netanyahu, and then with better luck three years later when he actually dispatched political operatives to help engineer Ehud Barak’s victory over Netanyahu.
Throughout his presidency Clinton relentlessly pushed Israel to make concessions for the sake of the “peace process,” even as it became increasingly obvious that there was no real reciprocity on the other side.
And in perhaps the most disgusting display of moral equivalence ever attempted by an American president, Clinton, while on a visit to the West Bank, spoke in the same breath and sorrowful cadence of Israeli children orphaned by Palestinian terrorism – and Palestinian children whose terrorist fathers were either dead or in Israeli jails.