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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Monitor’

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part VIII)

Wednesday, December 11th, 2002

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.”

But Jews would flock home to the Democratic party in 1984, preferring the Democratic candidate, Walter Mondale, to the incumbent Republican president, Ronald Reagan, by a 69 percent to 31 percent margin.

The ’84 election was yet another indication that a Republican presidential candidate, whether an incumbent or a challenger and no matter how strong his record on Israel, will always lose among Jewish voters when the alternative is a liberal Democrat without any pronounced or well-known hostility to Israel.

Mondale, a protege of the late Hubert Humphrey, was a former senator from Minnesota who more recently had served as Carter’s vice president during the latter’s ineffectual one-term presidency. Jews were drawn to Mondale for a number of reasons – his Humphrey connection, his New Deal liberalism, and the simple fact that he wasn’t Reagan, to whom most American Jews never took a liking, despite a dramatic improvement in U.S-Israel relations since Mondale’s old boss had been thrown out of office.

Mondale had compiled a pro-Israel voting record while in the Senate, but there were questions raised during his tenure as vice president about the depth of his commitment. He never publicly criticized any of the Carter administration’s Mideast policies that American Jews found so troubling - and worse, seemed to share Carter’s instinctive need to blame Israel for all manner of wrongdoing.

According to Ezer Weizman and Moshe Dayan, both of whom authored accounts of their intimate involvement in Israel’s negotiations with Washington during the Carter years, Mondale was a thorn in the side of the Israelis.

Dayan was particularly scathing, describing one meeting at the White House with senior American officials, Carter and Mondale included, that amounted to a non-stop scolding of Israel. Carter berated Dayan and his fellow Israeli diplomats for being “more stubborn than the Arabs” and putting “obstacles on the path to peace.”

If anything, wrote Dayan, Mondale was worse than Carter: “Our talk lasted more than an hour and was most unpleasant. President Carter…and even more so Mondale, launched charge after charge against Israel.”

In fact, Dayan added, Mondale could barely restrain himself: “Whenever the president showed signs of calming down and holding an even-tempered dialogue, Mondale jumped in with fresh complaints which disrupted the talk.”

Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, was never shy about his affinity for Jews and Israel, which went back decades. The Nazi death-camp newsreels he viewed at the end of World War II had an especially profound effect. “From then on,” he stated on more than one occasion, “I was concerned for the Jewish people.”

In his memoirs Reagan declared, “I’ve believed many things in my life, but no conviction I’ve ever had has been stronger than my belief that the United States must ensure the survival of Israel.”

Under Reagan, U.S. aid to Israel, both economic and military, rose to new heights, as did strategic cooperation between the two countries. Despite a series of policy disagreements between the Reagan administration and the governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli journalists Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman summed up the Reagan years as the “Solid Gold Era.”

Once again, however, American Jews in 1984 (with the exception of several heavily Orthodox New York City neighborhoods) were above all else concerned with preserving abortion rights and keeping prayer out of public schools. Accordingly, seven out of 10 Jewish voters pulled the lever for Mondale, even as their fellow Americans were reelecting Reagan with landslide numbers, 59 percent to 40.6 percent, 49 states to 1.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part VII)

Wednesday, December 4th, 2002

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.

Carter had alienated many American Jews early on in his presidency by calling for a “Palestinian homeland” and engaging in a series of confrontations with Israeli leaders. Moshe Dayan, the legendary Israeli general who at the time was serving as Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s foreign minister, recalled a particularly unpleasant meeting with Carter in Washington.

Carter, Dayan would later write in a memoir of the period entitled Breakthrough, berated him for what he perceived to be Israel’s intransigence. “You are more stubborn than the Arabs, and you put obstacles on the path to peace,” Carter told the startled Dayan.

Carter’s animosity toward Israel was on full display during the Camp David negotiations in the fall of 1978. The president continually browbeat Begin while White House aides put out the word that the Israeli leader was the main stumbling block to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s noble quest for peace.

The Carter administration’s relationship with the American Jewish community probably reached its nadir several months prior to the 1980 election when the U.S. voted against Israel at the United Nations and Carter’s UN ambassador, Donald McHenry, clumsily tried to double-talk himself out of the ensuing controversy.

But as the presidential campaign heated up later that year, American Jews ? at least the vast majority for whom voting Democratic had become the closest thing in their lives to a religious act ? faced the dilemma of having to turn their backs on a Democratic president. However, the only viable alternative to Carter was Ronald Reagan, who was not just a Republican but a conservative Republican, which for most Jews in 1980 (and to a somewhat lesser extent today) was akin to an alien life form, an altogether different species.

There was a third choice that year, in the person of liberal Illinois Republican congressman John Anderson, who after a dismal showing in the Republican primaries saw fit to inflict himself on the electorate as a third-party candidate in the general election. But Anderson’s chances of winning were nil, so voting for him was widely understood to be something of a protest vote, a “neither of the above” judgment on Carter and Reagan.

For many Jews who ordinarily voted Democratic, Carter’s dismal performance as president ? and not just his perceived tilt against Israel – made the decision to vote for Reagan a little easier. So did the fact that Reagan was receiving support from some rather surprising sources, including the endorsement of former Democratic senator Eugene McCarthy, at one time a virtual icon of the 1960′s antiwar movement.

On Election Day Carter was repudiated by better than half the American Jewish electorate, garnering just 45 percent of their votes. Thirty-nine percent of the Jewish vote went to Reagan, just a drop less than the 40 percent that went to Eisenhower in 1956. John Anderson, as expected, did extremely well – better than 14 percent – among Jews who were sick of Carter but could not take the step of voting Republican.

Since leaving office, Carter has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies and a staunch advocate of Palestinian nationalism. Had he won a second term, there is little doubt the Jewish state would have suffered.

Shortly before the 1980 election, Cyrus Vance, who earlier that year had resigned as Carter’s secretary of state, confirmed to then-New York mayor Ed Koch that Carter, if reelected, would “sell out” the Jews. And according to investigative journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, Carter, at a March 1980 meeting with his senior political advisers, angrily snapped, “If I get back in, I’m going to f— the Jews.”

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part VI)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2002

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.

Ford’s Democratic challenger was Jimmy Carter, a previously little-known governor of Georgia who promised a scandal-weary nation “a government as good and as honest and as decent and as competent and as compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.”

As treacly as it sounds in retrospect, Carter’s mantra was perfect for the times, as was his much publicized “born again” religious experience and his repeated insistence to crowds along the campaign trail that he would never lie to them. In short, he was the anti-Nixon ? or so he and his aides would have had the country believe.

All was not freshness and light with the Carter campaign, however. A number of voices were raised during Carter’s long march to his party’s nomination and then the White House which, taken together, should have served as an early warning signal of problems to come:

* The respected Atlanta journalist Reg Murphy, who had closely followed Carter’s political career from its humble start, flatly declared that Carter was “one of the three or four phoniest men I ever met.”

* A young reporter named Steven Brill, who would go on to become a major media figure in the 1980′s and 90′s, wrote a detailed expose of Carter’s record in Georgia for Harper’s magazine. The title of the take-no-prisoners article? “Jimmy Carter’s Pathetic Lies.”

* Carter speechwriter Bob Shrum, who has since achieved no small measure of renown as a major Democratic strategist, quit the campaign in disgust over what he saw as Carter’s penchant for fudging the truth. (So much for the “I’ll never lie to you” pledge.)

Shrum also disclosed that Carter, convinced that the Jewish vote in the primaries would go to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, instructed his staff to henceforth ignore Middle East-related issues. According to Shrum, this was how Carter put it: “Jackson has all the Jews anyway….We get the Christians.”

By Election Day, Carter’s wide-eyed sanctimony had begun to wear thin with American voters. What had been an immense lead over Ford in the polls throughout the summer and early fall all but evaporated, and Carter ended up with just a two point margin in the popular vote, 50 percent to 48 percent. (Such was Ford’s momentum in the final week of the campaign that pollsters agreed he likely would have won had the election taken place a couple of days after it did.)

In contrast to their fellow Americans, the preference of Jewish voters was never in doubt. Even the relatively small percentage of Jews for whom Israel and Jewish issues were top priorities – and whose knees therefore didn’t automatically jerk for the Democrats – found it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for Ford, whose Mideast policy, crafted by Nixon holdover Henry Kissinger, was widely seen as reverting back to the even-handedness that had defined the U.S. stance from the late 1940′s to the early 1970′s.

Carter swept the Jewish vote by 71 to 27 percent – not quite the lopsided margin that had once been the norm for Democratic presidential candidates, but several points better than George McGovern’s showing four years earlier.

Carter rewarded his Jewish supporters just weeks after assuming office by becoming the first American president to call for a “homeland” for the Palestinians – this at a time when the PLO had not even gone through the motions of rejecting terrorism or abrogating its call for Israel’s destruction.

Carter’s pro-Palestinian statement set the tone for what would become an increasingly rocky relationship between his administration and the American Jewish community. For once, Jews were politically in sync with the rest of the country as Carter’s approval ratings plunged below those of Nixon’s at the height of Watergate.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part V)

Wednesday, November 20th, 2002

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.

Israeli leaders left no doubt about their preference; Prime Minister Golda Meir considered Nixon the friendliest U.S. president since the creation of Israel in 1948, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, the former IDF chief of staff and future prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, made it clear in public statements that his government was hoping for a Nixon victory.

None of that seemed to matter to the bulk of American Jewry. Certainly there were defections from Democratic ranks – an organization calling itself “Democrats for Nixon” was a predominantly Jewish affair, and several wealthy big-name Jewish contributors who normally gave to Democrats were this time around writing checks to the Nixon campaign – but most Jews still feared that pulling the Republican lever would cause their right hands to lose their cunning.

“Official” Jewry – that dizzying network of committees, councils, conferences and leagues staffed by liberal flunkies whose Holy Writ is the platform of the Democratic Party and whose daily spiritual sustenance comes from New York Times editorials – was represented in the McGovern campaign by Jewish liaison Richard Cohen, who after the election returned to his job as public relations director at the American Jewish Congress, and campaign director Frank Mankiewicz, a former employee of the Anti-Defamation League.

As in past elections, individual organizational leaders, such as Washington fixture Hyman Bookbinder, made no secret of their Democratic sympathies. Not surprisingly, Jewish celebrities were highly visible McGovern supporters: Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Alan King, Peter Falk and scores of other household names enthusiastically gave their time and money to the Democratic candidate.

As Stephen Isaacs described it in his 1974 book Jews and American Politics, “despite problems with affirmative action plans-cum-quotas, the ‘urban fever zone,’ scatter site housing, community control of schools, an inept Democratic presidential campaign – despite all these things and more – the Jewish bloc vote did hold up” for McGovern, who won the votes of 65 percent of American Jews – this while Nixon was crushing McGovern among the general electorate with a landslide of historic proportions.

Nixon defeated McGovern by a count of 60.7 percent to 37.5 percent, 49 states to 1; more tellingly as far as Jews were concerned, he won nearly 70 percent of the white vote.

Nixon did double his share of the Jewish vote from the paltry 17 percent he received four years earlier, but the startling fact remains that McGovern actually did better among Jews than Adlai Stevenson had in 1952 and 1956.

Given Nixon’s record on Israel and the plaudits of Israeli leaders, his moderate domestic agenda, and an unimpressive opponent with no strong ties to the Jewish community, the 1972 election was as clear a signal as any that it was a combination of old habits and a religious-like devotion to dogmatic liberalism that drove the majority of Jewish voters, not any primary concern for Israel or narrowly defined Jewish interests.

A year later, as the Yom Kippur War raged, Nixon went against the State and Defense Department bureaucracies and directed the massive military airlift to Israel that literally saved the Jewish state from near certain defeat. It should never be forgotten that had it been left up to two-thirds of American Jewish voters, the man sitting in the Oval Office during Israel’s time of unprecedented peril would have been President George McGovern.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part IV)

Wednesday, November 13th, 2002
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.Johnson, the incumbent who assumed office upon the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963, adroitly positioned himself as a man of the sensible center while Goldwater, disturbingly ambivalent about his own presidential ambitions and qualifications (“Doggone it, I’m not even sure I’ve got the brains to be president of the United States,” he told the Chicago Tribune), seemed to delight in saying whatever he felt would most disturb the liberal reporters covering his campaign.

Goldwater’s supporters thrilled to what they perceived to be their man’s unusually blunt and honest oratory, but the rest of the country was decidedly unimpressed. Johnson was returned to office with 61.1 percent of the popular vote.

Among Jews, the Democratic party’s most loyal group of voters, the results were even more one-sided as Johnson equaled Franklin Roosevelt in his heyday, pulling 90 percent of the Jewish vote to Goldwater’s 10 percent.

Republicans did somewhat better among Jews in 1968 when former vice president Richard Nixon, never a popular figure in the Jewish community, garnered 17 percent of the Jewish vote (actually a point down from the 18 percent he received when he ran against Kennedy in 1960).

This, too, was an easy election to predict in terms of Jewish preference, not simply because Nixon was Nixon, but more so because the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey – a classic cold war liberal whose type would become nearly extinct by the mid-1970′s – enjoyed an unusually close relationship with most of the leading organizational figures in American Jewish life.

Once again, Jews hardly reflected the thinking of the country at large, as Nixon (43.4 percent) squeezed out a victory over Humphrey (42.7 percent). George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, won 13.5 percent of the vote as a third-party candidate. (Jews gave Wallace 2 percent of their votes, a figure that, low as it was, still came as something of a surprise, considering what Wallace stood for.)

The 1972 presidential election proved to be one of the more interesting – and instructive – elections in terms of Jewish voting behavior. During his first four years in office, Nixon had compiled a generally solid record on Israel. U.S. policymakers began to take seriously Israel’s value as an American asset in the region, and military aid to Israel rose to unprecedented levels.

Israel’s prime minister at the time, Golda Meir, was an unabashed admirer of Nixon’s, and the Israeli ambassador in Washington, a former IDF chief of staff named Yitzhak Rabin, raised the hackles of liberal Jewish organizations when he all but endorsed Nixon for a second term.

Running against Nixon in ’72 was an extremely liberal senator from South Dakota named George McGovern, a leading “dove” on Vietnam and a man who had not exactly carved a name for himself as a defender of Israel. McGovern exemplified the type of guilt-driven, anti-defense liberalism that captured the Democratic party that year and would lead it to electoral disaster in four of the next five presidential elections.

(That this “Blame America First” liberalism, as Jeane Kirkpatrick memorably tagged it in the 1980′s, is still very much alive among Democrats – despite Bill Clinton’s alleged success at bringing them “back to the center” – can be seen in the almost visceral opposition to any military action against Iraq currently being voiced by many of the party’s elected officials, activists and rank and file members.)

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part III)

Wednesday, November 6th, 2002

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.

Despite his overwhelming Jewish support, and the equally strong backing of fellow Catholics, Smith carried only 8 states against Republican Herbert Hoover and failed to win his own home state of New York. (Jews throwing their support in large numbers to presidential candidates who were decidedly unpopular with the general electorate would become something of a political phenomenon in the 1970′s and 80′s, when the country as a whole shifted to the right.)

The trend of lopsided Jewish support for Democratic presidential candidates solidified four years later when another New York governor, Franklin Roosevelt, won the votes of better than 8 in 10 American Jews.

Roosevelt, whom Jews idolized more than any other politician before or since, went on to win 85 percent of the Jewish vote in 1936 and 90 percent in both 1940 and 1944.

Harry Truman was the next Democrat to benefit from Jewish party loyalty, though his share of the Jewish vote in 1948 slipped from the Rooseveltian 90 percent to a “mere” 75 percent, thanks to the third-party candidacy of Henry Wallace, whose left-wing campaign attracted those 15 percent of Jewish voters for whom Truman apparently was not liberal enough.

Whether Roosevelt or Truman was deserving of such Jewish support is a painful question that most Jews were reluctant even to ask until relatively recently. As the journalist Sidney Zion wrote several years ago, Roosevelt “refused to lift a finger to save [Jews] from Auschwitz…. Then, in 1948, the Jews helped elect Harry Truman, who recognized Israel but immediately embargoed arms to the Jewish state while knowing that the British had fully armed the Arabs.”

The Republican share of the Jewish vote – an embarrassing 10 percent in 1940, 1944 and 1948 ? improved significantly in the 1950′s as Dwight Eisenhower won the support of 36 percent of Jews in 1952 and 40 percent in 1956.

Eisenhower’s opponent in both elections was Adlai Stevenson, a one-term governor of Illinois whose persona of urbane intellectualism set a new standard for the type of candidate favored by Jewish liberals.

Actually, Stevenson was not at all what he seemed: his biographer, John Barlow Martin, conceded the fact that Adlai hardly ever cracked open a book, and the historian Michael Beschloss, in a New York Times op-ed piece (“How Well-Read Should a President Be?” June 11, 2000), noted that when Stevenson died, there was just one book found on his bedside table – The Social Register.

Fortunately for politicians, though, perception is at least as important as reality, and John Kennedy followed in Stevenson’s footsteps as a non-intellectual who, with the help of compliant reporters and academic acolytes like Arthur Schlesinger Jr., managed to come across as a Big Thinker – in marked contrast to his well-earned reputation as an intellectual lightweight that dogged him throughout his years in Congress.

Despite the fact that his books were ghost-written (the journalist Arthur Krock was in large measure responsible for Why England Slept, while Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen was the primary author of Profiles in Courage) and his choice of reading material ran mainly to spy novels, Kennedy like Stevenson benefited from the perception that he was made of sterner intellectual stuff.

This was particularly true when it came to Jewish voters, who gave Kennedy 82 percent of their votes in 1960 and continued to support him in similarly high numbers for the duration of his presidency.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part II)

Friday, November 1st, 2002

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 truth is, there is no singular answer. The most commonly heard explanation, one routinely offered up in “analysis” pieces by lazy journalists and High Holiday sermons by ignorant Reform rabbis, is that the liberalism espoused by the likes of a Teddy Kennedy or a Barbra Streisand comes straight from Jewish tradition - in other words, if Moses and King David and Maimonides were alive today, they’d all be dues-paying members of the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way and the National Organization for Women.

Such nonsense is belied by the fact that the more Orthodox a particular neighborhood or community, the more likely it is to vote for Republican candidates. Conversely, areas with a heavy concentration of secular and assimilated Jews vote almost without exception for liberal Democrats. If the explanation cited above held any water, the opposite would be true.

Another line of reasoning one encounters rather frequently is that Jews gravitated to the Democratic party because the party best served their interests. Since that answer is not nearly as off the wall as the fist, let’s take a little swing down memory lane and see what we can find.

Surprising though it may seem from our vantage point, the Jews who came to the U.S. prior to the great waves of immigration from Eastern Europe tended to look askance at the Democratic party, which was identified in the popular mind with Tammany-style political bossism, support for slavery, and an agrarian populism that often seemed indistinguishable from the rawest anti-Semitism.

That attitude changed with the arrival of the Eastern European Jews who crowded into the big cities at the turn of the century and quickly learned that their very livelihoods were dependent on the good will of those Tammany-like political machines, which were invariably Democratic and invariably corrupt.

Jobs and basic amenities were used as barter to purchase party loyalty, and bribery was the order of the day – the late New York senator Jacob Javits told the story of how his father loved Election Day because the saloon keepers would pay $2 (double a day’s wages at the time) to anyone who promised to vote Democratic.

Although the dominance of the big city bosses was an inescapable fact of life for the new Jewish immigrants, the pressure to vote the party line was felt most keenly in local elections. When it came to presidential politics, Jews were far less wary of voting their conscience.

In 1916, for example, Republican candidate Charles Evan Hughes received 45 percent of the Jewish vote, and four years later Republican Warren Harding actually won a plurality among Jews ? 43 percent as opposed to 19 percent for Democrat James Cox and 38 percent for Socialist Eugene V. Debs.

That last figure – nearly 4 in 10 Jews voting for the Socialist candidate – tells a story in itself, a story not to be ignored when seeking to understand Jewish voting habits. Many of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe came to America with a passionate belief in one form or another of socialism, and those Jews tended to vote for third party left-wing candidates when offered the choice. Though their candidates were, with the exception of some local races in immigrant neighborhoods, roundly unsuccessful, the Jewish socialists and communists left a seemingly indelible stamp on the collective political identity of American Jews.

Most Jews, though, whether out of political moderation or fear of wasting their vote on a long shot, cast their ballots for either Democrats or Republicans. And though the Republicans lost a significant number of votes in 1924 to the third party candidacy of Progressive Robert La Follette, it wasn’t until the election of 1928 that the relationship between Jews and the Democratic party became the inseparable bond that still exists nearly 75 years later.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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