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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Monitor’

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part XI)

Wednesday, January 1st, 2003

There is every reason to believe that had Bill Clinton been on the ballot in the 2000 presidential election, American Jews would have voted in overwhelming numbers to return him to office for a third term.

With the possible exception of Orthodox voters, who exhibited, as the Clinton era drew to its merciful close, an increasing dislike and distrust of the administration’s Middle East policies, Jews were supportive of Clinton in a way they hadn’t been of any American president since they paid collective and shameful obeisance to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the thirties and forties.

To be sure, Clinton had his share of Orthodox supporters right through the end – including one prominent rabbi who appeared on the cover of The Jerusalem Report kvelling like a bar mitzvah boy in Clinton’s embrace and who, even after Clinton left office in disgrace over his pardons of Marc Rich and other persons of dubious repute, continued to try to kasher him in such very public venues as the Letters page of The New York Times.

But it was precisely because Orthodox Jews are generally more hawkish on Israel than the American Jewish community as a whole – indeed, the aforementioned Orthodox rabbi who enjoyed such a close union with Clinton was described by The Jerusalem Report as a “Democratic party activist” and “more dovish on Israeli politics than many Orthodox Jews” – that they were far more likely to sour on Clinton than other Jews.

For most American Jews, however, the Clinton approach to the Middle East was just fine by them. In fact, well before the Oslo accords and the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn that was supposed to herald a new age of peace between Arabs and Israelis, public opinion surveys had consistently shown a large majority of American Jews supporting negotiations with the PLO and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Given that reality, the Democratic candidate for president in 2000, Clinton’s faithful vice president Al Gore, was certain to win the Jewish vote by the overwhelming margin to which Democrats had long become accustomed.

Even if Gore felt any misgivings about the way events were transpiring in the Middle East – and there is not the slightest indication that he did – he and his advisers were well aware that there was no political gain to be had from separating himself from the Clinton administration’s Middle East policy. Not when he was certain to receive at least two-thirds and probably more of the Jewish vote no matter what.

Sure enough, candidate Gore gave every indication that he intended to follow the Clinton approach of making nice to Yasir Arafat while ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s failure to abide by virtually every promise it had made at Oslo and afterward.

And since the 2000 campaign was conducted for the most part before the scales began falling off even the most liberal of eyes (Arafat launched Intifada II in late September of that year, just weeks before the election), the policy pursued by Clinton and endorsed by Gore was still viewed by the nation’s chattering class – whose opinions most Jews faithfully echo – as the enlightened way to go.

If there had been even the slimmest of chances that Gore’s Republican opponent, Texas Governor George W. Bush, could somehow capture more than a sliver of the Jewish vote, it was dashed to pieces when Gore, on the eve of the Democratic convention, chose Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, as his running mate.

The excitement of seeing a Jew on a major party’s presidential ticket – of seeing a Jew with a realistic chance of being a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States – swept through the Jewish community, causing even Jewish Republicans to reconsider their intentions.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Jason Maoz

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part X)

Wednesday, December 25th, 2002
Jewish voters gave Bill Clinton 78 percent of their votes in 1992 and again in 1996 – at the time the best showing by a presidential candidate among Jews since Hubert Humphrey won 81 percent of the Jewish vote in 1968 – and their love for Clinton never dimmed during the course of his tumultuous presidency.It helped, of course, that the two Republicans against whom it was Clinton’s great fortune to run – President Bush Senior in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996 – were, in addition to being miserable campaigners, not viewed by Jews in a particularly sympathetic light.

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.

(Continued Next Week)Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Jason Maoz

Bush, Jews And Democrats (Part IX)

Wednesday, December 18th, 2002

The 1988 presidential election – unlike those of, say, 1972 and 1980 – was notable for its lack of sharp differentiation between the Republican and Democratic nominees on the issue of Israel and the Middle East.

For one thing, this was the first election since 1968 without an incumbent, so neither the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, nor his Republican counterpart, vice president George Bush, had a record on which to run.

True, Bush had just spent eight years as second in command in an administration considered extremely friendly toward Israel, but any anecdotal evidence that leaked out during that period was not of the type to inspire confidence in him as someone with an instinctive appreciation of, and sensitivity to, the Jewish state. On Israel, as on much else, it was widely felt that Bush was no Reagan.

But Dukakis, who until he decided to run for president had given not the slightest indication that he’d ever entertained a single thought about foreign policy, also was far from reassuring to the pro-Israel community. His speeches to Jewish groups raised more questions than they answered, and he seemed to view the world through the eyes of an unreconstructed McGovernite.

Dukakis, in sum, gave every impression that as president he’d be distrustful of American military power and even more fearful of using it. Not a good sign to Jews who had come to appreciate that the anti-military isolationism that defined the Democratic party in the 1970’s and 1980’s was far from being in the best interests of either the U.S. or Israel.

As we’ve seen in earlier chapters in this series, it’s rare for an appreciable number of American Jews to vote for a Republican presidential candidate even when the Republican is clearly more sympathetic to Israel than his Democratic opponent. It therefore came as no surprise that the returns on election night showed Bush being shellacked by Dukakis among Jewish voters, 73 percent to 27 percent, at the same time that he was easily defeating Dukakis in the country at large, 53.4 percent to 45.6 percent.

Amazingly, Bush over the next four years would find a way to squander much of his measly 1988 Jewish support. By the time the 1992 presidential campaign got under way, Bush, who along with his secretary of state, James Baker, appeared to develop a bad case of gas at the mere mention of the word “Israel,” had become hopelessly unpopular even with Jews normally not averse to voting Republican.

In fact, not since the Eisenhower years had relations between the U.S. and Israel been so lukewarm, and while Bush’s record on Israel was not as grim as some sought to portray it – the administration did succeed in getting the UN to rescind its infamous 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism – the close relationship and good feelings of the Reagan era were already distant memories.

Given the intense disappointment with Bush among supporters of Israel, it was hard to believe that it was just twelve years since Ronald Reagan won nearly four Jewish votes in 10 – a showing that triggered talk of widespread Jewish defections to Republican ranks – or four years since Bush himself had won 27 percent of the Jewish vote, a figure that now actually seemed quite large in light of Bush’s severely diminished standing in the Jewish community.

As it turned out, Bush lost almost half his Jewish support during his term in office, managing to hold on to just 15 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992. His Democratic challenger, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, won the backing of 78 percent of Jewish voters and Ross Perot, the loony billionaire third-party candidate, picked up the remaining 7 percent of the Jewish vote. Overall the numbers read: Clinton 43.3 percent, Bush 37.7 percent, Perot 19 percent .

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Jason Maoz

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

Jason Maoz

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

Jason Maoz

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

Jason Maoz

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

Jason Maoz

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