“Spengler”: Jewish donors outraged by 0bama

I generally advise caution about Israel National News (the online arm of the stridently pro-settler Arutz Sheva [“Channel Seven”] radio station), but the person being interviewed by Gil Ronen makes me sit up and take notice. David Goldman, a senior banking figure in real life, had a secret online life as the mysterious columnist “Spengler” in the Asia Times until he outed himself. He is currently the online editor of First Things magazine. The interview is an absolute must-read.

If senior journalist David Goldman is right, the correct word for describing the way a growing number of US Jews feel about President Barack Obama is not ‘anger’ but ‘rage’ – white-hot rage, at that, and a conviction that they have been swindled.[…] In his lecture [at Judea and Samaria College in Ariel], he quoted a top Jewish campaign donor who used the word ‘sociopath’ to describe Obama. In an interview with Israel National News, he predicted a possibly dramatic ‘train wreck’ for the Democrats in the November mid-term elections, with Jewish fundraising for Democrats drying up and a possibly high turnout of anti-Obama evangelical Christians.

INN: The recent McLaughlin group poll shows US Jewish support of Obama at about half its level in the 2008 election. Is this an accurate reflection of the mood among US Jews?

DG: When the American Jewish Committee conducted its annual poll of American Jewish opinion in February, just before Obama provoked the diplomatic crisis [over construction at Ramat Shlomo], 55% of respondents approved of Obama’s handling of relations with Israel, slightly less than the 57% that approved of the Netanyahu government. American Jews were under the mistaken impression that Washington and Jerusalem were on the same track. But 61% opposed any compromise on Jerusalem, while 75% agreed with the statement, “The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.” Support for Obama, in short, was a mile wide and an inch deep before he provoked the diplomatic crisis with Israel.

The outrage among Obama’s erstwhile Jewish supporters, reflected daily in Marty Peretz’s ‘The Spine’ blog at the New Republic, is heightened by the sense of wounded self-esteem felt by clever people who have just been swindled. I have spoken privately to several large Jewish contributors to Democratic campaigns who express a sense of outrage that I never have heard before. Jewish contributors to Democratic campaigns are selectively funding Republicans, for example Mark Kirk in Illinois, who is running for Obama’s Senate seat, as a warning. Democratic Congressmen trying to defend Obama have been booed off the dais of meetings at traditionally liberal Reform synagogues in several parts of the country. If the train wreck proceeds as program[m]ed, the change in attitude within the American Jewish community could be dramatic. [Emphasis mine – Ed.]

This also is reflected in the harsh tone with which centrist liberal Jews have criticized Obama–for example Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, Alan Dershowitz, and former New York Mayor Ed Koch.

INN: In the conference at Ariel you quoted contributors who used the word “sociopath.” Is this actually the word they used? What makes Obama’s broken promises different from the campaign double-talk we are used to from politicians?

DG: The actual phrase I heard from one important player in Jewish Democratic circles was, “Sociopath is too nice a word to describe Obama.” That was a Kiddush [festive synagogue event] conversation, so no names, of course. The difference is the magnitude and depth of the deception. In July 2008, the press was full of reports of Obama’s anti-Israel connections, including the fact that his foreign policy advisor in his Senate office was the odious Samantha Power – who proposed international military intervention to end the ‘Israeli occupation’ – as well as Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was an official campaign spokesman, along with many others.

Obama gave assurances to the Jewish community which were so persuasive that Martin Peretz announced in his ‘Spine’ blog that Obama could be trusted. Brzezinski and Power were shown the door (Power after she made inappropriate remarks about Hillary Clinton) and the Jewish community was satisfied that Obama was as reliable as, say, Bill Clinton. Obama has extraordinary gifts of persuasion, and has been profligate about employing them. He persuaded some very wealthy and sophisticated people that he was on their side, and then turned on them.

INN: Ed Koch has predicted the Democrats will suffer a ‘tsunami’ in November. If this scenario materializes, how much pressure would this create on Obama to change his Middle East policies?

DG: The President, not Congress, controls foreign policy. That said, politics is always a factor – but it is not the only factor.

Many observers are predicting a crushing defeat for the Democrats in November. Dick Morris, the former Clinton advisor and Fox News commentator, claims that the Republicans will take both Houses of Congress. The fact that Democratic fundraising among Jews will be a tough sell contributes to the problem, but is not a decisive factor; there are enough other reasons for the Democrats to lose, starting with high unemployment and the fact that Obama has failed to create any middle ground with the Republicans and is perceived as too far too the left to suit the national mood. Obama almost certainly has resigned himself to a bad interim election; his best play is to spend the next two years running against a ‘do-nothing’ Republican Congress in the hope of winning a second term in 2012.

If Obama attempts to impose a settlement on Israel prior to the November elections, it will give the Republicans a stick with which to hit him. American support for Israel is running at all-time highs, with 64% supporting Israel according to Gallup vs. 18% sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs. And if he forces a crisis in diplomatic relations with Israel, it will become a significant factor in 2012. Not only will Jewish fundraising dry up (with some going to Republicans), but evangelical Christian support for Israel may become a factor. The evangelicals are an amorphous movement without centralized leadership, and the big question regarding their weight in elections is turnout. If they are highly motivated by an issue close to their concerns – and Israel is such an issue – they can be an important factor. Evangelicals comprise roughly 28% of the electorate, and a big change in turnout could shift 2% to 3% of the national vote to the Republicans – probably a winning margin.

That is why many Democrats are warning Obama against pursuing a confrontational strategy with Israel. The degree of Obama’s ideological fervor in support of conciliating the Muslim world surprised the political world, as did the ferocity of his diplomatic approach to Israel. It is hard to avoid the conclusion – which I have long believed – that Obama has a profound personal commitment to reconciling America with the Muslim world which will override the usual political calculus. Given that he had a Muslim father and stepfather, was raised for four years in Indonesia, and has written with passion about his sympathy for the traditional identity of Indonesian Muslims, this is not surprising.

Obama’s personal impulses are in conflict with his evident political interests, and it is impossible to predict how things will work out. There are other considerations as well. American troops are supposed to start leaving Iraq in the summer, and the country well might explode. Iran will make progress towards acquiring nuclear weapons, and reinforce its presence in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and elsewhere. Obama’s policy in the region may blow up in his face in the advent of the November elections. He has some incentive to make Israel the scapegoat for this failure, by arguing that if only Israel were reasonable in dealing with the Palestinians, the US could win Muslim support in other parts of the region. This is entirely specious, in my view, but the probability is that Obama will stick to his guns.

Read the whole thing. Perhaps American Jews are waking up from the Kool-Aid after all. It is high time that 0bama gets reminded of Lincoln’s Iron Law: “You can fool some of the people all of the time; you can fool all of the people some of the time; but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Jewish Tea Parties coming?

Roger Simon comments on increasing Jewish disenchantment with 0bama:

They said it would never happen. They said it couldn’t be done. But Jews — who have cleaved to the Democratic Party with a ferocity unknown to man or Icelandic volcano since the signing of the Magna Carta or the inauguration of FDR, whichever came first — are slowly (inexorably?) beginning to drift away from Barack Obama.

According to a poll published this week by [McLaughlin] & Associates, 46 percent of Jewish voters would prefer someone else than Obama in the presidency, compared to 42 percent who would re-elect him. That’s only a meagre four percent separation, but that number is stunning considering Obama got 78 percent of the Jewish vote in November. That’s a difference of 32 percent between now and then. Has there been another voting block with that large a swing? There may have been, but I doubt it. Something is clearly going on here.

Now I understand these views are fluid and could switch back again. Habits are hard to change, longterm habits even more so. I’m sure the Democratic Party is banking on that. All loyal subjects come back in the end. But considering the Obama Administration continues to pressure Israel in such a mindless, almost primitive, manner, it’s not entirely unlikely that this swing will continue, even expand. As I wrote the other day, Obama’s attitude toward Israel and its leadership is excessively personal. Many Jews can see that. How could they not?

And it’s not just the President.

Obama’s Secretary of State is still bashing Israel in a way that makes little logical sense and seems fueled by personal animus (though in her case it may be against her husband, who was indeed a friend of Israel).[…]

The Congress (the majority Democrats, as we know) is worried about the Administration’s behavior. They’ve probably been reading this poll too and don’t want to be dragged down with their leader. And, yes, I imagine it’s likely the Administration will walk back on this at some point and make nice with the Israelis, possibly even with the reviled Netanyahu. But the “dye” has been cast. We have seen it. Some of it is indelible.

So regarding my headline, does this switch — big, little, permanent or not — mean that Jewish Tea Parties are coming? I’m not sure, but I will say this. When your mind opens one way, it opens other ways. That happened to me. When I became upset with the Democratic Party for its weakness on the War on Terror, I began to see that the Republicans had a point when it came to fiscal responsibility (not that they adhered to it.). The same process may be occurring here — or soon will be. A lot of intelligent American citizens are waking up right now. Don’t hold it against Jews that a lot of them have college educations, some from fancy institutions. That doesn’t completely blind you.

So maybe there will be Jewish Tea Parties. And if there are, you can count me in. I’ll even bring the borscht. I think I can still find my grandmother’s recipe.

There is, in fact, already a Jewish Tea Party group on Facebook. Make sure to check out the comments to Roger Simon’s article, which have some very interesting observations (including from “Yehudit”, which I presume is Judith/Yehudit Weiss of KesherTalk.) One observation that makes sense is that in 2012, Jews that cannot bring themselves to vote for a Republican might instead stay home if BHOzo is the Deemocrat candidate again.

Some American Jews finally waking up?

Jennifer Rubin passes along an Email from one of her readers, suggesting that at least some American Jews are waking up and seeing they have a problem on their hands with their kneejerk identification with the Democratic Party:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Jennifer adds:

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

Shmuel Rosner comments on polls of the general population (for a poll on American Jewish attitudes, see here) indicating that the old bipartisan consensus on US support for Israel is becoming a thing of the past:

[L]ook at the disparity that emerges when those results are sorted by party affiliation. While support for Israel vs. the Palestinians has climbed to a stratospheric 85 percent among Republicans, the comparable figure for Democrats is an anemic 48 percent. (It was 60 percent for independents.) And behind Israel’s “Top 5” favorability rating lies a gaping partisan rift: 80 percent of Republicans – but just 53 percent of Democrats – have positive feelings about the world’s only Jewish country.

Similarly, it is true that 333 US House members, a hefty bipartisan majority, endorsed the robustly pro-Israel Hoyer-Cantor letter to Clinton. But there were only seven Republicans who declined to sign the letter, compared with 91 Democrats – more than a third of the entire Democratic caucus. (Six Massachusetts Democrats were among the non-signers: John Olver, Richard Neal, John Tierney, Ed Markey, Michael Capuano, and Bill Delahunt.)

From Zogby International, meanwhile, comes still more proof of the widening gulf between the major parties on the subject of Israel. In a poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute last month, respondents were asked whether Obama should “steer a middle course” in the Middle East – code for not clearly supporting Israel. “There is a strong divide on this question,” Zogby reported, “with 73 percent of Democrats agreeing that the President should steer a middle course while only 24 percent of Republicans hold the same opinion.”

Where is Israel in all this?  A politically very well-connected Israeli told me last week that he was worried about Israel becoming a Republican pet cause — not because he has anything against the GOP (I would classify my friend’s views as fiscally conservative but socially libertarian) but because Israel cannot afford to put all its eggs in one basket. He thinks Israeli politicians are wise to steer clear of becoming overly identified with one of the major parties, and particularly to avoid even the appearance of involvement in US domestic politics.