Palin on Israel visit to meet with Netanyahu


Potential 2012 presidential contender Sarah Palin is scheduled to have dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her second and last day in Israel.

Palin will dine with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, on Monday before returning to the United States.

“As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel,” Palin said in a statement on her official SarahPAC website.

The Republican nominee for vice president in 2008 and the former governor of Alaska landed Sunday in Israel for what is being called a private visit. She was returning to the United States from a speech she delivered to a business group in India.

Several possible Republican candidates for the 2012 U.S. presidential election have visited Israel in recent weeks, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. All of them also met with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

On Sunday, Palin and her husband, Todd, took a tour of the Western Wall tunnels led by the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch. They were accompanied by Likud lawmaker Danny Danon.

Palin did not walk on the Western Wall plaza, so as not to disturb those reading from the Megillat Esther in observance of Purim in Jerusalem, Ynet reported.

For more on this story visit JewishJournal.com/keepingthefaith.

Palin to Obama: Hit reset button with Israel


Sarah Palin called on the Obama administration to hit the reset button with Israel.

In a statement critical of the Obama administration’s outreach to countries with which the United States has strained relations, the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor wrote, “In the midst of all this embracing of enemies, where does the Obama Administration choose to escalate a minor incident into a major diplomatic confrontation? With Iran, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea or Burma? No. With our treasured ally, Israel.”

Palin criticized Obama for making unilateral demands of Israel while not requiring Arab leaders to make equally demanding concessions for the sake of peace.

“Vice President Biden was actually right when he said last week, before the construction announcement, that ‘one necessary precondition for progress is that the rest of the world knows … there is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to security,’ ” she said. “Right now, thanks to the Obama Administration, there is a chasm. It’s time for President Obama to push the reset button on our relations with our ally Israel.”

Palin is one of many Republican leaders critical of the Obama administration’s tough talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following last week’s gaffe in which new construction in eastern Jerusalem was announced during Biden’s visit.

The spirit of Jonathan Swift, Rotbart should apologize


ALTTEXT

It Can’t Happen Here

I was shocked by Rob Eshman’s article wherein he found an unnamed organizer telling him that a coalition of blacks and Mormon leaders have begun laying the groundwork for a 2012 ballot initiative that would ban Jews from marrying Jews (“It Can’t Happen Here,” Nov. 14). I immediately went to my spiritualist, and he put me in contact with that great English satirist, Jonathan Swift, so I could get his opinion on the article and on Proposition 8.

As a Westside liberal Democrat and Barack Obama supporter who voted yes on [Prop.] 8, I needed assurance that my position was correct. Swift agreed with me that homosexuals should have all the contractual rights and obligations that heterosexuals get when they enter into a marriage contract. Swift also agreed with me that the word marriage should not be changed in its meaning and that some word should be found for homosexual contracts.

He also agreed that modifying the word marriage to include homosexuals, in fact, changes its meaning, thus giving confusion to the English language. It would be the same as if we eliminated either the word homosexual or heterosexual from English and applied only one of those words to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

I hope that Mr. Eshman, who is a journalist and words craftsman, agrees with my position.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Your very poor attempt at satire was the most appalling article to come out of this newspaper, particularly since you decided not to include the disclaimer in the printed copy of the paper. I suggest you grow up and take it on the chin.

Proposition 8 did not pass because the majority of Californians did not agree with it. Smearing other minority and religious groups is a shameful act that is not becoming of us Jews. I’m sure our Mormon and African American friends agree.

Dalia Moghavem
Los Angeles

By concocting a story about a black-Mormon coalition conspiring to ban Jews from marrying each other, Rob Eshman tries to scare the 8 percent of Jews — and 52 percent of Californians — who voted for Proposition 8 into changing their minds about gay marriage. With all the subtlety of an after-school special, he attempts to teach us a lesson in intolerance. The comparison, however, is ridiculous.

The op-ed piece’s anti-Jewish conspiracy fantasy — labeled as satire on The Journal’s Web site but, irresponsibly, not in the paper — does not lend legitimacy to the argument that homosexuals’ legal rights have been trampled upon by the passage of Proposition 8.

Those rights are secured by domestic partnership laws. For those against Proposition 8 because of church-state separation issues, then I’ll counter that gay marriage should never have been voted on and passed by the California Supreme Court. Once it was, the church-state line had already been crossed, and the people of California needed to be heard.

Through our democratic process, Californians have spoken. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. I guess if gay rights activists, the ACLU and Rob Eshman disagree, then democracy be damned.

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

In your Nov. 14 “It Can’t Happen Here” column, you failed to make an important point. If the proponents of an anti-Jewish marriage initiative want to outlaw Jews marrying Jews, should they not be condemned for failure to propose — using the same “logic” — that Mormons not be allowed to marry Mormons, blacks not be allowed to marry blacks, Christians not be allowed to marry Christians, etc., etc?

Do those advocates — using any degree of common sense — think their biased proposal can, under any circumstances, be constitutionally upheld?

Joseph Ellis
Woodland Hills

Your editorial, “It Can’t Happen Here,” mocked the passage of Proposition 8 and its ban on same-sex marriage by suggesting that one day Scripture might be used to ban Jews from marrying Jews.

However, the ban on same-sex marriage has nothing to do, necessarily, with either Scripture or equal rights. The demand for same-sex marriage, with its eligibility to adopt children, denies the biological reality of male-female differences and ignores children’s developmental needs, which same-sex marriages could never provide, no matter how loving the two dads or two moms might be.

It is bigoted to deny that men and women are different and that these differences are precisely what children need from their parents as role models and as sources of male and female nurturing. Yet, ironically, by rejecting the other gender as sexual partners, homosexuals validate these male-female biological and psychological differences.

No homosexual couple has ever, or could ever, produce a child, and only traditional male-female marriage reflects the undeniable, biological reality of male-female differences, with their necessary psychological consequences for children’s healthy development. Biology trumps social agendas, and adults’ desires are secondary to children’s needs.

Bob Kirk
via e-mail

The people of California have now spoken twice, and they’ve made it resoundingly clear that they don’t want gay marriage. The majority rules in this country.

Your protestations simply sound like sour grapes.

Charles Zucker
via e-mail

Correction
In “It Can’t Happen Here” Rob Eshman erroneously stated that the Mormon Church gave $22 million in support of Prop. 8. That number is an estimate of the amount members of the Church donated to Prop. 8 at the urging of the Church. Also, the column was satirical, or, rather, was an attempt at satire.

Political Apology

As an open-minded Jew and Green Party member, I would like to apologize to other open-minded Democrat and Green Party Jews for Dean Rotbart’s fear-mongering and hate-inspired article (“I Apologize for the Jewish Vote for Obama,” Nov. 14).

Rotbart needs to realize that the Jews of today are not the scared and uninformed Jews of the past. Jews of today use the Internet, communicate with all religions, including Muslims, and still manage to love Israel and care for other Jews.

Saying that Jews in America do not care about Israel because of an Obama vote is ridiculous. More Jews chose to vote for Barack Obama because he is against the war in Iraq, wants to help the poor and middle class and is far more intelligent than both John McCain and Sarah Palin combined.

Rotbart wants us to feel guilt, regret and fear; the very emotions that the conservative party and our past presidential party have been trying to make us feel for years now. I’m happy to say that we voted for change, and the days of Jews being stuck in an uninformed past are over.

Rotbart, kindly leave your racist views out of The Jewish Journal!

Rob Joseph
Los Angeles

I want to let Dean Rotbart know that he should not include me in his apology to the most reactionary forces in America for my proud vote for President-elect Barack Obama.

Those of us who voted for Obama are actually following a political philosophy that has been a central part of Jewish life in America. Jewish immigrants started many of the labor unions in this country; they supported the civil rights movement and social programs to help the poor.

Mark Elinson
Los Angeles

As one of the nearly eight out of 10 Jews who voted for Barack Obama on Nov. 4, I strongly reject Dean Rotbart’s apology on my behalf. I voted with hope, pride and confidence for a candidate who represents the best in what America is and what America can become.

How dare Rotbart reduce my vote to political correctness and voting for the feel-good candidate.

While The Jewish Journal can and should print the opinions representing a range of views, I would urge The Journal to stop short of providing space, and thereby legitimizing, this type of hateful speech.

Ronni Hendel-Giller
Los Angeles

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and gave demagogic credence to the poisonous venom that spews like raw sewage from the convoluted minds and mouths of conservative television and radio hosts.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and embraced hatred, bigotry and fear, while eschewing the traditional Judaic values of love, acceptance and hope.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and want the continuation of the war in Iraq, a war that has left Israel with more enemies and fewer choices and options to chose from.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and abandoned the majority of non-Jews who elected a president that carefully addresses the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio and seeks to end the Wild West shootout that has become the Republican substitute for thoughtful diplomacy.

And finally, I apologize for Rotbart and his ideological cousins at the RJC, who believe that in Orwellian doublespeak, a fact is an epithet and a falsehood is the truth.

Marc Rogers
Sherman Oaks

I have never written a letter in response to an opinion piece before, but I was so troubled by what you wrote, I felt compelled to respond.

Your assertion that those of us who voted for Barack Obama don’t have good sense or the intellectual maturity is condescending and elitist. Your fear of Obama is nothing more than Republican talking points that I have heard bellowed from every host of a FOX News show. Get a new narrative — this one clearly didn’t work.

Your veiled comparison of Obama to Hitler was the last straw. Obama is not even president yet, and the reason why we are “teetering perilously on the brink of catastrophe” is because of President Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other neocons that John McCain embraced in his campaign.

I hope in the weeks and months to come, your ears will hear what we hear (an intelligent, pragmatic voice in the White House) and your eyes will see what we see ( a world standing with the United States again). Instead of publicly apologizing for the 78 percent of Jews that did see past the fear-mongering, angry rhetoric and lies, you should be thanking us.

Debby Pearlman
via e-mail

Dean Rotbart’s opinion piece, in which he apologizes to Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin for the Jewish vote for Barack Obama, was wildly off the mark and remarkably offensive.

Rotbart and others who share his view need to take a close look at themselves in the mirror. Do they want to continue supporting people like Ann Coulter, who said that Jews need to be “perfected,” and Sean Hannity, who invited Andy Martin, an anti-Semite, as a guest on his show?

While I do not believe Rotbart to be an anti-Semite, nor do I believe that Rotbart thinks that Jews need to be perfected, I do know that the 78 percent of Jewish voters who, according to exit polling, chose the Obama-Biden ticket have no need to apologize.

You do deserve an apology for Rotbart’s use of “the gathering clouds of Holocaust II” and his outright statement that the “nuclear holocaust won” in this election.

Rotbart does need to write an apology letter; he just addressed it to the wrong people.

Marc R. Stanley
Chairman, National Jewish Democratic Council,
Dallas

I guess Dean Rotbart would have voted for President Bush again if he had had the choice. Talk about hubris. No wonder his insulting viewpoint is considered, if one counts the votes, flawed by the vast majority of the Jewish voters and clearly shortsighted.

Israel needs not only a committed ally in the United States but also a competent ally if it is to achieve all of its goals. Most American Jews seem to agree that what benefits Israel most is a strong and internationally respected America.

Norman Schulman
Beverly Hills

I just read Dean Rotbart’s brilliant tongue-in-cheek apology for the Jewish vote for Barack Obama. The tip-off, of course, was his naming of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Mike Gallagher as deserving of an apology.

These talking heads — with Rush Limbaugh — have committed one of the worst of Jewish sins, i.e., malicious gossip. Rotbart even repeats some of them in his positive take on guilt by association and fear-mongering.

Unfortunately, as Rotbart points out, there are about 22 percent of Jewish voters who will look upon his opinion piece as being serious, which supports President Lincoln’s observation that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Gilbert H. Skopp
Calabasas

The Kids Are All Right

I wanted to thank Marty Kaplan for his article, because it helps me to believe that maybe others in your generation can look upon mine with kindness and appreciation (“The Kids Are All Right,” Nov. 14).

We have been told our entire lives that we’re indifferent, apathetic, lazy and isolated. On election night, one chant united us in our enthusiasm for the country: “Yes we can.”

Mickey Slevin
via e-mail

Let bygones (not) be bygones


That’s it?

Twelve-hundred-and-eight words, and we’re supposed to forget the months of ugly that came before?

Not so fast.

“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.”

A gracious gesture, and — poof! — the “Country First” ticket is off the hook, just like that, for the lying, red-baiting, character assassination, rabble-rousing, and calculated polarization that preceded it?

I don’t think so.

A dog that behaved that badly would be sent to obedience school. A child who was that reckless would face consequences up the wazoo. But just because Americans are good people, a campaign’s end requires us to willingly come down with a national case of amnesia?

Gimme a break.

What an insult it is to the idea of accountability, this notion that responsibility for the ugly emotions unleashed by demagoguery is wiped away by a concession speech. What an affront to the dignity of democracy, this remorseless draining of meaning from language, this quadrennial rush to retroactively trivialize our public discourse.

The most pernicious aspect of the media-political complex we are saddled with is its addiction to postmodern irony. Educated people are supposed to understand that politics is just theater, a pageant designed to entertain us, a Punch and Judy show whose audience realizes it’s not real. Politics is only a game, you see, a sport — a blood sport, to be sure, but the teams aren’t actually warriors, they’re performers, and their combat is ritual, not real.

You think these candidates mean what they say? Grow up, says the professional commentariat. Don’t you get it? These politicians are winking at you. They know it’s just kabuki. Don’t take this stuff seriously.

So John McCain — while claiming that not he’s not impugning Barack Obama’s patriotism — impugns Barack Obama’s patriotism, but we’re supposed to understand that it doesn’t really matter, because that’s just what people do in campaigns.

So Sarah Palin says that Obama pals around with terrorists, and she incites her crowds to look for pitchforks, but we’re supposed to believe that Pandora can just shoo the evil back into the box come Election Day.

So Rudy Giuliani bares his teeth on national television, but because he laughs with startled delight at the rancor he unleashes in his listeners, we’re supposed to construe his snarling as a harmless charade.

So the ads on America’s airwaves relentlessly pound into our national psyche the message that “liberal” is akin to traitor, that Obama is dishonorable, that he is opportunistically lying when he claims to dissent from “God damn America” – and the press covers the slurs as merely tactical maneuvers, as though the country could just take a shower once the campaign is over and wash the silly slime off its body, as though no damage had been done to the nation because no one serious takes any of this stuff seriously.

Yes, I know that some of Obama’s ads earned the ire of independent fact checkers. I realize that political rhetoric isn’t the same thing as sworn testimony. And I recognize that campaigns in America’s past have crawled with calumny even worse than this one.

But I also think that our yearning for post-election healing, our hunger for common ground, is risky. There is something wonderfully redemptive in our belief in national reconciliation. But there is also in it something naïve and self-destructive and dangerous.

Have we so quickly forgotten the rank hypocrisy of George W. Bush running as “a uniter, not a divider”? Have we no recollection of the fatuous hollowness of his inaugural promises to reach across the aisle? Is it too dispiriting to recall that his search for common ground turned out to mean “my way or the highway”? Is it just too difficult to remember the eight years during which principled dissent was demonized as being “with the terrorists”?

On Inauguration Day, no doubt Barack Obama will come up with something gracious to say about the worst president in history, just as he was generous in his victory speech to John McCain and Sarah Palin, and open-armed to their supporters.

But it does no good to pretend that the politics of personal destruction is harmless to democracy, to ignore how corrosive campaigns can be, to comfort oneself — as the punditocracy does — with the sophisticated nostrum that it’s only politics, so get over it.

Call me churlish, but I think that along with the privilege of living in a democracy comes the obligation to be accountable for your actions. And if you think that words — the currency of campaigns — aren’t actions, if you believe that rhetoric doesn’t matter, if you treat politics as just another branch of show biz, well then, you’re pretty much a sitting duck for the next demagogue to come along.

Forgive and forget? Not just yet.

Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear chair in Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

It’s their turn


Before moving to Pico-Robertson, I spent three years in trendy West Hollywood, where I was the lone independent/conservative voice during an early morning

schmoozefest at the Urth Caffé on Melrose Avenue. The term “aggressively liberal” doesn’t begin to describe the political leanings of my cappuccino compadres.

But the conversations were sharp and alive, and they charged you up for the workday ahead. Even though our views often diverged, I enjoyed the company of my leftist mates and became friends with many of them.

The thing that stuck with me about my liberal buddies in those years was their extraordinary venom toward the Bush administration. Every cell in their bodies oozed contempt for the “reckless cowboy” who had become the sad emblem of their country. They craved a change in the White House more than a heroin junkie craves another fix.

Now sweep wipe two years later, and I’m sitting at a Shabbat table in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood with a group of politically savvy Orthodox Jews, and, not surprisingly, I’m getting a whole different take on who should occupy the White House.

Clearly, most of my Orthodox brethren are in the Republican camp. There are significant exceptions, of course, especially at the more liberal B’nai David-Judea Congregation, but it’s fair to say that the majority of Orthodox voters are an ideological world away from my liberal buddies at the Urth Caffé.

And since almost everybody is assuming an Obama victory, I’ve been mulling over this crazy question: If you’re a McCain voter, can you still feel OK about an Obama victory?

As someone who is friendly with both sides, and who has witnessed all the partisan hysterics, I think the answer is, possibly, yes.

First, after eight years of being on the hot seat, the Republicans can use a break. Let them be the ones who kvetch and throw the arrows for a change. Sometimes it feels good to say: “Here, big mouth, you think you can do better? Take the wheel.”

And if we conservatives believe in fairness, it’s only fair that Democrats should get their turn at the wheel. We’ve had our turn for eight long years — and we should fess up to the obvious: America has veered off course, and it’s a lot worse off today than it was eight years ago.

Let’s review. Most of the world has stopped fearing us, respecting us or admiring us (let alone listening to us), which can’t be too good for our national security. Israel is now surrounded by terrorist armies and a soon-to-be nuclear enemy, who has mocked and outsmarted the tough-talking hombres in the White House. The Republican president I voted for allowed hundreds of my fellow Americans to perish in New Orleans before waking up and doing something. His administration has been extraordinarily divisive and has alienated large and important segments of America. Surge or no surge, we’ve dropped $600 billion and counting to rebuild Iraq — while our airports, roads, bridges and other infrastructure have become an embarrassment. We are more dependent than ever on oil from terror-sponsoring nations. We’ve racked up record deficits, we owe a trillion to China, consumer confidence is at an all-time low, and to top it off, we’re going through the worst economic crisis in 80 years.

Seriously, if the Republican White House were a corporation, it’d be drowning right now in malpractice suits from angry shareholders.

Instead, in all likelihood, it will suffer the political equivalent: It’ll get voted out, and the opposition party will get voted in. That’s democracy in action.

John McCain’s candidacy — even had he run a better campaign or chosen a different running mate — was doomed from the start by its ideological connection to a failed and unpopular administration, a connection McCain could never credibly shake.

Which brings us to Obama. I’ve met Obama haters who are sure he’s a disaster, and Obama lovers who are sure he’s a savior. I think he’s neither. For me, he’s a decent, intelligent man who needs more experience, who’s had some dubious relationships, and who has some ideas I like and others I don’t. He also has an even-tempered and reflective nature that might have a salutary effect on a nerve-wracked nation. (And regarding Israel, let’s be honest: Having our biggest supporter ever in the White House hasn’t made Israel any safer, or stopped Condi Rice from pestering Israel into making dangerous concessions. So I’m keeping an open mind.)

My key point, though, is this: Regardless of how negatively one may feel about Obama or his policies, after eight years we conservatives deserve our failing grade, and our opponents deserve their turn at the plate. If you’re not happy with that result, at least remember that it comes from something you love: free elections.

These same free elections might also help this country regain some emotional balance. For too long now, half of the voting public has been stewing in the political wilderness — feeling angry and powerless, feeding only on the “red meat of outrage.” This is not healthy. It breeds bitterness and cynicism. A return to a position of leadership would breed enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility among this alienated group, and encourage their renewed emotional investment in the country.

It’d be like a treatment of mood-stabilizing medication for a bipolar nation.

Republicans, if they lose, would get their own therapy: A chance to reflect on how they betrayed many of their own principles and on how they will need to evolve to stay relevant. They would go through the humble and difficult self-examination that only comes with the sobriety of defeat. If, like my Orthodox neighbors, they are God-fearing, they will see all this as part of God’s plan, and they will work to renew themselves for the new century.

That would really be putting “country first.”

As for me, if things get too heavy or lonely in the neighborhood, I might just check out my old buddies at the Urth Caffé and tweak them about how President Obama is messing things up.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.


Larry and me


I have been through three presidential election cycles while at The Jewish Journal.

The candidates change. The issues ebb and flow. Administrations come and go. But Larry Greenfield — that dude abides.

On Thursday evening, Oct. 30, I’m going to see Larry. Again.

Greenfield is the regional director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Over the past few months, as the race narrowed to Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain and the polls tightened and the rhetoric and tactics grew nastier, Greenfield has manned the front lines, appearing at dozens of debates, lectures, parlor meetings and rallies to promote McCain and oppose Obama.

Thursday evening at Valley Beth Shalom he’ll appear at his last one, facing off against Rep. Howard Berman, with me moderating. Frankly, I find it inconceivable that there is a Jew south of Fairbanks who hasn’t made up his or her mind about this election, but I suppose many people still feel the need for reassurance, the same way you can’t help but read the ads for the car you just bought.

I’ve attended or moderated too many debates with Greenfield to count. He is always the most eager, least jaded person in the room. He shows up with his jet-black hair, his dark suit, a ready smile bursting across his ruddy cheeks, and immediately he’s working the crowd, shaking hands. He’s a Mormon missionary crossed with a shtetl tummler — and I mean that as a compliment.

Republican Jews are small in number. They set themselves apart from that great majority of their co-religionists — the most consistent Democrat voting bloc in the nation, perhaps in the nation’s history. They feel persecuted. They work hard to leverage their passion, money, talents and time in order to have an impact disproportionate to their numbers. In doing so, they risk unpopularity, they overstep boundaries, they make some friends and many enemies. They are the Jews among Jews.

Greenfield and I can disagree on many candidates and issues. And I cringe when, at these debates, his temper flares or he stoops to some of the tactics he accuses his political enemies of employing. But I have a soft spot for anyone who tilts at windmills. Kol koreh b’midbar, the prophet Isaiah says, “a voice cries in the wilderness.” For many years, in Los Angeles at least, this voice has been Greenfield’s.

And the voice is relentlessly optimistic. A Democrat in his student days at UC Berkeley, Greenfield, like so many Jewish Republicans, was inspired by Ronald Reagan. The Gipper’s there-must-be-a-pony-in-a-room-full-of-manure philosophy is Greenfield’s own. Early in this election, Greenfield and I compared notes on the Republican field. He was giddy from the embarrassment of riches.

“Rudy is great, he’s one of us,” he said of one-time candidate Rudy Giuliani. “But I think you really ought to watch Mitt Romney.”

When McCain won the nomination, I ran into Greenfield again. He predicted a big chunk of the Jewish vote going the Arizona senator’s way.

He ran down the list of Obama’s “negatives” from the Jewish perspective: limited track record on Israel, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, unsavory past affiliations.

For a while I believed him. McCain was the moderate, pro-Israel Republican who could sweep up many independently minded Jewish voters. Early polls showed McCain getting more of the Jewish vote than Bush.

But all that momentum stalled when McCain picked Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

“Homerun!” Greenfield e-mailed me within five hours of the announcement.

In fact, it was close to a third strike. Independents, and independently minded Jews, bailed.

If the polls and pundits are right as of today, next week Greenfield and his fellow Republicans are going to be standing on the beach when a Democratic tsunami hits. The House, Senate and White House may go to Democratic majority. Some favorites are most at risk. A New York Jewish Democrat, Al Franken, may actually defeat a New York Jewish Republican, Norm Coleman, for a Senate seat in Minnesota.

I am anxious to hear on Thursday if Greenfield still sees a pony. And if not, I’m going to ask him to explain what happened.

I have my own theory: given a choice between playing to the center-picking Sen. Joe Lieberman, for instance, or playing to the base of Christian evangelical conservatives, McCain chose the latter. Instead of inspiring potential Jewish Republicans, like Reagan, he turned them off, like Bush.

The Lee Atwater-Karl Rove strategy that welds culture to religion for use as a political club never seemed to hold much appeal to McCain, a fact that endeared him to more socially liberal Jews. But Palin turned out to be that club.

Four years ago Greenfield stood amid admirers at a victory party for George W. Bush at the Level One club in Beverly Hills and proclaimed that half the country’s Jewish vote would go Republican within a decade. But the needle, which might have jumped in this go-round, doesn’t look like it will budge.

So Larry Greenfield may just go back to being, if not the only Republican Jewish voice, one of the relative few.

Except, you know, for Joe Lieberman.

ANALYSIS: Rough race takes toll on McCain’s image


NEW YORK (JTA)—When John McCain stopped in New York one Tuesday in October 2007 to make his pre-primaries pitch to a room full of Jewish bigwigs, he spent virtually all his time discussing foreign policy—but only after an emotional introduction from James Tisch that focused less on policy than the character of the presidential candidate standing before them.

Tisch, a scion of a family real estate empire, proud Republican and decorated Jewish communal leader, invoked the memory of the late Washington power lawyer David Ifshin and his unlikely friendship with McCain.

Back when McCain was a prisoner of war being held and tortured by the North Vietnamese, Ifshin—then a hard-core anti-war protester—visited Hanoi to speak out against U.S. involvement in the war. His remarks were piped into McCain’s cell.

A few years later, the story goes, Ifshin found himself living on a kibbutz in Israel when the Yom Kippur War erupted. Watching U.S. aircraft arrive with supplies to aid the beleagured country triggered a transformation in Ifshin that would culminate with his becoming a lawyer for AIPAC and then the Clinton administration.

Along the way, after McCain had entered the U.S. Congress, Ifshin sought out the Republican lawmaker and asked his forgiveness.The two became friends and worked together on human rights causes.

“It was,” Tisch told the 50 people assembled, “an inspiration for many of us.”

And, one could reasonably add, a powerful example of why—before the twists and turns of an increasingly bitter presidential race—McCain commanded respect in Democratic and liberal circles. To be sure, the veteran Arizona senator has always been a staunch conservative on a range of economic, social and foreign policy issues. But when it comes to grand themes—his emphasis on personal redemption, reconciliation, bipartisanship, sacrifice—McCain’s message has resonated across party lines.

It is true that in the heat of the race, McCain’s “Country First” campaign slogan can sound to the Democratic ear like a swipe at the patriotism of the opposing ticket. But when voicing the fuller version—when grounding his commitment to country in his realization in a Vietnam prison camp that the greatest fulfillment in life is serving a cause greater than one’s self—McCain could be mistaken for John F. Kennedy urging a new generation to embrace the notion of putting service to country first.

Just as important in understanding McCain’s initial appeal among Democrats, independents and the mainstream media is his willingness to work with liberal stalwarts—Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy on immigration and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold on campaign finance—and his willingness to criticize conservative efforts to demonize politcal opponents.

During his own failed bid for the 2000 Republican nomination, McCain lashed out at the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, calling them “agents of intolerance” after they lined up behind then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

And on Election Night in 2002, while others in his party were celebrating big Republican gains, McCain was on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart lamenting the defeat of Democrat Max Cleland in Georgia. It was not the first time that McCain tore into the GOP over its strategy of questioning the patriotism of Cleland, a fellow veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam.

It was not so long ago, in other words, that McCain was known for palling around with liberal East Coast media elites and being a target of some evangelical leaders and conservative radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

In recent weeks, however, as McCain ratcheted up his attacks on Obama, he has found himself being accused of embracing the same dirty campaign tactics that he has so often criticized. McCain’s detractors argue that his reputation for straight talk is no longer deserved, pointing to ads suggesting that Obama wants to teach kindergarten students how to have sex and accusing him of associating with domestic terrorists.

Even several Republican lawmakers and McCain’s own running mate have joined Democrats in criticizing his campaign’s recent strategy of flooding the phone lines in swing states with anti-Obama robo-calls.

Democrats have also taken aim at McCain’s status as a maverick, increasingly painting him as a clone of President Bush when it comes to the economy and foreign policy. They note that the candidate has surrounded himself with neoconservative advisers who back the Iraq war and oppose robust diplomatic intiatives with Syria and Iran.

Despite McCain’s opposition to abortion rights, as well as the mounting assertions that he has betrayed his reputation as a straight-shooting maverick, the Republican nominee had seemed poised to make serious inroads among Jewish voters. Polls for months showed McCain already surpassing the 25 percent of the Jewish vote that Bush took in 2004, with plenty of undecideds still up for grabs.

Undoubtedly, McCain received a boost from his reputation for bipartisanship and bucking religious conservatives, his long record of support for Israel, tough talk on Iran, a prominent endorsement from U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and lingering questions about Barack Obama.



AUDIO: John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s conference call with Jewish leaders


While Jewish GOPers have attempted to paint Obama as someone who might end up tilting toward the Palestinian side in the peace process, McCain has focused more on Iran and Iraq in attempting to challenge Obama’s preparedness to lead on the Middle East. McCain has pounded again and again on Obama’s stated willingness to meet with Iran’s president, and argued that Obama’s timeline for a pullout from Iraq would threaten Israel and the United States.

“Allowing a potential terrorist sanctuary would profoundly affect the security of the United States, Israel and our other friends, and would invite further intervention from Iraq’s neighbors, including a very much emboldened Iran,” McCain told thousands of pro-Israel activists in June. “We must not let this happen.”

One of his key advisers on such issues is Lieberman, who crossed party lines to endorse the McCain shortly before the New Hampshire primary. Even before the endorsement, Lieberman had infuriated many Democrats with his unflinching support for the Iraq war and decision to carry on with a third-party bid after losing Connecticut’s Democratic senatorial primary in 2006.

In the process, however, his stature seemed to grow within centrist and right-leaning pro-Israel circles, and he still can draw a crowd at Florida retirement communities that remember him fondly as the first Jewish vice-presidential candidate.

“From the moment the next president steps into the Oval Office, he or she will face life-or-death decisions in this war,” Lieberman told a Republican Jewish Coalition crowd in January during a stop in Boca Raton shortly before the GOP primary in Florida. “That’s why we need a president who is ready to be commander-in-chief from day one, a president who won’t need any on-the-job training. John McCain is that candidate and will be that president.”

It was one of the first of many appearances that Lieberman would make in the Sunshine State and in front of Jewish audiences on behalf of McCain.

But Lieberman has emerged as more than a surrogate. The Connecticut senator is a trusted adviser and has become a regular travel buddy joining McCain on many of his campaign trips, as well as his visit in late May to Iraq, Jordan and Israel.

It was Lieberman who quietly pulled McCain to the side during a news conference in Jordan, prompting the candidate to correct his mistaken assertion that Iran was training members of al-Qaida. And it was Lieberman who was dispatched by the McCain campaign to brief reporters after Obama and McCain both delivered solidly pro-Israel speeches at the AIPAC policy conference in June.

Soon after, in the weeks leading up to the Republican convention, speculation was rampant that McCain wanted to tap Lieberman as his running mate—a move that some observers say would have helped the Republican nominee with many Jewish undecideds. But according to some reports, warnings from prominent Republican strategists that the selection of a pro-choice quasi-Democrat would trigger a conservative revolt ultimately led McCain to settle on the surprise choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

(Lieberman is said to remain on the short list for either secretary of state or secretary of defense in a McCain administration.)

From the start, the McCain camp appeared bent on underscoring Palin’s pro-Israel bona fides. Her first meeting at the convention was a closed-door session with leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Republican Jewish Coalition circulated a video clip showing a small Israeli flag displayed in her office in Alaska.

Palin herself took up the task of speaking out against Iran and defending Israel’s right to defend itself. Like McCain, she did so while also voicing support for a two-state solution, saying during the vice-presidential debate that it would be a “top priority.”

Ultimately, however, it appears that attempts to paint her as unqualified and a product of the religious right have been successful. A survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee in early September found that 54 percent of American Jews disapproved of the Palin choice, compared to just 15 percent who felt that way about Obama’s selection of U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

Increasing unhappiness with Palin, along with the economic crisis, has coincided with a drop in the polls for McCain, both in the general electorate and among Jewish voters. New polling data from Gallup released Oct. 23 shows Obama winning 74 percent of the Jewish vote. Of course, even more alarming for the McCain camp is the overwhelming majority of surveys showing him trailing nationally and on the state-by-state map.

And if a signifcant defeat were not enough, McCain’s critics appear ready to carry on the fight beyond Election Day.

“Back in 2000, after John McCain lost his mostly honorable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he went about apologizing to journalists—including me—for his most obvious misstep: his support for keeping the Confederate flag on the state house” in South Carolina, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein recalled in a recent blog post titled “Apology Not Accepted.”

“I just can’t wait for the moment when John McCain—contrite and suddenly honorable again in victory or defeat—talks about how things got a little out of control in the passion of the moment,” he added. “Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.”

This view is the overwhelming verdict among liberal bloggers as they rush to permanently redefine the real McCain as a dishonorable fraud, and it is gaining ground among media pundits and Democratic officials. In fact, the attempts at McCain revisionism during this presidential cycle go back to at least 2006, when he faced criticism for accepting an invitation from Falwell to speak at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberal bloggers ripped into McCain, pointing to the speech and the accompanying sit-down with Falwell as proof that the Arizonan was set to sell out his principles to win the GOP nomination in 2008.

But taken together with separate addresses McCain delivered in New York a few days later to students at Columbia College and the New School, the speech at Liberty could just as easily be seen as reinforcing the image of McCain as someone willing to cross lines and build bridges. After all, how many other presidential candidates could boast of such a trifecta, especially in one week?

In all three speeches, McCain argued for vigorous debate—and mutual respect. To help make the point, during his Columbia speech, McCain reflected on his relationship with Ifshin.

“I came to admire him for his generosity, his passion for his ideals, for the largeness of his heart, and I realized he had not been my enemy but my countryman … and later my friend,” McCain reportedly said.

“His friendship honored me. We disagreed over much. Our politics were often opposed, and we argued those disagreements. But we worked together for our shared ideals,” he said. “David remained my countryman and my friend until the day of his death, at the age of 47, when he left a loving wife and three beautiful children, and legions of friends behind him. His country was a better place for his service to her, and I had become a better man for my friendship with him. God bless him.”

If nothing else, for anyone paying attention, McCain’s willingness to bury the political hatchet with Falwell should have seemed perfectly in character.

McCain — and Lieberman — defend Palin in conference call with Jewish leaders [AUDIO]


NEW YORK (JTA)—Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman defended Sarah Palin during a conference call with Jewish leaders and supporters Sunday

During the morning “tele town hall” meeting, McCain said his running mate was criticized as a “threat to the left-wing feminist liberal movement,” due to her being the mother of five children as well as a “reformer, a conservative, a tax-cutter and a spending cutter.”

Lieberman, who introduced McCain on the call, described Palin as “very able,” and said that while Palin “holds some positions on social issues which, I’ll be honest, I don’t agree with,” she “holds them in a very respectful way.”

“She respects people who come to the other position,” he said, adding “I find her not to be ideological in a rigid sense. She’s a practical problem solver.”

The Connecticut senator, an Independent, added that the Republican vice-presidential nominee “has a deep love for the State of Israel” equal to McCain’s.

McCain passed up an opportunity to criticize Barack Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose criticism of the United States and Israel led Obama to cut ties to the pastor this spring.

Asked by American-born Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Riskin why he hadn’t raised the issue, McCain responded that the “issue of Pastor Wright is pretty well known by the American people.” On the other hand, he said, “We need to know more about” the details of Obama’s relationship with unrepentant terrorist William Ayers and ACORN, which has been accused of voter registration fraud.

McCain also discussed his views on the status of Jerusalem, saying in his opening statement that “Jerusalem remains undivided” and then repeating twice that the city “is undivided and must remain the capital of Israel.” He added that he would “never press Israel into making concessions that would endanger its security.”

Lieberman later in the call noted the trip he and McCain had taken to the Jewish state in March, and that McCain knows the “historic Jewish claim” to the city and “it’s clear he will not be included in efforts to divide Jerusalem.”

Lieberman later emphasized McCain’s promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem “as soon as he becomes president.

The “tele-town hall” was billed as a meeting with Jewish leaders from various organizations, but judging from the questioners it appeared the audience included many backers of the candidate. Just one of the five questioners identified himself as being affiliated with a Jewish organization (one questioner said he worked for Agudath Israel) and at least four of the questions came from men and women who identified themselves as supporters of McCain.

 

Politics, rabbis, gotcha


Presidential Politics

In response to the Oct. 10 Letters on Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin:

I noticed the advertisement on Obama with the questionable people he is photographed associating with. I read the weekly news and view television debates, and I don’t know who to believe is the best vote for the Jewish community and pro-Israel.

Both used Israel, and that is a sensitive catch phrase with the Jewish community, and both are trying to get the Jewish voters. Our vote needs to be the right one.

I for one intend to contact the Israeli Consulate to inquire and seek their advice as to which candidate they would prefer in the presidential office. I will ask them, “Why?”

Frances Kruger
Los Angeles

Sen. Barack Obama is clearly the only sensible choice to protect Israel’s best interests (“The Debates Won’t Matter,” Oct. 3). He understands what the challenges are from today’s perspective and not from a decades old perspective.

Sen. John McCain may be a nice man, but he seems to be another trigger-happy American who will shoot first and ask questions later. What’s worse is that his running mate’s interest in protecting Israel stems from her Christian faith and her expectations of the second coming.

Obama will ask the correct questions first but will not hesitate to use force if the answers to the questions are not acceptable.

Joel Gossman
Los Angeles

Rabbis and Politics

The Jewish position on politics as stated in Pirkei Avot does not mince any words:

“Be careful in your relations with the government, for they draw no man close to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand by a man in his time of stress.”

With approval ratings of the president and Congress quickly approaching that of low-fat milk, rabbis who decide to practice politics should not wonder if they are held at the same level of contempt as our politicians. (“Obama Conference Call With 900 Rabbis,” Sept. 26).

I naïvely believed that rabbis should rise above all politics to serve all community members, which is why it is disappointing to see them using their status and influence as spiritual leaders to promote their favorite political candidate in this paper. One would hope that these rabbis would leave politics to politicians and instead focus on what they are trained to do: guide us on spiritual growth, and leave us alone to decide on our politics.

Avi Zirlerhas
Via e-mail

McCain, Obama and Israel

The opinion articles of Dennis Ross and Morris J. Amitay, which describe their respective positions in this increasingly heated and venomous debate, lay bare the true and scary differences between the two presidential candidates on the issue of the safety and security of Israel (“Why I Support Barack Obama,” “McCain for America — and Israel,” Oct. 10).

Amitay’s opinion reads like one of Sen. John McCain’s diatribes, full of visceral and impulsive reactions, little to no premeditation or follow-through thinking and waving the jingoist flag of patriotism. The only statement missing from this piece is that McCain has approved this political message.

Ross’ opinion reads like one of Sen. Barack Obama’s treatises, devoid of rash reactions, full of reasoned compassion and empathy and extending an open hand that can become a closed fist — but only as a last and not a first resort.

Ross’ Obama piece reflects a future predicated on reality, dialogue,intelligence, compromise and a walk softly but carry a big stick military position.

Amitay ‘s McCain piece reflects a future that is a reprise of the past, dominated by fantasy, unilateral monologues, raw and unfiltered emotion and a dictatorial military position that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands, shredded the international monetary system and turned our vaunted morality into a turpitude of the lowest caste.

So can a Jew remain true to the Talmud and Torah while simultaneously voting Republican? He not only should not — he cannot.

Marc Rogers
Sherman Oaks

Gotcha Journalism

I read [Marty Kaplan’s] article with great interest (“Gotcha? You Betcha!” Oct. 10). In fact, I posted it at OpEdNews.com. That failure of the press to cover the real issues hits close to home for me. That’s what I and the rest of the election integrity advocates have been bellyaching about for years.

How many stories, really big ones, have the media passed up? Which is how, of course, we are in the pickle we are in regarding our elections and the inability of anyone to know how the official results line up with the actual ones. Yikes.

Joan Brunwasser
Election Integrity Editor
OpEdNews.com

Outstanding article. I live in Okeechobee, Fla., population 12,000, three Jews, including my wife. These rednecks fully believe that the media is waging a war on the beloved Gov. Sarah Palin.

She can’t answer a question with a follow-up to save her life.

Keep up the good work. I am subscribing as soon as I’m done.

Dennis Hamilton
Via e-mail

What a terrific article. It should also be published in the New York Times and the Washington Post. You should be a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, etc. Thank you for telling it how it is.

Our media is not doing its job of informing the average guy and gal, and the public, being so ill informed, has absolutely helped create this financial crisis. Going to listen to all the NPR shows you suggested.

Sydni Moser
Long Island, N.Y.

Dems to Palin: Bring up Rev. Wright, we’ll bring up Rev. Muthee [VIDEO]


WASHINGTON (JTA)—As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin attempts to inject Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor back into the presidential campaign, the Republican vice-presidential candidate is facing increasing questions about her own associations with clergymen.

This week, in an interview with William Kristol for his New York Times column, Palin suggested that more attention should be paid to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, calling his sermons “appalling” and arguing that Obama had effectively condoned the comments because he didn’t leave the church.

Obama supporters in the Jewish community counter that they are ready to fight back with their own barrage of guilt-by-association attacks. They note Palin’s presence in church when speakers praised Jews for Jesus, suggested that terrorism in Israel was divine retribution for rejecting Christianity and argued that corruption would end if Christians took control of the financial sector.

In addition, a prominent Democratic strategist and liberal bloggers have responded to Republican efforts to link Obama to a domestic terrorist-turned-education activist by noting that John McCain once served on the board of an organization accused of anti-Semitism.

Ira Forman, the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, reiterated his objections to such attacks, but said that if Republicans are going to engage in them, they should “have to answer for their own problems.”

“What’s good for the goose,” he said, “is good for the gander.”

Last spring, during the Democratic primaries, a firestorm erupted over Wright, Obama’s longtime pastor and a man the U.S. senator from Illinois had identified as a mentor. After video clips surfaced of Wright shouting “God damn America” on the Sunday after the Sept. 11 attacks, and criticizing U.S. support of Israel, Obama eventually cut ties with the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

In recent weeks, the Republican Jewish Coalition has run advertisements playing up Wright’s controversial comments and Obama’s connection to him. Palin, meanwhile, has taken the lead in injecting the issue into the national political conversation.

Some Democrats say this is a risky maneuver, given the emerging details about clergymen who have appeared in her churches. Two weeks before being tapped for the GOP ticket, Palin was in attendance at her current congregation—Wasilla Bible Church—when a leader of Jews for Jesus described terrorist attacks against Israel as “judgment” against those who have not accepted Christianity.

While a spokesman for Palin has said that the Republican running mate rejects this view, the McCain-Palin campaign has declined to say whether she shares her pastor’s general support for Jews for Jesus—a group that Jewish organizations accuse of using deceptive tactics because it tells people they can embrace Jesus and still remain true to Judaism.

Asked this week whether the Alaska governor would condemn the missionary group, McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb told JTA that “vice-presidential candidates cannot be in the business of condemning religious groups who do not commit violence” in a country that guarantees “freedom of religion.”

Goldfarb added that it is “extremely inappropriate for any elected official” to comment “on any religious group” and its mission. “That’s a fundamental breach of the separation of church and state,” he said.

Fred Zeidman, co-chairman of the Republican Party’s Jewish outreach in 2008, said in an interview with Shalom TV last month that Palin “needs to answer” questions about her feelings on Jews for Jesus “to have any credibility for all citizens. I don’t think there’s any question about that. And if the answers are not to the liking of the Jewish community, I think that becomes problematic.”

On Monday, Zeidman told JTA that the campaign’s response “was not the best answer in the world.” He added that he “would love to hear” Palin’s thoughts on the issue “from her mouth.”

Zeidman was also quick to emphasize his view that Obama’s 20 years in Wright’s church was a much bigger issue than Palin’s attendance at one speech at her church.

Goldfarb, the campaign spokesman, said Palin wouldn’t be opposed to talking about her religious beliefs, provided she was asked about them by interviewers in the next few weeks.

Attention has started to shift to Palin’s involvement in a second service, this one in 2005 at the Wasilla Assembly of God church, just a few days before she announced her run for governor. The video of the service first gained attention because it shows a Kenyan pastor, Thomas Muthee, blessing Palin, and urging Jesus to protect her from “the spirit of witchcraft.”

In recent days, however, critics increasingly have focused on the speech that the clergyman gave before he brought Palin to the stage.

Muthee called for “God’s kingdom” to “infiltrate” seven aspects of society, including economics.

“It is high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity, running the economics of our nations,” he said. “That’s what we are waiting for. That’s part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the Israelites, you know, that’s how they won. And that’s how they are, even today. When we will see that, you know, the talk transport us in the lands. We see, you know, the bankers. We see the people holding the paths. They are believers. We will not have the kind of corruption that we are hearing in our societies.”

Given Muthee’s linking of Israelites and banks, some observers and critics have concluded that the statement was anti-Jewish. But, a McCain adviser countered, when read carefully it is clear that the statement was not at all critical of Jews.

The ‘Israelites’ video

The adviser, John Beerbower, said that the term Israelite “refers to the biblical kingdom, not the modern state,” and that Muthee is speaking of the “restoration of the Davidic kingdom,” a key element of evangelical Protestantism. He added that the statement can be read as a “compliment” to Jews, because he is actually saying that the Israelites were people of “integrity,” and still are today.

As for Muthee’s comments about wanting to see Christian men and women running the country’s economy, Beerbower said the clergyman was merely expressing a desire to see the Christian men and women who are in those positions act with integrity.

Dewey Wallace, a professor of religion at George Washington University who teaches on Christianity in the United States, agreed that the reference to “Israelites” could be viewed as “a bit of a compliment” to the Jewish people. But he said Muthee’s reference to “top Christian businessmen, businesswomen” went beyond a desire for men and women of “integrity” in banking; rather, it’s a wish for evangelical Christians to serve in those posts.

He noted, though, that Muthee was not targeting Jews with his comments, but all non-born-again Christians.

“I don’t think Jews need to be more concerned than Episcopalians,” Wallace said.

Goldfarb noted that Palin had actually left Wasilla Assembly of God as a member in 2002 and was only visiting that day. He argued that just because Palin sat in the audience or came up on stage did not mean she agreed with all of Muthee’s remarks—which, he added, were somewhat difficult to understand.

Rabbi Jack Moline, religious leader of a synagogue in Alexandria, Va. and a leader of the new group Rabbis for Obama, downplayed the importance of Muthee’s blessing of Palin. He said that what people do in their house of worship can look foreign to anyone who doesn’t have a background in that tradition.

Another front in the “guilt by association” war was opened up on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” when Democratic strategist Paul Begala pointed to McCain’s stint on the board of the U.S. Council for World Freedom. Begala identified the council as an “ultra-conservative, right-wing group” that the Anti-Defamation League said had increasingly become a gathering place for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.

“That’s not John McCain,” Begala said, but warned that the GOP candidate “does not want to play guilt by association or this thing will blow up in his face.”

An ADL spokesman said the group was currently looking for a copy of that report, which was published in 1981.

A New York Times article from 1986 reported that the ADL, in a letter to the group’s founder, John Singlaub, said that since he took over in 1981, the retired major general had “brought about a considerable cleansing of the organization.”

An Arizona Republic article from that same year said McCain had been trying to cut ties with the group for two years.

Singlaub told The Associated Press on Monday that he didn’t recall McCain’s efforts to leave the group, but he also said the Republican was not an active participant in the organization.

 

Gotcha? You betcha!


John McCain and Sara Palin have been complaining that there’s too much “gotcha journalism” going around.

If only.

When they say “gotcha journalism,” what they’re really trying to do, of course, is to demonize journalism itself — to de-legitimize asking tough questions, and following up with more tough questions when the answers are mealy-mouth evasions, and holding politicians accountable when they inadvertently emit a truth.

McCain says gotcha journalism is reporting that Palin, at a public event, told a voter her thoughts about attacking terrorist targets in Pakistan — which inconveniently is the same view that McCain is excoriating Obama for holding.

The McCain camp cried gotcha journalism when Charles Gibson asked Palin whether she agrees with the Bush Doctrine, and when Katie Couric asked her what Supreme Court cases she disagrees with, and when Gwen Ifill asked her about the powers of the vice president. But I didn’t hear Republicans complain about gotcha journalism when debate moderator George Stephanopoulos twice asked Obama, “Does Reverend Wright love America as much as you do?”

If gotcha journalism means asking presidential candidates which of their dreams will have to be deferred because of the $700 billion bailout, as a frustrated Jim Lehrer did again and again, then maybe we need more of that kind of questioning, not less.

We certainly could have used more gotcha journalism during the decade leading up to the worst economic debacle since the Great Depression.

In 1999, when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed, letting commercial banks go into the investment banking and insurance businesses, the country would have been a lot better off if the mainstream media had paid gotcha attention to the downside of deregulation, instead of being obsessed by the mythical Y2K bug.

In 2000, when Senator Phil Gramm slipped a measure forbidding the SEC and the CFTC from regulating credit default swaps into the omnibus spending bill, imagine if the press had blown the whistle on that lobbyist-owned legislator taking advantage of the final moments of a lame-duck session of Congress instead of focusing single-mindedly on the hanging chads story.

In 2003, when Alan Greenspan told global investors that he was going to keep the Fed Funds rate at an unappetizing one percent, thus opening the global floodgates to the mortgage backed securities industry, just think what might have happened if the surge in no-income-no-asset mortgages had been covered as intensely as the goings-on at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.

In 2006, when the size of the global collateralized debt obligation market approached $2 trillion, with Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Wachovia becoming the top CDO underwriters, consider how investigative journalism might have revealed the fatal vulnerability of those houses to toxic assets when the housing bubble would inevitably burst, rather than spending its energies falsely convicting the Duke lacrosse team of rape.

In 2007, when the subprime mortgage fiasco hit, think how things might have played out differently at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if cable news had spent as much time covering the liquidity crisis as it did the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

In 2008, when SEC chairman Chris Cox told the Senate Banking Committee that he wanted no increased authority and no increased budget to oversee conflict-of-interest riddled credit rating agencies like Moody’s, what if the consequences of Cox’s emergency ban on naked short-selling – bizarrely lasting only one month and affecting only 19 companies — had been pursued as aggressively as the first photos of the Brangelina twins?

We could have used a whole lot more gotcha journalism about Wall Street and banking deregulation than most people regularly encountered over the past decade. And we would have been better served as citizens if terms like “naked short selling” and “mark-to-market” and the rest of the gobbledygook now haunting us had long ago become part of the minimum daily dose of financial literacy delivered to us by the news media.

The exceptions to this journalistic inability to know what’s important, and to explain what’s difficult, are worth celebrating. Chief among them are public radio programs like “>Planet Money, and public radio reporters like “>Adam Davidson.

There’s no better way for a lay person to understand the current crisis than by listening to two episodes of This American Life – ““>Another Frightening Show About the Economy,” which aired last weekend. And while you’re at it, check out the ““>two

Debate wrap up: Palin contradicts McCain, will make peace process a ‘priority’


ST. LOUIS (JTA)—Israeli-Palestinian peace talks would be a priority of a McCain administration, Sarah Palin said last night.

“A two-state solution is the solution,” Alaska Gov. Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said in her debate with the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). “And Secretary Rice, having recently met with leaders on one side or the other there also, still in these waning days of the Bush administration, trying to forge that peace. And that needs to be done, and that will be top-of-an-agenda item also under a McCain-Palin administration.”

Palin was referring to recent shuttle diplomacy by Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, aimed at securing an Israeli-Palestinian agreement before President Bush leaves office in January.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published in May, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pledged to play a “hands-on” role in Israeli-Palestinian talks and said he would serve as “chief negotiator.” In recent weeks, however, some of his advisers have criticized the Bush administration’s current peace push and played down expectations of McCain’s involvement in forging a deal, saying there were several other more pressing foreign policy issues.

During the debate, Palin and Biden sparred at length over who would better protect Israel’s interests.

Palin targeted a commitment last year by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate, to meet with leaders of rogue states within his first year of office without preconditions.

“A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous because leaders like” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off the face of the Earth an ally like we have in Israel, should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first,” Palin said.

Obama has since retreated somewhat from that position—originally stated in an answer to a debate question—saying he meant he would not rule out such a meeting and would prepare for it extensively. He and his surrogates also have suggested that in the case of Iran, such a meeting would involve the courty’s religious leadership rather than Ahmadinejad.

Palin also suggested she opposed Iran’s achieving nuclear energy capacity, not just nuclear weapons. That would be a shift from Bush administration policies, which have been to offer Iran nuclear energy independence as an incentive to ending its nuclear weapons program.

“A leader like Ahmadinejad, who is not sane or stable when he says things like that, is not one whom we can allow to acquire nuclear energy, nuclear weapons,” Palin said.

In the debate, Palin also repeated a pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Obama’s campaign will not make such a pledge, hewing to policies embraced by presidents for decades that such a move would prejudice the outcome of final-status talks. As soon as he assumed office in 2001, Bush reversed his own campaign pledge to move the embassy.

Biden said Republican policies had endangered Israel, targeting Bush’s encouragement of elections in the region and the administration’s reluctance to engage with Iran until late in Bush’s term.

“Speaking of freedom being on the march, the only thing on the march is Iran,” Biden said. “It’s closer to a bomb. Its proxies now have a major stake in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip with Hamas.  We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understand that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has.”

Biden chided the Bush administration for discouraging Israel from engaging in peace talks and diplomacy with its adversaries.

“You must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has,” he said.

VIDEO: Palin Pastor: ‘Israelites’ run the economy




Yes, he says ‘Israelites’! (MSNBC)

A pastor who blessed Sarah Palin’s run for Alaska governor said Christians should emulate “Israelites” and run the economy.

The 2005 video of South African Pastor Thomas Muthee laying hands on Palin, the Republican vice-presidential pick, surfaced this week on the Internet.

Muthee precedes the blessing with a sermon calling for Christians to assume control in seven areas of society.

“The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area,” he said in the sermon. “The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It’s high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That’s what we are waiting for. That’s part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the — you know — if you look at the Israelites, that’s how they work. And that’s how they are, even today.”

The pastor also calls for Christian control of schools.

“We need God taking over our education system,” he said. “Otherwise we, if we have God in our schools, we will not have kids being taught, you know, how to worship Buddha, how to worship Mohammed, we will not have in the curriculum witchcraft and sorcery.”

Shame on Rabbis for Obama, hooray for Amy Klein, thanks for Marty Kaplan


Online Dating Addict

True Confessions of an Online Dating Addict” — “Cathy” it’s not (Sept. 26). It’s brilliant, and one of the smartest singles columns I’ve read. I love reading each week’s adventure. Klein’s journey is familiar, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so. This strip is so innovative, and I can’t think of another comic or column like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it winds up with a following like “Bridget Jones Diary,” which also started as a weekly column. I hope you continue to publish it for a long time, barring Amy meeting her “Prince Charming” online.

Alycia Witzling
Los Angeles

Rabbis for Obama

I take exception with the group “Rabbis for Obama” (“Rabbis for Obama Seen As First in American Politics,” Sept. 19). When one obtains the title of rabbi, he is obligated to keep religion and state separate. A rabbi is not just an ordinary citizen. His public statements carry a subliminal message that all Jews think as he does. The separation of church and state is the foundation for religious freedom in our great country. Shame on you Rabbis for Obama.

Hershey Gold
via e-mail

Economic Atonement

God has a sense of irony (“The Crash,” Sept. 26).

In the next few days, we’ll conclude the Shmita year, the seven-year agricultural cycle. Among the rules of the of the Shmita year, at the end of the one, all debts are nullified.

In the past few months and weeks, and especially the past few days, we have witnessed the collapse of many financial behemoths, and the devaluation of hundred of billions of dollars of debt instruments. Many hundreds of billions of dollars of debt are being wiped off the books.

In a similar vein, Jewish law prohibits charging interest on loans. There was something unseemly about making money from money. Thus, at the same time as massive loans are being written off, we are observing a free fall of our economy due from many obscure, and obtuse, derivative financial instruments (such as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations), which brought about the redundant pledging and excessive leveraging of financial instruments.

Interest on a loan was the first step that led to derivative financial instruments.

God indeed has a sense of irony.

Jeffrey Rabin
via e-mail

Presidential Politics

I must commend The Journal for the two informative articles on Sarah Palin (“Shooting Sarah Palin,” “Sarah Palin, Chabad Share Same Appeal,” Sept. 19).
However, I cannot believe that not a single letter in favor of the articles was received.

Allow me to correct this discrepancy by saying that the articles were superb illustrations of a uniquely capable woman.

Larry Schlesinger
Encino

Two McCain advisers recently stated that a McCain administration wouldn’t “actively [engage] in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” (“McCain Advisers: ‘No’ to Syria Talks,” Sept. 26).

Not only has a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict been the consensus position of the U.S. government for the last 10 years, but more than 70 percent of American Jews support a two-state solution, according to a recent poll commissioned by the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby J Street. It is unclear what McCain seeks to gain by taking such an unpopular position.

Real peace and security for Israel and the United States will only come through a negotiated end to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, and either of these peace agreements are unlikely to happen without strong leadership from an American president.

We need a president who understands this basic fact.

Cathy Colloff
Toluca Lake

Post-Palin Depression

Since Marty Kaplan believes Democrats are far more educated than Republicans, who he says embody the antithesis of intellectual pursuit, he might benefit from learning a short history lesson he obviously missed during his academic career: That the senior Nazi officials attending the Wannsee Conference in January 1942 held advanced university degrees, including doctorates (“Post-Palin Depression,” Sept. 12).

Apparently being highly educated and cultured did not prevent them from enacting the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.

While Kaplan is entitled to his misguided beliefs, he should realize that those of us who support McCain-Palin, especially in liberal territory, must do a lot of research to back up our views.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize many highly degreed professors on the left are babbling fools, while lacking a college degree is no barrier to possessing common sense.

Leslie Fuhrer Friedman
Venice

Rosh Hashanah and Change

Marty Kaplan evoked all the feelings and thinking that I’ve been stumbling to communicate — to my friends on both the left and the right (“Is Change Possible,” Sept. 26).

Our tradition and our government both offer us a mirror to reflect and an opportunity to transform what we don’t like. Of course, Kaplan said so much more, so much better. Still I wanted to let him know I’m profoundly moved and grateful for his eloquence.

So what are you working on now?

Bett Lujan Martinez.
Executive Director
The Possible Society of CA

Tashlich on the Beach

To set the historical record straighter concerning Tashlich on the beach (“Best Tashlich Custom Is a Toss-Up,” Sept. 26).

In 1985, when our rabbi, Jeffrey Marx, arrived at Santa Monica Synagogue, he brought 60 of us to the edge of the water on Rosh Hashanah to toss away our sins.

Over the years, in addition to meditations and music, we have written our sins on helium balloons and then released them up into the heavens; recorded them on edible paper which we fed to a live scapegoat; put them in a collection bag held by a scuba diver who came up out of the sea; and built a Western Wall of sand onto which we scratched our sins.

For more than two decades, we have freely shared our Tashlich ideas and services with other Los Angeles congregations. Now, each year, as more than 800 of us gather on the beach, we kvell that Jewish communities from Malibu down to Venice, from Agoura to as far east as Hollywood, have followed our example.

Lori Daitch
Director of Education
The Santa Monica Synagogue

StandWithUs Responds

The five academics sidestepped the issues we raised, instead focusing on issues we didn’t raise (Letters, Sept. 19). Our concern was never traditional anti-Semitism on campuses, but rather anti-Zionism, which distorts facts to demonize and incite prejudice against Israel and its supporters, a well-documented trend in academia.

Dissenting faculty — let alone students — have difficulty speaking out for fear of ostracism and possible penalties in their reputations, grades, promotions and opportunities for publication, grants and participation on academic committees and review and editorial boards. Yet, these five academics take refuge in speaking about “negligible anti-Semitism,” thereby denying the painful experiences of many students and faculty — in effect, abandoning them.

Our attempts to cooperate have repeatedly resulted in the attitude expressed in their letter — they alone know about campus life, and campuses are their exclusive turf.

They disrespectfully dismissed 20,000 SPME [Scholars for Peace in the Middle East] academics, StandWithUs and students and other faculty at UCLA and across the country who believe the problem is serious. The five should at least have the modesty to admit they do not represent all students and faculty and perhaps are unaware of some information available to others.

People can interpret situations differently. Consider UCLA. Several professors continue promoting their anti-Zionist agenda in and outside the classroom and under the guise of “Middle East history” courses with no history courses offered with alternative perspectives. On Yom HaZikaron in May 2008, students on Bruin Walk encountered a mock “apartheid wall” covered with photos of IDF soldiers aiming their guns at Palestinian women and children.

The five academics may believe these incidents have no short- or long-term impact, and should be ignored. StandWithUs respectfully disagrees, but recognizes that this debate is important and has been occurring on many campuses. Therefore, in a spirit of cooperation, we invite the five to a private and/or public discussion about these issues.

Roz Rothstein,
International Director
Roberta Seid
Director of Research/Education
StandWithUs

Sarah Palin

David Suissa’s praise for Sarah Palin, “A likable adrenalin junkie,” “folksy charm” (unlike Hillary’s “steely demeanor”), “flirting with her husband,” a woman who can cause a tough Israeli war hero to “fall under her spell,” was certainly fitting if she was an “American Idol” contestant (“Shooting Sarah Palin,” Sept. 19).

But Palin is running for the second highest office in our land, one that is, literally, a heartbeat away from the presidency.

What does Suissa have to say about her total lack of foreign policy and national experience? She’s a “quick study.” She has enough “street smarts” (how about education and experience?) “to quickly improve herself.” But this is the running of a country that we’re talking about here not a local business. The issues now facing our nation are far too serious and complicated for on-the-job training.

This is not the time for any candidate for high office to begin their studies.

Our tradition teaches us: “Don’t look at the container but what’s inside of it.”

Suissa and all of us would be better served by looking at the political track record and experience of our candidates, not their looks and personalities.

Rabbi Jeff Marx
Santa Monica

Now that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain’s running mate, has visited the United Nations and met with representatives of several countries, the McCain campaign can claim that she has international relations experience with countries in addition to Russia, the “neighbor” she understands well because she can see it from Alaska.

No doubt, meeting some world leaders, even for the first time, makes her well-qualified to become vice president and to be just a heart beat away from the presidency. In fact, whenever the issue of Palin’s experience for the position arises, McCain’s campaign spokesmen respond immediately that she has more “executive” experience than Sen. Barack Obama.

However, since when does having been in an administrative position guarantee that the individual has developed or demonstrated the qualities essential to being an effective executive? After eight years, is there anyone who still believes that George W. Bush’s executive experience as governor of Texas qualified him to be president?

Given Obama’s extensive educational background and varied work experiences — graduation from Columbia University and Harvard University School of Law, a community organizer on the south side of Chicago, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, a two-term Illinois State senator, a first-term U.S. senator and almost two years on the campaign trail, he has already demonstrated the leadership, organizational, problem solving and prudent decision making abilities essential to being an effective executive. In a word, there is simply no contest between the experiences of Palin compared with those of Obama.

As David Brooks wrote in a recent New York Times column, “Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.”

Rachel Galperin
Encino

The debates won’t matter


Let me hedge my bet.

At the vice presidential debate, the talking points Sarah Palin’s handlers have been stuffing her head with will come out of her mouth so butchered that even Republican voters will say, like Kurtz in “Heart of Darkness”: “The horror, the horror!”

Or, at one of the remaining presidential debates, a contemptuously smirking John McCain will finally become so enraged by having to share a stage with Barack Obama that he will pop his notorious cork right there in front of a hundred million Americans.

Or maybe Obama or Joe Biden will goof or gaffe or otherwise give such a bloody bit of chum to the media sharks that the gazillionth replay of the sound bite will drive every swing voter in the country away from them. But I don’t think so.

Sure, cable yakkers will declare after each debate who won on points, and who on body language; who played Nixon, and who played Kennedy; who won their focus groups of undecideds, and who flatlined with them.

But my guess is that the prestige press headlines will continue to play it safe, as they did after the first debate — “candidates clash” (New York Times), “differ sharply” (Los Angeles Times), “quarrel” (Washington Post) — and that on television, it will be concluded that no one delivered a knockout blow, which will require audiences to remain in suspense, and therefore to keep tuning in, until the photo-finish end.

This election won’t be won or lost at the debates. Nor will it be determined by the two campaigns’ “ground games” — their get-out-the-vote efforts. Nor, unfortunately, will its outcome even depend on how many Americans wake up on Election Day intending to vote for one candidate or the other.

Instead, my fear is that the Electoral College results will hang on the swing state voting systems’ vulnerability to sabotage.

It’s already happening.

In El Paso County, Colo., the county clerk — a delegate to the Republican National Convention — told out-of-state undergraduates at Colorado College, falsely, that they couldn’t vote in Colorado if their parents claim them as dependents on their taxes.

In the towns of Mount Pleasant and Middleton, Wisc., Democratic voters received a mailing containing tear-out requests for absentee ballots pre-addressed to the wrong addresses. Both mailers were sent by the McCain campaign.

Florida, Michigan and Ohio have some of the country’s highest foreclosure rates. “Because many homeowners in foreclosure are black or poor,” The New York Times says, “and are considered probable Democratic voters in many areas, the issue has begun to have political ramifications.”

If you’re one of the million Americans who lost a home through foreclosure, and if you didn’t file a change of address with your election board, you’re a sitting duck for an Election Day challenge by a partisan poll watcher holding a public list of foreclosed homes. In states like New Mexico and Iowa, the number of foreclosures is greater than the number of votes by which George W. Bush carried the state in 2004.

In the 2006 election, according to the nonpartisan Fair Elections Legal Network, black voters in Virginia got computer-generated phone calls from a bogus “Virginia Election Commission” telling them that they could be arrested if they went to the wrong polling place; in Maryland, out-of-state leafleters gave phony Democratic sample ballots to black voters with the names of Republican candidates checked in red; in New Mexico, Democratic voters got personal phone calls from out of state that directed them to the wrong polling place.

Does anyone think this won’t be tried again in 2008?

The reason behind Alberto Gonzales’ attempted purge of U.S. Attorneys was that some of them wouldn’t knuckle under to Karl Rove’s plan to concoct an “election fraud” hoax that would put Republicans in control of the nation’s voting lists.

“We have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today,” Rove falsely told the Republican National Lawyers Association, an evidence-less problem crying out for a draconian solution. Does anyone think that Rove’s move from the White House to Fox has dampened Republican ardor for this ruse?

And if all of that doesn’t alarm you, consider the new report on electronic voting systems from the Computer Security Group at the UCSB, which concluded that “all voting systems recently analyzed by independent security testers have been found to contain fatal security flaws that could compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the voting process….

Unless electronic voting systems are held up to standards that are commensurate with the criticality of the tasks they have to perform, the very core of our democracy is in danger.”

And did I mention that on Election Day, some polling places in minority precincts in battleground states will be shocked, simply shocked, to discover that so many people want to vote that it will take hours of standing in line to vote? That is, of course, unless they run out of ballots.

So while the presidential and vice presidential debates will make for swell political theater, the likelihood is that victory will be determined not by how the debates move a small percentage of undecided Americans off the fence, but by the voting experiences of a few thousand voters in a few swing states on Nov. 4.

Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

I think he had it half right.

Those who decide who cast the votes also decide everything.

Ahmadinejad at the UN: Palin, elected officials disinvited from rally amid controversy


NEW YORK (JTA)—Sarah Palin is being disinvited from the

Politicizing Iran: GOP spikes Obama sanctions bill, Dems scuttle Palin’s rally gig


WASHINGTON (JTA)—Just when you thought it was safe to put the issue of Iran back in the bipartisan closet, out it roars into a food fight between the Republicans and Democrats.

The two parties are tussling over who should have appeared at a Jewish-sponsored anti-Iran rally next week and who is responsible for the failure of sanctions legislation in Congress.

Each side accused the other of using a life-and-death issue to politick. Republicans said Democrats got the GOP running mate disinvited from the rally to keep her out of the public eye; Democrats said Republicans trashed the sanctions legislation to keep the Democratic presidential candidate from scoring a major legislative victory.

Caught in the middle are the Jewish organizations that hoped presidential politicking would push forward—not hinder—efforts to shine a spotlight on the nefariousness of the Iranian regime and sanction the Islamic Republic in the hopes of getting it to stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Just days ago, Jewish groups appeared to have secured two major victories: The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the other groups behind the rally had scored a superstar from each party to appear at their New York demonstration next Monday, timed to coincide with the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), whose bid for her party’s nomination dogged Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) until June, had agreed to appear weeks ago, and on Monday, JTA learned that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate to Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would take up the Republican mantle.

Meanwhile, far-reaching legislation in Congress that would facilitate divestment from Iran and enhance existing sanctions had overcome Republican objections in the Senate and was ready for passage.

But within a couple of days, nicey-nice gave way to oh-no-you’re-not: Clinton pulled out of the rally with a plaint that Palin’s participation cast a partisan pallor over the proceedings, setting off a chain reaction culminating in the decision Thursday to move ahead without Palin and any of the other elected officials who had been invited to speak at the event. And on Wednesday night Republicans pulled the rug out from under a sanctions package that had been assured passage in the Senate.

In both cases, presidential campaign politics appeared to have gotten in the way of good will.

The rally flap grabbed the headlines, but the bigger policy setback for Jewish groups came in the Senate.

For months, Democrats have been trying to push through two bills passed overwhelmingly last year in the U.S. House of Representatives. One would lock up loopholes that allow foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to deal with Iran, shut down dealings with any company that conducted substantial business with Iran’s energy sector and cut off Iran’s banking system from any U.S.-controlled markets. The other, authored by Obama, would enable pension plans to disinvest from Iran by protecting them from investor lawsuits and publishing a list of companies that deal with Iran.

Republicans had pushed back against the bills for a variety of reasons. The Bush White House jealously guards its foreign policy prerogatives and saw both bills as undercutting delicate negotiations with European nations, Russia and China to coordinate Iran’s isolation; U.S. business interests see the sanctions as a gift to overseas companies; and, according to pro-Israel insiders, Republicans did not want to hand Obama an election-year legislative victory, especially as they try to depict him as lacking experience.

Pro-Israel lobbyists, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wore down the objections, and by this week Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a close ally of Obama, had wrapped both bills into an amendment to be attached to the Defense Authorization Bill, which must pass this congressional term. Dodd had virtual wall-to-wall backing for the legislation, as well as a Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Bush still threatened a veto.

“The bills would also serve, if enacted, to divide the multilateral coalition that has come together to oppose Iran’s nuclear programs, by requiring the Administration to submit ‘blacklists’ of foreign companies investing in Iran’s energy sector,” said a Sept. 9 statement from the Office of Management and Budget, an arm of the executive branch.

Still, the legislation was guaranteed a veto-proof majority in the Senate and the House – a victory that would have handed Obama a significant boost just weeks before election day.

Then, Wednesday night, Republicans added several more last-minute amendments to the package, which Democrats saw as a delaying tactic and rejected. In retaliation, Republicans blocked all amendments to the bill, including the one on Iran.

Dodd, undeterred, took the Iran sanctions legislation to the Senate floor in a last-minute plea to allow his Iran amendment, if not the 100 or so others to which both sides had agreed.

“This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to “negotiations to end its weapons program, Dodd said. “To lose that opportunity would be a serious loss of opportunity for this country.”

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who is retiring at year’s end and thus faces no political repercussions, rose to exercise his prerogative to block the amendment. He made sure to say he supported the amendment, leaving unanswered the question of why he killed it.

“I, personally, approved of putting in the amendment,” Warner said in a disavowal of his own action—unusual even under the Senate’s arcane traditions. “It had been my hope, I say it is now no longer my hope, my disappointment, that that could not be achieved.”

The Obama campaign cried foul.

“John McCain had a real opportunity today to stand up for Israel’s security, but he refused to stand up to his own party,” it said within hours of Warner’s block. “Instead of supporting Barack Obama’s legislation to pressure Iran by accelerating state and local divestment initiatives, John McCain ignored the very real threat to Israel and took a pass. We cannot afford four more years of this kind of failed judgment that has left Israel endangered and America less secure.”

When asked about the claim that the GOP was sinking the bill for political purposes, McCain’s campaign said it would not accept criticism on the sanctions front, noting that the GOP nominee long had advocated the strategy, if not the specific legislation in question.

“Senator Obama is again playing politics with the truth to cover up his weak and inconsistent record when it comes to Iran,” said campaign spokeswoman Crystal Benton. “While Senator McCain has been calling for divestment from Iran since early 2007, Senator Obama has pledged to meet unconditionally with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that would have designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.”

Obama has backed away somewhat from his pledge in 2007 for an unconditional meeting with Ahmadinejad and has backed separate legislation labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. Obama also repeatedly has said he objected to the amendment by Sens. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) because it included language that linked Iran to attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq—language that some Democrats said could be misused by the Bush administration to justify military action against Iran.

Left unexplained was why McCain, whose indeed has vociferously backed sanctions, did not support Dodd’s amendment.

Dodd blamed politics.

“Clearly, the idea of giving Barack Obama credit for having authored a critical section of the amendment was on the minds of some,” he told JTA. “I guarantee that was part of it.”

At the same time that the sanctions deal was breaking down in the Senate, the high-profile plans for the New York rally also were unraveling.

On Monday, Clinton pulled out, with her aides saying she was blindsided by Palin’s booking for the same event. Palin, the first woman on a Republican ticket, has been hankering after the women who had pledged allegiance to Clinton; the New York senator was not about to hand over that photo op.

Additionally, Clinton had been invited as a lawmaker and Palin as a candidate—an imbalance that Democrats said would tip the rally from a nonpartisan event to a partisan rally.

Democrats were furious with the Conference of Presidents, accusing the Jewish group of being manipulated in a bid by Republicans to shine some foreign policy experience on Palin.

The political accusations flew back and forth, all but burying the aim of the rally.

Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Palin “believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics.”

Democrats countered that it was the Republicans that seeded the partisanship by offering a candidate and not another lawmaker. Officials at the Conference of Presidents said they had tried to get Republican lawmakers to come to the rally but had been rebuffed.

Ann Lewis, a close adviser to Clinton who was a key figure in her Jewish outreach operation during the Democratic primaries, told JTA that “the way to keep it non-partisan, in our mind, is you invite both candidates.”

On Wednesday morning, following Clinton’s decision to back out and in the face of mounting criticism over the decision to tap Palin, the Presidents Conference did just that, extending an invitation to the Obama campaign. The Obama camp agreed to send Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), one of the Democratic nominee’s top Jewish backers.

By Thursday afternoon, the conference had withdrawn the invitation to Palin and all other elected officials.

One of the impetuses: 20,000 Jews signed a petition organized by J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby, urging the conference to ask Palin to pull out. The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a similar call after its own executive director, Ira Forman, criticized the top professional at the Presidents Conference, executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

Hoenlein and others involved in planning the rally insisted that they simply had been motivated by a desire to focus as much attention as possible on the rally against Ahmadinejad—while also keeping the event bipartisan.

On Thursday, the Conference of Presidents acknowledged a shift in planning was needed.

“In order to keep the focus on Iranian threats and to ensure that this critical message not be obscured, the organizers of the rally have decided not to have any American political personalities appear,” the group said in a statement. The organization also announced that Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik would address the demonstration.

Following the announcement, McCain’s campaign lashed out at Democrats.

“Gov. Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue,” it said in a statement. “Regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans.”

One-Day U


Maybe it was because I had just helped my daughter move into her freshman dorm room and I was envious of the deliciously named courses she was thinking of
taking. Or maybe it was because I’ve always been a sucker for pitches like “Conversational Hebrew in One Day!” Or maybe it was because I didn’t know what else to do with my rage about the anti-intellectual matches that the Republican presidential campaign is playing with.

Whatever the reason, I was a sitting duck for a publicist’s offer to comp me to the first “One Day University” in Los Angeles. Judging from the full house paying $259 a pop at the Skirball’s Magnin Auditorium, I wasn’t alone.

The lineup included teachers from Columbia, Harvard, Dartmouth and USC. The subjects were Lincoln, the psychology of happiness, the history of cosmology and the foreign policies of an Obama or a McCain administration. The audience included not only the retirees seeking educational nourishment and brain fitness whom I had expected, but also boomers like me and more than a few people who looked to be in their 40s and 30s and even younger.

Three out of the four speakers really knew how to work a room, making good on the publicist’s promise of a day of engaging “edutainment,” and the fourth — even though, unlike the others, he worked from a prepared text and never left his spot behind the lectern — nevertheless held people’s attention with his material.

All day long, while learning things like the average age for the first onset of depression (14 1/2, compared to twice that a generation ago), and the proportion of the universe containing carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, the elements that people are made of (less than 1 percent), I kept wondering what bound us students together, besides our common jones for knowledge.

The answer came home to me during the foreign policy lecture by my friend and USC colleague, professor Steven Lamy.

In the midst of providing an analytic framework for understanding the traditions and belief systems of U.S. foreign policy, he pointed out the substantive poverty of the discussion of foreign policy occurring during this campaign, despite so many grave foreign policy issues that will face the next president. Security challenges and security strategies? Yes, those are in the campaign mix. But dealing realistically with the global economy, or thinking creatively about using the U.S.’s non-military power, or grappling with the social threat that traditional cultures see posed by the massive exportation of American entertainment, or with the environmental threat posed by exporting our consumerist culture: issues like these — not so much, or not at all.

The reason for this neglect is that the conduct of foreign policy is now all about electoral considerations, and the majority of the American people return the favor by not paying attention to it. The result, says Steve Lamy, is an uninformed American public easily manipulated by power players in Washington who prefer that the wide range of options potentially available for America’s role in the world not be put on the table for scrutiny.

The irony is that there is a rising generation that does see foreign policy as something more than shouting, “9-11!” At USC, as Steve pointed out, the 791 undergraduates majoring in international relations — one of the most popular majors in the college — do know what the Bush doctrine is.

Which brings me to the thread binding the newest alumni of One Day U. Yes, I could be projecting my own feelings onto them. But from the questions they asked the faculty, from conversations I heard during breaks, from the room’s reaction to Steve Lamy’s mention of the foreign policy credential claimed by Sarah Palin with a straight face (you can see Russia from an island in Alaska), I had the strong impression that the people in that auditorium were connected by a common sense of outrage at the demonization of learning going on in this campaign.

To be sure, every campaign, in both parties, relies on bumper-sticker slogans and 30-second ads, and, at least since the 1980s, television has proven itself dismally unequal to the opportunity for covering a campaign as a national conversation about the big issues facing the country.

Yet the way the McCain campaign has turned “elite” into a dirty word, and delightedly derided Obama’s education as effete, and turned the sow’s ear of Sarah Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience into the silk purse of salt-of-the-earth small town values — you have to go back to Spiro Agnew and his bullyboy ventriloquists, Pat Buchanan and William Safire, to find this kind of sneering contempt for educated people.

The neoconservative intellectuals who have fanned these fires have particularly dirty hands. With their Ivy League degrees and their perches as columnists and commentators, their collaboration with the Republican defamation of learning is especially unctuous. By being accomplices to what is arguably the most lying campaign in modern history, they are complicit with the same noxious rejection of reason that has brought us the teaching of “intelligent design” (aka creationism) in our schools; the politicization of science in everything from climate change to environmental regulations; and the intrusion of fundamentalist religious doctrines into the shaping of public policy.

I see adult education as a political act, a refutation of this neo-Know Nothingism. I see reading a good newspaper as a thumb in the eye to this anti-intellectual hypocrisy and to candidates who refuse to hold press conferences. I see the conversation occurring in some online precincts, and among people who have abandoned cable news for actual discussions about issues they care about, as a patriotic response to the political porn served up to us by mainstream media. I see studying and going to the best school you can and learning to think critically as a powerful antidote to the homespun yahooism that is being held up to us as the gold standard of competence.

Sure, some people may have signed up for One Day U because it looked like fun, or to get out of the house, or just because they were curious. But curiosity is a quality that has been lethally absent in the occupant of the White House these last eight years, and if you listen to the team that could well replace him, having a healthy intellectual appetite is wussily un-American.

I don’t doubt that Americans who love learning may constitute a minority. I just hope that enough of them live in battleground states to make a difference.

Marty Kaplan has been a White House speechwriter, a deputy presidential campaign manager, a studio executive and a screenwriter. He holds the Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School. He can be reached at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Who you calling rebbetzin, why you dissing Palin, what college anti-Semitism?


The Rabbi’s Spouse

In her recent story, Danielle Berrin contemplates the role of the clergy’s spouse (“Who You Calling Rebbetzin?” Sept. 12).

It seems that one of the downsides is being misunderstood.  
 
I repeatedly emphasized to Danielle that my voluntary role in our community is one which I gladly fill both at our synagogue and in our children’s school, because these are the communities where our family belongs, and I feel a personal responsibility to help.  Never at any time did I or will I expect any financial compensation for the work I volunteer to do in my community. 

I created the position that I fill because I care about the community and am proud to help build our congregation along with my husband.  

I wish there would have been some way for that positive message to have been better expressed in the article.

Pnina Bouskila
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel

We would like to thank Danielle Berrin for her article on the contemporary rebbetzin.

We were subjects in this piece, and we could not be more pleased. Within the Jewish world so many of us seek connection — with God, with community, with mitzvot, and yes — with the rabbi’s family!? Through her article Ms. Berrin gave our community a chance to get to know us a little better, with the hope of strengthening those connections — that is indeed a holy pursuit, a true mitzvah.

As rabbis who are also rebbetzins, we are grateful for Ms. Berrin’s attention to the value of the rabbinic spouse.

Rabbis Deborah and Brian Schuldenfrei
via e-mail

The Iranian Vote

Iranian American Jews are mostly wary and distrustful of the Obama-Biden ticket.
In your Aug. 11 Iranian American Jews blog report on my debate with Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) and Judge Bruce Einhorn on the U.S. presidential elections, you mistakenly mentioned that I had emphasized the issue of Sen. John McCain’s experience.

In fact, my main and repeated emphasis was on the lack of understanding by Sen. Barack Obama of the nature and the threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the worldwide jihadist movement, as well as Sen. Joe Biden’s long-time record of encouraging appeasement and giving one-sided concessions to the Iranian theocratic dictatorship.

I mentioned that as a Democrat, I would strongly suggest putting aside our differences and voting for McCain, due to the overwhelming urgency of the worldwide threats facing us all.

I, like most Iranian Jews, fear that the Obama-Biden administration will fail to stand up to this worldwide threat.

Frank Nikbakht
Director
Committee for
Religious Minority Rights in Iran

Post-Palin Depression

I wanted you to know that I ran across your piece as I scoured the Internet looking for my minute-by-minute updates on the election (“Post-Palin Depression” Sept. 12).

I am just an average person that fits the person you describe in “Post-Palin Depression.” I do not have a therapist, but I have been in depression for almost two weeks now.

But your article inspired me to go nearly cold turkey on election news (I didn’t think about limiting to C-SPAN and, of course, I just can’t go without “The Daily Show”). One question, before I go into detox, can I finish out my obsession until I fall asleep tonight?

Thanks for the great piece. I can’t wait for my blood pressure to resume to normal levels.

Catherine Devericks
Via e-mail

Fields of Dreams

I would like to thank David Suissa and The Jewish Journal for the moving article comparing/contrasting Trochenbrod and Camp Ramah (“Fields of Dreams,” Sept. 12).

Filmmaker Jeremy Goldscheider is doing a big mitzvah in producing a film that will preserve a part of European Jewish History, which would otherwise be lost forever.

I would like to support this project and would like more information on how to get involved. I am writing as a representative of the Blitstein family of Trochenbrod.

Paula Verbit
Trochenbrod Descendant
Second Generation

Strange Love

In his recent letter to David Suissa, Jeff Kramer stated “The truth is that they (missionaries) don’t want your soul, what they want is to help you draw closer to God and in so doing, enjoy a fuller and more complete life now and in eternity.”

This statement is written more like a true believer in Jesus than a faithful Jew who understands that the roots of Christianity originate from Roman and Hellenistic paganism and belief in the trinity and bodily incarnation of God is considered idolatrous for Jews? (“Strange Love,” Aug. 22).

This is something all denominations of Judaism agree represents the spiritual destruction of the Jewish soul.

So yes, regardless of their intention, the end result is that missionaries, who seek to convert Jews, want our soul and in doing so perpetuate a long history of anti-Judaism that disrespects and invalidates the spiritual integrity of Jews and Judaism.

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz
Founder and Executive Director
JewsForJudaism.org

Sleight of Hand

The directors of Stand With Us have engaged in a bit of sleight of hand (Letters, Sept. 12).

Rather than confront the fact that anti-Semitism is a negligible presence on college campuses today, they engage in name-calling. We are “elitists,” a common epithet in today’s political discourse.

If by characterizing our response as elitist, Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid mean that we actually know what we are talking about, since we work on various college campuses (not just UCLA), then we plead guilty. Actually knowing what one is talking about is something that is very helpful in political discussions — both this one and larger national ones.

Professor Aryeh Cohen
Rabbi Susan Laemmle
Professor David N. Myers
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Professor Roger Waldinger

Sarah Palin

There are issues pertaining to Gov. Sarah Palin’s judgment privately that should be judged publicly (“Sarah Palin and the Jews,” Sept. 5).

First, why is it not immoral to have a baby when you know that the baby has Down syndrome and the baby is your fifth?

Second, why is it not immoral to get pregnant at age 42 with your fifth child when you know or should know that the odds of having a baby with Down syndrome is increased exponentially when a women reaches 40?

According to the March of Dimes Web site, at 25, a woman has about one chance in 1,250 of having a baby with Down syndrome; at age 30, a one in 1,000 chance; at age 35, a one in 400 chance; at age 40, a one in 100 chance; at 45, a one in 30 chance.

Lastly, why is it not immoral to have a fifth baby when given our current world environment. Zero population growth should be a goal for all of us? Why not adopt instead?

The above questions should all be asked of this person, but our media just won’t go there.

Martin H. Kodish
Woodland Hills

Yes, it was nice to know that Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has good relationships with Alaska’s Jewish population, although it was hardly surprising that she is strongly pro-Israel, given that she is an evangelical Christian.

However, to describe her simply as a social conservative is a gross understatement. From all we know of her, insufficient as that is as yet, she is a rabid, right-wing ideologue.

In her acceptance speech at the Republican convention, with its clever one- and two-line zingers written by a group of the best-paid communications professionals in the business and rehearsed by Gov. Palin for at least five hours prior to its presentation, with a mixture of homey references to her family and herself, she likened her small-town roots to those of President Harry S. Truman (a senator from Missouri for 10 years before becoming vice president in January 1945).

It remains the challenge of the media to break through the blockade surrounding their access to her — talk about protectionism run amok — to ask penetrating questions about her positions on policy issues, among them: the kinds of justices she would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court; whether she believes in multilateral, rather than unilateral, approaches to international affairs; given her opposition to government intervention into our private lives, why a woman should not have the right to make her own reproductive choices without big brother dictating her decisions.

Also, how she intends to protect the guarantees of our Bill of Rights and their erosion in the name of fighting terror; why, if she is so staunchly pro-life, she does not support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research — using embryos that will be discarded or destroyed — to improve the quality of life of those living with terrible diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, AIDs, etc.; why she opposes sex education in the schools, including teaching even kindergartners — as Barack Obama has proposed — about what they need to know, at the most primary level, in order to protect themselves from sexual predators.

In addition, where she stands on our constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state, in general, and the teaching of creationism, along with the theory of evolution, in particular; regulating gun ownership; outlawing hate crimes; drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on and on.

With less than two months remaining before Election Day on Nov. 4, it is urgent that the media reveal what the new kid on the political block — who would be a heartbeat away from the presidency — believes about many of the most urgent issues facing our country.

Rachel Galperin
Encino

I am not a supporter of the Republican ticket. However, let’s be fair to Sarah Palin on Jewish issues. First of all, most gentiles are probably not familiar with Pat Buchanan’s views on matters of Jewish concern, particularly people such as Palin, who are not known for their deep knowledge of such things. So her wearing of a Buchanan button does not signify anti-Jewish feelings.

Second, whatever one’s views may be on abortion rights, it is not a Jewish issue. The Orthodox Jewish view on abortion is similar to that of most Christian religious groups. The only pertinent Jewish issue in today’s political world is support for Israel.

Marshall Giller
Winnetka

The disclosure that last month Gov. Sarah Palin’s church hosted the executive director of Jews for Jesus, who told congregants that violence against Israeli Jews is God’s punishment for their failure to accept Jesus, is going to be the next club that Palin’s leftist critics pick up against her.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency quotes Palin’s pastor at Wasilla Bible Church, the Rev. Larry Kroon, as saying that he doesn’t believe Jews for Jesus are deceptive.

“Look at Paul and Peter and the others, they were Jews and believed in Jesus as the messiah,” he told JTA. “There’s gentile believers and there’s Jewish believers that acknowledge Jesus as messiah. There’re Swedish believers.”

Mainstream Judaism today rejects the idea that one can believe in Jesus and still be a practicing Jew. Anyone who maintains that the two beliefs are compatible is a pariah in the Jewish community.

But these columns have been cautioning against the idea that politicians need to be held accountable for every thing that is said from the pulpits of their congregations. In an editorial of March 18, 2008, “Obama’s Moment,” we said that religion by its nature calls forth great passion, and that religious institutions, churches, synagogues, mosques, are places where things are often said that strike the congregation in a way that they might not strike the wider public.

None of this is to excuse the errors of Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, or Kroon. But it is Obama and Palin who are running for office, not the clergymen.

To make a big issue of these kinds of things in respect of the candidates, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, would be to impose a religious test for office of the sort that the framers of the Constitution forbade right in Article VI, when they wrote, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

No, ever, any. They couldn’t have been more emphatic and not even in an amendment but right there in the original body of the Constitution.

Reyna Oro
via e-mail

McCain and Obama campaigns focus on sanctions as Iran threat looms


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The mounting anxiety over Iran’s nuclear program is sparking campaign chatter over a possible Israeli strike and prompting a bipartisan effort to revive long-stalled sanctions legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Time is running out, say advocates of new congressional sanctions against Iran, with some wondering if a nuclear deadline for the Islamic Republic looms as early as next year. But an election or three — in the United States, Israel and Iran — seem to stand in the way of coordinated action, and conventional wisdom posits that a U.S. president who is perhaps the lamest duck in decades is hardly in a position to carry through with meaningful action.

Against this backdrop, attention has turned increasingly to the possibility of Israel launching a pre-emptive strike, with reports claiming that U.S. officials have told Jerusalem not to take such action. At the same time, however, both vice-presidential candidates have said in recent weeks that the United States should respect any Israeli decision on the matter and both campaigns were planning this week to discuss their Iran policies with Jewish communal leaders.

In the Congress, escalating concerns about Iran have prompted Democrats and Republicans to set aside sharp election-year differences to coordinate with Israel and the pro-Israel lobby to push through sanctions legislation before year’s end, including the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act sponsored by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The measure would mandate the publication every six months of a list of companies invested in Iran’s energy and defense sectors in order to facilitate divestment from Iran by state pension funds. It also protects from lawsuits fund managers who divest from Iran.

Obama’s bill and the Iran Counterproliferation Act are under consideration for attachment to a defense authorization measure that must be passed this term.

The bills have been held up until now because of resistance from the Bush administration and congressional Republicans for myriad reasons: Some business interests have opposed the counterproliferation bill because it would close loopholes that have allowed American companies to continue working with Iran through foreign-owned subsidiaries.

Additionally, the Bush administration has aggressively opposed limitations on its executive prerogative in foreign policy. Pro-Israel insiders say that some Republicans have opposed the sanctions-enabling legislation because they don’t want to give Obama, the Democrats’ presidential nominee, a legislative victory in an election year.

But many of those differences have been set aside in recent weeks, pro-Israel insiders told JTA.

Dan Shapiro, an Obama foreign policy adviser and top Jewish outreach coordinator, confirmed to JTA that Obama’s bill, which would offer tort protections to pensions that divest from Iran, is likely to be part of the defense authorization measure that is set to pass.

“It has the support of several dozen senators,” Shapiro said.
He would not, however, count out resistance from the White House.

Earlier sanctions have had an impact: Businesses increasingly are reluctant to invest in Iran in part because of sanctions Bush has implemented on Iranian banks through executive order.

The perceived need for some kind of action has been exacerbated by the lame-duck status of Bush, who is exiting office as one of the least popular presidents in modern history, and Wednesday’s primaries in Israel. The Israeli vote is likely to be followed by weeks or months of political realignments ahead of new general elections.

In addition, Iran is set to hold presidential elections next June, raising hopes of ousting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose fiery rhetoric has fanned much of the anxiety about a nuclear Iran.

According to experts, the next president — whether it is Obama or U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — is likely to ramp up the pressure on Iran. But differences persist in how each man would go about increasing the pressure.

A bipartisan slate of five former secretaries of state — including Henry Kissinger, now a McCain adviser — met this week under CNN auspices and agreed that talks with Iran would likely be on the agenda next year, whoever is president. McCain repeatedly has criticized Obama’s willingness to talk with Iranian leaders and painted the Democratic candidate as dangerously naive on the matter.

Obama is considering how best to establish an international commitment to further isolate Iran; McCain is considering ways to encourage internal Iranian dissent toward regime change.

Both campaigns are making their case on Iran this week to segments of the Jewish community. On Wednesday, McCain’s senior advisers were to meet with Jewish backers in Arlington, Va., while Obama himself was to take part in a conference call with rabbinical leaders.

“This is an extremely important issue, an extremely serious issue, and an extremely urgent issue,” Tony Lake, Obama’s top national security adviser, said at an event organized by the Center for U.S. Global Engagement in Denver during the Democratic National Convention last month. “It could well lead to the worst crisis that we will see over the next five years because the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon will present a huge threat to the security of Israel, to others in the region, to the Europeans, including the Russians, and many others.”

Obama wants to see “progress between now and next January,” Lake said, but already is planning action “as soon as he takes office.”

Dennis Ross, the former top Middle East negotiator under Bush’s father and Bill Clinton, and now a senior Obama adviser, said the candidate’s preferred approach would be “serious sticks and serious carrots” — in that order.

“You’ve got to change the formula from weak sticks and weak carrots, which is not enough to concentrate the Iranian mind in terms of the negotiations and make them change behavior,” Ross told JTA.

An Obama administration would rally the international community to cut off refined petroleum exports to Iran, hitting almost half of its gas supply, and end investment in the Islamic Republic’s antiquated energy infrastructure.

The obstacles to such a strategy remain China and Russia, which maintain extensive business contacts in Iran. Ross described a strategy of first targeting China, which depends heavily on Iran for its oil supply. China, he noted, is even more dependent on Saudi oil, yet no serious effort has been made to recruit Saudi Arabia into leveraging the Chinese into isolating Iran, even though the Saudis have even more to fear from a nuclear Iran than Israel.

Ross said Obama also became interested, after touring Israel in July and meeting top security officials there, in targeting the five major re-insurers — the companies that underwrite insurance companies. A re-insurance boycott would go a substantial way toward crippling Iran’s energy sector.

The McCain campaign is similarly exercised about Iran, but is mapping a different approach focused on supporting internal political resistance to the regime.

“I think you’ll see John McCain, diplomatically, working very aggressively with countries throughout the Middle East who feel, and properly so, a threat from the rise of the Shi’a extremist regime, and try to get a larger condominium to address them,” said Richard Williamson, the Bush administration’s envoy to Sudan who also is advising the McCain campaign, earlier this month in Minneapolis.

McCain campaign officials did not return requests for interviews on the topic, but Williamson advocated a “soft” campaign of encouraging democratization within Iran as well as building up a regional front that would isolate the regime.

“There has to be a recognition that that regime has its own fissions, and divisions within it,” he said, before rattling them off: “The balance of power between the president, Ahmadinejad, and the supreme leader, constituencies, it has economic growth problems, it has an increasingly dissatisfied younger population and the majority of the country is under 30 years of age, and it has stresses with neighbors.”

Williamson added: “I think you’re going to see John McCain utilizing the instruments he has been involved in, all over the world, in over 90 countries, in trying to help civil society, endemic democratic institutions grow.”

Reading about Queen Esther helped guide Palin


If there was any doubt that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will shake up Washington and institute real change, the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee has put that question to rest. Few people can match McCain’s maverick spirit andbipartisan nature like Palin.

I’ve known Sarah Palin since her election as governor in 2006. I am confident she will be a great friend of the Jewish community and Israel, as well as a terrific leader and great vice president.

It is not surprising that her historic nomination has brought enthusiasm and excitement to the nation.

In my speech at the Republican National Convention, I shared a few reasons for that excitement.

“As a fellow Republican governor, I have had the chance to get to know Gov. Sarah Palin,” I said in that speech. “She is a terrific individual and an outstanding governor. Sarah is a person with proven leadership skills and strong moral character.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, wrote that he was “excited” by the choice.

“Sarah brings a wealth of experience to the campaign and will pose a formidable challenge to the Democratic nominees,” Cantor said. “Sarah Palin is a smart woman who represents change.”

Gov. Palin brings numerous strengths and qualities to the position of vice president. She has been a mayor, a governor and the head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. While serving in these positions, she has built a reputation as a leader willing to work across party lines to bring about real reform and to better the lives of her constituents.

Gov. Palin has cut taxes and curtailed budgetary spending. Rooting out corruption and establishing ethics reform have been hallmarks of her career.

Gov. Palin has also shown that she is not wedded to party politics nor does she play politics as usual. She has said that the function of a politician is not to serve one’s self-interest but rather to serve with a “servant’s heart.”

Perhaps one of Gov. Palin’s greatest assets is her firm grasp on one of our country’s greatest security issues — how to tackle our dependence on foreign oil and our growing need for energy independence. On this critical issue, she has a depth of experience and firsthand knowledge that will prove invaluable to a McCain-Palin administration.

As governor, she challenged the influence of big oil companies and fought for the development of new energy resources in her state. And as an outdoorswoman and naturalist, she understands and cares deeply about the impact of climate change.

Gov. Palin has advocated that environmental issues be weighed against economic and social needs and that meaningful discussion take place in order for policymakers to make the best decisions for our country.

During her tenure as commander-in-chief of Alaska’s National Guard, she made it a priority to visit the troops from her state deployed to Kuwait and Germany.

Finally, on Iran — an issue that is critically important to readers of this publication — Gov. Palin gets it. She recognizes the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, while advocating for strengthening the strategic U.S.-Israel relationship.

It is also clear that Gov. Palin is a woman of deep personal faith. She has established a good relationship with the Jewish communities of Alaska, supported the residents’ desire to create the Alaska Jewish Historical Museum and was present at the reading of Alaska’s resolution commemorating Israel’s 60th anniversary.

In her office in Juneau, Gov. Palin has hung an Israeli flag. She displays the flag because Israel is in her heart.

One of the finest qualities Gov. Palin has demonstrated recently is her tremendous grace under fire. Since the announcement of her selection as our vice presidential nominee, she has faced an onslaught of rumor, smear and innuendo. Yet Gov. Palin has remained strong and resolute. She has let the truth speak for itself.

Shortly after coming into office, Gov. Palin asked her former pastor for examples of biblical people who were great leaders and what was the secret of their leadership. The pastor suggested she re-read the story of Queen Esther, the Jewish woman who rose to help her people and became queen of Persia.

Like Queen Esther, Gov. Palin has faced tremendous adversity, and time and again she has risen to overcome obstacles. This is the sign of a true leader.

As Americans get to know Gov. Palin, I think they will see all the wonderful things about her I have seen over the years. She will be a great friend and advocate for the issues important to us. For that she deserves our respect, friendship and, most importantly, our support.

Linda Lingle, a Jewish Republican, currently serves as the governor of Hawaii.

Courtesy of Jewish Telegraphic Agency

toilette de esther queen esther

1841 Théodore Chassériau – Esther. Esther se parant pour être présentée au roi Assuérus, dit La toilette d’Esther, 1841. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Esther

Post-Palin Depression


A therapist I know — OK, since you dragged it out of me, my therapist — told me that I’d be astonished if I knew how many emergency calls she got the night that Sarah Palin gave her convention speech.

Actually, I wasn’t that surprised. Judging from the number of unnerved post-Palin phone calls and e-mails that I got, I wonder why I didn’t think of calling her myself.

Why was it such a psychic downer? Movement conservatives might gloat that it was because Palin kicked Los Angeles liberals in the kishkas, made unanswerable arguments, strutted her Super Woman stuff, and — worst of all — signaled their inevitable defeat come November.

I don’t think so. For one thing, we all know that Election Day comes after the High Holy Days, which means there’s plenty of time before the book on McCain/Palin — the Book of Life, that is — gets written. Who shall win, and who shall lose is still (theologically speaking, anyway) up for grabs.

For another, there’s no evidence that the independents who were the key targets of her speech are buying what Palin is selling.

I don’t doubt that some people experience a presidential campaign as one long audition for the show that will be playing on their television sets these next four years. But I’m hoping that the 5 percent to 10 percent of undecideds in the 18 battleground states who will swing the Electoral College more resemble the savvy mass audiences of “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons” than voters for the next “American Idol” or the mob in “Coriolanus.” Why should a single performance by the governor of Alaska, or even several of them, bedazzle millions of otherwise skeptical Americans into throwing away their bull—t detectors? The historic disapproval ratings of the incumbent president are continuing evidence that the American mainstream has soured on the culture wars’ politics of group against group and the rest of the ressentiment at the heart of Palin’s message. So what accounts for the panic Palin provoked?

Part of it, I think, is that we catastrophize. By “we,” I don’t mean liberals. I mean the many functioning neurotics among us who think that a doctor’s every “hmmm” during a physical is a portent of tragic doom; who mentally extrapolate from routine family conflicts to irreparable ruptures; and whose pessimism is relentlessly fed by cable news, which — in order to hang on to our attention — portrays every freeway car chase as a potential shootout; depicts every global brushfire as the start of World War III; and shouts, “Breaking news!” so frequently that the scary music that accompanies it is itself enough to spike the nation’s blood pressure.

This is not just a Jewish phenomenon, though a few thousand years of expecting to be scapegoated, persecuted, exiled or killed certainly contributes to the melancholic gene Jews are known for carrying, the optimism of a Ben-Gurion or Sandy Koufax notwithstanding. No, this gloominess is a nonethnic worrywartism, arising from the fear and sensationalism fanned by politicians and news media alike.

This is not to say that putting Sarah Palin one melanoma from the presidency would mean good times. It would be more like James Dobson with nuclear weapons. But while her Rovian apparatchiks are stoking the worst among us with passionate intensity, it’s not inevitable that the best will lose all conviction in the voting booth.

When a political candidate convinces half a country to hope again, it’s a double-edged sword. The endorphins and neurotransmitters that wash our brains when we welcome the future instead of dreading it are as powerful as any drug. It’s like love. Unless you let your guard down, unless you permit vulnerability to trump cynicism, you rarely can get what you want. That’s why Howard Dean or John Edwards or Hillary Clinton were, for many people, so thrilling to support. That’s why hardened political operatives call that kind of enthusiasm “drinking the Kool-Aid.” That’s why, when the fall comes, it’s so painful.

But my therapist, if I understand her, has another take on this. She thinks that people identify too much with candidates. Their ups have become our ups; their downs, ours as well. And by identifying with them so closely, we inevitably make ourselves vulnerable to outside factors, to forces we can’t control. And the more political media we consume — on cable, online, on e-mail, on radio, in print — the more we cultivate the illusion that we ourselves are actual political players, that our advice is urgently needed, that everything depends on our counsel.

I’m totally guilty on this charge. “Go negative!” I yell to Obama and Biden when I see them on my screen. “Put McCain on the defensive! Go after his strength! Make the POW thing irrelevant to the presidency! Destroy the ‘maverick’ charade! Call their lies lies!” But my tirades, instead of making me feel better, only underline my powerlessness to second guess the campaign’s strategy or reshape its tone and message.

I don’t mean to diminish the importance of every single citizen in a democracy. Registering to vote, giving money, going door-to-door, expressing our opinions: there is plenty that each of us can do, and the collective action that comes from that commitment can move mountains and make history.

But there is a difference between pitching in and hitching our psyches to the day-to-day vicissitudes of campaignland or to the news media’s breathless “narrative” of the horse race. One is about us, and it is within our power to control what we ourselves do. The other is about them, and it is a kind of annihilation to cede our identity and our well-being to people outside ourselves, whether those people be candidates and commentators — or audiences, critics, velvet-rope guardians, fashionistas, studio executives, admissions committees or that hottie over there at the bar.

As for me, I’m trying to unplug. I’m still reading the papers, but I’ve gone cold turkey — well, room-temperature turkey — on cable (except for C-SPAN and “The Daily Show”), blogs (except for a few), radio (except for NPR) and every other source of political news that I thought I was obligated to mainline in real time 24/7. If I fall off the wagon, maybe there’s some 12-step group for media addicts I can join, or a 1-800-TVDETOX hotline I can call. All this may make me a lesser media yakker, I know, but think of the dough I’ll be saving on therapy.

Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear Chair in Entertainment, Media and Society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. His column appears here weekly, and his

Campus hate — while down — is still a problem, wailin’ on Palin


Quiet War at UCI

We agree with the Sept 5 letter from five UCLA academics that anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism at UCLA is less severe than that at UC Irvine (“Quiet War on Campus,” Aug. 22).

However we commend The Journal for running [Brad] Greenberg’s review of the situation on American campuses. It was a comprehensive piece that included differing views about the problem’s severity, and was of great service to Journal readers who are concerned about the issue.

We disagree however with the professors’ strategic recommendations and the elitist tone of their letter. Minimization or denial will not solve the problem, nor will denigrating off campus groups who share concern about the immediate and long-range impact of campus anti-Zionism. The 20,000 faculty members who felt it necessary to form an organization, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) to combat imbalance and poor scholarship about the Middle East conflict certainly cannot be accused of being “amateurish,” promoting “shoddy research” and “propaganda,” and of not understanding the campus or “academic freedom.”

SPME’s roster includes highly acclaimed professors and Nobel Prize winners.

There is a crying need for united action so Jewish students and faculty can proudly support Israel, not only in Hillel buildings, but also in classrooms, faculty offices and on campus quads. Jewish campus institutions have a vital role to play in this effort, but they may be constrained by sensitive campus affiliations. Independent organizations also have an important role because they are freer to express student and faculty concerns about abuses, intimidation and propaganda-like distortions.

If the five academics collaborated with other well-intentioned groups, they would find them much more reasonable, open-minded and sophisticated than their letter implies.

Roz Rothstein, Executive Director
Roberta Seid, Education Director
StandWithUs

Palin and the Jews

In response to your recent article, “Sarah Palin and the Jews” (Sept. 5), please count me as one reader who was shocked and sickened by the nastiness and pettiness of Sarah Palin’s speech [at the Republican National Convention].

If insulting community organizers, making snide remarks about Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity and mocking the location of Obama’s acceptance speech make her presidential material, then America is in serious trouble.

Jeff Goldman
Culver City

I was shocked by your flattering treatment of Gov. Sarah Palin. After picking through the trivia and smears for substance, you conclude that she “has genuinely warm relations with her Jewish constituents … and appears to have a fondness for Israel.” However, you present no evidence that she has genuinely warm feelings about Jews or genuine fondness for Israel.

Furthermore, you brush off her wearing a Pat Buchanan button when he visited her town “as a courtesy.” Come on! Would it be acceptable for her to put a sheet over her head as a courtesy if the Ku Klux Klan paraded through her town?

James Kallis
Los Angeles

I hear Jews around America saying that they are voting for Sen. John McCain because he is good for Israel. Democrats are better for Israel than McCain could ever dream to be, but now that Gov. Sarah Palin is on McCain’s ticket, there are more pressing matters at hand.

Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is “God’s task.” She’s even admitted she hasn’t thought about the war much … just last year, she was quoted as saying, “I’ve been so focused on state government, I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.”

Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. Creationism is not going to be taught from the Tanach; it will be from the New Testament — how can we allow that?

I hope that the Jews of Los Angeles will stand up against Palin so that she will not be able to continue on her path toward ruining our country.

Aimee Sax
Los Angeles

Charter School

As a retired Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) middle school teacher, I was elated to read about the New Los Angeles Charter School (New L.A.) that will be opening this month (“P.S. Tikkun Olam,” Aug. 29).

Given the poor academic performance and high dropout rate throughout much of the LAUSD, it is imperative that parents have meaningful options, such as New L.A., to assure that their children receive quality instruction in a safe and nurturing environment.

Unfortunately, both the LAUSD and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) have misplaced priorities. LAUSD’s insular district office personnel are often insensitive to the real needs of on-site administrators, school faculties and students. Meanwhile, the teachers union (UTLA) spends much of its resources blocking sorely needed reform.

It was the union that stood in the way of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to create 100 additional charter schools in Los Angeles. Little wonder that New L.A. received almost three times as many applications as it has openings.
Anything that can topple the status quo is welcome relief. On behalf of the children of Los Angeles, todah rabbah and yasher koach to Matt Albert and his crew for putting forth the effort and accepting the risk associated with starting the New Los Angeles Charter School.

Leonard M. Solomon
Los Angeles

Singles Comic Strip

Never Mind Amy the Date (“True Confessions of an Online Dating Addict,” Sept. 5). Amy’s comic strip should get dumped. Three words sum up that inert strip: worst comic ever.

Seriously, with all of the amazing Jewish comedic minds out there in Hollywood and beyond, can’t you find one real cartoonist to create something funny? Maybe you can poach a guy from HEEB.

Erin Stack
Beverly Hills

Ed. Note: We like it. Judge for yourself.

Correction
The D.I.S.C caption in the Sept. 5 issue (page 41) should have read "Dr. John T. Knight, Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon, D.I.S.C. Spine and Sports Center," instead of "Dr. Robert S. Bray Jr., CEO and Founder, one of the country's preeminent neurological spinal surgeons."

There’s too much religion in presidential campaign, says ADL’s Foxman


NEW YORK (JTA)—The political campaign season is now in high gear as the curtain falls on the Democrats in Denver and the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

While much of the media’s focus has been on handicapping the candidates and their chances in November, we would like to call attention to one less-publicized aspect of the U.S. political scene in 2008, which we find troubling.

This year, there have been increasing signs that the presidential race will present the American public with a profoundly unsettling infusion of religion and religiosity.

The trend toward this growing insertion of faith into the presidential race was first evident in Denver, and then equally so in the Twin Cities.

At the Democratic National Convention, the program included panels on “How an Obama Administration will Engage People of Faith,” “Moral Values Issues Abroad,” “Getting Out the Faith Vote” and “Common Ground on Common Good.”

Members of the clergy from across the religious spectrum had a significant presence, conducting Scripture readings at a multifaith “kickoff event” and offering invocations and benedictions. There was a clear effort to be interdenominational, but it was also apparent that the Democrats felt compelled to infuse religion into their convention in order to be politically viable.

At the Republican convention, religiously themed events played a prominent role as well. Members of the clergy led the convention in prayer each day, and there was considerable time devoted to discussing subjects such as “faith-based initiatives and family values,” which one Republican spokeswoman recently identified as being “at the heart of our party.”

There was less focus on religious diversity and less of an effort to call public attention to the convention’s religious content, probably because it was less of a departure from past Republican programs.

In raising our concerns, we mean no disrespect to religion or to family values. But there comes a point when being open about faith crosses a subtle line into pandering.

Some of what we have been seeing in this campaign is excessive and aggressive. It goes beyond a candidate’s discussing how religion shapes his or her worldview. Rather, it’s saying, “Vote for me because I’m a person of faith”—and that is directly contrary to the constitutional principle that there shall be no religious test for public office.

Both parties seem to have reached the conclusion that appealing to religious voters is good politics. But what kind of message does it send, in our religiously diverse society, when the two major presidential candidates sit in a church and forthrightly answer Pastor Rick Warren’s questions about their personal relationship with Jesus?

Renewed faith-based initiatives, religious outreach teams and religious programming at the conventions all work to curry favor with those who care which party is most favorable toward the religious.

This may be good politics, but it is not healthy for our nation.

This is not to say that Americans should oppose candidates who are religious, or that candidates shouldn’t feel free to discuss their religious beliefs with the body politic. It is understandable that candidates, from time to time, will want to express their religious beliefs—and how their faith will inform and influence their policymaking. And there’s nothing wrong with a candidate expressing his or her religious perspective—especially when confronted with misinformation, innuendo and rumor.

However, appealing to voters along religious lines can be divisive, and it is certainly contrary to the American ideal of including all Americans in the political process.

It is deeply troubling when religion is no longer just an element in understanding the character of a candidate but becomes a central part of a party’s efforts to win votes or to pander to a certain religious group or constituency. Government should not endorse, promote, or subsidize religious views—and particular religious views should not be the determining factor in public-policy decision making.

Anyone who legitimately aspires to public office in the United States must be prepared to set an example and to be a leader for all Americans, no matter his or her faith, or whether he or she even has a faith.

When candidates campaign, they should be encouraging voters to make decisions based on an assessment of their qualifications, their integrity and their political positions, not on how religious they are.

The next time a debate moderator asks the candidates to discuss their personal relationship with God, it would be refreshing to hear an answer similar to the one President Kennedy gave nearly 48 years ago, when he confronted questions about his Catholicism: “I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic.”

Religion, he was saying, is part of him, but it does not define him, and it should not be the primary lens through which Americans view him.

In this season, it is important to remind all political players that in this religiously diverse nation, there is a point at which an emphasis on religion in a political campaign becomes inappropriate and even unsettling.

(Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League and the author of “The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control.”)

Ed Koch backs Obama, says Sarah Palin is ‘scary’


NEW YORK (JTA)—Back in June,  Ed Koch was holding out on whether to endorse Barack Obama. Now the former Big Apple mayor—a Democrat who has endorsed Republicans, including President Bush in 2004—is on board (see full endorsement below).

What changed? Apparently, according to Politico.com, Koch is not a big fan of Sarah Palin:

“The designation of Palin to be vice president,” he said. “She’s scary.”

He said he was alarmed by the report that she’d triggered a conflict with the local librarian in Wasilla, Alaska by inquiring about the possibility of banning books.

“Any time someone goes to the library and says, ‘I want to ban books,’ and the librarian says ‘no,’ and she threatens to fire them — that’s scary,” he said.

(Palin at the time said she was just inquiring about the library’s policy on banning books, with no aim of actually banning any. “It was a rhetorical quesiton — nothing more,” the McCain-Palin campaign said in a memo yesterday. And no books were banned, the town says.)



Ed Koch

Presidential Endorsement

September 9, 2008

The time has come to declare whom I will be voting for.

When I made my decision four years ago and supported the reelection of George W. Bush, I said at the time the overwhelming issue for me was international Islamic terrorism, including al-Qaeda. The goal of Islamic terrorists was and still is to reestablish the Caliphate encompassing most of the Muslims living in a host of nations from Spain to Indonesia and placing them under a single religious leader with full authority over the civil affairs of the countries, in the style of Iran. That goal includes the deaths or forced conversions of Christians and Jews as infidels or the payment by them of tribute, and the elimination of the State of Israel.

In 2004, I concluded that the one person running for president who understood that danger best and was prepared to fight it and defend America and its allies was George W. Bush. Even though he is now at a low ebb in popularity, I have no regrets for having campaigned and voted for him. I said at the time I didn’t agree with him on a single domestic issue and so far as I can currently see that is still true with the exception of drilling for oil off our coasts and building nuclear energy plants.

I believe that Bush and Tony Blair, Bush’s main international ally with regard to the war in Iraq and against Islamic terrorism, will be redeemed by history. President Harry Truman was reviled when he left office, but is now honored for his courage and vision.

Now, once again, I have to make a decision to either endorse the Democratic ticket of Obama and Biden or support the Republican ticket of McCain and Palin. I am 83 years old. If I am lucky, I may yet vote not only in this election, but in the presidential election of 2012 and perhaps, if luckier, even in that of 2016. I believe I must vote my conscience, and that means for the presidential candidate who in my estimation will best protect the U.S. over the next four years.

I personally know two of those running: Joe Biden and John McCain. I like and admire them both. John McCain is a genuine war hero and patriot. Joe Biden is a friend well versed in foreign and domestic affairs, who had made judgment calls on domestic and foreign policy and legislation that I agree with. I do not personally really know the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, having spoken to him only once and briefly, or the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

One foreign policy issue that particularly concerned me in 2004 was the security of Israel. I thought in 2004 that issue was better left to President George W. Bush, and I believe I was right. President Bush understood the need to support the security of Israel and did so. I did not feel that way about Senator John Kerry.

That is not an issue in this election. Both parties and their candidates have made clear, before and during this election campaign their understanding of the need to support Israel and oppose acts of terrorism waged against it by Hamas and other Muslim supporters of terrorism.

So the issue for me is who will best protect and defend America.

I have concluded that the country is safer in the hands of Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic Party and protector of the philosophy of that party. Protecting and defending the U.S. means more than defending us from foreign attacks. It includes defending the public with respect to their civil rights, civil liberties and other needs, e.g., national health insurance, the right of abortion, the continuation of Social Security, gay rights, other rights of privacy, fair progressive taxation and a host of other needs and rights.

If the vice president were ever called on to lead the country, there is no question in my mind that the experience and demonstrated judgment of Joe Biden is superior to that of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a plucky, exciting candidate, but when her record is examined, she fails miserably with respect to her views on the domestic issues that are so important to the people of the U.S., and to me. Frankly, it would scare me if she were to succeed John McCain in the presidency.

I reiterate the question each of us must answer in making our choice, who will best protect and defend America, domestically and with respect to the literal defense of the country? I hope I’ve made the right decision but only time will tell.

Whoever wins should and, I hope, will, following the election, receive the support of all Americans, no matter how they voted, especially in these perilous times. God Bless America and the next president and vice president of the U.S.

 

Biden, Palin lead campaign clash on Mideast


ST. PAUL (JTA)—The two vice-presidential candidates led the way Wednesday as the Obama and McCain campaigns worked to draw clear battle lines on Iran and Israel.

In a highly anticipated speech at the Republican National Convention, Alaska Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin mocked U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for saying more than a year ago that as president he would meet the leaders of pariah states unconditionally.

“Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay—he wants to meet them without preconditions,” she said during her acceptance speech Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center here.

Palin’s address followed a speech by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the most popular candidate among Jewish GOPers in the primaries. Giuliani warmed up the crowd with swipes at Obama, including an assertion that the Democratic nominee had flip-flopped on the issue of Jerusalem.

“When speaking to a pro-Israeli group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem, like I favor and John McCain favors it,” Giuliani said. “Well, he favored an undivided Jerusalem—don’t get excited—until one day later when he changed his mind.”

Earlier in the day, the Democrats launched their own Middle East-related attack when Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), used a 20-minute conference call with members of the Jewish media to blast the Bush administration and McCain, the Republican presidential nominee and longtime Arizona senator.

Biden blamed the Bush administration’s sluggish diplomatic efforts for slowing up Israeli-Palestinian talks and paving the way for the ascendancy of Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. The Democratic vice presidential candidate argued that the administration has failed to respect Israel’s autonomy, citing reports that the White House at one time directed Israel not to engage in talks with Syria. And he appeared to reject the administration’s reported efforts to block Israel from taking military action against Iran.

“This is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do,” Biden said. “I have faith in the democracy of Israel. They will arrive at the right decision that they view as being in their own interests.”

That said, Biden added, the Bush administration could have done much more on the diplomatic front to help avert the potential need for military action.

Taken together, Biden’s press call and the GOP convention speeches underscored the ramped-up efforts by both campaigns to paint the other side as promoting a reckless foreign policy that would endanger Israel and undermine U.S. interests.

They come as polls suggest that Obama commands about 60 percent of the Jewish vote—a solid majority, but at least 15 points below the percentages recorded by recent Democratic presidential candidates.

Even as both sides attempted to draw stark distinctions on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, it was unclear if any exist. The clearest gap appears to be on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

McCain has said he would do so when he enters office. In response, the Obama campaign accused McCain of lying.

The last two presidents made the same promise during their campaigns, but neither Bush nor Bill Clinton over the past 16 years ever even made an attempt to actually carry out that promise.

On the wider question of Jerusalem’s final status, however, it’s not clear that the candidates disagree.

Obama felt the need to clarify comments he made on the issue to thousands of pro-Israel activists in June, but both he and McCain have expressed essentially the same views: They share Israel’s concerns and say ultimately the two sides must decide the matter in negotiations.

Though for years the Bush administration was reluctant to dive into Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, McCain has pledged to do so. Both he and Obama favor a two-state solution, place most of the blame on the Palestinians for the failure to reach one, and back efforts to isolate Hamas and shore up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Iran, however, the disagreements appear more pronounced—between Obama and the Bush administration and between the two presidential campaigns.

In mocking Obama’s stated willingness to meet with the president of Iran, Palin was echoing a longstanding line of attack against Obama employed not only by Republicans but by Obama’s main rival in the Democratic primaries, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Since Obama first made the remark during a primary debate more than a year ago, he appears to have backtracked, saying he would require extensive preparations before such a meeting.

Still, Obama and Biden have stuck to the view that hard-nosed talks between the United States and Iran could ultimately lead Tehran to change its behavior—and, failing that, make it easier to build international support for tougher sanctions and possible military action against the Islamic regime.

McCain, on the other hand, has scoffed at the notion that talking with top Iranian leaders would do any good. At the same time, McCain has opposed several congressional measures backed by Obama that supporters say would place increased economic pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear pursuits.

Biden argued during the conference call that the net result of McCain’s positions is that he’s offering a choice between “unacceptable status quo or war.”

“There’s nothing in between with the McCain doctrine—nothing,” Biden said. “That is no option. That is a Hobson’s choice.”

In her speech Wednesday night, Palin expanded the Iran debate, arguing that the energy policies she favors—in particular, expanding oil drilling in the United States, especially Alaska—would help diminish the Iranian threat.

“To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of world energy supplies or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia or that Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries,” Palin said, “we Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas.”

(Editor Ami Eden contributed in New York to this report.)

McCain team: Palin rejects views of church’s Jews for Jesus speaker


NEW YORK (JTA)—Vice presidential pick Sarah Palin says she doesn’t share the views of a Jews for Jesus leader who in a speech at her church suggested that violence against Israelis resulted from God’s judgment against Jews who have failed to embrace Jesus.

David Brickner, the executive director of Jews for Jesus, suggested in his Aug. 17 sermon at Wasilla Bible Church that the refusal to accept Jesus was responsible for the long history of devastation visited upon Jerusalem. He also described his group’s successful targeting of Israeli Jews, both in Israel and elsewhere.

“Judgment is very real, and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television,” said Brickner, according to a transcript posted on the church’s Web site. “It’s very real. When [my son] Isaac was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment—some of that conflict—when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment—you can’t miss it.”



Audio and transcript

The Hollywood candidate is not Obama


If John McCain wins this election, it will be because of Hollywood.

It’s not that Hollywood is giving him big money (it isn’t); or that big celebrities are attracting attention to him (they’re not); or that star writers and directors are helping him with stagecraft and wordsmithery (again no).

It’s that the gradual appropriation by Hollywood of politics, journalism and practically ever other domain of modern life is reaching its apotheosis in McCain’s campaign.  His persona, and the story he is telling, and the media narrative that frames and delivers it to us, all come straight from the movies. 

Unfortunately, this movie may end really, really badly.

If you want to see how entertainment conquered reality (as the subtitle of Neal Gabler’s “Life the Movie” puts it), don’t look at Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan, or at Oprah or Jane Fonda.  Look instead at the inauguration day of the era we now inhabit: September 11, 2001.

“It was like something from a movie.”  It’s stunning how universal that reaction was, whether from eye witnesses or television viewers.  It is entirely plausible that the terrorists themselves intended us to experience it as a movie—a disaster film, a horror picture, an epic of spectacular destruction and mass helplessness.

From 9/11 until now, we have lived in a state of suspense, wanting to know how it will all turn out.  Are we living through apocalyptic times, heading toward nuclear terrorism and an “On the Beach” ending?  Will the anarchy of “Mad Max” be our fate?  Will the human monsters who hate us ravage us as mercilessly as the monster of “Cloverfield” or the aliens of “War of the Worlds”?  Or will we be rescued by a latter-day cavalry, like the improbable heroes of “Independence Day”? 

George W. Bush told us we were in a Western (“Wanted, dead or alive”), and in a World War II movie (“Bring ‘em on!”).  But the quagmire of Iraq, the persistence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the return of Cold War Russia have prevented us from reaching – except in the President’s own mind, perhaps – the ultimate victory of the white hats and the good guys that those genres promise.

At the moment when things look most bleak, in rides John McCain.  Like Rambo, he has returned to rescue us, to make this war on terror end differently than that war in Vietnam.  Like Shane, he is a maverick, a loner, a reluctant gunslinger who arrives out of nowhere, back from political death.  Like Yoda, or the Wise Man of countless other science fiction films, he offers us wisdom and judgment accumulated over lifetimes.

Only that message didn’t work.  The hero of the Hanoi Hilton has used his POW history a dozen times too many to explain everything from not recalling how many houses he owns to charges that he cheated his way out of the Saddleback “cone of silence.”  The maverick who bucked George Bush turned out to vote with him 90 per cent of the time; the loner who denounced the “agents of intolerance” in his own party returned to Liberty University to pay honor to Rev. Falwell; the opponent of torture ended up supporting it; the sage turned out to be a hothead with a hair-trigger temper whose gut instincts are the problem, not the solution.

And then there was his opponent—the true outsider who made him look like Mr. Establishment, the young guy who made him look too much like Yoda, the leader of millions who made his own claims to leadership ring hollow.  Barack Obama, to be sure, has also been the beneficiary of Americans’ inclination to experience life via movie genres.  In Obama’s case, it’s the rags-to-riches saga, the only-in-America tale, plus the crusader quests of Gene McCarthy and Martin Luther King, Jr., of Bobby and Jack Kennedy – stories so burnished by Camelot mythology and an Age of Giants romanticism that the line between legend and life hardly matters.

McCain’s Rovian campaign fought genre with genre, trying everything to recast Obama into a different story.  They depicted him as a false prophet with literally Mosaic pretensions; a traitorous “Manchurian Candidate”; a demagogue, like Lonesome Roads in “A Face in the Crowd”; a rock star egomaniac, a celebrity airhead, a diva, like the characters in the serial melodramas that we call People, Extra! and TMZ.  But for all that, the race remained a dead heat.

In panic, McCain threw a Hail Mary pass—familiar to fans of sports comeback movies—and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate.  What he gets from this self-described hockey mom is a genre lift, the Hollywood fable of the un-politician who comes to Washington to straighten things out. 

She comes from a long line of movie outsiders.  Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith starts out as the head of the Boy Rangers. “The Candidate” played by Robert Redford is a lawyer for hopeless causes. Kevin Kline, who impersonates the president (for the better) in “Dave,” runs a temp agency.  In “Man of the Year,” Robin Williams is a comedian who runs for the White House.  Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods, in “Legally Blonde 2,” is the underestimated Delta Nu chick who turns Congress around.

So why not Sarah Palin as Vice President?  To be sure, the notion that women, particularly Hillary Clinton supporters, would vote for her just because she has two X chromosomes, and despite her being on the opposite side from Sen. Clinton on every policy issue facing the country: that cynical tokenism is precisely the kind of affirmative-action-at-its-worst that the right never tires of accusing the left of committing.

But McCain isn’t betting everything on the hope that self-spiting Clinton partisans and undecided younger suburban women will identify with Sarah Palin’s gender.  He’s doing it to tap into the beloved American movie myth of the salt-of-the-earth outsider who ends up in power.  He’s gambling that we just can’t help loving plots like that.

The Labor Day news that Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is five months’ pregnant adds yet one more genre to the GOP movie arsenal: within minutes of the revelation, one media wag dubbed Bristol Palin “the Juno of Juneau.”

And what about the heartbeat-away issue? As critic Katha Pollitt wrote, “If life were a Lifetime movie, Palin would do just fine running the country should McCain keel over. Girls can do anything! And look great doing it!”

John McCain is 72, and he’s been operated on for malignant melanomas—the most dangerous kind of skin cancer—four times.

At this point in the campaign, it looks as though McCain has a 50/50 chance of becoming President.  And while I wish him 120 birthdays, it is no great stretch to imagine Sarah Palin ending up in the Oval Office.  This is the entirely possible outcome that the Republicans are putting on the table this week. 

Maybe Americans won’t want to take that risk.  But McCain could well win.  More Americans may vote for the real life movie about the moose-hunting Alaskan beauty queen who goes to Washington, than for the one about the charismatic half-black Hawaiian who ends up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If John McCain wins, it is entirely conceivable that whatever scares you most in the world, and whatever you care most about doing at home, Sarah Palin will be in charge of it.  But by the time we realize how dystopic such a movie might turn out, it will be too late for any of us to leave the theater. 

Marty Kaplan wrote and executive produced “The Distinguished Gentleman,” in which Eddie Murphy plays a con man who gets elected to Congress.  He now directs the USC Annenberg School’s Norman Lear Center, which studies the impact of entertainment on society, and blogs @

McCain surrogates likely to echo Bush on Iran and Israel


DENVER (JTA)—John McCain’s campaign has walked a fine line between upholding the values of the GOP base that still reveres George W. Bush, while repudiating the legacy of the most unpopular president in modern history.

In at least one area, however, there’s no ambivalence: When it comes to Israel and how to deal with Iran, Republicans are happy to tout the Arizona senator’s consistency with the Bush presidency and his differences with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), his Democratic rival.

At next week’s GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., expect McCain and his top surrogates, including lapsed Democrat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to hammer home real policy differences between the two parties on the Middle East:

Such differences include Bush’s policy of continued democratization vs. Obama’s emphasis of reaching out to all governments; the Bush-Cheney preference for a tough military posture in the region vs. Obama’s pledge to intensify engagement in diplomacy and peacemaking.

“He recognizes Israel’s right as a sovereign to defend herself against those who seek to harm and destroy her,” says the “Jewish Advisory Coalition” page on McCain’s campaign Web site. The statement appears beneath a picture of McCain and Lieberman, wearing blue and white yarmulkes and praying at the Western Wall.

It’s a pitch that works with Republican Jews and the small portion of Jewish voters who vote strictly on Israel preferences. Coupled with McCain’s reputation as a relative moderate and anxieties about Obama, a relative unknown, the strategy appears to have eaten into the traditional 3-1 Jewish vote in favor of Democrats. Obama’s ratings have been stuck at 60 percent in Jewish polls.

McCain’s selection Friday of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, however, might reinforce charges by Democrats that McCain’s pretensions to moderation are unfounded. Palin, 44 and governor for two years, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights and gay unions.

The McCain campaign is already casting the ticket as one of reform: Palin has earned plaudits for pushing through ethics reforms in a state where Republicans have become identified with cronyism.

“In Alaska, Governor Palin challenged a corrupt system and passed a landmark ethics
reform bill,” a McCain campaign statement said. “She has actually used her veto and cut budgetary spending.”

Palin is close to the state’s small Jewish community, and as governor has visited its synagogues. She was planning an Israel trip prior to her selection.

Still, the selection of a staunch conservative only reinforces the “yes, but” ambivalence of much of McCain’s campaign: Yes, the Iraq war didn’t turn out well, but McCain’s been saying so for five years. Yes, the Bush White House exacerbated partisanship, but McCain has a history of working with Democrats.

Now expect to hear: Yes, she’s a staunch social conservative, but McCain has in the past embraced some moderate positions, for instance on stem cell research.

Among the few relative moderates appearing at the convention, Jews figure prominently: Lieberman, hometown favorite Sen. Norm Coleman (D-Minn.) and Hawaiian Gov. Linda Lingle.

The two other Jewish speakers underscore the campaign’s emphasis on reaching out to the community: Rabbi Ira Flax of Birmingham, Ala. will deliver the invocation Wednesday night, and David Flaum, the Republican Jewish Coalition chairman, will speak on Thursday night, when McCain delivers his acceptance speech.

Jewish events at the convention include an RJC luncheon with Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah, as well as events honoring pro-Israel lawmakers, Republican governors and a session analyzing the Jewish vote. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee will run the same range of private events it ran at the Democratic convention, honoring lawmakers and meeting with advisers. Even J-Street, the dovish pro-Israel group that was a prominent presence at Jewish events at the Democratic convention in Denver, will hold an event in St. Paul.

The toughest distinctions will be on Iran. Expect McCain to repeat the pledge he made most recently to a group of Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis never to “allow another Holocaust.”

Obama’s campaign is pitching what it calls its “integrated” foreign policy that incorporates diplomatic and economic pressure with outreach; at a Center for U.S. Global Engagement session in Denver, Tony Lake, Obama’s top foreign policy adviser, said dealing with Iran’s suspected nuclear program “is a perfect illustration of an integrated approach because all our options would be on the table, economic, political and military.

Lake said the Iranian challenge could become the “worst crisis we will see in the next five years” and said Obama would deal with it as soon as he takes office. “We have to have a set of very serious negotiations with the Iranians. We have to work with other nations at increasing the leverage.”

The McCain campaign, by contrast, debuted a TV ad last week emphasizing Iran as a “serious threat” that threatens to “eliminate Israel.”