Is McCain Courting Jewish Voters or Dollars?

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On NPR’s All Things Considered tonight, Eric Westervelt put forward the usual conflation of Jewish votes and Jewish money in the American presidential campaign. John McCain’s 2-day trip to Israel was aimed at "courting Jewish voters in the U.S.," Westervelt said, quoting Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Then Westervelt added that Erekat "said with a smile that some day Palestinians may have more money for campaign contributions."

I wonder if Erekat said that with a smile or if he said it seriously.

And anyway, what’s the truth here? McCain is spending two days in Israel with Joe Lieberman at his side, just as the anti-Israel murmuring campaign against Obama has heated up back here. Is McCain courting Jewish votes or Jewish money?

Certainly Jewish money is important to Republicans. It apparently makes up the lion’s share of the funding for Freedom’s Watch, the pro-Iraq-war pressure group started by Republican Jewish Coalition members. I notice that Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner, used to give money to Democrats; but in the last year he has given the maximum, $2300, to McCain and Mitt Romney. Kraft is also a big giver ($10,000) to Joe Lieberman, who used to be a Democrat. And when Lieberman ran as an independent against Democrat Ned Lamont in Connecticut in ’06, he had big Jewish money behind him, the Jewish press reported at the time–partly by questioning Lamont’s support for Israel.

As to voters, McCain surely hopes to approach Reagan’s 24 percent of the Jewish vote (which George H.W. Bush subsequently shot down to 10 when he lost in ’92 by standing up to Israel’s colonization of the West Bank). Those swing Jews are said to be a crucial bloc in Florida and Pennsylvania.

I tend to think money, because that’s one of my themes: Jewish wealth as a factor in American public life. And the media tend to use "voters" so they don’t have to deal with this more-perplexing, less democratic form of political activity. I’m willing to be persuaded McCain’s going for voters, but my chief desire is that the media would report this important angle without a snigger.

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