Our issue is at last The Issue. New York Magazine has Obama on the cover wearing a yarmulke and calling him America’s First Jewish president. (And I thought that was Clinton!) The magazine says rightly that Obama is the best thing Israel has going for it and in the wake of the rancor over the loss of Anthony Weiner’s district it seeks to sell Obama as pro-Israel to Jewish donors, apologizing for some of his political boners– like delivering the Cairo 6/09 speech without going to Israel. I thought that was a coup; no it was a mistake.
Author John Heilemann is great on settlements: “the settlements have been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, are supported by no country in the world, and have been opposed by every American president since Richard Nixon.”
Though he does not explain why American policy has been nullified. (Read Tom Friedman: Obama is “hostage” to a powerful lobby.)
Typically there is not a word about Palestinian conditions here, just repeated invocations of America’s obligation to stand by Israel, and opposition to the Palestinian statehood bid as “poison” to the peace process. The mood of the piece feels very Paris/Algeria 1958– which prime minister will best serve the French Algerians, whose world was crumbling.
I am intrigued by the list of Establishment Jews whom the Obama team is trying to win over, “A-list tribesmen.” It includes Richard Cohen– the Washington Post columnist who has lectured Obama there must be no daylight between him and Netanyahu and who has warned that Egypt might soon be ruled by Nazis. Obama’s people seek his seal of approval? My god. Also note Mort Zuckerman and the head of HBO on the list of people who can deliver funds. This is the media industrial complex. New York:
Exactly one month after his Oval Office awkwardfest with Netanyahu, Obama made the mile-and-a-half trip from the White House to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to have dinner with several dozen wealthy Jews. His appearance had twin objectives: to rake in more than $1 million and to calm their jangled nerves. Unlike many conservative Jews, the big-ticket Democrats in the room, who had paid $25,000 to $35,800 a head to be there, didn’t believe that Obama was hostile to Israel. Yet it’s fair to say they had their share of qualms and a ton of questions….
Obama won’t be alone in making this argument to Jewish donors. In addition to deploying Axelrod and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his campaign has hired an official outreach director to try to fix its Jewish problem: Ira Forman, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Forman is known for an encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish politics and a history in waging trench warfare against Republican Jewish groups. But none of that will prepare him for the job he is taking on. “A lot of what he’ll be doing is coaxing and persuading,” says a Jewish Obama megabundler. “A lot of people who raised a ton of money for the president last time are very short on enthusiasm for doing it again.”
The hiring of Forman is a tacit acknowledgment that the White House has badly handled the continual care and feeding required to keep major donors sweet—and all the more so in this case. The first White House liaison to the community was Susan Sher, who at the time was chief of staff to Michelle Obama. “Lovely woman, but she knew nothing about Israel,” says an Obama bundler, who some time ago attended a dinner with Sher and a clutch of A-list tribesmen: Mort Zuckerman, HBO co-chief Richard Plepler, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen. “It was kind of insulting to have this woman talking to these people who know this issue backward and forwards. And then there was no follow-up. Nothing.”
Both the nature and scale of Obama’s Jewish problem—at least where donors are concerned—are tough to pin down. A recent poll by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates found that among Jewish donors who gave to Obama in 2008, just 64 percent have already donated or plan to donate to him this time. Complicating the picture is the fact that Jewish buckrakers cite a variety of complaints with Obama: Some object to his rhetoric on Wall Street, some to his economic policies, and some to his handling of Israel. Then there’s the nature of fund-raising on behalf of an incumbent, which allows for much higher donations to the national party ($30,800) than to the campaign itself ($5,000). “Because you can raise so much from fewer people, it can mask a falloff in the number of donors,” says another bundler. “The president’s totals are healthy now, but you won’t know if you have a problem until later.”