Archive for April 12th, 2010

Jews Still Support Obama

Monday, April 12th, 2010

For all the hyperventilating from American Jewish leaders about how terrible Obama is on Israel – Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post has gone as far to suggest that Obama is intentionally “fomenting a crisis in U.S. relations with Israel” — the latest polling shows a majority of American Jews firmly support the U.S. president on Israel.

According to the poll, 57 percent of American Jews support Obama, while 38 percent disapprove. And a full 55 percent approve of how Obama is handling Israel, while 37 percent take the opposite view.

(By comparison, only 50 percent of Jews approve of the way Obama is handling health care; 48 percent disapprove.)

And, despite all the huffing and puffing about a crisis between the two countries — a supposed material breach — a full 73 percent still view the U.S.-Israel relationship as somewhat or very positive.

What this tells me is that Obama may be more in touch with the pulse of the American Jewish community, writ large, than the Jewish leaders who pillory his policies.

Perhaps the most telling — and frightening — number in the entire poll is the very last one. While a solid majority (74 percent) say they feel fairly or very close to Israel, a full 25 percent say they feel fairly or very distant. That’s one out of four American Jews. And it does not bode well.

Glick, in her column, argues unpersuasively that Obama is intentionally trying to sabotage Israel’s image among American Jews, to drive down popular support for Israel.

These numbers suggest to me that Israel’s support is already diminished, as a generation of Jewish Americans who haven’t known anti-Semitism and have little connection to the Holocaust come of age — amid interminable Middle East conflict.

Breaking the Heart of Hope

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Gary Wills, professor emeritus of history at Northwestern, reviews David Remnick’s new book about Obama in the New York Times today. Here are his final four lines:

Continuity easily turns into inertia, as we found when Obama wasted the first year of his term, the optimum time for getting things done. He may have drunk his own Kool-Aid — believing that his election could of itself usher in a post-racial, post-partisan, post-red-state and blue-state era. That is a change no one should ever have believed in. The price of winningness can be losing; and that, in this scary time, is enough to break the heart of hope.

This summation feels way too pat to me — especially for a history professor. Inertia? All Obama tried to do in his first term was to pass a politically-unpopular stimulus bill because it was the best thing to do to right the faltered economy, and then pass a health care bill, to insure 30 million un-insured. (And why are these times more scary than others? 1980? 1967? 1963? 1947? 1939-1944? 1917 … 1861-1865? …)

Obama still believes he can work across party lines. Maybe Wills would call this naive.

I’d call it something else.

The most insightful lines in the book review come near the beginning. Obama, Wills writes:

is a bit of a chameleon or shape-shifter, but he does not come across as insincere — that is the importance of his famous “cool.” He does not have the hot eagerness of the con man.

That is — he’s authentic. I’d argue that for Obama, the price of winningness is sincerity. I think voters see that. Even voters who don’t like him.

Over time, authenticity in politics carries the day.