Obama-the-candidate is back, and so, too, is the Israel lovefest. Speaking to “Jewish donors” in Manhattan on Wednesday amid a house call at the home of Jack Rosen, the president of the American Jewish Congress, President Obama reassured wary Jewish Americans that he’s the best friend Israel’s got.
“….[T]his administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration,” Obama noted, adding, “”No ally is more important than the state of Israel.”
These are, of course, nervous times for “friends of Israel,” as a spam recruitment message sent to me on facebook referred to them. The outcome of elections in neighboring Egypt are uncertain, Hamas has re-energized in Gaza, and Iran is just a downright hot mess. So hearing the American leader make promises about security, friendship, cooperation and any other cliche one can think of is music to their ears.
Mine is bigger than yours
Just one week earlier, Republican presidential hopefuls engaged in a televised debate chose, naturally, to tout their own Israel credentials. The former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum effectively offered his own version of reality in stating that all people who live in the West Bank are Israelis, not Palestinians. (He’s making Netanyahu look like the leader of Meretz!) And Herman Cain, caught amid sexual assault allegations, showed off a bit of machismo, declaring his support of preemptive strike on Iran. The crowd ate it up.
Rule number one: know your audience
Obama shall not be outdone. In an election year, rhetoric is important. And the President can make claims just like the next guy. But though the voters may want blood, Obama’s doesn’t necessarily have to give it to them. Jews, afterall, vote Democrat, by a margin of at least 4:1. (In the 2008 elections, 8 out of 10 Jewish American voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama, despite his middle name “Hussein.”) But the support of American Jews is important not because of their vote, but rather because of their pocketbooks. Jews rank among the highest political donor bases in the country. Their contributions can often make or break a campaign. So even though Democrats took a heavy beating in a heavily Jewish area in September in a special election to replace Anthony Weiner, the democrats will never lose New York. Obama knows that. But if he loses the cash flow that comes from those places, then his team’s operating budget will tighten. In such a case, cuts would have to be made that may eventually affect on-the-ground work in key swing states. Admittedly, there might not be many Jews in Virginia, for example, and Israel might be the furthest thing from their agenda. But Virginia has 13 electoral votes next November, and getting them will require lots of greenbacks. Maybe that’s why Obama is preaching to the choir, hoping they’ll remember the collection box on the way out of church.