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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Kerry Conspiracy To Sell Out Israel

Catholics aren’t the only faith community being urged to vote for George W. Bush as an act of group loyalty. Republicans have spent a lot of time telling Jewish Americans they owe the incumbent a vote because of his staunch support for an embattled Israeli government.
This is a Republican pitch that dates back to Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, in which Karl Rove cut his teeth. And indeed, Republicans were making some slow progress in reducing Democratic margins among Jews until the administration of Daddy Bush, whose Secretary of State, James Baker, oversaw a Middle East policy that seemed, well, like about what you’d expect from a guy who thought about oil 24-7 (it’s no accident that Baker has been relegated to the role of political fixer by Bush the Younger).
But what the hey, you can’t blame BC04 for giving the political conversion of the Jews the ol’ college try. They are, after all, working uphill against a mistrust of the political Right–and especially of the theocratic political Right–among Jews that was earned over a millenium or so.
Proving once again that nobody even remotely connected with the president’s re-election effort can stay positive for any length of time, the ever-angry conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer today tossed a real screwball into the discussion: John Kerry’s going to sell out Israel!

This is, shall we say, a rather counter-intuitive argument. Kerry, after all, has a twenty-year record in the Senate of unflinching support for Israel; even Zell Miller wouldn’t dare claim otherwise. Two of Kerry’s grandparents were Jewish. His one significant difference of opinion with the incumbent on Israeli-Palestinian issues is that he has promised to become more personally involved.
Krauthammer’s reasoning can be boiled down to this: Kerry wants to make nice with Europeans. Europeans don’t like Israel. Thus, Kerry will “sacrifice Israel” in order to make his Euroweenie buddies feel all warm and cuddly inside. Open and shut case, all right.
To be fair, Krauthammer isn’t necessarily singling out Kerry for abuse. As his long-time readers know, he pretty much suspects everybody, including most Israelis, of a conscious or subconscious willingness to betray Israel. Perhaps this is just an occupational hazard of being a psychiatrist-turned-pundit. Or maybe it’s an example of the old saying that if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But Krauthammer’s argument is not exactly bolstered by his bitter tangent blasting Bill Clinton for his willingness to negotiate with Yasir Arafat. I know it’s been a while, but if I remember correctly, Clinton agreed to deal with the blood-stained old kleptocrat precisely because that’s what every Israeli government of the period wanted him to do. And Clinton was, and remains, very popular among Israelis, who haven’t quite bought Krauthammer’s line that the 42d president was working hard to sell them down the river.
In any event, GOPers would be well advised to stick to the positive case for Bush’s Middle East policies, as part of a positive case for Jewish support. Rabbi Daniel Lapin of the American Alliance of Christians and Jews recently argued (in a piece optimistically entitled American Jews Will Support Bush!) that support for Israel “springs from the heartland of the United States as a reflection of the deep commitment to Judeo-Christian values felt by so many people in the United States. President Bush personifies that commitment which is starting to make so many Jews feel comfortable with his party.” Yes, it’s yet another argument that seeks to identify Bush with qualities properly attributed to the country as a whole–a claim that would be a bit more compelling if he were not a deeply divisive president waging a deeply divisive campaign for re-election. But at least the Rabbi isn’t trying to smear John Kerry–and by implication, every Democrat–for anti-Zionist sentiments so secret that they don’t even exist.

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