The irrationality of Obama's critics

These op-eds attempt to predict Obama's future behavior by employing the tool of "guilt by association."

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
In the past few weeks The Jerusalem Post has run two hysterically anti-Barack Obama op-eds - Morris J. Amitay's "McCain for America - and Israel" and Jennifer Rubin's "Why more Jews won't be voting Democrat this year." At first glance these two pieces appear to take two very different approaches to the task of tearing down Obama among Jewish readers, but a closer reading highlights their similar deceptive tactics.
What is most striking in these two op-eds, as well as many other opinion pieces of this genre, is their willingness to bemoan the "ignorance" of the vast majority of American Jews who continue to vote Democratic - even in 2008. This line of argument, which bewails voter ignorance, is very common in American history. Elites who find themselves in a minority often are dumbfounded at the stupidity of the electorate and revert to what is called "the masses are asses" explanation of their minority status.
Both Rubin and Amitay come up with unorthodox and somewhat bizarre "proofs" of Obama's scariness. For more than 40 years the pro-Israel community has relied on objective measures of a presidential candidate's pro-Israel credentials - first the candidate's voting record and second (particularly if the voting record does not exist) his public statements. In their pieces, both Rubin and Amitay abandon this time-tested method of assessment and resort to various forms of reading animal entrails to establish a candidate's pro-Israel bona fides.
Rubin spends much of her time harking back to 1973 to argue that president Richard Nixon's steadfast and unwavering support for resupply of Israel during the Yom Kippur War is the gold standard for presidential behavior. As best as I can determine her logic, she argues that because Obama did not support the Kyl-Lieberman amendment we could never trust that he would react in a Nixonian manner if Israel was again in desperate peril.
Unfortunately, Rubin's historical memory is faulty. The Nixon Administration's behavior in 1973 was not so simplistically heroic. For example, we know that prime minister Golda Meir avoided strikes against Egypt and Syria in October because of pressure from Nixon. In fact, Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, has said that if Israel had acted preemptively they would not have received "so much as a nail."
THEN THERE is the question of Kyl-Lieberman. Rubin is convinced that this is proof positive of Obama's fecklessness when it comes to Israel. Yet AIPAC, which declares (based on voting records) that both John McCain and Obama are pro-Israel, does not consider Kyl-Lieberman demonstrative of a senator's pro-Israel credentials, as it does not list Kyl-Lieberman on its voting records. Moreover, despite Rubin's overheated rhetoric, Obama has been willing (pre and post Kyl-Lieberman) to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.
Another way both of these op-eds attempt to predict Obama's future behavior is to employ the tool of "guilt by association." In a modern campaign, thousands of citizens associate themselves with the candidates , and thousands more have some kind of a non-endorsement "association." It has become an art form among partisans to find "dirt" on one or another of these "supporters" and then to declare that their opinions must reflect the views of the candidates. To this end, Rubin and Amitay trot out boogiemen like Louis Farrakhan and Michael Moore.
For a moment let us apply the same standard to their candidate - McCain. McCain has declared he would appoint the former secretary of state James Baker as his Middle East envoy. McCain has, in the past, declared he would use Zbigniew Brzezinski as one of his foreign policy advisors. McCain's national finance co-chair, Fred Malek, is the operative Nixon tasked with seeking out the Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics so they could be fired. Not to mention the "guilt by association" implications of the numerous McCain campaign personalities who have Iranian business and lobbying connections.
These associations do not make McCain an enemy of Israel and the Jews. And of course similar charges do not indict Obama.
Finally, Amitay and Rubin assiduously chastize American Jews for considering any issue other than Israel - even given both candidates's pro-Israel records. Yet nearly everyone would agree that the security of both American Jews and Israel is most enhanced when the United States is strong at home as well as abroad. Can anyone still make the argument that Bush made America stronger in seven and a half years?
Polls indicate that a sizeable majority of American Jews care deeply about Israel, and show that once a candidate meets the pro-Israel threshold, Jewish voters will examine other issues. Is it wrong for Jewish Americans to vote for a pro-Israel candidate who also cares about a women's reproductive freedom? Is it wrong for them to vote for a pro-Israel candidate who does not say that America is a "Christian nation" and should not teach intelligent design in public schools?
Thirty years ago, as a young lobbyist for AIPAC, my boss, the executive director, taught me that the way to assess a candidate for higher political office is to "go to the pro-Israel voting record." My boss was Morris Amitay.
The writer is executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.