April 2, 2008

Silence of the njdc lambs

In the weeks since revelations about Sen. Obama's relationship with Rev. Wright became known, I was wondering when we'd hear from the National Jewish Democratic Council. Well we've finally heard from them on the controversy.

That's right.

(Note: I'm referring to the NJDC's blog. Maybe individual members have commented on the controversy or issued public statements. Usually those would be linked to on the blog. Certainly if a Republican candidate had a similar relationship with a racist we'd have seen something on the blog.)

No condemnation of Sen. Obama's ties to a racist and antisemite. No expression of regret that the junior senator from Illinois didn't condemn Rev. Wright until the issue became an embarrassment.

The NJDC, though, is quite happy about the prospect of having so many Jewish super-delegates to the Democratic convention.

According to a Gallup Poll published yesterday, Jewish voters are split roughly down the middle. 48% prefer Senator Clinton, and 43% prefer Senator Obama; this 5-point lead for Senator Clinton is within the margin of error. With the race as close as it is, these Jewish superdelegates could play a pivotal role in determining the Democratic presidential nominee.

So Jews could play a role in handing the Democratic nomination to a white woman instead of a fellow who attends a church whose former pastor considers "Israel" a dirty word. That isn't exactly something I'd be excited about.

Perhaps a group of Jewish Pennsylvania politicians understand that too. The Caucus reports: Pa. Jewish Leaders Praise Obama in Letter

The letter, which can be found online here at the Jewish news service JTA, praises Senator Obama at length for his recent speech on race and argues that he shouldn’t be held accountable for incendiary remarks made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

While we are profoundly disturbed by the unpatriotic, bigoted and anti-Semitic comments of the retired pastor of Senator Obama’s church, we are moved that Barack stood up at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia earlier this month, and “condemned in unequivocal terms the statements of Reverend Wright” and expressed his own views on issues near and dear to the heart and soul of the Jewish community.

Specifically, in repudiating the remarks of his former pastor, Senator Obama said Reverend Wright “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country…a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.”

“We respectfully ask that you stand with Senator Barack Obama and vote for him on April 22,” the letter ends.

Sen. Obama's speech, to my mind, contained too much equivocation to be viewed in such a positive light. It was less a "repudiation" than asking others to understand where Rev. Wright was coming from.

The Caucus item concludes:

Henri Barkey, chairman of the international relations program at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., is an unpaid foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign who affixed his signature to the letter. Senator Obama has been “misrepresented” by his association with Reverend Wright, Mr. Barkey said, and Jewish people should hear the truth about Mr. Obama’s pro-Israel policies from fellow Jewish people.

“This is how American politics can get — very dirty and personal,” Mr. Barkey said. “My sense in this day and age is you don’t let anything fester. You set the record straight, and perhaps that should have been done earlier. When you don’t respond quicker, people assume it’s true.”

Dirty? Personal? Sen. Obama's ties with Rev. Wright really go to the heart of his character. The most charitable explanation is that Sen. Obama didn't accept what he was hearing or was even appalled by it, but he attended the church because it was politically expedient for him to do so. Of course that makes him as cynical as we've come to expect politicians to be. Nothing messianic about that. It's politics as usual, with an unusually articulate salesman making the deal.

Israel Matzav critiques the Jewish Pennsylvania politicians:

Not every 'liberal cause' is reconcilable with Judaism. But it's clear that these 'leaders' have decided to replace the Jewish version of social justice with their own.

Still other aspects of Sen. Obama's ties to the church are hard to explain away. How does Sen. Obama pose as a supporter of Israel when his church's newsletter published the manifesto of Hamas without, apparently, eliciting any sort of objection from the senator? (h/t Colossus of Rhodey.Hube) And how does he stand by his church's support for Minister Farrakhan? He may have denounced Farrakhan, but he did march in the million man march. What's expedient? Sen. Obama's flirtation with Farrakhan or his disavowal of said relationship? The same can be asked of his ties to Rev. Wright.

The NJDC considers talks of Sen. Obama's ties with Farrakhan to be smears. As mentioned above, Sen. Obama's ties to Farrakhan aren't unfair game. They speak against his "post-racial" appeal. They also suggest that Sen. Obama's is good deal more cynical than his supporters would acknowledge. This isn't American idol we're talking about. We're talking about a campaign to see who will lead the free world.

Someone who has built his career by tolerating the intolerant needs to explain that tolerance. Sen. Obama's reassessment ought to have come before Rev. Wright or Minister Farrakhan became liabilities. That it didn't raises questions about Sen. Obama's sincerity in repudiating them.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Posted by SoccerDad at April 2, 2008 5:50 AM
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