Yes, we’ve heard this all before (and before that), but President Obama is once again taking up renewed outreach to Jewish voters. This time, his problems are much more palpable than during his clash with Prime Minister Netanyahu in May. NY-9 voters roundly rejected Obama’s Israel policy, his polling numbers have been sliding with Jewish voters, and he’s heading into a city where his face is plastered on billboards under the words “Not Pro-Israel.”
So he’s pushing back, both from the campaign and the White House, reports Lynn Sweet:
On Tuesday afternoon, I have learned, the Obama team reached out to leaders and activists in the U.S. Jewish community in two conference calls: one organized by the Obama 2012 campaign, the second by the White House.
The campaign call was put together by Ira Forman, the Obama 2012 Jewish Outreach Director, featured Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
The campaign has launched a new website (as it tends to do in these situations), and this one even features a video of Obama being praised by Danny Ayalon, of all people. Can’t wait to see how the anti-Israel groups on the left react to that.
Ben Smith also reports Obama has invited Ed Koch to a UN reception he’s hosting this week, a sign the White House isn’t completely ignoring the lessons of NY-9:
Mayor Ed Koch, his longtime aide George Arzt confirmed, received an unexpected invitation to a gathering of dignitaries the American president typically hosts during his New York visit. This is far from a private audience, but it does seem to be the beginning of a courtship of the former New York mayor, who emerged as a real thorn in Democrats’ side this summer. Koch had not, Arzt said, been invited to the event in Obama’s first two years, and the invitation is hardly a reward for loyalty.
Of course, Smith notes that “[n]either Koch nor the White House suggested any private meeting with the president tomorrow” – which raises the question of how much Obama has taken away from his past failed attempts at outreach. Obama’s engagement with the Jewish community has usually come when his relationship with the community has reached a crisis point. Then he’ll slap together a website, reassure Jewish leaders, and stage the necessary photo ops. But once the moment passes, he has no follow-through. If Obama really wants to improve his image with Israel supporters in the long-term, he needs to actually work with critics like Koch and make fundamental changes to his policies. Symbolic outreach might generate publicity, but it won’t help him in the long run.