In today’s Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky laments the fact that President Obama is running far behind his 2008 numbers with American Jewish voters. Given the unwillingness of most liberals to come to grips with the fact that far fewer Jewish voters are going to vote for the president this time around, such an acknowledgement is refreshing. Realizing that Obama’s current poll numbers with Jews show him 16 points behind the 78 percent he won in 2008, Tomasky admits it will be hard for him to make up that ground even if most Jews are not in love with the Republican option.
But the answer as to why these losses are unlikely to be made up and might even get bigger can be found in Tomasky’s column. Far from being convinced by speeches like the one the president delivered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, many understand that they saw the real Barack Obama earlier in his administration when he was going all out to do what left-wingers like Tomasky wanted him to do: pressure Israel to make concessions to Palestinians who don’t want peace. Even more to the point, they understand that the president’s desire to effect what Tomasky calls a “reset” of American policy toward Israel will return if he is re-elected.
Tomasky laments the fact that Obama’s speech to the AIPAC conference this year was a stark departure from the attitude demonstrated during the previous three years. That this is a far cry from the administration’s initial determination to put an end to what Tomasky calls “pro-Israel blindness,” is quite true. But the president’s cynical Jewish charm offensive isn’t likely to win back many disenchanted voters who know the difference between conviction and an election-year conversion.
Like Peter Beinart, whose foolish book he praises, Tomasky demonstrates no understanding of the real obstacle to Middle East peace. It isn’t an Israel, whose democratically elected government has accepted a two-state process; it’s the Palestinians who have shown repeatedly that they won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. The question for Jewish Democrats who care about Israel is whether they believe Obama has truly learned from his past mistakes and understands that the U.S. must stand behind Israel against Hamas and Iran or, as Tomasky hopes, a second term will bring a rerun of Obama’s previous bouts of Israel-bashing.
As I wrote in the March issue of COMMENTARY, the majority of Jewish voters are partisan liberal Democrats and are unlikely to be moved to oppose their party’s nominee no matter what he does. But there is a critical mass of Jewish swing voters — whose numbers may exceed the 16 percent difference between Obama’s current level of Jewish support and his 2008 total — who are sufficiently disgusted with his overall performance and specifically concerned about his record on Israel to possibly vote for a moderate conservative alternative this fall.
Tomasky concludes by recycling the charge that Jewish concerns about Obama’s record on Israel are mainly based on fabrications about his background. Though this president, much like his predecessor, has been the victim of a number of slanders that emanated from the margins of the political spectrum, it is a grave mistake to think Jews suspect him because of false quotes from his autobiography. The reason why so many Jews have abandoned Obama is the same reason why leftists like Tomasky support him: they think a re-elected Obama will have the “flexibility” to turn on Israel.