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May 8, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 8, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 8, 2009 By Marc R. Stanley During his first 100 days in office, the American Jew- ish community has already taken great pleasure with the performance of Presi- dent Barack Obama. He has begun to develop a deep and substantive relationship with the Jewish community by, among other things, hosting the first presidential Seder. creating strong outreach with our community, and working on key domestic and international issues of interest to American Jews. Impressively, in less than three and a half months, the Obama administration has already made marked progress with progressive policies that are important to our com- munity: the economy, Israel, the Middle East, reproductive rights, renewable energy, and stem cell research. The aforementioned Seder caused quite a buzz in our community. Not only was it So far, so good with Obarna administration PAGE 5A the first presidential Seder in our nation's history, but it has become symbolic of the intimate and deep relation- ship our president has with our community (I must have received 50 photos of the Seder from friends and fam- ily). Not only has the President embraced one of our most important rituals he has comforted us as a community by including in his adminis- tration individuals with whom we have long-standing, close relationships. Obama has put together a dream team of excellent advisors and ap- pointments, several of whom are members of our faith. As a community, we are grateful that the President has spoken out loudly against hate and intolerance. Two weeks ago, President Obama spoke at the HoloCaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol and called onAmericans to"contemplate the obligations of the living" and fight against "those who insist the Holocaust never happened, who perpetrate every form of intolerance." Earlier last month, under his direction, the U.S. boycotted a vehemently anti-Israel United Nation's conference on racism (Durban II). Being a leader in the Jew- ish community during the Obama administration means more thanjustbeing invited to Chanukkahparties and events at the White House• Thus far. the Obama administration has made a concerted effort to communicate with and in- volve our community in major policy decisions. For example, the administration briefed Jewish community leaders on regular high-level conference calls during the formulation of policy towardDurban II. Be- fore then, the administration invited community leaders to participate in a hour-long conference call with George Mitchell, U.S. special envoy to the Middle East. The conversa- tion was substantive, candid and meaningful. Those on the call were impressed by both Mitchell's grasp of the issues and his attentiveness to the participants' questions. In these first 100 days, the most senior members of this administration not only reached out to the Jewish com- munity, they listened.Although Obama's critics continue to search for ways to prove that he is anti-Israel, their message lacks substance and has very little resonance within the wider Jewish community. Of critical importance to us, Obama's foreign policy has immeasurably improved America's image abroad. Both his foreign and his domestic policy objectives make Israel and the U.S. more secure. The Presi˘lent's policies moving America toward renewable energy and off Middle East oil have already begun to be im- plemented. These priorities, as well as those whom Obama has appointed to serve in his administration, subscribe to strategies that give the utmost importance to Israel's peace and security. On the domestic front. Obama has acted swiftly on critical issues and has revised • some of President George W. Bush's damaged policies. On the economy, the President has shown bold leadership to lead America's economy out of this crisis and will create or save millions of Ameri- can jobs, provide tax relief. and invest in our long-term economic security. Obama also ensured that we will not fall behind other leading coufitries in important areas of research and development by lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Exploring this burgeoning field will ensure that the U.S. is expanding its scientific frontier and provide Americans with the most advanced medical treatments. As with stern cells, the President chose good pol- icy over partisan politics when he struck down the infamous Global Gag rule, which prohibited U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics. This provided life-saving health services to women and also provided counseling or refer- rals about abortion services. And finally, after many years of politicization at the FDA. Obama is putting science over blind ideology, including allowing Plan B, the morning after pill. to be available with- out a prescription to women 17 and older. We should not overstate the importance of Obama's first 100 days. There are. after all. over 1,300 days left in the President's first term. However, we are happy to say that the first 15 weeks of his presidency have made us proud and have fulfilled his promise of much needed change for our country. Marc R. Stanley is chair- man of the National Jewish Democratic Council. By Matt Brooks WASHINGTON 0TA) -As Americans examine the first 100 days of the Obamaadmin- istration, it is important to make a candid assessment of the president's actions so far. These first months are widely considered an indicator of the policies the president will pursue in the years to come. So what have We seen in the first 100 days of this presidency? AS Iran continues to work feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons, the United States continues to pursue its policy of "engagement." North Korea launched First 100 days offer cause for concern a long-range missile. The next day, the administration arinounced drastic cuts in missile defense funding, including a halt to further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed to counter missiles from North Korea. Our president, in a hand- shake seen around the world, embraced Hugo Chavezwhile Venezuelan Jews face viru- lent. government-sponsored harassment• We have seen the president reverse the Bush administra- tion's policy of boycotting the U. N. Human Rights Council• the body that organized the Durban II conference against racism and that continuously focuses on condemning Israel and turning a blind eye to the genocide in Darfur and other human-rights abuses. The Obama administra- tion chose Charles "Chas" Freeman to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman is a long- standing apologist for the Saudi regime, a harsh and ideological critic of Israel. and La proud subscriber to theWalt/Mearsheimer"Israel Lobby" thesis. After a public outcry against Freeman tak- ing uch a sensitive security posti Freeman stepped down. Many mainstream media outlets have reported on the growing "tension" between the Obama administration and the new Israeli govern- ment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Obama administration has asked Congress to relax sanctions against the terror- ist group Hamas, so that if Hamas and Fatah ever come to share power in a Palestin- ian unity government, the United Staes can continue to send millions of dollars to the territories. We have seen trillions and trillions of dollars allocated to bailouts and new govern- Specter's defection: m'i'" unbridled a t]on, not ideology ment spending. The massive growth of government en- gendered by this spending, and the debt burden to our children and grandchildren, will haunt us for decades. Our security agencies have been paralyzed by the double punch of released in- telligence memos andvague threats to prosecute those who protected this country from harm in the pre)ious administration. Despite promises of"trans- parency" and "openness," only one of the 11bills signed by the president so far have been made available to the public for review before sign- ing. (In fact. some of them weren't actually reviewed by members of Congress before they were whisked up to the president's desk.) The president promised By Jonathan S. Tobin 1980 was a golden year for Jewish Republicans. That November Ronald Reagan won nearly 40 percent of the Jewish vote for the presi- dency, a modern record for the GOP and a mark that they have never come close to achieving since then. tn that same year, Arlen Specter was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate from Pennsylvania riding happily on Reagan's coat tails• Back then Jewish Republicans trumpeted Reagan's impres- sive showing as well as the victories of candidates like Specter as proof that Ameri- can Jews were finally shedding their allegiance to the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other Democratic icons. But Milton Himmelfarb's famous quip that Jews live like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans proved to be a more lasting insight on Jewish voting patterns than much of the analysis that came out of the 1980 election. Conserva- tives may believe that political ideas that were basedon the immigrant experience are no longer relevant to Jewish problems but the majority of Jews who interpret their religious/ethnic tradition as being synonymous witl liberalism disagree. No Republican candidate for president has ever come close to equaling Reagan's vote that year. including Reagan himself. In the last two presidential elections the pro-Israel stands of both George W. Bush and John McCain were not enough to trump other factors--includ- ing an unreasonable fear of conservative Christians as well as party-line loyalty to the Democrats--that proved decisive in determining the Jewish vote. In the eyes of liberal Democrats and some discontented Republicans such as author David Frum. the fact that social conserva- tives, such as 2008 vice presi'- dential candidate Sarah Palin, seemed to have effectivelywon control of the Republicans gives substance to the belief that moderates have no place in the contemporary GOP. But Specter's departure from the Republican Party has far more to do with his personal political dilemma than it does with the future of the GOP. Though he is hardly the only American politician of whom it can be said that he is in business for himself, Specter has always been a political party of one whose bnly platform plank is the advancement of the senior senator from the Keystone Stat. Slecter was. after all. a Democrat in the 1960s when he first switched parties, not over any ideological differenc- es with his party, but because his Iath to higher office was blocked. He remained in the party, not out of any loyalty to Rpublican liberalism such as that exemplified by Jacob Javit (a liberal Republican who]represented New York in tlte Senate from 1956 to 1980) but out of convenience. Once elected to the Senate. Speer's only consistent trait as a legislator was a hunger for massive amounts of legislative porkithat he brought home to Pent,sylvania, solidifying his personal power. On foreign poliO, he was no defense hawk in the sense that domestic liber4 "Sco Lieb on a free- ind still back he h Hafe Sena to D Tl ds such as the late Henry )p" Jackson or Joseph .rman were. On this. as ! other issues, he was a ancer rather than a true endent. Thus, while counting himself as a .'r of the Jewish State, ecame Syrian dictator Assad's favorite U. S. tor, frequently traveling rnascus over the years. ough he was pro-choice on abortion in a party in which the majority remained pro-life, it is a myth that this played a prominent role in hostility to Specter from the right. After all. two-term Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge was also a pro-choice Republican but remains a popular figure in his party. Instead it was Specter's daz- zling inconsistency, disloyalty and relentless self-promotion that grated most on GOP sensibilities. It was no wonder that his foes in both parties found him a frustrating op- ponent. As Joseph Hoeffel. his Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, said of Specter: "It's hard to run against Arlen on the issues because he's on both sides of every one." In 2004. Specter faced a stiff primary challenge from Pat Toomey, a hard-core con- servative congressman. Yet he still received the enthusiastic backing of President Bush and his Senate colleague Rick Santorum, both ofwhomwere closer to Toomey on the issues than Specter. Hours after he won that race by a whisker, he held a press conference in which he emphatically turned his back on Bush. Despite this, five years Tobln on page 18A not to appoint lobbyists to his administration. He has appointed several, including former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense• We have seen thousands of people across the country protest against the high taxes and unimaginable govern- ment spending proposed by this president. These "tea parties"--peaceful, truly grass-roots demonstrations of public opinion--were called "unhealthy" by senior White House adviser DavidAxelrod. As Americans, we all want our president and our coun- try to succeed in tough and challenging times. However, for those who care deeply about national security, the economy and other vital issues, these early days of the administration offer an opportunity to examine the president's priorities and intentions that should not be missed• While the president's sup- porters will praise hisactions in the first 100 days, many of the president's actions have been cause for concern for American Jews. A balanced and honest review is in order. Matt Brooks is the execu- tive director of the Republi- can Jewish Coalition. Dry Bones A WEST ?.OAST P2OI:ESc.,OR 5EI00T ALL HIS 5TUOEIVT5 HOLOCAUST PHOTO5 IN EAAAILS CALLING ISRAELE/00AZI5 DEMONIZER ISRAEL t5 ,TEW00 Ht00ELI:/! APPAREfJTLY HE WONT NVTO BUT HE r.X00D , T2C00BLE BE WITH" - THE OUTRAC, C'00IS SENON00 SPA/VV q $ www.drybonesblog.€om