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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama's Jewish Problem Isn't Messaging It Is The Message Itself

After the upset in New York's 9th District special election, where the Republican candidate took a reliable Democratic seat that Dems have held for almost nine decades, and many pointing to the Jewish vote in that district as the tipping point, along with other factors such as the economy.
Barack Obama has finally begun to understand that Obama has problem with the Jewish vote.

The New York Times explains what the Obama team plans to do about their Jewish problem:

Sensing trouble, the Obama campaign and Democratic Party leaders have mobilized to solidify the president’s standing with Jewish voters. The Democratic National Committee has established a Jewish outreach program. The campaign is singling out Jewish groups, donors and other supporters with calls and e-mails to counter the Republican narrative that Mr. Obama is hostile to Israel.

Among those efforts is a multi-page set of talking points circulated last Friday with the title, “President Obama’s Stance on Israel: Myths vs. Facts.” David Axelrod, a close Obama adviser, has sent e-mails to Jewish voters, pointing them to a speech by the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, praising Mr. Obama and saying he had deepened the military cooperation between the United States and Israel.

The problem with this approach is Obama's inability to tell the difference between a messaging problem and his offensive handling of one of our closest allies in the Middle East, Israel.

It isn't and hasn't been that Obama or his team didn't explain his message well enough, the problem lies with the message itself which has been on public display since before Obama even took office.

WSJ carefully presents what the Jewish community has seen from Obama and his team since 2008:

• February 2008: When running for president, then-Sen. Obama told an audience in Cleveland: "There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel." Likud had been out of power for two years when Mr. Obama made this statement. At the time the country was being led by the centrist Kadima government of Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Olmert had been pursuing an unprecedented territorial compromise. As for Likud governments, it was under Likud that Israel made its largest territorial compromises—withdrawals from Sinai and Gaza.

• July 2009: Mr. Obama hosted American Jewish leaders at the White House, reportedly telling them that he sought to put "daylight" between America and Israel. "For eight years"—during the Bush administration—"there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished," he declared.

Nothing? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon uprooted thousands of settlers from their homes in Gaza and the northern West Bank and deployed the Israeli army to forcibly relocate their fellow citizens. Mr. Sharon then resigned from the Likud Party to build a majority party based on a two-state consensus.

In the same meeting with Jewish leaders, Mr. Obama told the group that Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection." This statement stunned the Americans in attendance: Israeli society is many things, but lacking in self-reflection isn't one of them. It's impossible to envision the president delivering a similar lecture to Muslim leaders.

September 2009: In his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama devoted five paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during which he declared (to loud applause) that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." He went on to draw a connection between rocket attacks on Israeli civilians with living conditions in Gaza. There was not a single unconditional criticism of Palestinian terrorism.

• March 2010: During Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, a Jerusalem municipal office announced plans for new construction in a part of Jerusalem. The president launched an unprecedented weeks-long offensive against Israel. Mr. Biden very publicly departed Israel.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a now-infamous 45-minute phone call, telling him that Israel had "harmed the bilateral relationship." (The State Department triumphantly shared details of the call with the press.) The Israeli ambassador was dressed-down at the State Department, Mr. Obama's Middle East envoy canceled his trip to Israel, and the U.S. joined the European condemnation of Israel.

Moments after Mr. Biden concluded his visit to the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority held a ceremony to honor Dalal Mughrabi, who led one of the deadliest Palestinian terror attacks in history: the so-called Coastal Road Massacre that killed 38, including 13 children and an American. The Obama administration was silent. But that same day, on ABC, Mr. Axelrod called Israel's planned construction of apartments in its own capital an "insult" and an "affront" to the United States. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went on Fox News to accuse Mr. Netanyahu of "weakening trust" between the two countries.

Ten days later, Mr. Netanyahu traveled to Washington to mend fences but was snubbed at a White House meeting with President Obama—no photo op, no joint statement, and he was sent out through a side door.

• April 2010: Mr. Netanyahu pulled out of the Obama-sponsored Washington summit on nuclear proliferation after it became clear that Turkey and Egypt intended to use the occasion to condemn the Israeli nuclear program, and Mr. Obama would not intervene.

• March 2011: Mr. Obama returned to his habit of urging Israelis to engage in self-reflection, inviting Jewish community leaders to the White House and instructing them to "search your souls" about Israel's dedication to peace.

• May 2011: The State Department issued a press release declaring that the department's No. 2 official, James Steinberg, would be visiting "Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank." In other words, Jerusalem is not part of Israel. Later in the month, only hours before Mr. Netanyahu departed from Israel to Washington, Mr. Obama delivered his Arab Spring speech, which focused on a demand that Israel return to its indefensible pre-1967 borders with land swaps.

There is no doubt that the majority of the Jewish vote will go to Democrats in 2012, they are reliably Democrats, but a 10 to 15 percent drop could very well damage Obama's chances in his bid for reelection when added to the economy and unemployment problems he faces around the country and the drop of support for Obama in every other demographic across the board.

Ben Smith at The Politico provides some insight from Jeff Ballabon, a media executive and Republican figure who's been involved for years in pulling Orthodox Jewish to the GOP and in very hawkish Israel politics, whom he ran into at Bob Turner's victory party:

All the distinguishing characteristics aside, the numbers in NY9 were so extraordinary that the lame "a majority of Jews will always vote for the Democrat" spin by Schumer and DWS is just beside the point. The point is that there suddenly is a significant (at least 10-15%, maybe more) swing in play in the overall Jewish population in Florida and elsewhere. The point is that they suddenly need to raise a ton more cash to fight in a whole bunch of new places And the point is that their leader's approach to the economy has left less cash available and fewer people willing to give it.

As far as what actually drove yesterday's numbers, Jews (Orthodox and otherwise) are as fed up by President Obama's handling of the economy as is every group in America. Layered on top for us is the one-two punch of his abysmal treatment of Israel and, in particular for the frum [more observant] community, the shock over New York's strident move to change the definition of marriage. All three contributed to an incredible upset for Obama and the Democrats, but it's clear that any two of them would have been enough.

Finally, the other thing that's changed is that nobody is afraid of being called a racist anymore. The guy is just not working out and even people who still like him know it. In fact everyone seems to know he's in the wrong job, except for him. You could almost feel sympathy for the guy, if you weren't so wrapped up in the misery of your own financial meltdown while being forced to watch him pontificate and point fingers between his golf outings and extravagant vacations.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York, confirms:

“For a while now, I’ve been hearing from my constituents a lot of dissatisfaction with the statements on Israel that have been coming from the president and the administration,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York. “He’ll still get a majority of Jewish votes, but I would not be surprised to see that drop 10 to 20 points.”

The nub of the problem, Mr. Engel said, is that Mr. Obama tends to blame Israel and the Palestinians equally for the impasse in the Middle East — an equivalence many Jewish voters find objectionable. He said this visceral reaction prevented Jews from giving the president credit for the positive aspects of his policy.

Obama has a Jewish problem and his campaign, using all his White House resources, cannot undo his actual record (now that he has one) and they can claim he has been misrepresented all they want, but Obama's own speeches, his own actions and his administration's own record over the last 2 1/2 years, is what he will be judged on.

What Democrats and especially Barack Obama doesn't seem to understand is that it isn't a messaging problem at all, it is the message itself that is unpopular.

Until they get that basic concept through their thick skulls, they are going to continue to lose support.

Update- Additional note: I am not Orthodox nor even a practicing Jew, but I am an American-Jew and I see Obama's actions against Israel as offensive, not so much in a personal way, but offensive towards Israel.

Cartoon at the top by Jerry Holbert, via Townhall.