The N.Y. Times’ Jodi Kantor specializes in a certain kind of soft-focus journalism featuring a warm and fuzzy take on political and social issues, which veers into puffery. She’s written a profile about Barack Obama which wasn’t half-bad. But her latest attempt to feel the pulse of Florida’s elderly Jews and their attitude toward the candidate was very light on research and a poor effort. Let’s count the errors:
…In recent presidential elections, Jews have drifted somewhat to the right.
Just the opposite. In the last three presidential elections Jews drifted even farther toward the Democratic candidates than normal.
John Kerry: 76%
Al Gore: 79%
Bill Clinton: 78%
Michael Dukakis: 64%
Walter Mondale: 67%
There is a Clinton-Republican whisper campaign claiming that the 61% of the Jewish vote Obama would capture if the general election were held today indicates that he will fare worse than previous Democratic candidates. On the contrary, Obama’s share of the Jewish vote will only increase as the Democratic convention looms and the election campaign begins in earnest. Against a conservative Republican like McCain, Obama will gain a 70-80% share of the Jewish vote. Here, Kantor is dead wrong.
Mr. Obama is relatively new on the national stage, his résumé of Senate votes in support of Israel is short, as is his list of high-profile visits to synagogues and delis. So far, his overtures to Jews have been limited; aside from a few speeches and interviews…
Again, this is not so. Obama has recorded a number of significant votes on matters related to Israel and AIPAC has given him a pro-Israel heksher. Obama made several speeches before AIPAC conferences during the campaign so far. He conducted an important teleconference with national Jewish leaders in which he noted that being pro-Israel didn’t necessarily mean supporting Likud positions. He has visited both Israel and the West Bank. His campaign leadership is replete with Jewish fundraisers and staff. He has written movingly both in his books and in speeches of the Black-Jewish bond of brotherhood that informed the civil rights movement and inspired his call to activism. I don’t have a list of the synagogues and delis he’s visited, but I’m sure he’s hit his share.
I really got a kick out of Kantor’s interviewing Alan Dershowitz as if he’s an arbiter of what the alter-cocker set is thinking:
Alan M. Dershowitz…said he had been deluged with questions from Jews about the race, especially about what to think of Mr. Obama. “I have gotten hundreds of e-mails asking me, ‘Who should we vote for?’ ” he said. Mr. Dershowitz, who supports Mrs. Clinton, says he tells voters that Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, are all pro-Israel and to reject false personal attacks on Mr. Obama.
Can you imagine the idea of anyone asking the Dersh who to vote for? And can you believe for a second that he has anything good to say behind closed doors about Obama?
Here again Kantor trips up in a major way:
American Jews are by no means uniformly opposed to negotiations with Iran, the leaders of several Jewish groups said, but there is no consensus…
Her anonymous Jewish informants misled her (surprise, surprise) and she didn’t bother to do her homework to check if they were right. They’re not. There is a strong Jewish consensus in favor of negotiations with Iran and against military action. According to the most recent American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish opinion 54% reject American military action against Iran (38% approve) and 54% disapprove of Bush Administration policy regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Sounds like a consensus to me.
But not all is bad in Kantor’s story. This interview is especially telling regarding the generation gap between younger and older Jews:
Toting a chaise lounge to Delray Beach on Sunday, Samantha Poznak, 21, said that, like her friends, she would vote for Mr. Obama. As for Jewish leaders, “I never really follow any of those people anyway,” she said from behind dark sunglasses.
“Aunt Claudie will kill you!” hissed her mother, Linda Poznak, 47, who said she would vote for Mr. McCain.
This precisely tracks my own views and an academic paper written by Rutgers sociologist Chaim Waxman who writes that younger Jews reject the elitism and good old boy nature of our leadership:
[There is an] increasing perception [among young Jews] that the communal leadership is elitist, parochial, self-serving, and resistant to innovation and to the active involvement of those who are not members of the “good old boys club,” the circle of wealthy, old men who are at the helms of most major Jewish organizations. At least since the 1960s, younger people in the West have been raised to “question authority” and distrust “the Establishment,” and they now they do so, sometimes adamantly.
Kantor also interviews Joe Lieberman’s stepson, a young New York rabbi. Guess who he’s voting for? I’ll give you one guess, and it ain’t John McCain.
I think Kantor’s trying to raise alarm bells that don’t need to be rung. The Obama campaign right now is pretty much where it should be in the Jewish community. It would be nice if the Jodi Kantors of American journalism could do a better job of getting their facts straight when it comes to reporting on attitudes of our community.