A recent Gallup poll shows that American Jews oppose the Iraq war at a higher rate than any religious group except African-American Protestants. According to a Jewish Week report, that may pose a problem for Hillary Clinton in what she thought was her cakewalk to the Democratic nomination:
The numbers confirm what Jewish politicos say may be the 800-pound gorilla in Jewish politics at the start of a long election season: the Iraq war. And Clinton, with a cautious centrist strategy, may be the most vulnerable Democrat.
“It’s huge — it’s the biggest barrier she has to crashing through for the nomination,” said American University historian Allan Lichtman, who has written several books on presidential politics. “Without Iraq, she would be the nominee. But it’s her Achilles heel. It’s the issue core liberal voters care about the most.”
And those voters, who will play a disproportionate role in the nominating process, include a big chunk of the Jewish electorate, he said.
Democratic sources say the well-organized Clinton campaign is aware that her cautious edging away from Bush administration Iraq policy is a problem with progressive voters. But they also believe that the risks of a more dramatic shift in her position outweigh the benefits.
The following passage notes a serious danger for Clinton which I predicted in the post I wrote about her refusal to issue an apology for her Iraq mistake:
“The Clinton people are very nervous,” said a leading Jewish Democrat. “They didn’t anticipate some of the [Democratic] opposition; they thought they had a lock on the nomination, so they could start the usual process of steering to the center for the general election early. Iraq may be more of an issue than they thought, but now she’s boxed in; she can’t change too dramatically without being called a waffler.”
No, she can’t. And it was all so unnecessary too. All she had to do is what several other candidates including Edwards have done: say she made a mistake. Americans have become wary of chief executives or wannabe chief executives who seem allergic to admitting mistakes (note GWB). Does Clinton want to risk a comparison to the champion of the I-never-make-a-mistake set?
The report notes that candidates like Obama stand to gain from such Clinton missteps. However, I was disappointed to read this synopsis of what he plans to say to an AIPAC crowd tomorrow in Chicago:
While campaign sources say Obama will seek to bolster his pro-Israel credentials with the usual expressions of support for Israel, disappointment with the Palestinians and concern about Iran, he will also raise the issue of Iraq, which campaign strategists believe will resonate even with strongly pro-Israel Jews.
“The focus will be regional,” said an Obama adviser this week. “He will talk about helping Israel in the search for peace partners, about security, about Hamas, but he will also talk about Iran and Iraq. His proposals on Iraq will be very relevant.”
The candidate will also talk about “opportunities missed” as the Bush administration stayed on the sidelines in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this source said.
A few of us like M.J. Rosenberg and I had hoped after Obama’s independent 60 Minutes interview in which he’d come out in favor of negotiations with Iran and Syria, that he might be a candidate of a different stripe, willing to take on AIPAC. We were all too eager to believe that finally a pol had the guts to do that. Perhaps our hope was premature. We’ll wait to read what he actually says before we cry in our beer.
On a slightly different subject, I just wanted to say that Barack Obama seems to have an entirely opposite problem to John Edwards regarding bloggers. Edwards wanted to embrace them so eagerly his campaign got itself into some hot water. Obama’s campaign, at least judging from my treatment, doesn’t know that we exist. In writing my recent Obama essay for The Guardian’s CommentisFree blog I tried to contact his press office seeking photos of his last trip to Israel and the West Bank. No one from his press office ever returned my call. Then I thought I’d call to speak with his new Jewish outreach coordinator, Dan Shapiro, to inform him about the Guardian essay. The press office didn’t even know who Dan Shapiro was, let alone help me contact him. A few days after they said they would locate him, they haven’t called back.
Apparently, James Besser has a lot better entre to Shapiro than I do, as the latter appears to have been the reporter’s source for the passage I quoted above. I’m not saying the campaign should be at my beck and call and I do understand that a presidential campaign is probably a madhouse. But I sure hope Obama’s press office starts learning the ropes and is more responsive to supportive bloggers like this one in the future.