Reflections on a Momentous Political Week
-- Michael M. Adler
This Labor Day weekend I returned from the Democratic National Convention in
Denver, Colorado. With the announcement of Senator Joseph Biden as the
Democratic vice presidential nominee, the memorable acceptance speech by Senator
Barack Obama and the announcement of Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice
presidential nominee this has been the most momentous week of this, or perhaps
any, election cycle.
Yet with all the excitement I also must admit that this last week has left me
disappointed with our level of political discourse— particularly in the Jewish
community. When the Biden vice presidential nomination was announced on August
23 Republican voices in the Jewish community called his selection by Senator
Obama, “risky” and talked about his inconsistent support for Israel and his
“wrong” views on Iran. These people must be talking about a different Joe Biden
than the one I know.
I have known and worked closely Senator Biden for over thirty-six years and the
caricature that is being painted of him by some who value partisanship over
truth is truly astounding. Perhaps even more distressing than the attacks on a
good friend of the Jewish community is the use of the U.S.-Israel relationship
as a partisan, wedge issue.
Sarah Palin took second place in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant (above) at which
she won a college scholarship. In 1987, she received a BS in communications from
the University of Idaho, and worked the next year as a sports reporter for
KTUU-TV in Anchorage. She began her political career in 1992 as city councilman
Wasilla, Alaska while she and her husband
Todd were members of the Alaskan Independence Party which "challenges the
legality of the Alaskan statehood vote as illegal and in violation of United
Nations charter and international law". In 1996, she joined the Republican
party, raised money for Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, and was elected
mayor of Wasilla by a 909 to 292 vote margin. In 2006, she defeated Tony Knowles
(114,697 to 97,238) to become Alaska's first woman governor and the youngest
governor in Alaskan history.
Joe Biden publicly labels himself a Zionist. He has stated that "I do not accept
the notion of linkage between Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict," The Jewish
Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has reported, “[Biden] has a sterling voting record on
pro-Israel issues and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has
helped shepherd through key pro-Israel legislation.” He has worked cooperatively
with every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Mier. His knowledge of the wider
Middle East, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict, is unsurpassed by any other
member of Congress.
Republicans have not let these facts get in the way. They use non-Israel related
votes to try to besmirch Biden in the Jewish community. Supporters of Senator
Biden can readily go to the voting record files and show that he has a
significantly higher percentage pro-Israel votes than Senator John McCain. We
too could take some obscure issues to try to argue that the GOP nominee is
insufficiently pro-Israel. The fact of the matter is that John McCain is
pro-Israel. Barack Obama is pro-Israel. Joe Biden is pro-Israel. These attempts
to use the U.S.-Israel relationship for partisan purposes distorts the truth and
weakens the bi-partisan consensus behind support for Israel in this country.
Moreover, it is not just Israel upon which we should judge Senator Joe Biden.
Perhaps no politician in America, Jew or non-Jew, has a better rapport with
Jewish leadership and Jewish audiences. He is a strong supporter of the
separation of Church and State and he has opposed Republican attempts to return
prayer to the public schools. Biden has also opposed teaching intelligent design
alongside evolution in the public schools and is pro-choice.
Biden’s profile in the Jewish community is starkly different than that of
McCain’s nominee for Vice President. Palin has no foreign policy experience at
all and has never even visited Israel. Palin is against a woman’s right to
choose even in cases of rape and incest. She favors teaching intelligent design
in the public schools and believes climate change is not caused by human
I have long believed that the game of trying to show that friends of Israel are
really enemies is destructive to our community’s interest. But it really hits
home when a close friend like Joe Biden is vilified after all these years of
friendship with our community. In these times it seems that some people would
charge Yitzhak Rabin with being anti-Israel if he ran for office as a Democrat.
It would be far healthier for American democracy, as well as for our community,
if we would reject the use of Israel as a partisan issue and look at the policy
areas where candidates from the two major parties truly do differ.
Michael Adler is the immediate past Chair of the National Jewish Democratic
Council (NJDC) and was the National Finance Chair of Senator Joe Biden’s last
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