October 26, 2006

by Andrew Silow-Carroll
A trend, or a tactic?

David Twersky comments on Menendez-Lieberman flap inthe NY Sun:

Mr. Menendez flinched because he knows that supporters of Israel are rightly anxious that the party engaged in excessive Bush-bashing could throw the president's Israel policy out with the Iraqi bathwater. Nor is this anxiety merely the product of a GOP campaign to paint the Dems as "loony leftists" who will sell Israel down the river. I have no doubt that Mr. Menendez is pro-Israel, along with many other liberals now standing for reelection, like Tom Lantos and Howard Berman of California. But there are worrisome trends.

I think it's true that Menendez must have seen the polls, ads and warnings (mostly from Republican Jews) suggesting Israel’s base among Democrats is eroding at the edges – and may even have been told that Lieberman’s loss was troubling to some in the pro-Israel camp.

But I don’t think anyone has proven to what degree this is of deep concern to Jewish voters, nor how many "supporters of Israel" we are talking about. Certainly the RJC wants to make it a centerpiece of the elections, and you can probably find someone at AIPAC to say the trend is worrisome (and I’m not sure it is much of a trend. Is Jimmy Carter, the poster boy of the purported anti-Israel wing of the Democratic Party, really a central figure among Democrats? I think he is admired for his acts of charity, but I’d imagine far more Democratic voters, even those who admire him, regard him as a symbol of the party’s failures over the last thirty years. Has he recently been asked to campaign on behalf of an electable Democratic candidate? It doesn’t even appear he can get his son elected in Nevada.) I couldn’t find anything in the PIPA poll that explicitly says, as Twersy says it does, that “those attributing the low regard in which America is held in Muslim countries to "policies" believe that America is being punished for supporting Israel.”)

If pro-Israel voters are worried about an anti-Israel wing sweeping into Congress on the back of the anti-war movement, what candidates are we talking about exactly? Lamont will probably lose, so who else ? Slate reported a few months back that

eight Democratic Senate incumbents who voted in favor of the Iraq resolution are seeking re-election: Cantwell, Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Tom Carper (Del.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), and of course Joe Lieberman (Conn.), now as an independent. And of those eight, exactly one -- Lieberman -- faced or is facing a serious primary challenge because of the war.

So who among those expected to be elected or reelected next month are members of this “wing”?

Again, I think Menendez was following someone's advice that he had to outdo Kean on the Lieberman issue. But I'm still waiting for proof that this “worrisome trend” among Democrats is significant (in other words, will it have a measurable impact on how candidates campaign and lawmakers govern -- and if not, what are we talking about?) and to what degree Jewish voters think it is significant (in other words, how many will actually switch their votes from blue to red because they are scared of Cindy Sheehan and Jimmy Carter).

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