Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
Here’s a stunner: Jewish Democrats think President Barack Obama has done a great job during his first 100 days in office and Jewish Republicans disagree. Some Jews on the left say the new administration has become too centrist for their liking, but centrist Jewish groups that focus heavily on domestic matters couldn’t be happier.
In a Monday news teleconference organized by the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was positively ecstatic, calling Obama’s first weeks in office “the most exciting days in presidential history.” And Democratic pollster Mark Mellman talked about the positive “transformation” of Obama’s image and about an economic recovery package that “provides immediate relief for Americans who have lost their jobs and immediate investment in America’s infrastructure.”
Matt Brooks, director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, sees things through a different lens. Brooks criticized the administration’s “equivocation and flirtation with Durban II,” recent hints that it might be able to work with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas and “the ticking clock on Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. There’s a lot to be concerned about.”
Talk about mixed messages: Rabbi Michael Lerner, leader of the left-wing Tikkun community, had this one for the White House: “President Obama — You are doing great! Yet your presidency is in grave danger.”
Lerner’s gripes: economic policies that “seem to be guided by a desire to restore an economic system that collapsed due to its internal contradictions” and “escalating” wars in Pakistan and Afghanistan “when you must know that these are no-win situations,” and he wants stronger action for Middle East peace.
But Jewish activists on the domestic front don’t have many bones to pick with the administration, at least not so far.
“What’s striking is how quickly some issues we’ve worked on for years are getting done,” said Hadar Susskind, vice president and Washington director for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), citing administration action on stem cell research and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) . “They’re moving at a breakneck pace on many of our issues, and it’s been very exciting.”
Susskind pointed to another element in the 100 days mix: strong Jewish input at every level of the administration.
“During the campaign you had fear mongers predicting that Louis Farrakhan would be chief of staff, or that we wouldn’t have access and interaction we’ve had in the past. They’ve either eaten their words, or they’re just not paying attention.”