Monday, December 7th, 2009
Honestly, covering the Jewish beat in Washington is just sometimes too much to take. I mean, seriously does anybody care if the white House invited 400 or 4000 prominent Jews to this year’s White House Chanukah party?
Judging by several calls I’ve had, you’d think a mere 400 guests at a party that wasn’t even a feature of the White House until the early 2000s was just one more sign of how President Obama doesn’t like Jews, or a signal to Israel or something.
While not openly linking the shrunken guest list – apparently the result of budget cutting at a White House nervous about too many lavish celebrations at a time when the federal deficit is heading into the stratosphere – some Republican operatives have slyly hinted that the controversy, such as it is, is bound to reinforce doubts in the Jewish community about Obama’s sincerity.
Seems to me there’s a crying need for some serious debate about U.S. Middle East policy, especially given some of the Obama administration’s missteps. This “Obama hates Israel” stuff is just a way of shunning that debate in the interests of bitter, non-productive partisanship.
The National Jewish Democratic Council’s Ira Forman, no slouch when it comes to being partisan, got it right when he wrote this in the Huffington Post:
“Perhaps this thread of stories complaining about the lack of tickets to a White House holiday party is simply a reflection of conservative Jews searching for ways to knock the President; I hope so. Heaven help us if we really begin to act as if party invitations are what our community is all about.”
But it’s also true that the focus on whether the guest list is an insult to every living Jew lets the Democrats off the hook, since it means they don’t really have to address the failure of this administration’s Middle East policies so far, or engage in a real debate about alternatives.
Sounds like the debate over health care, doesn’t it?
By the way, I didn’t get an invitation, and I’m taking it as a personal insult.