This latest flap only continues the confusion many in the Jewish community have about Obama. Several AIPAC conference attendees who otherwise like Obama cited as deeply troubling the reporting of blogger Ed Lasky about some of Obama’s advisors. Two in particular understandably cause angst: former national security advisor for Jimmy Carter Zbigniew Brzezinski and retired four-star general Merrill “Tony” McPeak.
Both have made unusually brazen claims about undue Jewish political influence. Brzezinski, who has no formal role but has been praised by Obama and has been asked to stand at the candidate’s side in public, last month accused “some people in the Jewish community” of being “McCarthy-ite.” He had made similar comments last year, only to be later embraced by Obama. McPeak in a 2003 interview appeared to lay blame for lack of peace in the Middle East on people who “vote here in favor of Israel” in “New York City” and “Miami.” Presumably knowing of these comments, Obama selected McPeak to serve as a military advisor and national campaign co-chair.
To his credit, though, Obama counts among his early backers staunch supporters of the Jewish state, such as Reps. Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ). On his staff, Middle East advisor Eric Lynn is solid and smart. And highly regarded pro-Israel advocates from Chicago who ostensibly have kicked Obama’s tires, such as AIPAC Treasurer Lee Rosenberg, maintain that a President Obama would be true friend of the Jewish state.
With the strong historical Democratic tilt of the Jewish community, Obama is still the odds-on favorite to capture the strong majority of those votes. But since McCain is not ceding that ground to him, Obama cannot rest.
Top on Obama’s to do list should be distancing himself from the likes of Messrs. Brzezinski and McPeak and other Jimmy Carter acolytes. Beyond that, Obama needs to be more careful—and more consistent—in discussing the Middle East, or otherwise he could find the Jewish community more “divided” than he’d like it to be.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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