WASHINGTON (JTA) – Iraqi surge? Pish. Health care crisis? Tosh.
Are you on the list? Now we’re talking.
Washington was buzzing Tuesday about “the list” in the way that only this self-involved town can in the dog days of August.
What list? If you’re asking, you’re not on it.
GQ, the magazine better known for coupling more bikini-clad babes with middle-aged CEOs than a Hamptons barbecue, points its manicured fingers at Washington this month and delivers its judgment on “The 50 Most Powerful People in D.C.”
There they are – based on the judgment of “think tankers, congressional aides and political journalists” – Congress people, Democrats, Republicans, the occasional coiffeur and … Jews. Lots of them.
Twelve, at least, out of the 50.
“It’s just kind of played out that way,” Greg Veis, GQ’s associate editor, told JTA. “It certainly wasn’t something we set out to do.”
The top Jewish power player on the list was Howard Kohr, the executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who tied for sixth with counterparts at the National Rifle Association; AARP, the lobby for retired people; and PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobby. At 51, AIPAC’s top professional was the youngest of the four.
What drew the men’s fashion bible to Kohr? The dozens of photos from AIPAC publications and elsewhere in which he appears sweatless, in a creaseless jacket, perhaps peering at a map splayed over a sun-blazed West Bank hilltop?
“It is a fashion magazine, but absolutely not,” Veis said, asked if sartorial elegance was a factor. “We publish a good amount of political pieces.”
In two months of interviews with about 60 people, the lobbying groups stood out.
“One of the questions we would ask people is which interest groups seem to have the most sway,” Veis said.
This is how GQ put it: “In 2006, the four interest groups they command spoke for 40 million members and thirty-two drug companies, racked up $43 million in lobbying expenses, and threw their considerable weight around to keep a slew of unpopular laws on the books and uphold the status quo,” it said. “Thanks to the influence their groups wield that’s both detectable (money given to campaigns) and subtle (the personal relationships built with committee members of both parties), don’t expect any big changes to our Israel or prescription-drug policies in coming years.”
AIPAC declined comment. So did everyone else, if they weren’t impossible to reach because it’s August.
Kohr and the other lobbyists are the first on the list not employed by the government. They are ahead of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-running Democratic presidential candidate, at No. 8, and Tim Russert, who hosts the influential NBC talk show “Meet the Press,” at No. 14. Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, topped the list, in part for guiding the Bush administration into tentative talks with Syria and Iran.
Other members of the tribe making the cut included Josh Bolten, President Bush’s chief of staff and 16th on the list. Bolten is an affable guy, GQ said, but quoted the ubiquitously quotable political scientist Larry Sabato as adding: “You could bring in Jesus Christ and it wouldn’t matter. The Bush administration is over.”
Um, good idea for next year’s list (hey, why not, Ronald Reagan made it this year).
Other Jewish Bush stalwarts making the list included Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary.
Three Jewish Democrats on the Hill, benefiting from last year’s congressional triumph, also made the list: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, (D-Ill.), No. 17, the chairman of the party’s caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and the mastermind behind the victory; Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), No. 18, dogging Bush’s final days as the subpoena-happy chairman of the House’s oversight committee; and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), No. 32, the independent who nominally caucuses with the Democrats but who holds the balance of power in the evenly divided Senate.
Among the other Jewish notables on the list were Seymour Hersh, No. 26, the veteran New Yorker investigative journalist; Washington Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder, No. 31; Michael Hausfeld, No. 40, a lawyer who won $1.25 billion for Holocaust survivors; and Nancy Jacobson, No. 49, a major Democratic fund-raiser.
One typical off-the-record reaction was: “Who writes these lists anyway?” Said those, um, not on the list.
“We Jews always want there to be a lot of us on these lists,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a political consultant and a veteran of the Clinton White House’s communications team. “Unless there’re too many. That’s worse, I think.
“But there clearly aren’t enough Jews on this particular list and they’re not up high enough. What was this list about again? Am I on it? I thought I had friends at CQ. Or was it GQ? I don’t have any friends there.”
Maybe next year.