WASHINGTON (JTA) – As a patriotic Jewish American, I care deeply about Israel’s well-being and security as well as that of our own country.
In having to choose between the two presidential candidates, I find myself looking closely at their statements, record of accomplishments, the people who advise them now and those they were influenced by in the past. I do this with our future foremost in mind, and what we could expect their policies would mean to Israel going forward.
This measuring rod is critically important in the face of the unprecedented national security challenges that we will face in the next few years.
Today the choice for the pro-Israel community is clear: Sen. John McCain is the one. I regret that this choice is not shared by more of my coreligionists. As they vote Democratic, more out of habit than out of self-interest, too many fail to appreciate the growing menace of Islamic extremism to both the United States and Israel.
I realize that for many Jewish Americans, Israel’s and America’s safety and security appear to be a lower priority than certain social issues, such as preserving abortion rights. I’ve heard this expressed often by those who sincerely believe that the next president’s Supreme Court appointments are more crucial than how a president will face up to the jihadist threat to Israel and the United States.
If McCain had made the abortion issue a defining one of his public life, then this concern might have some validity. But this is not the case. Instead, McCain has focused his energies on issues pertaining to our national security and understands how to deal with the threat to America and free peoples around the world.
Sen. Barack Obama might be the choice of those Jewish Americans who have an “It’s all Israel’s fault” mentality, and who even feel anti-Semitism today is the result of Israel’s own actions.
But for Jews who are troubled by the moral-equivalence view of our State Department and some mainstream media like the New York Times, it is time to rethink the predilection to support Obama because he is the Democratic candidate, and to seriously consider voting for McCain.
In my years in Washington going back to my first positions in the JFK administration, I have worked for both a liberal Democratic congressman and a liberal Democratic senator. But today I am much more closely aligned with the diminishing number of Democrats who are considered centrists of the Joe Lieberman and “Scoop” Jackson variety.
Unfortunately, the loudest voices now in the Democratic Party belong to the Michael Moores, Dennis Kuciniches, and the Moveon.org “progressive” types who are enamored with Obama.
When Lieberman, now a self-described Independent Democrat, endorsed McCain for president, Lieberman asserted: “I have worked with Sen. McCain on just about every national security issue over the past 20 years… I have seen Sen. McCain time and time again rise above the negativism and pettiness of our politics to get things done for the country he loves so much.”
This evaluation resonates with me and contrasts starkly with the shallow background and thin resume of McCain’s opponent. Obama’s boosters credit him with transcending race – and by extrapolation everything else, including divisions of region, class, party, generation and ideology. However, his very lean record in the Senate to date indicates none of this.
Aside from winning elections and writing two books about himself, what accomplishments can Obama point to?
Comparisons between Obama and the young and charismatic John F. Kennedy also come up short. Actually, it is McCain, not Obama, who, like Kennedy, was commissioned as a naval officer, awarded the Purple Heart and decorated for helping his comrades.
And McCain, much like JFK, has pledged to fight for freedom around the world, not to retreat from our enemies. This credo is certainly what we need more than meaningless slogans like “Change we can believe in” and “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Many in Congress have fine Israel-related voting records. Obama, in his very brief career, is among them. But some of these same legislators also appear reluctant to confront the growing menace of Islamofacism and the threat it presents to America’s vital interests in the Middle East and to Israel’s survival.
Only one presidential candidate repeatedly states that “the transcendent challenge we face today is the menace of Islamic extremism.” McCain asserts this frequently to all kinds of audiences, and at all times. McCain offers a clear choice to voters on Nov. 4, as he acknowledges the grim reality of today’s world.
One can respect Obama for his ambition, his meteoric rise and his rhetorical skills. But his equivocation on issues like Jerusalem, public campaign financing and the success of the surge in Iraq are disturbing, as is his approach to dealing with Iran’s Ahmadinejad. When not scripted, he has spoken of the “legitimate claims” of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Also worrisome is his ultra-liberal voting record in the short time he has served in the Senate – a record that does not fit with someone who claims to be a “unifier.” A unifier might be expected to come from the middle of a party, the place that gave us the constructive and bipartisan Senate Gang of 14, which forged a compromise on judicial appointments. Obama was nowhere to be seen in that group; McCain was a lead member. And it is McCain, not Obama, who has pledged to appoint members of both parties to his presidential cabinet.
Another primary concern is Obama’s meager national security record.
Instead of arriving at well-established positions through years of intensive deliberation and consideration, he will have to rely more heavily on a group of advisers – some 300 by his own count. Given both the backgrounds of several of the more prominent people who have counseled him to date and the endorsements he has received from an infamous list of Israel bashers, this is surely not a promising sign.
One speech to AIPAC cannot make up for off-the-cuff remarks that raise serious questions.
If one believes we live in a very dangerous world with unprecedented challenges, the choice for voters should be an easy one. On that fabled Day One, Iran, Iraq, Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, China, global terrorism, Middle East oil and, almost incidentally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be at the top of the new president’s agenda.
Given the two candidates’ records, experience, and core values, this choice for Jewish Americans should not be a difficult one: John McCain for president.
(Morris J. Amitay, a Washington attorney, is a former executive director of AIPAC and founder of the pro-Israel Washington PAC.)