That “Obama minyan” e-mail-UPDATE


You may have seen this email circulating, about the Jews on Barack Obama’s staff:

Subject: White House Staff
The New White House Advisory Staff
So far we have:
Ram Emanuel – Chief of Staff – Jewish
David Axelrod – Senior Advisor to the President – Jewish
Ronald Klain – Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States – Jewish
Larry Summers – Economic Advisor to the President – Jewish
Paul Volcker – Economic Advisor to the President, Former Head of Fed Reserve – Jewish
Tim Geithner – Treasury Secetary Jewish
Peter Orszag – Head of Budget – Jewish

Am I the only one noticing that Obama and Biden are not so much assembling staff, as gathering a minyan?

First of all, it’s "Rahm" and Geithner isn’t Jewish.

Second, so what? President Bush took some hits for only having one Jewish Cabinet-level official in his first term — Josh Bolten, who was then director of the Office of Management and Budget. He had plenty of mid-to-high Jewish advisers on policy, Middle East (Elliott Abrams) and domestic (Ken Mehlman and Tevi Troy).

Then, in his second term, he had Michael Chertoff at Homeland Security and Michael Mukasey at Justice, and Bolten became chief of staff  — was Bush’s second term better than his first as a result? Was it notably different on matters Jewish?

Noam Neusner, himself a first-term domestic policy adviser to Bush who first forwarded me the email (I’ve seen it elsewhere since), hits it on the head:

It’s silly to fixate on this issue – it was silly under Bush and it’s silly now. Jews are highly represented in Washington.  What matters is whether the Administration acts on its promises to the community, especially on Israel’s security.  We will see about that.

I’d only slightly quibble: I would add how successfully a president makes it absolutely normative, unextraordinary that he has Jewish advisers.

By Clinton’s presidency, this was clearly true of Democrats; I’d say Bush II made it true of Republicans as well. Bush, like Clinton, garnered advice based on how much he trusted the adviser, for better or worse, not on the icon hanging around his or her neck.

It’s wonderful that Harry Truman took advice from his close friend Eddie Jacobson, in part because he was Jewish — that made sense at the time, when the sensibility of "being Jewish" was not yet wrapped fully into the national fabric. 

it’s even better that Bush weighed advice from Abrams, Stephen Hadley or Condoleezza Rice based only on what he perceived as its merits.

UPDATE: As a commenter points out, Volcker also is not Jewish.

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