A top official at the National Jewish Democratic Council believes some of the criticism of President Obama in the Jewish community has been "opportunistic."
"When poll numbers dip," some "feel comfortable taking a shot at him," said NJDC president David Harris, speaking to a group of reporters from the Jewish and Middle East press on Thursday morning. Harris did not name any specific organizations but said he was "suprised by the ferocity of the Mary Robinson pushback."
AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and a host of other Jewish organizations criticized the pick of Robinson for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Harris said it was "not an award I would have chosen," but also noted that it was just an award and Robinson is "not a policy maker" in the administration.
With polls showing little support for Obama or his peace efforts in Israel, Harris said he thought it was a "excellent idea" for Obama to make more outreach to Israelis, such as an interview with Israeli media or a trip to the Jewish state, and believes he will do so soon — the question is scheduling such a international trip with pressing issues such as health insurance reform also on the agenda.
"The White House recognizes it is important to explain clearly what the vision is," Harris said.
Harris stressed that Jewish Democrats are still firmly behind Obama on the MIddle East and other matters, noting a recent Traditional Values Coalition poll in which 92 percent of Jewish Democrats approved of the job he’s doing.
Harris also said the NJDC will be active on the ground and in the mail in November’s gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia. Polls show Democrats are behind in both races, and Harris said the organization hoped they could target messages with "unique value" to the Jewish community — specifically on issues such as abortion rights and Israel. He also noted that both Democratic lieutenant governor candidates are Jewish — Lorretta Weinberg in New Jersey and Jody Wagner in Virginia.