Marshall Wittmann, AIPAC’s new spokesman (news that JTA’s Ron Kampeas just reported), has one of the more interesting resumes in Washington.
Wittmann has worked for Sens. Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, the centrist and Democratic-aligned Progressive Policy Institute, the conservative Heritage Foundation, and even the Christian Coalition. He’s a real wandering Jew.
Back in 2006, The New York Times labeled him “one of the great career vagabonds, ideological contortionists and political pontificators ever to inflict himself on a city full of them.”
In Wittmann, AIPAC is getting a favorite of political reporters. The Washington Post called him a “quote machine, a sound-bite jukebox.” But Wittmann’s loquaciousness may not be as much in evidence at the tight-lipped pro-Israel lobbying group, which tends to be hesitant about having its spokesmen quoted for attribution. (Though the Post noted that when Wittmann worked for McCain, he wasn’t allowed to be quoted by name.)
AIPAC is also getting yet another colorful, larger-than-life spokesman. Josh Block — who was AIPAC’s spokesman until 2010 and newly tapped head of The Israel Project — was well known for his aggressive approach to advocacy and media relations (an approach that became perhaps even more widely known in his post-AIPAC career). Incidentally, Block (like Wittmann) has occupied a perch at the Progressive Policy Institute.
Here’s an excerpt from the 2006 Times profile of Wittmann:
Mr. Wittmann, meanwhile, is a Trotskyite turned Zionist turned Reaganite turned bipartisan irritant turned pretty much everything in between — including chief lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, the only Jew who has ever held that position.
“Jewish mothers do not raise their Jewish sons to work for the Christian Coalition,” said Mr. Wittmann, offering one of many explanations for why that job was not an ideal fit.
“I think I’m the only person who has worked for both Cesar Chavez and Linda Chavez,” Mr. Wittmann said of the union pioneer who inspired him in the 1970s and the conservative Republican whose Senate campaign in Maryland he joined in the 1980s.
“I think I’m the only person who’s worked for both Ralph Reed and Bruce Reed,” Mr. Wittmann added, referring to the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and the top lieutenant to former President Bill Clinton.
There are of course plenty of political people who have undergone philosophical evolutions over the years. But Mr. Wittmann, 53, has zigzagged in the extreme, from stints in left-leaning unions to right-wing policy shops. He describes his career as “eclectic,” saying he has always been drawn to independent thinkers. “The good lord has made me a contrarian,” Mr. Wittmann said.