by Julia Gorin
Joe Lieberman aside, we recently heard that Wesley Clark whispered to a supporter concerned about his stance on Israel, "Did you know my father was Jewish?" Not to be outdone, within days Democratic front-runner Howard Dean made sure we all found out about his devout Jewish wife and Jewish kids. John Kerry, however, had almost a year on either of them, because he found out back in February that his paternal grandfather was Jewish and his grandmother had "Jewish roots." But perhaps they are all just following the lead of Hillary Clinton, who in 2000 got a boost to the Senate after the Forward, a Jewish newspaper, reported on her Jewish step-grandmother.
"That's the big thing this season, Jewish ancestry," Mr. Clark said recently. I wish I could say that the votes of American Jews aren't so easily won. But I would be wrong. Forgetting that there is actually a Web site called Jews4Clark.com and headlined "The Jewish Connection," I recall how in 1988 my friend Steve's mom voted for Michael Dukakis, who had a Jewish wife, because, as she said, "I want a Jew in the White House."
Just last week I heard the following gem from Jay, another Jewish friend: "The only Republican I would ever vote for is Colin Powell. He speaks Yiddish."
This brought forth flashbacks to 2000, when Joe Lieberman became the first-ever Jewish vice presidential nominee, and Jews squealed that this was great. I remember doing stand-up comedy soon after the Gore-Lieberman defeat, to a roomful of Bud guzzlers in the working-class town of Niantic, in Mr. Lieberman's home state. "You almost put a Jew in the White House!" I yelled--to self-approving nods, whistles and some applause.
"What's wrong with you people?" I demanded.
I always thought it was too obvious to spell out, but apparently it isn't: A Jew in the White House would not be good for the Jews. Because the tendency of Jews in power is to bend over backwards to prove evenhandedness--an opportunity that most often presents itself in the context of the Middle East. It becomes the Jewish politician's complex to prove that a Jew is capable of governing without favoring the "Jewish side"--the first result of which is an unobjectively paranoid policy that sells Israel down the river.
We saw it in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, when Henry Kissinger advised President Nixon against a massive arms airlift to Israel (advice Nixon declined).
We saw it again under the Clinton administration, which included half-Jewish Defense Secretary William Cohen, as well as Jewish National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and once-Jewish Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. It was the policy of this guilt-ridden group to forge ahead with the peace process "no matter what"--a euphemism for making only the Israeli side accountable for its concessions in the Oslo agreement, regardless of how many Jewish corpses such an approach produced. This, after Candidate Clinton in 1992 offered the following story in answer to how he would handle Israel: He was at yet another deathbed, this time of a dying Baptist minister, who supposedly made Clinton promise that whatever he did, he was not to let Israel down. The Jews ate it up; the story didn't even have to be true.
Today, the very fact that the Jewish-ish contenders have chosen the Democratic Party within which to realize their ambitions--a party where anti-Semitism is troublingly common and includes pandering to anti-Jewish Arab-American groups--is telling. Despite the old adage, "Ask two Jews and you get three opinions," one thing remains uniform about the Jewish mind: It is confused enough that it can both root for Israel and yearn for "a Jew in the White House." The only break in the mold and only Democratic hope for such Jews may be Joe Lieberman, who has been a steadfast defender of Israel. Still, there is no telling whether as president he would be so unequivocal. He has been known to do 180s on other vital issues for political advantage. What's more, Mr. Lieberman treats Al Sharpton with respect and in 2000 offered to meet with Louis Farrakhan after the latter questioned whether he would "be more faithful to the Constitution . . . than to the ties that any Jewish person would have to the state of Israel."
What we have in Election 2004 are a full Jew, a half-Jew, a quarter-Jew and an almost-Jew (Messrs. Lieberman, Clark, Kerry and Dean, to recap). These candidates sound like Russians trying to cough up a Jewish gene so they can immigrate to Israel. Maybe they're getting their inspiration from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian lawmaker who on a trip to Israel last January--despite his anti-Semitic reputation--said how happy he was to be there, that he loved the Jewish people, and that his father was Jewish. (Mr. Zhirinovsky's original last name was Lieberman.) Previously, he would admit only that his mother was Ukrainian and his father was a lawyer.
So now it's up to Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun to reveal their Jewish roots. In this day and age, it wouldn't be such a stretch. Recall that in 2002 Bill Clinton told a Jewish group in Toronto that if Israel were invaded, "I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die." So not only was he the first black president; he was also the first Jewish president.
Sorry, folks, we already had a Jew in the White House. And it brought us Intifada II.
Ms. Gorin is a contributing editor of Jewish World Review,
and a comedian starring in the monthly show "Republican Riot."