Useless Poll

This new NBC/WSJ poll finding that Hillary Clinton’s positive rating has dropped to 37 (her lowest in seven years) and that Barack Obama suffered negligible damage from the Rev. Wright controversy seemed quite intriguing at first, until I read that it “oversampled African-Americans in order to get a more reliable cross-tab on many of the questions we asked in this poll regarding Sen. Barack Obama’s speech on race and overall response to last week’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright dustup.” Now it seems quite useless.

UPDATE: In comments, a reader explains why it may not be useless.

UPDATE II: The pollster explains that backs were NOT over-represented in the overall numbers.

Obama-Bloomberg?

Michael Bloomberg introduced Barack Obama at his economic speech in New York on Thursday, and Obama returned the favor by opening his talk with these kind words for the mayor (from prepared remarks):

I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his extraordinary leadership. At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions. Not only has he been a remarkable leader for New York -he has established himself as a major voice in our national debate on issues like renewing our economy, educating our children, and seeking energy independence. Mr. Mayor, I share your determination to bring this country together to finally make progress for the American people.

This will no doubt lead to speculation about an Obama-Bloomberg ticket. At first glance, you could see some logic behind it. It would be consistent with both politicians’ talk of breaking the two party logjam and bringing people together. Also, Bloomberg would bring some business expertise and management experience to the table, qualities that would also make him a useful attack dog against McCain on economic issues. However, it would be surprising to me if Bloomberg, who has spent decades as the top dog, both in his financial information company or as mayor, would be willing to serve in a subordinate capacity.

More on McPeak and Israel

Daniel Larison finds it amazing that anybody would have a problem with Obama advisor Merrill "Tony" McPeak's comments suggesting that Jews in Miami and New York City are to blame for messing up U.S. foreign policy. This may be news to Larison, but the reason why McPeak's comments are so offensive is that they play into the oldest and most pernicious stereotypes about Jewish influence. Larison one-ups McPeak by noting "donors" in the two cities.

McPeak's viewpoint also assumes that Jews vote and donate money largely on the basis of support for Israel, and that Jews are monolithically pro-Israel. In fact, some of the fiercest critics of Israel are Jews, and if Jews voted primarily on the basis of support for Israel, than President Bush would have done as well among Jews as he did among evangelicals. Alas, he did not.

The pro-Israel foreign policy of the U.S. is not the product of a concentration of rich Jews in a few cities, but a result of the fact that by a large margin, the American public has concluded — rightly — that Israelis have by far the morally superior position, and they are our staunch allies. A Gallup poll taken last month shows that by a 59 percent to 17 percent margin, Americans sympathize with Israelis over the Palestinians. Most Americans recognize that Israel is a democratic nation that has made countless efforts at peace, only to be thwarted by a Palestinian society that embraces violence and teaches its children to blow themselves up so that they can kill Jews. It was not, I may remind Larison, Israelis who were celebrating when 3,000 Americans were massacred on Sept. 11, it was the Palestinians. The point is that there are endless reasons why U.S. public opinion is overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and yet Larison offers the same tired explanations about American opinion being biased just because critics of Israel are ostracized.

As to where that leaves us with regard to Obama, Larison argues that the fact that Obama has made pro-Israel statements on the campaign trail in spite of his past views means that he would also be publicly pressured into governing as a pro-Israel president. Surely, public opinion would influence his actions as president and make it difficult for him to adopt an anti-Israel posture, but Obama has given supporters of Israel have every reason to fear he would be the most hostile president toward Israel since Jimmy Carter.

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Obama and Israel II

In light of the recent controversy, it is worth noting this article written last year by Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah, who was disappointed by Barack Obama’s more recent pro-Israel statements, and remembers a different Obama who was cozy with leading anti-Israel intellectual Edward Said, pictured below:

Over the years since I first saw Obama speak I met him about half a dozen times, often at Palestinian and Arab-American community events in Chicago including a May 1998 community fundraiser at which Edward Said was the keynote speaker. In 2000, when Obama unsuccessfully ran for Congress I heard him speak at a campaign fundraiser hosted by a University of Chicago professor. On that occasion and others Obama was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.

As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.” He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, “Keep up the good work!”

Sanitizing Hillary’s Lies

The NY Times headline today on the series of lies Hillary Clinton has told about her trip to Bosnia reads, “Hillary Seeks To Soften Impact of Misstatement.” By not even putting “misstatement” in quotes, and by making it singular when Clinton told multiple lies, the Times is buying into the Clinton spin that it was just an innocent mistake. As these priceless videos show, that’s just not very credible.

Meanwhile, the NY Post doesn’t hold back in its headline, and reports that militrary officials are not very pleased with the former first lady.

Democratic Defections

The McCain camp notes a new Gallup poll showing that in the general election, 28 percent of Clinton supporters would support McCain if Obama were the nominee, and 19 percent of Obama supporters would defect if Clinton were the nominee. A recent Pennsylvania poll had similar findings. The Gallup is noteworthy on two levels. Clearly, it shows that the Democratic nomination battle is taking a toll on party unity. But what may be even more interesting is that contrary to the popular belief that a Clinton nomination would split the party more, in this poll, it is an Obama nomination that triggers more defections. I suppose, alternatively, that this can be viewed as Obama supporters being more willing to put what’s best for the party above their personal bitterness. These numbers would likely drop once the heated primary campaign is over and the Democrats start attacking McCain as running for President Bush’s third term. But still, it’s a bad sign for Dems.

Obama and Israel

Marc Ambinder notes that the Clinton campaign has been distributing this Robert Goldberg article that ran on the Spectator's main page yesterday. The article argued that Barack Obama would have to answer for his military advisor Merrill McPeak's statements on Israel and thinly-veiled anti-Semitic statements. I wouldn't go as far as Goldberg did in his piece, but I do think the normally fair Ambinder really isn't all that fair in his criticism of the article.

Ambinder implies that Goldberg accuses McPeak of being an anti-Semite because of McPeak's support for having Israel return to its pre-1967 border and because he is sympathetic to the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis. But Goldberg actually has a far more damning reason for drawing his conclusions about McPeak's prejudices. Goldberg pointed to a 2003 interview in the Oregonian in which, in the context of a discussion on Israel, McPeak was asked, "So where's the problem? State? White House?" and McPeak responded, "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."  Given that those two cities are known to have among the highest concentrations of Jewish voters in the United States, I have no idea how Ambinder would read that statement other than that McPeak is blaming Jews for  problems he has with U.S. foreign policy.

Furthermore, Ambinder outrageously writes that, "As one keen observer pointed out to me, if advocating the pre '67 border map makes one an anti-Semite, just about every iteration of the U.S. government since 1967 would qualify." Putting aside the fact that Goldberg never wrote that anybody who takes that position is an anti-Semite, the so-called "keen observer" is either ignorant of Middle Eastern history or being intentionally misleading.

I'm not sure how far McPeak goes on this issue, but it has never been the position of the U.S. government that Israel should return to the pre-1967 border map. A return to the pre-1967 map would mean that Israel would have to give up full control of the holy sites (Jordan controlled those from 1948-1967, denied Jews access, and desecrated them). It would also mean an indefensible border for Israel as narrow as eight miles. While the United States has supported Israel returning some (at times even a lot) of the land it acquired in 1967,  only extremists who have fully adopted the Palestinian position support Israel returning all of the land, which would put the nation  in a perilous security position. (See the debate over the meaning of U.N. Resolution 242). In fact, after the war, President Johnson declared, "There are some who have urged, as a single, simple solution, an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4…this is not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities."

As for the larger point, I do not think that everybody who is critical of Israel is an anti-Semite, nor do I think that Obama should be considered an anti-Semite because of McPeak's derisive remarks toward Jews in New York City and Miami. However, I do think there are plenty of reasons for anybody who is a supporter of Israel — Jewish or not — to be concerned about Obama based on his public statements and the company he keeps.

Separately but related, I just noticed today that Daniel Larison believes that my concerns about Obama's approach to Israel are unwarranted because of pro-Israel statements he has made. Perhaps Larison is correct. But that's precisely the problem with evaluating Obama. He has such a thin public record that I'm forced to sort through conflicting signals he has sent on Israel to evaluate him. While I'm generally not a fan of guilt by association, because he doesn't have much of voting record to reassure me, I am forced to take a more serious look at the comments of his advisors and close associates than may typically be warranted. As it stands now, at best, Obama looks like a crap shoot on Israel, with those of us who support our staunch ally most likely to roll craps.

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Hillary’s Bosnia Fib And McCain

Hillary Clinton's intricate lie about her perilous trip to a fortified U.S. air base in Bosnia underscores her weaknesses  in a general election. While this latest incident may be forgotten by the fall,  it does show that any attempt she might make to demonstrate military expertise will only make her look silly.  It's  one thing to look silly on military matters when she's running against Barack Obama, but it would be simply devastating for her to  get caught in a similar  lie in a general election against John McCain, who actually has been shot at and who really has  escaped death.

The Democratic race has boiled down to an change vs. experience contrast. The reason Obama is winning is that he has made a convincing case for himself as the change agent, while Clinton's Clinton's  claims of vast experience  have always been patently absurd.

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