Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
If the Democrats lose in November it will not because they lacked good speechmakers and that is before hearing the President himself. They were all on their game the past few nights but President Clinton was in a class by himself. Bill Clinton takes the southern drawl, the geeky policy wonk, the casual folksy style, and has you eating out of his hand like a horse with its sugar. He speaks too long, always, but could explain advanced calculus to kindergarten children. Clinton does it by looking you in the eyes, almost like F.D.R. was reported to have done; sitting at the kitchen table in every American home as he delivered his fireside chats. Last night he gave Obama all he could give.
The Jerusalem flap eventually will go away, but there are heads that should roll at the DNC, on the platform committee, and at AIPAC. Everyone fell asleep at his/her desk. The political side at the DNC knew not to mess with the Israel/Jewish piece; but someone tried to finesse things and it blew up. The platform committee thought they could appease—perhaps some Arab-Americans— but, to be very cynical, no one counted how many are registered to vote in the battleground states. AIPAC either went out for dinner because they thought things were wrapped up; did not send sophisticated staff to the platform meetings who could measure the nuances of any changes; or were just plain sloppy.
There were people who did want the original approved Jerusalem language and the video showed it clearly. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hardly conducted himself like a former speaker of the California State Assembly. He called for the vote three times. Clearly the voices against were focused and loud, but from the video it is not clear they were close to the 1/3 they might have needed to have forced an actual tallied vote. No one challenged the ruling of the chair. Villaraigosa botched the proceedings and the parliamentarian was slow to assist. This is what made the video look so ugly.
As for those who did support the original language and did oppose changing it, welcome to the new challenge for Israel and for American Jews. This is an example of the climate that exists today, for example, on many college campuses. Israel and her American supporters need to develop a much better and more sophisticated sensitivity to where the pro-Palestinian voices are coming from. They need a better approach to addressing. The Israeli Government needs to comprehend more realistically that support for Israel could erode even in the U.S. Israel’s supporters and friends cannot be expected to defend Israeli policy, regardless of how incomprehensible to defend it might appear at times to some of its friends.