Is it over? Really over?
I think I was 12 when Mitt Romney fist announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination, and I feel like 70 now that the polls have closed.
I’ve bitten my tongue during this campaign, at least as far as this column goes, preferring to let the partisans slug it out on the op-ed page. Having this weekly soapbox is a privilege, and I didn’t want to abuse it by hammering you with my opinions on who was the best candidate and who would bring on the zombie apocalypse. I leave that to Uncle Sidney in Florida.
But the election was a rich vein for punditry, and I lament the topics I wasn’t able or willing to tackle. Below is a sampling, in no particular order. Some call out for column treatment, others for a one-liner. All will probably be forgotten as the candidates and the media turn to the tough job of actually governing.
* Just this week, a New York Sun editorial wondered how my predecessor as the editor of NJJN, the late David Twersky, would have voted in this election. The Sun, where David worked as a reporter and editor, guesses that the former Labor Zionist and social liberal would have voted for Romney.
It was a sweet editorial in its way, but also kind of strange. Thanks to Romney’s Mormon faith, I’ve heard of posthumous baptism. But posthumous endorsements?
* Another strange essay that came my way this week was written by the prize-winning playwright David Mamet, who in recent years has come out as a political conservative and an oddly intolerant Jew (intolerant of Jews who don’t share his oddly intolerant Judaism, that is). In “A Note to a Stiff-Necked People,” Mamet wondered what Jewish voters will say to their children were Obama to be reelected. “Will you explain (as you have observed) that a large part of their incomes will be used to fund programs that they may find immoral, wasteful, and/or indeed absurd?” writes the author of absurdist, potty-mouthed dramas like American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross. “Will you tell them that, in a state-run economy, hard work may still be applauded, but that it will no longer be rewarded?”
Suddenly, Uncle Sidney is sounding more reasonable. Mamet’s piece reads like dialogue from a 1950s anti-communist film, not a serious piece of political commentary.
* In September, Obama sent personal Rosh Hashana greetings to Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., West Orange’s own Michael Oren, saying, “Michael, your life of service embodies the bonds between our nations — not bad for a kid from Jersey.”
At first, I was shocked that Fox News didn’t use the quote to try and drive a wedge between Obama and New Jersey voters, but then I realized how ridiculous I sounded — New Jersey wasn’t even in play.
* In his Aug. 29 Forward column, former George W. Bush speech writer Noam Neusner proved he was no fan of compassionate conservatism: “Roughly $7 out of every $10 spent by the federal government goes toward cleaning up other people’s mistakes or problems: housing assistance, food stamps, free or reduced health care, free and reduced lunches in schools and other educational supports, and subsidies for farmers,” he wrote.
Perhaps he was quoting Torah: “The Lord cleaneth up after the widow, who madeth the mistake of marrying a man who would die, and also the orphan, whose health care and nutritional needs are frankly a huge drain on the Israelite budget.”
* When I say that I am in the Jewish newspaper business, I’ll often add, “You know, like The New York Times.” But sometimes the Times will report a Jewish story in a way that drives me to distraction.
In July, in an article about Sheldon Adelson and the Republican Jewish vote, the Times quoted Mik Moore, “founder of the Jewish Council for Education and Research,” discussing whether or not the GOP would make inroads into the Jewish community. Moore’s analysis was fairly unbiased, but nowhere did the Times identify JCER as a pro-Obama group that had created a video ridiculing Adelson. Surely the reporter could have said so, and found a nonpartisan analyst of the Jewish community to handicap the race.
Reporting gaffes like that are unfair to the sources, who look like they are hiding something even when they are perfectly out front about who they are (Mik Moore is proudly and unabashedly pro-Obama) and what they do, and unfair to the reader, who deserves to know a source's ideology and motivations.
* Back in March, when Obama told reporter Jeffrey Goldberg that he took the Iranian nuclear issue seriously, conservative Jewish pundits said he was weak and bluffing. But isn’t that kind of commentary sending exactly the wrong message to the ayatollahs?
If we really want to rattle Tehran, we should talk about Obama as if he’s a little, you know, unhinged. Netanyahu should say this after meeting with Obama: “How was it? Frightening, if you want to know the truth. The president kept reaching for the red phone, saying, ‘Just say the word! Just say the word! I will do this thing, so help me!’ And I spent most of the time trying to calm him down. ‘No, Mr. President. We can’t bomb Iran right this moment. We have to allow time for sanctions and diplomacy to work. That’s the Jewish way.’”
See? Bibi comes out as the voice of reason, America emerges as a crazy state, and Ahmadinejad begins packing his bags for a long vacation in an undisclosed location. It’s win, win, lose!
NOTE: A previous version of this column included an incorrect link to an article about Sheldon Adelson. The correct link now appears with the article.