When Sen. John McCain nominated Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential candidate, there were a number of reactions in response to what is still considered a risky political move. The initial debates circled around whether her relatively brief career as a maverick and reformer could make up for her lack of foreign policy experience.
As she prepares to speak at the Republican Convention, the debates are still swirling.
We at Moment are interested in her relationship with Jews. How should Jews across the country feel about Palin’s nomination and the possibility that, if something were to happen to McCain, she would become president?
First and foremost, it is obvious that Palin is well liked by many of her Jewish constituents. JTA interviewed Democratic Jewish former minority leader in the Alaska House of Representatives Ethan Berkowitz, who said, “I like her and this is an exciting day for Alaska.”
But wearing a Pat Buchanan pin at an event in 1999 and unabashedly displaying her unwavering Evangelical social views has some Jews—who tend to vote liberal on such issues—puzzled.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to portray Palin as a poor choice for the Jewish community. On August 29, Ira Forman, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, had some harsh words for McCain’s choice in a statement:
For a party which claims it is trying to reach out to the Jewish community McCain’s pick is particularly strange. Prior to today’s selection Palin apparently has never spoken publicly about Israel. Moreover, on a broad range of issues— most strikingly on the issue of women’s reproductive freedom— she is totally out of step with Jewish public opinion.
And despite the support of most Evangelical Christians for the state of Israel, Palin simply has had to make few decisions as Governor of Alaska that could assure Jews she feels the same.
In order to help assuage Jews’ fears, Palin met with AIPAC leaders yesterday. According to their spokesman:
We had a good, productive discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we were pleased that Gov. Palin expressed her deep, personal and lifelong commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel.
On the other side of the ticket, Sen. Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Joe Biden has settled well with Jews. Yesterday, Biden referred to himself as a zadie and talked about mishpuchah in a speech at a retirement home in Florida.
Says the Washington Post:
Biden noted that his son’s mother-in-law is Jewish and that the stepfather of one of his top foreign policy advisers, Anthony Blinken, was also a Holocaust survivor. Biden talked about his first trip abroad as a senator, where he met Golda Meir when she was prime minister of Israel. And he invoked several Yiddish terms to connect with an audience that included many elderly Jewish voters.
So, nu? How do you feel about Sarah Palin? Did McCain make a good decision? Leave your comments below!