Over the last week there has been a lot of talk about Senator John McCain's newly picked running mate Governor Sarah Palin and the Jewish community. Wednesday, I published an op-ed for The Jerusalem Post titled, "Sarah Palin and the Jewish community." The choice of Palin as McCain's Vice President and her defense by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) shows a profound misunderstanding of the American Jewish community.
In The Jerusalem Post, I wrote that Palin was an "odd" choice for the Republicans who have been trying to increase their share of the Jewish vote.
She is an exceedingly odd choice for a party which has spent the better part of the past year loudly exclaiming that it was reaching out to Jewish voters and made much to do about considering two Jewish legislators - Joe Lieberman and Eric Cantor - as vice presidential possibilities.
First, Palin has absolutely no foreign policy experience - it is ironic that McCain has spend his spring and summer telling Americans that the most important characteristic he is looking for in a vice president is an individual who is ready on day one to assume the presidency. Moreover, Palin has never visited Israel and besides signing a pro-Israel resolution passed by the state legislature, she has apparently never spoken out or focused on the Jewish state.
However, it is not only foreign policy where Palin is strongly out of step with the political values of the vast majority of the American Jewish community.
On domestic issues she is totally out of step with public opinion in the Jewish community. Palin is against reproductive freedom - even in the cases of rape and incest - and as a result one of the first organizations to support her nomination was the Christian Coalition.
[Palin] speaks about the effects of climate change in the Arctic, but she also is clear that she does not believe that climate change is man-made. Another position which American Jews will find strange is one she shares with McCain - she believes that creationism should be taught in public schools.
The reform narrative that GOP operatives like to site when speaking of Palin could be appealing to Jewish voters. However, Palin has a few problems here, as well. She eventually came out against the "Bridge to Nowhere" but only after the issue became a public embarrassment to the Republican Party and it was apparent that federal funds would not cover the whole cost of the project. When she ran for governor in October of 2006, she was all for spending taxpayer dollars on this very dubious "pork." It took her another 11 months to see the light. Moreover when she was first elected mayor of Wasilla (population 6,000) she was severely criticized by the local paper for firing city employees because they had supported her opponent.
There is still much to learn about Palin. In fact, just yesterday The Los Angeles Times reported that McCain has criticized Palin for her request for "pork" and "financial favors" in an article titled, "McCain had criticized earmarks from Palin." I also encourage you to take a look at a Media Matters report that outlines the "Myths and Falsehoods in Media Coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin." However, despite what Jewish Republican operatives may tell you, it is clear that when it comes to the American Jewish community, Palin is no winner.