Jews versus Bush-41

There are two closely related fundamental questions
about current American politics:
  1. Why did President George W. Bush [43]’s foreign policy so patently
    follow the desires of the Likud?
    (That this is not the default policy of conservatives
    is made clear by Brent Scowcroft’s articles and interviews,
    and by, for example, Patrick Buchanan’s “Whose War?”.)
  2. Why are no American politicians calling for America to curtail
    its generous and exceedingly costly support for Israel
    until Israel
    • stops settlement expansion, and
    • resumes negotiations over settlement elimination?
    (Cf. Color Congress blue and Color Washington blue.)

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have, of course,
postulated an answer to those questions
in their work on The Israel Lobby.

This document is a case study in how The Lobby,
more precisely, The Jewish Lobby,
affected American foreign policy at a crucial juncture,
when the first President Bush, George H. W. Bush, attempted in 1991
to pressure Israel into halting its settlement expansion.
It is organized into three sections:
  1. Summary
    A brief but polemical summary/outline, in my own words,
    of the conflict between President Bush and the Jewish Lobby.
    I allow myself the luxury of phrasing the situation
    to express my own bias—
    that the Jews willfully and deliberately
    misinterpreted what Bush said
    so that they could cloak themselves in the mantle of victim,
    and thereby defeat the substantive goal Bush had sought.

    The section is organized as an alternation between
    the actions of Bush and his team and
    the actions of the Jewish Lobby.
  2. The Geopolitical Situation
    An excerpt is given from
    the Israeli historian Benny Morris’s Righteous Victims
    to describe the geopolitical situation from the point of view of an Israeli.
  3. The American Political Situation
    A lengthy excerpt is given from
    the Jewish-American journalist J. J. Goldberg’s Jewish Power
    to describe Bush’s action and the American Jewish reaction.

A note on terminology:

Talking about the collective behavior of Jews is always fraught with risk.
Someone often makes the non sequitor:
Hitler spoke about the collective behavior of Jews,
therefore anyone who speaks about the collective behavior of Jews
is like Hitler.

Nonetheless, following the lead of Goldberg, I will plunge right ahead and do so.
Goldberg, after all, talks about
“the American Jewish community”
without agonozing whether such a thing exists.
He does, of course, spend considerable time charting out
exactly what he means by that.
Goldberg goes further, even talking about “the American Jew”
in contexts where, he suggests, they have a like mind on certain issues.

For the sake of brevity, I will use the term AmJew
to denote an individual American Jew
(to include Goldberg’s characterization of same), and
AmJews as shorthand for what Goldberg calls
“the American Jewish community,”
which probably is coextensive with
what some others might call the Jewish lobby
(with or without capitalization).
I hope no one is too offended by
these abbreviations for Goldberg’s constructions.


  1. President George H. W. Bush [Bush 41]
    attempts to curtail American financial support
    (the loan guarantees)
    for the expansion of Israel’s West Bank settlements.
  2. AmJews lobby Congress
    to defeat Bush’s plan and
    to continue American support for settlement growth.
  3. Bush 41,
    in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference,
    notes the AmJew lobbying effort,
    describes himself as
    “one lonely little guy ...
    up against some powerful political forces,”

    implictly asking for support from the American public
    to defeat this lobbying campaign by a special interest group.
  4. The American Jewish community
    reacts with astonishment, outrage, and fury
    that anyone would dare to challenge their power.
    It maliciously twists and distorts what Bush said
    from being a request that Jewish lobbying be counter-lobbied
    into a challenge to the Jews’ right to lobby.
  5. Bush quickly denied
    that he had ever meant to question the right to
    “the exercise of free expression in the democratic process,”
    and stated that
    “references to lobbying and powerful political forces
    were never meant to be perjorative in any sense.”
    However, he refused to yield ground on the substance
    of the issue in question, the loan guarantees.
  6. The Jews were not mollified.
    “[Jewish] people everywhere began to mobilize.”
    A message must be sent
    to any American politician who dared to challenge
    the right of Jews to steal land from the Palestinians
    (for the historical perspective, see this).
    The Jewish community moves to deny Bush reelection in 1992
    by the means available to it:
    • their votes,
    • their money,
    • their organizing skills, and most importantly,
    • their ability to manipulate the media
      to place anyone in a bad light—
      in this case,
      to (falsely) portray in the media
      the American economy in 1992
      as being in far worse shape than it really was.
  7. Bush-41 is defeated in the 1992 election.

The Geopolitical Situation

Below, from the green start line to the red end line,
ia an excerpt from
the Israeli historian Benny Morris’s Righteous Victims
to describe the geopolitical situation from the point of view of an Israeli.

[RV, page 611]

President George H. W. Bush [Bush 41],
who took office in January 1989,
and James A. Baker III, his secretary of state,
had set their minds on achieving a breakthrough toward peace
in the Middle East.
The Intifada, still raging in the occupied territories,
provided the impetus.
The sudden arrival in Israel
of masses of immigrants from the collapsing Soviet empire
seemed to add urgency,
for they could inundate the West Bank
and permanently change its demographic makeup.
the disintegration of the Soviet Union meant that
the Arabs could no longer rely on their former patrons
for political and military support
and no longer had a realistic war option vis-à-vis Israel.

The United States was now the only superpower.
And despite its deep commitment to Israel’s security and future,
it was generally held
(albeit grudgingly by many Arabs and Israelis)
to be a relatively objective broker.
Washington broke off contact with the PLO
when it refused to condemn the abortive PLF raid south of Tel Aviv;
but at the same time,
Baker could also bluntly state, on May 22, 1989:
For Israel,
now is the time to lay aside, once and for all,
the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel.

Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza—
security and otherwise—
can be accommodated in a settlement based on Resolution 242.
Forswear annexation.
Stop settlement activity.
Reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors
who deserve political rights.

[RV, pages 613–614]

Israel’s immigrant influx and
the Likud government’s settlement policy both
brought home to many that time was against the Palestinians.
In 1991 alone,
with Ariel Sharon serving as Housing Minister,
thirteen thousand new residential units were started in the territories—
in contrast with twenty thousand housing starts there
in the preceding years.
The Jewish population of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
increased by one-quarter during 1990
and by almost as much again in 1991,
reaching 112,000,
excluding the Jerusalem municipal area.
construction of new bypass roads
tended to insulate settlers from Arab violence and stone-throwers,
making their lives easier.

On March 6, 1991, within days of Iraq’s defeat
[in the 1991 Gulf War],
Bush told Congress:
We must do all that we can to close the gap
between Israel and the Arab states and
between Israelis and Palestinians....
The time has come to put an end
to Arab-Israeli conflict.
Later that month,
Baker renewed his Middle East peace shuttles.

Other developments were to provide Washington
with a major lever vis-à-vis Israel.
In May 1991,
Israel sought America guarantees for $10 billion in loans,
necessary for the absorption of Soviet immigrants
(about 175,000 reached Israel during 1991 alone).
Bush and Baker decided to link the guarantees to
a formal Israeli commitment
to refrain from using the funds, directly or indirectly,
to establish new settlements or expand existing ones,
which they regarded as an obstacle to peace.

The Shamir goverment refused to sign such a commitment.
For the rest of the year,
hovering over Shamir’s head was the implicit threat that
failure to play along would result in the loss of the guarantees
(without which Jerusalem would have to pay banks much higher interest).


  1. [page 610 of RV:]
    [O]n June 20, 1989, [the American government]
    broke off their dialogue with the PLO
    following a raid on a beach south of Tel Aviv
    (in which no Isralis were killed)
    by a team of terrorists belonging to the Palestine Liberation Front, led by Abu al-Abbas.


  1. Benny Morris, 2001,
    Righteous Victims:
    A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001

The American Political Situation

[Here is the excerpt from J. J. Goldberg’s Jewish Power.]

“Up Against Some Powerful Political Forces”

[JP, pages xv–xxvi]

Shortly after noon on Thursday, 1991-09-12,
President George H. W. Bush [Bush 41]
stepped up to the podium in the White House briefing room
and addressed a special press conference on the Middle East.
It would prove to be
one of the turning points of his presidency:
the day he locked horns with the American Jewish community.

The president had called the reporters together to discuss
a delicate diplomatic maneuver in the Middle East peace process,
the fragile centerpiece of his post-Cold War foreign policy.
A week earlier,
the government of Israel had asked Washington
to guarantee $10 billion in Israeli commercial loans,
to be drawn over the next five years.
Bush 41 planned to say no.

Israel, already America’s largest foreign-aid recipient,
wanted the huge new credit line in order to
finance the resettlement of Jewish refugees
streaming out of the collapsing Soviet Union.
Bush 41 had long championed the cause of Soviet Jewish emigration,
but the timing of this latest request from Jerusalem was wrong,
he told the reporters.
He was hoping to convene
an unprecedented Israel-Arab peace conference
in Madrid in the coming weeks,
after years of patiently nudging both sides toward the table.
At this point,
he was eager not to anger Arab leaders
by showering new largesse on Israel.

Bush 41 announced that he was asking Congress
to delay action on the loan guarantees for 120 days.
However, he said, he was
up against some powerful political forces
bent on thwarting his will.
Congress, in fact,
appeared to be on the verge of approving the loan guarantees
without him.

“I heard today there were
something like a thousand lobbyists up on the Hill
working the other side of the question,”

the president barked,
pounding his fist on the podium
with an anger usually reserved for foreign despots
and congressional Democrats.
“We’ve got one lonely little guy down here doing it.”

[I haven’t seen a video of that press conference,
but the transcript claims
these remarks were followed by “[Laughter],”
which suggests that his remarks were not viewed by the reporters there
as the manifestation of anger that Goldberg,
and evidently many other Jews,
believes they were.]

The “political forces” confronting the president at that moment
were about thirteen hundred leaders of local Jewish organizations
from across the country.
A gaggle of rabbis and schoolteachers,
lawyers, social workers, and businesspeople,
they had come to Washington for the day
to discuss the loan guarantees with their elected representatives.
Fanning out across Capitol Hill,
the citizen-lobbyists were blanketing Congress
with a single passionate message:
the “humanitarian” cause of Soviet Jewish freedom
should not be held hostage to
the “political” vagaries of the Middle East peace process.

Bush 41’s own Middle East experts,
many of whom were Jews themselves,,
insisted that the goal of bringing peace to the war-torn Middle East
was at least as humanitarian as resettling the Soviet refugees.
But Congress seemed firmly aligned with the lobbyists.
Today’s blitz was the climax
of a four-month lobbying campaign for the loan guarantees,
which had garnered enough support to carry both houses of Congress—
enough, in fact,
not only to carry Congress,
but to threaten Bush 41
with the first veto override of his presidency,
should he choose to press the point.
Bush was going over the heads of Congress
directly to the American people,
complaining on television about
the “powerful political forces”
lined up against
the “lonely little guy” in the White House.

His outburst had its desired effect.
Congressional support for the loan guarantees dissolved overnight.
The leadership in both houses agreed to Bush 41’s four-month moratorium.

But the presidential victory did not come without a cost.

Shoshana Cardin was sitting in a Washington hotel room
reviewing the day’s lobbying
when work came of Bush 41’s remarks.
A Baltimore civic leader and professional volunteer [!],
she headed up the powerful forces
that the president was complaining about.
Her precise title was chairman of the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Known to its members as the Presidents Conference,
the group is a loose coalition of four dozen
Jewish religious associations,
civil rights agencies,
welfare funds, and
fraternal societies.
It includes most of the groups that make up
the dizzying alphabet soup of American Jewish community life,
ranging from household names like
B’nai B’rith,
Hadassah, and
the United Jewish Appeal [evidently run by United Jewish Communities.
Wow, are these guys organized!]

to obscure factions like
the Jewish Labor Committee and
the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.


Cardin had met with Bush 41 several times over the years,
and found him to be an earnest, decent, likable man.
The last thing she expected to hear from his mouth
a public attack on the rights of Jews as American citizens.
And yet,
that was what she believed she was hearing right now.
Bush 41 had just issued the first-ever public assault
on the American Jewish community
by a sitting president
in the history of the Republic.

What the president had said, as she heard it,
was that
when Jews advocated their beliefs as citizens,
they were somehow engaging in unacceptable civic behavior.

In fact,
Cardin angrily decided,
it was the president whose behavior was unacceptable.

For a “lonely little guy,”
George Herbert Walker Bush was riding high at the beginning of September 1991.
Despite a sluggish economy,
his approval rating in the polls was around 70 percent,
higher than any president in memory at this three-quarter point
(his predecessor, Ronald Reagan,
had an approval rating of just 42 percent
at the same point in his first term).
The opposition Democrats, out of power for more than a decade,
were divided, dispirited, and helpless.
Bush had used his veto more often than any president before him,
twenty-two times to date,
and had never once been overridden.
[Interesting to compare that to Bush 43’s record.
In almost five years, Bush 43 has executed no vetoes.]

Election to a second term in fourteen months’ time
was generally considered a sure thing.

On the world stage,
the president’s profile appeared nothing less than heroic.
The collapse of the Soviet empire over the previous year and a half
had left him the presumptive victor in the Cold War,
head of the world’s only remaining superpower.
Just eight months earlier,
he had led the combined forces of the United Nations
in a triumphant war against the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Now Bush 41 was ready to secure his place in history
by going after the brass ring of world diplomacy:
solving the insoluble Israel-Arab conflict.
The time was ripe for it.
The Arabs were divided and confused by Saddam’s adventurism.
More important,
they no longer had the Soviet Union backing them
in their stubborn, forty-year rejection of Israel.
Bush 41 believed they could be induced to make peace,
if Israel agreed to sweeten the deal
by giving back the disputed buffer territories
it had captured in the Six-Day War of June 1967.

Israel, unfortunately, was not playing by the script.
Much to the president’s annoyance,
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir
refused even to discuss a land-for-peace swap.
A lifelong hardliner,
mistrustful of Arabs and
dedicated to the vision of a “Greater Land of Israel,”
Shamir was currently spending
every available penny in his strapped budget
to settle Israeli citizens in the disputed territories.

But in this autumn of 1991,
Bush 41 thought he had something that Shamir wanted
even more than land.
Israel was being deluged with Jewish refugees
fleeing the chaos in the Soviet Union.
By 1995,
the influx was expected to top 1 million persons—
one fifth of the tiny nation’s entire population.
The costs of resettling them over the next decade
were projected at $70 billion—
double the entire Israeli gross national product.
At the moment, therefore,
Israel was in no position to argue
over Bush 41’s terms for the loan guarantees.
Surely settling the West Bank
was not as important as
resettling the Soviet refugees.
Or so Bush 41 reasoned.

Shoshana Cardin tuned in to CNN at two o’clock that Thursday afternoon
to watch a replay of the president’s press conference.
It confirmed what she had been told earlier:
his tone and body language
seemed clearly intended to suggest
that he was a helpless victim,
facing some powerful conspiracy.
Cardin was appalled.

The Presidents Conference
was created by its members in the mid-1950s
to express American Jewry’s “consensus support for Israel.”
Together with its sister organization,
the Washington-based
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)
the famed “Israeli lobby”—
it could pack a considerable punch when it chose to.
But while AIPAC is a registered lobbying organization
with a reputation for scrappiness,
the Presidents Conference
traditionally has tried to avoid confrontation.
Nearly all its member agencies are
nonprofit, tax-exempt religious and charitable bodies,
legally barred from engaging in partisan politics.

The same no-politics rule applied on the Israeli scene,
though for different reasons.
American Jewish organizations span a broad spectrum of views on
Israel-Arab relations,
Palestinian rights, and
trading land for peace.
But they share a long tradition of
refusing to question Israeli government policies.
The Presidents Conference had agreed at birth
to put its internal divisions aside,
on the grounds that
the duty of American Jews
was purely and simply to support Israel.

After all, the logic went,
it was Israelis who put their lives on the line every day.
Israelis alone had the right
to decide their own fate,
through their democratically elected government.

This rule had been tested in fire in 1977,
when Israel ended decades of Labor Party rule
by electing the nationalist militant Menachem Begin
as its prime minister.
The man who chaired the Presidents Conference at the time
was the arch-liberal Rabbi Alexander Schindler,
leader of Reform Judaism.
Yet he had embraced Begin without a moment’s hesitation,
thus ensuring an broken relationship
between American Jews and Israel.

Shoshana Cardin was determined to do no less.
A devoted liberal, she had little sympathy for Shamir’s policies.
But the American Jewish community was defending Israel,
not its current policies.
[This is the common sentiment:
“My country, right or wrong.”
The only twist is that her country is Israel.]

And she was not going to let
the American Jewish community be pushed around.

Working with her top staff aide,
Presidents Conference director Malcolm Hoenlein,
Cardin quickly prepared a statement for the press,
the president’s verbal assault on citizen advocacy,
a building block of American democracy.

Early Thursday morning, they flew to New York, where
Cardin convened the leadership of the Presidents Conference the next morning
to discuss Bush 41’s tirade [?] and approve a personal reply.
As the leader of America’s organized Jewish community,
Cardin wrote,
she deeply appreciated Bush 41’s many efforts
to help Jews in danger from Russia to Ethiopia.
his televised remarks the day before were
“disturbing and subject to misinterpretation.”
[It seems to me quite clear that
the misinterpretation was on the part of anyone
who interpreted Bush 41’s remarks as an
“assault on citizen advocacy.”]

Back in Washington,
a small group of White House staff members
was beginning to share Cardin’s distress.
Apparently it was not just the organized Jewish leadership
that say Bush 41’s words as an attack on Jews.
More than a few non-Jewish citizens
had heard the president’s press conference
as a call to battle against the “powerful Jews,”
and they were ready to take up his banner.
It seemed that Bush had touched
an unforeseen chord in the American heartland.
Beginning on Friday,
the White House began receiving congratulatory telegrams and phone calls
praising the president for putting the Jews in their place.
By Monday morning’s mail,
the president had accumulated
a small mound of Jew-bashing congratulations.

Looking back afterward,
Cardin agreed that Bush 41’s anti-Jewish tone was unintended.
“I think,” she would say a year later,
“that he intended to intimidate Congress,
to be certain that foreign policy would not be established by the Senate.
For him it was a political issue.”
For the Jewish community, though,
“it became more than a political issue.”
It was a matter of
the basic right of an American citizen to petition the government.

On Tuesday, September 17,
an embarrassed Bush 41 wrote back to “Dear Shoshana.”
After thanking her
for acknowledging his record on freeing Soviet Jews,
the president wrote,
“I am concerned that
some of my comments at the Thursday press conference
caused apprehension within the Jewish community.”

He continued abjectly, saying his
references to lobbyists and powerful political forces
were never meant to be pejorative in any sense.
As a veteran of many years in the governmental and political arena,
I have a great respect
for the exercise of free expression
in the democratic process.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
released the exchange of letters
to the nation’s hundred-odd Jewish community newspapers
for immediate publication.
With that, the affair seemed to be over.

The view of the grass-roots Jew towards Bush 41
It did not end there, however.
The national leadership of the organized Jewish community
may have forgiven the president,
but across the country,
the American Jew had done no such thing.
Most of the nation’s 6 million-odd Jews
belonged to no major organizations,
rarely attend synagogue, and
do not read Jewish community newspapers.
The vast majority probably
had never even heard of Shoshana Cardin,
nor of the Presidents Conference.


they knew who Bush 41 was.
He was the man that
two-thirds of Jewish voters had voted against in 1988,
the New England WASP-cum-Bible Belt oilman
who represented many of the forces repugnant to
the liberal, urban, intellectual American Jew.

[On any issue other than that of U.S. policy towards Israel,
was Bush 43 any more attractive to the average Jew
than Bush 41?]


Jews are a valued electoral prize.
Despite their tiny numbers—
less than 3 percent of the population—
they are considered a key swing bloc.
They are concentrated in a few big states
that control nearly half the Electoral College.
Perhaps more important,
they are prodigious givers,
providing between one fourth and one half
of all Democratic campaign funds.

Also vital,
they are energetic volunteers.
“All you have in Democratic campaigns are Catholic and Jews,”
says Democratic political consultant James Carville.
“I don’t know why, but it’s a standing joke.
You show me twenty-five staffers in a Democratic campaign
and you’ll have maybe three Protestants.”


Jews follow public affairs closely,
perhaps more than most other ethnic or religious groups in America.
[How about: more than any
“other ethnic or religious group in America.”]

“I don’t know of any group in American politics
that picks up things as fast as the American Jewish community,”
says James Carville.
“It’s an involved, educated group, and
they’re tonally very sensitive to what people say.
So if the president goes out and attacks the lobby,
they’re going to be very sensitive.”

For a great many Jews, then,
Bush 41’s September 12 press conference
was like a blinding flash in the night
that would not go away.
Even the most assimilated American Jews,
even those who never attended synagogue—
even those who had married Christians and
were raising their children as Christians—
even they, by and large,
instinctively recoiled at phrases like “powerful political forces.”
[Not instinct—
“recoiling” at such a phrase is a conditioned reflex,
not a natural one.
Either that,
or Jews really are genetically different!]

In sermons and speeches, in letters to the editor,
in private conversations,
Jews across America
discussed George Bush throughout the fall of 1991.
Some younger Jews recalled
stories they had heard from their grandmothers
about anti-Semitic mobs
attacking Jewish villagers in Poland and Russia,
inflamed by lurid stereotypes of
“powerful” Jewish bankers, well-poisoners, Christ-killers.
Older Jews recalled from their own experiences
the anti-Semitic propaganda of the 1930s,
manufactured by German diplomats and
repeated by radio preachers in the Depression-ridden American heartland,
depicting America’s economic woes as the result of crafty schemes by Jewish bankers and bolsheviks to undermine and control American society.

The result was anger.
Jews who had never voted Republican—the majority—
smugly reminded one another why not.
Jews who had switched to the Republican column during the Nixon and Reagan years
suddenly considered switching back.
Most of all,
Jews of every political stripe
began writing letters of protest
to their newspapers, to their representatives, and to the White House.

“September 12 will go down in Jewish history
as the day of the great betrayal,”
said Jacqueline Levine, a senior American Jewish Congress leader.
“His statement was a disgusting display of,
if not anti-Semitism, then something very close to it.”
[I would respond to Ms. Levine:
What is really a “disgusting display”
is the attempt to turn Bush’s remarks
from a factual description of the situation
(is organized American Jewry not a “powerful political force”?)
into something regarded as
“if not anti-Semitism, then something very close to it.”]

“That bastard opened my eyes,”
said Ed Ames, a Los Angeles entertainer.
Ames had never joined a Jewish organization before.
In September 1991 he
mailed in his first dues payment to AIPAC and
became a volunteer lobbyist for Israel.

Another Jewish political activist,
prominent in the Chicago business community, added,
“It set off a lightbulb.
People everywhere began to mobilize.”

White House aides watched the groundswell with dismay.
Shoshana Cardin and the Presidents Conference
repeated the same message to them:
if you want to fix things,
approve the loan guarantees.
Bush 41 refused.
[Good for the good old U. S. of A.;
bad for Bush 41’s reelection prospects.]

The loan guarantees were firmly linked to the peace process, and
to Yitzhak Shamir’s policy of settling Israelis
in the disputed territories.

It was a standoff,
as frustrated Jewish lobbyists in Washington put it, between
settling the territories and
resettling the Soviet refugees.

Within the Bush 41 administration,
reactions to the blowup were mixed.
Some officials, including Bush 41 himself,
were anxious to find a way of making amends,
so long as it did not undermine the Middle East peace process.
Stung by the accusations of anti-Semitism,
Bush 41 made time
during a November fund-raising trip to New York
to meet at length with the Presidents Conference and make peace.
Plans were laid for a string of pro-Jewish gestures,
whose results would quickly prove dramatic, almost historic.

On the other hand,
some administration figures were openly weary
of trying to appease an angry interest group
that numbered, after all, less than 3 percent of the population.
As the loan guarantee standoff continued into the winter of 1992,
Bush 41’s alter ego, Secretary of State James A. Baker III,
tersely brushed aside suggestions for a GOP-Jewish rapprochement.
[Sensitive readers skip the next sentence.]
Fuck ’em,”
he was reported to say (though he denied it).
“They don’t vote for us anyway.”

Baker’s assertion was true,
whether or not he used those words.
But things were more complicated,
as he should have realized.

The 1991 Pennsylvania U.S. Senate victory of Wofford
On November 5, 1991,
seven weeks after Bush 41’s fateful press conference,
America went to the polls for an off-year election
that should have held few surprises.
The one interesting race was a shoo-in contest in Pennsylvania,
where a U.S. Senate seat had been opened up the previous spring
by the accidental death of John Heinz
[whose widow was ...],
an attractive, moderate young Republican.
The GOP’s candidate was the popular ex-governor,
Richard Thornburgh,
another moderate and one of Bush 41’s closest political allies.
Thornburgh had been Bush’s attorney general
before resigning in June to run for the seat.
His Democratic opponent was a little-known college professor,
Harris Wofford,
who had once served in the Kennedy administration.
As of September 17,
Thornburgh was forty-four points ahead in the polls.

On September 27, the Philadelphia Inquirer
published the stunning results of a new statewide poll.
Thornburgh’s lead had suddenly dropped to twenty-four points
and was continuing to fall.
Incredibly, the race was now Wofford’s to lose.
According to the Inquirer,
Wofford strategists attributed their candidate’s sudden surge
to his “support for national health insurance.”
In the weeks to come,
the health-care theme would be picked up by the national media
as Wofford’s inexplicable surge turned into
an even more inexplicable victory on November 5.

However, insiders in both campaigns
say there was an additional, more mundane reason for the upset:
Within a week after Bush 41’s September 12 press conference,
Republican and Democratic fundraisers alike began noticing
a distinct shift in donations
away from Thornburgh and toward Wofford.
Filings with the Federal Elections Commission were more precise:
while Thornburgh’s October 16 filing showed that
his year-to-date fund-raising was twice that of Wofford,
the Democrat reversed the trend in the campaign’s final weeks
and raised cash at twice Thornburgh’s pace.

Donors with Jewish surnames,
who had made up nearly 10 percent of Thornburgh’s Oct. 16 filing,
were almost totally absent from his final report.

To be sure, the new surge of money
did not give Wofford a new message.
But for the first time,
Wofford had the means to tell his story to the voters.
What had happened was that from all across the country,
outraged Jews (and some passionately pre-Israel Christians)
were focusing their anger with Bush 41
on his friend Dick Thornburgh.
The accidental beneficiary was
Professor—soon to be Senator—Harris Wofford.

Of course, Thornburgh hastens to point out,
much more than Jewish support
was leaking from Bush 41’s reelection campaign hopes
during that fall of 1991.
The economy was mired in a seemingly endless recession.
[All the product of vicious Jewish spin.
As the official data shows,
in reality that recession only lasted eight months,
from July 1990 to March 1991.
It was, as the statements above show,
in the interest of many Jews
to punish Bush for what they perceived as his “anti-Semitism.”
What better way to do that
than to defeat him in his reelection bid,
and how else to do that
than by making the economy look as bad as possible?]

Middle-class Americans
were feeling insecure about their jobs for the first time.
[Evidently forgetting about the reality of previous recessions.
Note each Bush recession lasted only eight months,
and came after expansions of respectively 92 and 120 months.
In other words, in each case,
a recession was, based on historical averages, long overdue,
and when it came, it was short.]

Wofford capitalized on this insecurity by focusing on
the symbolic, emotionally charged issue of health-care reform.

Bush 41 had no answers on the economy.
[Other than to make
the valid, but not generally accepted, observation that
the economy in reality was doing much better
than the media was making it appear.]

He was also vulnerable on other domestic issues,
most of all on abortion.
Many voters were broadly suspicious of
his cozy relationship with the religious right.
[Somehow that didn’t seem to hurt Bush 43.]
His main strength, foreign policy,
seemed increasingly irrelevant
now that the Soviet threat was gone.
[Somehow that view seemed more popular
before September 11, 2001.]


Bush 41’s 9-12 press conference,
along with the broader Jewish disaffection that it symbolized,
was just one part of the picture—
not the biggest, not the smallest.
But the press conference did indeed
“hurt Thornburgh bad,”
said James Carville,
who served as Harris Wofford’s campaign manager
and went on to run Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“It hurt Republicans in Jewish fund-raising.
And we started raising a lot more money.”

Wofford himself would say the Jewish community was only
“one of three or four major factors” in his victory.
The others, he says, were
the fundraising efforts
of the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and
the general softness of Bush 41’s popularity.

But the AFL-CIO had been active from the beginning of the campaign;
it hadn’t been enough to dent Thornburgh’s popularity.
As for the DSCC,
it had been staying out of the Pennsylvania race.
The senators sensed that Wofford couldn’t win.
They were planning to marshal their funds
for the tough fights of 1992.

It wasn’t until the Wofford campaign suddenly showed signs of life,
with the infusion of cash in late September,
that the national party lined up and
lifted him to his upset victory in November.

And that upset, Wofford says,
“helped Bush collapse.”

[T]he Jewish community,
comprising just 4.7 percent of the population of Pennsylvania,
was not the dominant political force in the state that fall.
It was one of several.

But the Jews were indisputably a powerful political force.
Bush 41 was not wrong in believing that
when he convened his 9-12 press conference.

Bush 41’s mistake was saying it aloud.

[JP, page 32]

[Political analyst William Schneider,
of the conservative American Enterprise Institute,
in an interview in June 1992 expressed the view that]
the lopsided Jewish support for Clinton
was due to a unique set of circumstances.
“You have two kinds of Jewish voters as a rule,”
he explained.
“There are those strongly identified with Israel, and
the secular Jews who are not particularly identified with Israel.
Both kinds of Jewish voters don’t like George Bush [41],
but for different reasons.
The more conservative Jewish voters
don’t like his criticisms of Israel,
and that is the definitive issue for them.
The more secular, liberal Jewish voters
don’t mind his criticisms of Israel,
but they aren’t going to vote for him anyway
because he’s too conservative,
and that’s the definitive issue for them.
You put those two together and
there’s very little Jewish support for George Bush [41].”

Miscellaneous Articles and References

Israel, Ignoring Bush, Presses for Loan Guarantees
New York Times, 1991-09-07

A bitter political fight took shape today in Washington as Israel and some of its Congressional supporters ignored President Bush’s appeal to delay a request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Soviet Jews and made clear that they would push for quick Congressional approval.

Hours before the Israeli Ambassador, Zalman Shoval, delivered the Israeli request to Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d, President Bush took the unusual step of summoning reporters into the Oval Office to announce that he would ask Congress not to act on the Israeli appeal for 120 days so that it would only be dealt with after the opening of a proposed Arab-Israeli peace conference scheduled for October. Senate Committee Divided

“It is in the best interest of the peace process and of peace itself that consideration of this absorption aid question for Israel be deferred for simply 120 days,” Mr. Bush told reporters. “And I think the American people will strongly support me in this. I’m going to fight for it because I think this is what the American people want, and I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to back those members of the United States Congress who are forward-looking in their desire to see peace.”

Although Senator Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over foreign aid, said Thursday that he would support the President’s request for a delay, other members of his committee indicated today that they would not, and the Democratic Congressional leadership indicated that it was still consulting with members of both houses.

In addition, the Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and a broad coalition of Jewish organizations in the United States, made clear that they too would fight the President on the issue. The loan guarantees are needed by Israel to raise funds to house and settle thousands of Soviet Jewish immigrants.



Did the First President Bush Lose His Job to the Israel Lobby?
By Observer Staff (evidently unwilling to be attributed to this article!)
Observer, 2006-07-17


The argument is made more emphatically in the Summer 2006 issue of Security Studies,
in an important article on the effect of the Holocaust on our foreign policy titled:
“The Myth of Abandonment: The Use and Abuse of the Holocaust Analogy,” by Michael Desch, a professor at Texas A&M.

The article states:
“Many believe that George H.W. Bush’s defeat in 1992
was the result of Jewish-American opposition fueled by
his hard line against Israeli settlements under the Shamir government.”

Desch’s evidence includes informal comments to students by the former President himself,
in a visit to the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M in February 2005,
a visit at which Old Man Bush decried the power of AIPAC (the preeminent pro-Israel lobby).


But let’s focus on what matters here. A former President believes that the pro-Israel lobby cost him his job. His son runs for President and is far more responsive than his father was to the Israel lobby. Right there you have a good indication of the power of the lobby. Of course we don’t know what W.’s political calculations were on this issue. But everyone else has a theory about the effect of Papa Bush on W.; this is now mine. W. is a superb politician. He learned political lessons from his dad.

Even more important, consider the issue on which George H.W. Bush took on the Israel lobby: the building of settlements. He was holding up $10 billion in loan guarantees Israel desperately need to build housing for Russian emigres till Bush got an assurance that the loans would not fund settlements. Alas, in the end, Bush folded on the issue. As rightwinger (and social drinker) Christopher Hitchens wrote recently on Slate, “Almost everybody… concedes that the Israeli occupation has been a moral and political catastrophe.” An important component of that moral and political catastrophe has been the building of hundreds of thousands of (arguably illegal) homes on Palestinian land that some Jews regard as their ancient and present homeland. These settlements—colonies, under any conventional description—now hugely complicate the peace process. Many of them are encircled by Israel’s 30-foot wall, which moves in and out of the West Bank from the old green line marking the ’67 border. The settlements make a return to the ’67 border more difficult and the checkpoints and restricted highways and everything else they necessitate are the reason that leftwingers talk of Bantustans and apartheid when they survey the divisions on the West Bank.

I have two Zionist friends who in kvelling about Israel to me recently added, in a regretful murmur, “I just wish they hadn’t built all those settlements.”

The point here is that when an American president tried to take a stand against a wave of religious zealotry that almost everybody concedes has created an international moral and political catastrophe, he had to knuckle under, and to this day he believes that the opposition cost him his job. Wow. Maybe he’s wrong, but any discussion of the Israel lobby’s power must include this case study. As John Mearsheimer, the professor who broke the seal on this forbidden subject (and who’s been to Israel many times), pointed out on the Diane Rehm show recently, an independent American stance on the occupation and settlements would have been in the U.S.’s interests, and Israel’s too. It would have helped our image in the Arab world, it might have prevented Israel from the inevitable brutalities of occupation, one of which Mearsheimer noted was the killing of the young American writer, Rachel Corrie.

The lobby’s hurtful role in this political episode is only magnified by its refusal over the last few months to admit that it has any power at all. As the Israeli ambassador said yesterday on C-Span, It’s just like the Italian lobby....

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