Fool Me Twice

In what passes for debate on social media, a phenomenon has cropped up of late whereby American Jews who voted for President Obama only the first time around, appear to feel smug and free of the stain that is thought to cling to American Jews who voted for him twice. They’ll say, “We didn’t know better then. We didn’t realize how bad he’d be for Israel.”

This is in contradistinction to members of the tribe who just couldn’t help themselves, as if there were some magnetic force, larger than life, urging their hands to the wrong lever (Oops! I did it again). They too, have excuses for having voted for the president tied with Jimmy Carter for most anti-Israel president ever whether in or out of office.  First of all, they’re liberals. They’ve always been liberals. It’s in their blood.

Second, of all, so okay: the president is angry at Israel, but that’s Netanyahu’s fault, they say, for being so belligerent, and insisting on giving that speech to Congress.  And if they don’t blame Bibi, they blame Bush, or the Republicans, or Reagan, or even the EU, because how can America stand alone against Iran when even the EU wants to negotiate?

This is unsatisfying to those of us who warned would-be Obama voters of the writing on the wall from the beginning. We’d like to be able to say, “I told you so,” but they, the voters, give us no quarter. “We needed health care. What were we supposed to do?” they say, or, “There was no way I could vote for McCain/Romney,” or even, “I refuse to feel guilty. Guilt is such a useless emotion.”

They loved Obama. Saw him in a Kennedyesque light. And the rest of us bided our time and waited it out in the cold like a lover spurned. With every failure of this president, we looked pointedly at American Jewry and asked, “Now? Now do you finally see it?”

But they never did.

That is, until the war in Gaza this past summer and finally, Lausanne, the ultimate game changer. Lausanne made them see it all in living color -- the way this president is bent on giving Iran the bomb and changing the balance of power in the Middle East. Even if you think it’s Bibi’s fault that Obama hates Israel, and even if you think domestic issues like health care must come before your fellow Jews in Israel, Lausanne made it impossible to ignore the threat that Israel first and America later, faces because of this president, not to mention the wrongheadedness of his foreign policy in general. Lausanne broke the camel’s back.

Of course, no one really cares whether or not those who gave the president a second chance have been smitten with buyer’s remorse. The only thing that concerns Israel now is whether American Jews will have Israel’s back if it can still launch a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Because that sort of support might still matter in the long run, or at least one hopes so.

That’s why I put out a call on social media, asking those who had voted twice for Obama if they’d be willing to answer some questions. I wanted to get a feel for where they are now. I was surprised to receive some responses almost immediately. I sent the following questions out:

  1. When you voted for Obama the first time, did you realize he would be bad for Israel?
  2. When you voted for Obama the second time, did you know he was bad for Israel?
  3. Why did you vote for Obama the first time?
  4. Why did you vote for Obama the second time?
  5. Are you happy with Obama's performance regarding domestic issues, for instance, with Obamacare?
  6. How do you feel about having voted for Obama, now? When did the light go on?
  7. How would having voted for Obama, and regretting having done so, affect your voting in a future election?

Somewhat short of being wholly scientific and definitely small scale (12 participants), the answers received reflected the idea that American Jews hadn’t known Obama was anti-Israel during the first campaign. The second time around, most were somewhat aware of the president’s stance on Israel. Only a few seemed genuinely contrite about having voted for Obama twice.

Most of the respondents didn’t think Obama was anti-Israel during the first election campaign, and in fact, thought the president-to-be was pro-Israel, due to having Jews like David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel surrounding him. One respondent said it wasn’t a factor (though her son and grandchildren live in Israel), and another knew Obama was anti-Israel even the first time around, but chose him over McCain as the lesser of two evils.

During the second election campaign, only three respondents didn’t see the president as anti-Israel. The others used words like “misgivings,” or “leery.” Still, they either thought Romney no better, or took Obama at his “still moderate” word. One respondent said that only now with Lausanne did he realize the truth: Obama is bad for Israel.

The third question, about voting for Obama the second time generated fuller responses from most. Ed B. said, “Things were getting better domestically and I honestly thought Kerry could move things along with Hillary stepping down. I tried to be optimistic.”

Sam S. voted for Obama the second time so the president could “. . . complete his domestic agenda of helping the illegal aliens who worked hard and contributed to this country. Having come from a Jewish ancestry that [has] been discriminated against for 3500 years, I cannot discriminate [against] others.”

Asked about the president’s record regarding domestic affairs, I received 3 emphatically positive responses, one of the respondents going so far as to call the ACA “a mitzvah.” Another was “disappointed,” one claimed some improvement but said the president’s performance didn’t live up to voter expectations. Another said the jury was still out, two said ObamaCare was a “disaster,” while a third respondent termed the president’s foreign policy, a “complete failure.”

As for when the light went on, for Gail F., it was the president’s “treatment of Israel over the summer. When [Obama] stopped flights to Ben-Gurion and held up the delivery of defensive weapons to Israel.”

Anonymous said, “The light began to shine when Obama showed support for the Muslim Brotherhood, adhered to an arbitrary timeline for troop withdrawal with no attempt at nation building, cut the military and opened our borders. But, the 'light went on' the minute Israel decided to defend herself and protect her citizens last summer. From there, it has been as blatant as possible.”

Bat-Sheva G. said, “I feel foolish for having voted for Obama. It sounds stupid, but there was no one aha moment, where it was boom on such and such a date. I realized he was either an unsurpassed idiot and just in over his head and/or [acting] with malevolent intent.”

Julia G. said, “The light really went on this summer during Operation Protective Edge, when the administration condemned the amount of civilian casualties in Gaza and then a couple of weeks later excused themselves from following their own standards regarding civilian casualties while fighting ISIS. It went downhill from there, from using public funds to attempt to unseat Netanyahu to the negotiations with Iran, to the hissy fit over his address to Congress.”

Asked about future voting, Ed B. said he’d become an Independent and watch for a domestically progressive candidate who is strong on Israel. Julia G. also said she’d go the Independent route, though she confessed having a soft spot for Hillary. “But I'm disappointed with her backing Obama on Iran and on exchanging 5 terrorists for that deserter. I also have no confidence in her position on Israel.”

Andrea E. said, “In terms of the next election, I never in a million years would think I’d vote for a Republican. I think they are idiots. But I very well might do it strictly because of Israel of course.”

Sam S. said, “Unless Hillary Clinton articulates a pro-ally, pro-Saudi, pro-Israel stand, I plan to vote for a Republican President. Marco Rubio would make a good candidate.”

Anonymous said, “I am no longer party loyal. As Ronald Reagan said, ‘I didn't leave the Democratic party, the party left me.’”

Michelle F. wrote, “I… will probably pay a little closer attention to the issue of Israel and not be so naive to think that America will always be an ally to Israel no matter who the president is.”

Bruce G. wrote, “I will never vote Democratic again. It has left an irreversible scar. Most certainly Hillary would be a chance I won’t take.”

Gail F. wrote, “I am very likely to vote Republican in the next election. Obama has converted me from a committed Democrat to a single-issue voter.”

The experience fell a little short of the “I told you so” I yearned for, but a heartfelt thank-you note from Bat-Sheva G. was a good thing:

Thank you for this opportunity to clear my head on this subject. It’s been a painful and embarrassing learning experience for me. The painfully cruel recriminations from those who either don’t understand or refuse to forgive American Jews who have believed with all their heart that Israel’s safety was a given; that America’s loyalty was steadfast given our history, meanwhile conveniently forgetting, we who believe we are that light unto the nations, believe in a tolerant, loving and equal society for all -- Stateside -- well it’s been hideous. I refuse to feel guilty because it would serve no one and fix nothing. The best I can do is speak up for that which I believe to be true and good, and to not repeat mistakes.

And to bare my Zionist heart and soul for all to see, proudly.

Varda Meyers Epstein is a communications writer at Kars4Kids and a contributor and editor at the Kars4Kids educational blog for parents.