AIPAC’s new spokesman Marshall Wittmann has a wandering eye, at least when it comes to politics.
Wittmann was once a lobbyist for Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition. He’s also a onetime Trotskyite who has served as a spokesman for labor unions – as well as for Republican Sen. John McCain.
In 2006, the New York Times called him “one of the great career vagabonds, ideological contortionists and political pontificators ever to inflict himself on a city full of them,” as Daniel Treiman noted.
Wittmann has apparently held every conceivable political conviction during his lengthy Washington career, swinging from the far left to the far right. He wound up somewhere on the center-right in his latest post as a spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut.
As the flack for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Wittmann will be the voice of the famously press-shy pro-Israel group. His lack of ideological constancy could be a boon at AIPAC, which goes to great lengths to represent itself as nonpartisan.
Wittmann takes a position that’s been more or less vacant since Josh Block left in 2010. Block has recently been named head of The Israel Project.
President Barack Obama was more than half way through his address Sunday before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee before he mentioned the issue of the hour: Iran. That may well be because public officials tend to leave the thorniest subjects to later in their speeches. But it struck me as an apt metaphor for American Jewish reaction to the president in this white-hot election year.
Here’s why. Obama devoted the first and largest portion of his Aipac speech to a robust defense of his administration’s policies toward Israel, essentially repeating the phrase he mastered in an interview with Atlantic magazine a few days earlier – that is, he’s got Israel’s back. Anyone who believes this argument will very likely believe the subsequent pledges he made about Iran, because they are logical, systematic, and hold up to the facts as presented.
And those American Jews (and their evangelical Christian counterparts) who don’t believe that this administration has been as staunch an ally of Israel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as it should be will simply not believe Obama on Iran, either.
In the end, it’s a matter of trust. And politics.