Forward Thinking

Shhh: NY Times Reports on Orthodox GOP Vote

By J.J. Goldberg

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Some news, apparently, is fit to print, but not too boldly. Take, for example, the demure self-censorship on display Saturday in the New York Times’ eye-opening report, headlined “On Island, Largely Blue, an Exception: Trump Tower,” on the handful of New York City neighborhoods that voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama. Overall, the city voted Obama over Romney 81% to 18%.

The headline and the first five paragraphs were about the two isolated election precincts on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Island where Romney won half or more of the vote. It wasn’t until paragraph 7 to find out that the main news began to trickle out: that the “deepest single bloc of Republican support in all the five boroughs” was a four-square-block section of Gravesend, Brooklyn, “dotted with Sephardic temples and yeshivas.”

Finally, well into the jump, we learned that Romney “enjoyed strong support from a range of neighborhoods with large populations of Orthodox Jews.” Many precincts in Borough Park, Kew Gardens Hills and Sheepshead Bay (which is largely Russian, not Orthodox) voted 90% GOP. A note on the accompanying map gave you the money quote: “Mr. Obama’s worst precincts were in Orthodox Jewish areas like Ocean Parkway and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.”

The map shows the city’s 5,286 precincts as a sea of blue and red dots, shaded darker or lighter to indicate higher or lower percentages of partisan leaning. The darkest red voted over 80% for Romney, while pale pink gave him 50% to 65%. In addition to the broad swathes of dark red running down Brooklyn from Hasidic Borough Park down Sephardic Ocean Park to Russian Brighton Beach, there are dark red clusters in mostly Italian-American Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and mostly Irish-American (and storm-ravaged) Breezy Point, Queens.

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No (GOP) Sex on Tisha B'Av

By Nathan Guttman

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With President Barack Obama’s reelection only a few days in the rear view mirror, the topic of the Jewish role in American politics is still brewing — and we learned some tantalizing details about Mitt Romney’s summer trip to Israel.

Democratic and Republican operatives sparred over the importance of the Jewish vote in the just-completed election at the only session devoted to discussing the results at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.

Tevi Troy, a former George W. Bush adviser who consulted the Romney campaign on Jewish issues, said the big headline coming out of the election had nothing to do with Jews.

Insteaed, it concerned the fast-growing Latino vote, which went strongly for Obama, prompting much hand-wringing about the future of the GOP.

“People are going to wonder going forward,” Troy said, “how much the Jewish vote really matters.”

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Bad Night for the Jewish Echo Chamber

By Jay Michaelson

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American liberals are deservingly jubilant. Our standard-bearer has been reelected, liberal heroes such as Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren have won their elections, and marriage equality triumphed in all four states where it was on the ballot. And while Congress remains divided much as it was in the previous term, important trend lines show the fragility of right-wing coalitions between white men, Christian conservatives, and other minority groups. As America grows less white and less rooted in the previous century’s values, this election bodes well for 21st century liberalism.

Statistically speaking, most Jews are likewise rejoicing. According to our best data, the Jewish political needle barely moved in 2012. Most Jews remain socially liberal, and either believe that President Obama is a strong supporter of Israel, or don’t rank that issue atop their personal-political agendas.

Meanwhile, hawkish-on-Israel candidates lost across the country: Josh Mandel to Sherrod Brown and Joe Walsh to Tammy Duckworth. That dog just don’t hunt anymore. It’s not that these elections were referenda on Israel, of course. There are other, more important, issues – and in some cases, the purported differences between the candidates were illusory. But then, that’s part of the point.

For some establishment Jews, this may feel like a rude awakening. The many professional Jews who regard “Barack Hussein Obama” as some kind of existential threat to Israel may be scratching their yarmulked heads. Likewise those Americans living in Israel who voted disproportionately for Romney. Why are American Jews so obstinate? Why can’t we see? Have we lost our love of Israel?

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Romney's Concession: Class Act

By J.J. Goldberg

His speech was clear, concise, gave the right nod to his team and to his choice of Ryan. Wished Obama well, said he wanted the job but the American people chose somebody else. That sends a very clear message to his party: the American people have chosen Obama for the next four years. Work with him. And his crowd did not boo or groan, which is also good and right. Let’s hope their party colleagues in Congress get the message.

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Jon Stewart: 'Confederacy Goes for Romney'

By J.J. Goldberg

Jon Stewart calls “Most of the Confederacy went for Mitt Romney.”

And Florida continues to be “a huge clusterf*** - Florida, of course, being the place where Cubans go to live and Jews go to die.”

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Five (Jewish) Things To Watch on Election Night

By Nathan Guttman

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It’s Election Day at last. And as we sit down in front of the TV to watch the results (for those who actually have power), here are five Jewish points of reference on this long night of swing states, bellwether counties and exit poll results.

Ohio. With polls closing at 7:30 p.m., the entire nation will watch to see if President Barack Obama wins the state, thus virtually paving his way to another four years in the White House. But Jewish politicos should look beyond the presidential race to the brutal Senate showdown between incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown and Jewish Republican Josh Mandel. Brown is in the lead but it is a close race and if Mandel, a Tea Party loyalist, is able to pull it off, he’d be the star of Republican Jewish politics. A Mandel upset would be a bitter moment for the Jewish Democratic establishment, including in Mandel’s home state, which have fought hard to defeat him.

Florida. Polls close at 8:00 p.m. in the Sunshine State and this is the one time it is a good idea to actually look into those detailed maps on your TV hosts’ touch screens with a county-by-county breakdown. Regardless of how Florida goes, our eyes are on the three southernmost counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.

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Norm Coleman Says Mitt Won't Reverse 'Roe'

By Nathan Guttman

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Ex-Sen. Norm Coleman

Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman has been making the rounds for the Republican Jewish Committee, joining former Bush White House spokesman Ari Flesicher and RJC director Matt Brooks in shuttling through swing states speaking to Jewish voters.

The trio has visited Ohio, Florida, Nevada and, well, Florida once again, speaking mainly on issues relating to Israel and foreign policy but also touching on some domestic issues Jewish voters care about.

And this is where Coleman got his chance to make some headlines, not all of them positive. Asked by a Jewish voter about Mitt Romney’s positions on abortions, the former lawmaker, who lost his reelection bid in 2006 to another Jewish candidate, comedian Al Franken, moved to reassure that nothing will change under a Romney administration.

“The reality is, choice is an issue for a lot of people, an important issue. President Bush was president eight years, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. He had two Supreme Court picks, Roe v. Wade wasn’t reversed. It’s not going to be reversed,” Coleman said at an RJC stop in Beachwood Ohio.

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Mitt's Big Lead in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

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Luckily for President Barack Obama, Israel is no swing state.

A sneak preview of a poll which will be released tomorrow indicates that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has won the hearts and minds of Israelis. Asked which hopeful they preferred, some 57% of Jewish Israelis said Romney, while just 22% said President Barack Obama.

The poll, conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute, suggested that in the Arab sector, the picture was totally different. Only 15% preferred Romney while 45% wanted to see Obama return to the White House.

Interestingly, in Israel Romney even some following among those who define themselves as left-wingers. Some 30% of respondents who put themselves in this group said they preferred Romney. Among rightists and centrists the figures were 70% and 54% respectively.

Some analysts have suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could see a spillover benefit in his own election campaign if Romney wins, or suffer if Obama is reelected. But 69% of Israelis say that the US election results won’t impact the outcome of Israeli elections. Some 51% of Israeli Arabs believe they will.

Of course, voting behavior experts have often pointed out that voters’ analysis of how they make up their mind is often a world away from how they really choose their candidate. So we will have to wait until the early hours of January 23 to find out any true connection between the U.S. and Israeli elections.

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What Readers Think About the Election

By Jane Eisner

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With so much attention on the Jewish vote in this presidential election, the Forward this week asked readers to register their thoughts in three successive polls. We don’t pretend that this web-based exercise is as valid as whatever Gallup or CNN does in the field, nor is our analysis up to Nate Silver’s standards.

But even though ours was not a scientific survey — more a chance to read the minds of readers outside our usual newsroom bubble — the results pretty much confirm the conventional wisdom.

Forward readers agree far more heartily with President Obama’s foreign policy opinions than with Governor Romney’s.

They care most about the economy and health care.

And they say that Jewish issues will affect their voting decisions, but only so much.

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Dan Senor Is No Neocon

By Liam Hoare

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Dan Senor

After Monday’s debate, many took note of the way in which Mitt Romney shifted his foreign policy towards what constitutes the center on Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. It was as if the previous ten months or so had never happened, with The New York Times editorial page suggesting that Romney now “does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done, or plans to do”. His relative moderation also led some, including The Forward’s Gal Beckerman to ask, “So Romney seems to have ditched the neocons tonight. Where was Dan Senor’s influence?”

Senor’s name has been thrown around a good deal during this campaign. As a senior foreign policy advisor to the Romney/Ryan ticket, it was suggested infamously and rather insidiously by Maureen Dowd that Senor was in fact a “neocon puppet master”, moving the lips of his candidates. Aside from the obvious problem with her imagery, Dowd (and indeed Gal’s) statements are based upon a fundamental misconception: that Senor is a neoconservative at all.

This false impression of Senor derives in the main from two things we know about Senor’s career, such as it is. The first is that he has been a very strong advocate not only for Israel and its absolute right to defend itself but for the military option to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The other and more significant one perhaps (since the former is the consensus view in the United States) is Senor’s association with the liberation of Iraq as spokesman for L. Paul Bremer, who as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in effect ran the country in the year after the liquidation of the Ba’athist regime.

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Tweeting the Boca Debate

By Seth Berkman

Monday night marked the final presidential debate of 2012. For those voters sad to wait another four years to hear their favorite talking points, we’ve captured the best reactions from the Twitter-verse on the action from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

Comedian David Wain, new to live-tweeting debates, was quick to catch on to the tone of the action, tweeting sarcastically, “Jesus, neither guy is letting the other get a word in!”

Foreign policy was the issue of the night, expected to draw many comments on Iran, Afghanistan and Libya. However, there was a surprise name-drop early on and cheers to anyone who had Mali in their country office pool.

President Barack Obama had the first good zinger of the night, telling Mitt Romney that the “1980s are calling for their foreign policy back.” However, not everyone was amused, including Commentary magazine’s Seth Mandel

Comedian Sarah Silverman quickly drew tired of both candidates rhetoric, tweeting, “Would there ever be a day when we ‘can’t afford’ military? Nuclear bombs? WE NEED HEALTH CARE”

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Judging the Yad Vashem Debate

By Gal Beckerman

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The final debate is over — the last one ever for Obama and for us this election cycle — and it’s time for some flash judgment.

  1. Israel, Israel, Israel: As anyone could have predicted, Israel was mentioned a lot. As “true friend.” As “greatest ally.” I think I counted 6 mentions by the president to 3 from Romney. My favorite was Obama pointing out that “the largest military exercise with Israel in history happened this very week.” But what I could not have predicted was Obama’s extended riff aimed at the Jewish gut, or more precisely the cheek of your nana living in a retirement community in Boca Raton. He had Yad Vashem in there. He mentioned the children of Sderot. And he made sure to not give Romney any, er, daylight, to make his usual “Israel under the bus” argument. When he was done, all Romney could offer to distinguish himself was that he would try and indict Ahmadinejad for genocide incitement.

  2. It’s good to be the chief: Obama seemed to dominate this one, and he was helped largely by the fact that, as he reminded Romney at one point, he has “actually executed foreign policy.” All of the references to real decisions he has made, to conversations with secretaries of defense, to being the commander-in-chief, were calculated to making Romney look small (aside from also happening to be true). It gave Obama an upper hand that he did not squander.

  3. Agreed: Remarkably, Romney spent much of the debate agreeing with Obama’s foreign policy approach. Another a few minutes and he might have endorsed him! From Egypt to drones, again and again, Romney said he supported Obama’s policies. The difference he proposed to bring to the office was to have a stronger, more forceful tone in the execution. To my ears, this distinction sounded hollow. What does it mean practically to just project more toughness? Do you used more superlatives in your speeches? How does it help get things done? Obama seemed to hit a nerve when he said that it sounded like Romney wanted to follow the president’s policies, but just speak more loudly.

  4. Etch-a-sketch a-shak’n: Another clear objective of the president tonight was to use the foreign policy conversation as another opportunity to define Romney as inconsistent. Obama did this again and again, pointing to the zig zagging policy prescriptions voiced by Romney over the course of the last year. And Romney seemed to oblige by presenting tonight yet another face. Anticipating that Obama had a claim on toughness locked down through the killing of Osama bin Laden, Romney attacked the president from…the left. At times, he sounded like John Kerry. He argued that the president hadn’t used enough soft power – improving civil society, working on girl’s education, speaking to the peaceful nature of the Muslim world. “We can’t kill ourselves out of this mess,” was Romney’s practiced line. It sounded like just another shake of the etch-a-sketch. Though it’s possible that others didn’t hear it that way.

  5. Europe? The environment? China?: While we’re thrilled at the Forward that the Middle East and Israel got so much attention, it was disappointing to see such a limited range of subjects discussed. The environment was not seriously brought up once in all these debates and it’s quite a global issue. Or what about any part of the world that is south of the equator? Even those issues that were touched on were done so in a very perfunctory way. The moral and legal dimension of using drones was never explored, for example, once it was established that both candidates agree that they are good policy. The predictability of the questions helped contribute to the staleness of all the debates, I thought, whether the moderator was forceeful or not. The heat instead came from the two men pushing each other and their seeming visceral dislike for one another. Thankfully the debate format gave the space for these fisticuffs to occur.

Thanks for indulging my quick take. If you’d like, participate in our own snap poll on the question of Israel and Iran.

And that’s where I draw my red line, folks!

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Obama Won by Talking Like a Republican

By Jay Michaelson

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This late in the campaign, everything is about swing states – and the foreign policy debate was largely about Florida, where moderate Jews could well decide who gets the state’s 29 electoral votes.

On those grounds, on the basis of issues important to Florida Jews, President Obama won this debate, but in a bizarre, looking-glass sort of way in which the candidates seemingly exchanged personalities. Mitt Romney sounded like Obama: reasonable, measured, and knowledgeable about foreign policy. Barack Obama sounded like Romney: making strong rhetorical points with little attention to detail.

On Israel, for example, it was Obama who struck first, citing his support of the Iron Dome defense system, and using the phrase “stand with Israel” numerous times. Romney, meanwhile, sounded like a Democrat: arguing for peace talks with the Palestinians, and a measured approach to Iran.

So too on the emotional issues likely to resonate with the bubbes and zaydes of Palm Beach County. Could anyone have predicted that President Obama would invoke the holocaust in his discussion of the State of Israel? And yet that’s what he did, noting that on his trip to Israel, he visited Yad Vashem (the holocaust memorial, he explained to the non-Jewish voters who happened to be watching the debate too), whereas Romney went to fundraisers.

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The Forward's Election Poll: The Debate

By Forward Staff

What do you think about the presidential election? For the next three days, we want to hear your opinions on a number of topics. First up, the latest presidential debate. Answer these two questions now, then check back Tuesday evening for the results. We’ll have a new question waiting for you each night this week and a final roundup blog post on Friday.

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Silverman Boosts Obama (Not That One)

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Sarah Silverman and her sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, are both supporting President Obama but they have very different ways of doing it.

There’s a Silverman involved in the latest pro-Obama ad, but it’s not the one you’re thinking (or hoping) it is.

Sarah Silverman’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, who lives in Israel, co-produced “Israelis on Obama.” The piece features a number of Israeli talking heads (mainly defense officials, political scientists, and intellectuals) praising Obama’s financing of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, and his sanctions policy against Iran.

Schlep Labs (also known as the Jewish Council for Education Research, put it out as a quickie response to Mitt Romney’s accusing Obama of not backing Israel strongly enough in Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

We’ll admit we’re a bit disappointed — not necessarily by the video’s message, but by the lack of production values as compared to the PAC’s previous ads. I guess we’ve been spoiled by all that free exposure to Silverman’s raunchy humor and Adam Mansbach’s clever writing.

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For Jewish Questioner, Debate Settled It

By Nathan Guttman

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Susan Katz

Jews aren’t known to be swing voters. Most, in fact, hold strong political convictions and are not easily swayed.

Still, as Gal Beckerman noted, there were a whole lot of folks with Jewish names asking questions at the Tuesday night presidential debate — and all were undecided voters.

Well, not any more.

At least one, Susan Katz, was so convinced with President Obama’s showing at the debate, that she decided to give him her vote on November 6. “I saw in President Obama someone who has ripened with time. He deserves another four years to see his vision through,” Katz told Politico.

Katz asked Mitt Romney how he would be different from former president George W. Bush, a question that could give away at least a little of her political tendencies.

Going down the list of Jewish names, Adelphi University junior Jeremy Epstein, who got to ask the first question in the debate, remains undecided. He told Newsday that he liked Romney’s answer to his question about the chances of a college student like himself to find a job after graduation. He did not, however, like Romney’s style and thought Obama was more “personable.”

In the informal chat with both candidates after the debate was over, Epstein, 20, challenged the president to a pickup basketball game.

And Politico reports that another Jewish sounding name, Kerry Ladke (the name that sounded to many like Latke) is also still undecided after hearing Obama and Romney’s responses to his question about the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

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Mitt's 4 Debate Disasters

By Dave Goldiner

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Mitt Romney is a skilled debater. Despite his reputation for gaffes, he is usually very effective in structured settings. He makes his points, he makes them clearly and he moves on.

That said, the second presidential debate was a disaster for Romney. Here are four moments where he threw away his latest best chance to take the lead in the race for the White House:

WOMEN AREN’T ONLY ONES IN ‘BINDERS’

Romney thought he was touting his commitment to women by bragging that he demanded a “binder full of women” to fill slots in his cabinet as Massachusetts governor. Trouble is, he sounded like the condescending bean-counting CEO that many voters think he really is.

Women know that “binders” are really a shorthand for keeping women in their place. Leaders in business or politics or any other field who actually care about equality don’t have to come up with a dossier to hire women. They just do it. And what happens when you fill enough slots to make the “binder”? You move back to your white male friends for all the rest of the spots — at least that’s what many suspect.

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The Long Island Jewish Community Center Debate

By Gal Beckerman

Having used the Forward’s patented debate drinking game tonight, I’m sitting here quite dry. Which means I’ve got a few quick takeaways from the slugfest in Lon Giland.

1) Jewiest debate ever: Let’s just get this out of the way. Carol Greenberg? Jeremy Epstein? Barry Green? Cary Latke? Latke?! Thankfully the next debate is in Boca Raton, which is a relief, because I was worried only middle aged Jews would get a chance to make their voices heard this election cycle.

2) Maybe there was an altitude problem in Denver: Obama was so much more present, energetic and effective right out of the gate that at first I even thought the extreme contrast with his Denver performance could be a liability. It would highlight just how bad he had been. But then he just kept striking the contrasts he needed to strike — most notably on tax policy and social issues — and it became obvious that whatever happened, whether the altitude or anything else, Obama had clearly learned from his mistakes and had shown up. It made for a much, much more lively debate all around and put the lie to the conventional wisdom that somehow this town hall debate would not lend itself to sharp exchanges and attacks. It was actually the least congenial debate I can remember in any recent election cycle, for better or worse.

3) Patronizing Mitt: Since Republicans spent a lot of time picking apart every one of Joe Biden’s eye rolls and giggles, it seems safe to take a look at Romney’s style tonight. From basically telling the president to shut up and wait his turn to having to be told by Candy Crowley to sit back down in his chair, Romney came off as less empathetic and human than he did in the first debate. He seemed angry. While the president seemed — amazingly — to be enjoying himself. Romney also seemed to have a harder time with issues like gender inequality and gun control. While he kept trying to move to the center, Obama kept pushing him back to the right. This was brilliantly done by the president in the exchange over George W. Bush. Romney made what looked at first like a bold decision to throw Bush under the bus (where at least he’ll have Israel for company!) for not dealing with the ballooning deficit. Obama then took the opportunity to compare Romney with Bush and further cemented his image of the governor as the “severe conservative” he once claimed himself to be, to the right of Dubya on issues like immigration and social security.

4) Triumph of the fact check: So much of this campaign has revolved around competing claims of truth and falsehood. Each side repeatedly calls the other a liar and a whole industry of fact checkers has emerged over the last few cycles to act as referees. Because of this, the moment that will probably have the most resonance from this evening is when Candy Crowley fact checked in real time (a feat in itself) a claim by Romney, calling it in Obama’s favor, to the applause of the audience. Put aside that the Obama administration has not come up with a good answer for the way the attack on the Benghazi embassy was spun in the hours after it occurred, the president did in fact call it an act of terror in the Rose Garden the following day. Romney was caught looking silly and like a prevaricator for saying otherwise. And I’m willing to predict that the enduring moment, bound to be replayed tomorrow a few times, is Obama asking, “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?”

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The Forward's Debate Drinking Game

By Forward Staff

At the Forward, we’re always looking for ways to help our readers stay in touch with current events from a Jewish perspective.

In that spirit, we’ve come up with a Jewish drinker’s guide to tonight’s presidential debate.

After his lackluster performance two weeks ago, it’s President Barack Obama’s shot at debate redemption. Mitt Romney can seal the deal with another commanding performance. Joe Biden won’t be anywhere near your TV screen, so hopefully you don’t have to worry about “malarkey.”

Get some booze, grab your remote and play along.

Take a SIP if you hear:

“The only democracy in the Middle East…”
“Red lines”
An anecdote about a Jewish lady in Florida/Ohio/Nevada or some other random swing state
Anyone over-pronouncing Hamas as “Kkkkkhamas”
“My friend Benjamin Netanyahu…”
A properly employed Yiddishism

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Watching the Debate in a Swing State

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis
Joan Waitkevicz and her wife Shirley Herman watch the presidential debate together in West Palm Beach, Florida.

At the Republican debate watch party in West Palm Beach, Florida, Romney supporters were exulting. At the Democratic debate watch party ten minutes away, Obama supporters were getting into shouting matches with Republicans.

The Democratic event, hosted by the Obama campaign in Florida, was held at a sports bar on a main drag in downtown West Palm Beach. A couple of tables full of Romney backers had taken over a corner of the Obama group’s room, laughing at Romney’s zingers and applauding at his applause lines.

At first the thirty or so Obama volunteers and minor Democratic dignitaries didn’t notice. But the Romney tables got louder, and the Obama people started shouting back.

The scene, said Obama supporter Joan Waitkevicz, 65, was “like a sports match.”

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s debate viewing at another nearby sports bar was like a boxer’s dressing room after a knockout.

“I thought Romney cleaned his clock,” said Sandra Tenace, a part-time South Florida resident attending the Republican event.

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