Perhaps the most striking, and under-reported, comments of first day of the convention yesterday came not in the Pepsi Center, but a few hours earlier, at the Colorado Convention Center, Korbel Room. That's where the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) hosted an open-to-the public event, before roughly 130 people, analyzing the 2008 Jewish vote.
The main thrust: Most polls show Obama winning 60 to 62 pecent of the Jewish vote nationally, to McCain's 32 percent. A striking number when you consider that Clinton took 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992 and 1996 -- though, according to an April Gallup Poll, Obama was drawing only four percent less than Hillary Clinton, who was at 66 percent.
The reason, according to Richard Baehr -- chief political correspondent of the American Thinker and the only avowed McCain supporter on a panel of four -- has less to do with Obama than with the fact that many Jews like John McCain. "McCain is doing better because he's McCain," Baehr said, nothing that his brand, particularly in the Jewish community, remains strong.
(There was some strong dissention on this point from the audience. Florida State Sen. Steve Geller, the minority leader, whose district is in Broward County, and State Sen. Nan Rich, whose district is in Broward and Dade, said that when they speak to Jews in South Florida, it's not McCain that Jews trumpet -- it's fear of Obama, and the Rev. Wright connection.)
You could sense a frustration building in the largely Jewish audience. McCain, who vows to try and overturn Roe v. Wade, and said at Saddleback Church that life begins at conception, has a strong "brand" in the reliably progressive Jewish community? McCain, who has said that the United States is a "Christian nation," and that he would feel more comfortable with a Christian president, has a strong brand among Jews? McCain, who has appeared at the reactionary Christian colleges he once shunned, and who has gone out of his way to court the religious right, is viewed by one-third of Jews in a positive light?
"He's just not as scary to certain people as a lot of other Republicans," asserted panelist Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report.
"He doesn't wake up in the morning thinking about how he can advance the agenda of the religious right," Baehr said, adding that what he thinks about, first and foremost, is national security.
Finally, a member of the NJDC board seemed to burst. Why is it, he asked, that the media is giving McCain a free ride on his staunch right-wing views.
Oh how I wish we could scroll the answers on the CNN ticker for a few days.
"Most journalists know John McCain pretty well," Rothenberg said. "And we know he doesn't care about social issues. He cares only about national security and foreign policy. He doesn't even care about the economy very much. So we give him a free pass."
"Journalists are not inclined to beat up McCain" on these issues, he added. "We think most of the stuff he's saying, he doesn't believe anyway."
Oh, really? The Fourth Estate has decided to play God on this one? Why is it that the press did not similarly conclude that Obama didn't really believe what he was saying on NAFTA, during the Ohio primary, and instead skewered him for days? (I mean come on -- they had the smoking gun on that one -- the Obama aide who allegedly told the Canadians that Obama was just paying lip service to the unions.) How come the press didn't really believe Obama when he said -- completely out of character -- that when some voters get bitter, they turn to God and guns -- and in turn pilloried him, costing him dearly in the Pennsylvania primary. (I mean, all you have to do is read Audacity of Hope to know he is a deeply spiritual, God-fearing Christian who firmly believes in our right to bear arms.)
He doesn't believe it anyway. Is it me with Obama-blinders on, or is this one of the most startling, chutzpahdik comments imaginable? An admission -- by one of the Fourth Estate's most prominent -- that he and others like him perceive a John McCain wink on little issues like, I don't know, a woman's right to choose, contraception, separation of church and state, and so on, and have therefore made a conscious choice not to dwell on his comments, no matter how egregious or out of the mainstream. Is it any wonder that 32 percent of the Jewish electorate supports John McCain?
By the way: Near the end of the session, Baehr said that he doesn't expect McCain to pick a pro-choice running mate like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman. He called McCain's dropping of those names a "head fake." "It's a win both ways," Baehr explained, adding that it "looks like" McCain is "open-minded" -- "and then they wind up picking someone more predictable, like a Romney."
It's an interesting angle on calculated political deception. Don't expect the mainstream media to write about it any time soon.