Apparently President Obama knows more about Judaism than all his predecessors. The Weekly Standard reports
President Obama met yesterday with “about 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders, thanking them for the work they do to improve communities around the country and discussed their shared commitment to rebuilding the U.S. economy,” Haaretz reports.
In the meeting, Obama reportedly boasted about his knowledge of Judaism, telling the leaders that he thinks he knows more “about Judaism” than all past presidents. He said he gained this knowledge of Judaism from reading.
“Obama … stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it,” Haaretz reports. “[He] wondered how come no one asks Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner or Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel [sic] about their support to Israel.”
Similarly, he said to the group, “I [am] not going to tell you again how I even feel about Israel, but why [are] we still talking about it?”
He then suggested that he should not be questioned about his commitment to the Jewish state because “all his friends in Chicago were Jewish - and at the beginning of his political career he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby,” Haaretz reports.
According to Ynet’s account of the meeting, President Obama insisted that the perception that he’s not a friend of Israel is the work of Republican bigotry:
During the meeting, Obama told the rabbis that when he was running for Senate some accused him of being the Jewish lobby’s “puppet” because of his many Jewish associates in Chicago. Now, he said, the Republicans are trying to portray him as not being supportive of Israel by stressing the fact that his father was Muslim and he has a Muslim name, as well as by claiming that he had been overly aggressive in pushing Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu to promote the peace process with the Palestinians.
White House chief of staff Jack Lew, an Orthodox Jew, also attended yesterday’s White House meeting.
Bill Kristol responds:
1. The reason no one asks John Boehner or Mitch McConnell about their support for Israel is … because they really do support Israel. The reason people ask Barack Obama about his support for Israel is because his support for Israel has been equivocal.
2. It’s truly pathetic that Obama has to reach for the tired (to say the least) trope that some of his best friends were Jewish. Actually, one wishes more of his best friends were pro-Israel Christians. They might have had more luck convincing him, a fellow Christian, that he should be pro-Israel.
3. And the claim that Obama knows more about Judaism than any president? His vanity boggles the mind. One could begin by citing Adams and Madison, who knew Hebrew, or Harry Truman, who knew Jewish history … but it’s silly to dignify this claim with a rebuttal. In thinking about the presidents since Truman, though, I’d guess the president who knew the most about Judaism was Jimmy Carter, who taught Sunday school and had a deep interest in religion. So let’s stipulate that of the modern presidents, Carter and Obama “know” the most about Judaism. But what is it they know? In Obama’s case, one could ask whether what he “knows” is what he learned from Rashid Khalidi and Jeremiah Wright.
Chutzpah to the highest degree