January 4, 2001
Good or Bad?
What a lack of Jewish representation in Bush's Cabinet might mean for Jews and Israel.
There'll be no Yiddish spoken in the Bush Cabinet -- unless Colin Powell starts talking to himself. Dubya spells diversity with his picks. Three Blacks, a Cuban émigré and most recently, an Asian American Democrat and an Arab American Republican named Abraham.
But no Jews. And no questions from the allegedly Jewish-dominated media, no word from the Jews in Congress and no comment from the Jewish lobby.
Is this the silence of the lambs, or are American Jews so secure as to not give a damn about a Jew-free Cabinet?
When we recall how the Jews jumped for joy when Joe Lieberman got the call for vice president, it's hard to believe they believe they're too strong to care about slights.
On the other hand, listen to Bones Rachles, my old Jewish connection in Jersey: "We voted for Clinton, so what could we expect? James Baker said it right to Bush's father: 'F--- the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway.' Now the son takes the cue from the old man, so what's new?"
I ask Rachles what the Blacks did for Bush to get them three seats on the right hand of the president. "Yeah, well, uh, I don't know the answer to that one," he responds.
Jews were overwhelmingly for Al Gore, but still Dubya got 20 percent of their vote. Blacks delivered maybe 2 percent to Bush.
And the selection of the Yiddish-speaking Powell won't do anything for W. in the next election, nor will Condoleezza Rice or Education Secretary-to-be Rod Paige.
They are all fine choices, but none of them have ever been Black activists, to say the least.
And don't get me wrong, it doesn't trouble me in the least that Bush hasn't put a Jew in his Cabinet. The history of Jews in our government has been the history of chiropractic -- they bend over backward to prove that they will do nothing for Israel.
The foreign-policy Jews around Bill Clinton are proof positive of this. They were appointed by George Bush Sr. to make peace in the Middle East, and all they have done is to help create terror in Israel. Yitzhak Rabin asked Clinton to retain them, and he did. The only good news for Israel is that Dubya probably will not keep them.
The question is, who will he replace them with? And that depends on how he views the Israeli-Palestinian war.
What we know so far is not good for the Jews. Bush supported Clinton's Arab-appeasement policy throughout the campaign and he supports it today.
His daddy's old crew is in power, and while some of them appear to be pro-Israel, a second look doesn't make Jews sanguine.
Thus, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney was secretary of defense during the Gulf War. Colin Powell was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Together with Bush I, they refused to let Israel respond to 39 missile attacks on the Jewish state. Together with Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, they lied to the Israelis when they said they had destroyed Saddam Hussein's missiles.
And altogether, with Secretary of State James Baker, they demonized Israel by accusing the Jewish lobby of attempting to run American policy by blackmail. Remember President Bush's "lonely little guy" speech after the Gulf War?
When Israel asked him to make good on a promise of a $10 billion loan to absorb Russian immigrants, Bush portrayed the Jewish lobby as an all-powerful force in Congress, dedicated to undoing true American values.
So, with W., it's down to the old question: Is it good or bad for the Jews?
New York columnist Sidney Zion is syndicated to The Jewish Journal through Featurewell.com.