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Spinning for Obama

Friends,

The “Debunking Barak Obama” e-mail I sent out has really made waves. They can’t dispute the facts – the Farrakhan-Reverend Wright connection, Obama’s Muslim roots, and his anti-Israel advisors – so instead of dealing with the issues, they’ve taken to name-calling. This information is: “vicious, scurrilous, and inaccurate.” I disagree. I’d call it: “well-documented, balanced, and timely.” And extremely hard to spin. That hasn’t stopped Obama’s Jewish groupies.

Take the following exchange with a reporter from the Forward and then read the final article. Now, that’s (unfortunately) journalism!

Naomi

Hi Ms. Ragen,

This is Marissa Brostoff writing from the Forward newspaper. I’m writing a story about a group called Jews for Obama that’s formed in response to the emails that are circulating within the Jewish community questioning Barack Obama’s positions on Jewish issues.

The group, which includes a number of prominent Washington people and academics, has not referenced your “Debunking Obama” email directly, but it has called the emails questioning Obama in general “inaccurate,” “malicious,” etc. I’d really like to get your perspective on this. What kind of response has your letter gotten?

Thanks so much,

Marissa

Dear Marissa,

The response I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly supportive of the message of my e-mail, which was: Whoa. Who is this guy?

What is this story about an award given to Farrakhan by people associated with Obama’s church? And yes, a little reminder about who Mr. Farrakhan is.

I just couldn’t understand why no one seemed bothered by this. I think people have short memories. They don’t remember the things Farrakhan said. People were really shocked when I quoted from his speeches. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same week I sent out this e-mail, the issues I raised were suddenly front and center, and Mr. Obama even met with jittery Jewish leaders. I have a huge mailing list, and they are all activists.

In my e-mail, I asked people to debunk anything I said which was incorrect. While I got e-mails, many of them angry, from people who supported Obama, I didn’t get a single letter that made me seriously question anything I’d written. Even those who disagreed with me didn’t challenge my facts, simply my conclusions. I respectfully agreed to disagree with them. Also, many of the e-mails used the same phrases: “guilt by association” for example, which made me understand they were simply parrotting Obama’s campaign spin-doctors, instead of using their brains independently. I think my e-mail shook people up and made them think, at least those who are still capable of independent thought, not the New-York-Times-is-the-Bible-crowd.

I don’t have an agenda. I’m not backing another candidate, and haven’t sent out many e-mails on this subject. Frankly, all I wanted to do was to have people look more deeply into this candidate’s views. There was nothing remotely malicious or untrue about anything I said. Unfortunately, those who support Obama have tended to slide past important issues in their enthusiasm for this charismatic young candidate. I think Mr. Obama is intelligent and talented. But I don’t like his policies. I don’t like his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq and give a victory to terrorism. I don’t like his pathetic and naive assumption that he can discuss “Muslim concerns” and somehow appease those who hate America and are planning to wipe Israel off the map. I didn’t appreciate his statement about the Likud’s policies (he is suddenly an expert on internal Israeli politics?) I don’t like his inexperience, and I particularly don’t like the people who are jumping on the bandwagon to support him for all the wrong reasons. Especially Jews for Obama, who should be a little more cautious with so much at stake. They scare me, and so does Mr. Obama.

Naomi Ragen

Group Forms To Defend Obama Against Attacks

by Marissa Brostoff

Thu. Mar 13, 2008

Ruth Greenspan Bell’s brother kept sending Bell e-mails that suggested Barack Obama was a nefarious foe of the Jewish people, and Bell kept sending ripostes right back. Finally, in late February, she decided she had had enough.

“Some of the things he’d gotten on the Internet were so stupid, like this claim that Louis Farrakhan had officiated at Barack Obama’s wedding,” said Bell, a Washington-based consultant on international climate policy who is active in the Obama campaign.

Bell drafted a letter in support of her candidate’s stance on Jewish issues, rallied some friends – including two foreign policy advisers of then-president Bill Clinton who now volunteer with Obama’s foreign policy advisory group – and embarked on a sort of e-mail counterinsurgency. By the end of the week, they had collected about 100 signatures.

The letter is now the basis for a Web site, jewsforobama.net, and has been signed by about 450 people, including such high-profile figures as writer Ayelet Waldman, sociologist Todd Gitlin and filmmaker Aviva Kempner. One signatory, former United States Court of Appeals judge and congressman Abner Mikva, once tried to hire a young Barack Obama as a legal clerk; Obama turned him down. Later, the two became friends.

Jewsforobama.net plays both defense and offense. The site approvingly quotes Alon Pinkas, an Israeli politician and diplomat who has called Obama’s voting record on Israel “impeccable.” It also dismisses the Jewish-themed attacks on the senator as “vicious,” “scurrilous” and “inaccurate.”

Likewise, in interviews with the Forward, signatories emphasized both their enthusiasm for Obama and their frustration with anti-Obama sentiment in the Jewish community. A common thread ran through their responses: All had received e-mails claiming that Obama was a closet Muslim, a Farrakhan apologist and an enemy of Israel.

Waldman, who has spent much of the past year campaigning for Obama, had particularly harsh words for those involved in what she called “a truly despicable whispering campaign” against the candidate.

“The Jews who believe that he’s a Muslim or not a friend of Israel have clearly forgotten the blood libel,” said Waldman, who is married to novelist Michael Chabon, a vocal Obama supporter (although not a signatory of the letter). “People with our history, knowing what we know about what rumors and lies do, who believe this stuff – it’s a shande [‘disgrace’ in Yiddish].”

Mikva took a more positive tack.

“[Obama] knows that the reason the civil rights movement was successful was that it not only had the support of the black community but of the Jewish community, as well,” Mikva said.

“He’s too young to know it through personal experience, but he knows his history.”

One anti-Obama email in wide circulation was penned by Naomi Ragen, a novelist with a large following among Jewish women.

“I have a huge mailing list,” Ragen told the Forward. “While I got e-mails, many of them angry, from people who supported Obama, I didn’t get a single letter that made me seriously question anything I’d written.”

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