Former White House Jewish liaison (and Champlain Colony alumnus) Tevi Troy is the latest to try to make hay out of the fact that the Obama administration has trimmed the guest list for the White House Chanuka celebration by half.
The White House said it was doing so to trim costs and leave room for the administration to expand the list over the next few years to accomodate a changing roster of friends and petitioners.
Troy has his doubts:
Yet one wonders if there is more to this reduction than the reasons given by the administration, such as the high cost of kosher food and a desire to allow the list to grow over time.
Over the past year, the Obama administration has given the Jewish community a number of reasons to fear that it takes its votes for granted. For instance, there is the administration’s pressure on the Israeli government over settlements. And many Jews are concerned with the selection of Mary Robinson — a leader of the Durban conference boycotted by both Israel and the United States for its anti-Israel bias — to win a Medal of Freedom. In addition, the administration attempted — but eventually backed away from — to put Israel critic Charles Freeman at the head of the National Intelligence Council.
The administration’s move, as Politico noted, “comes on the heels of Obama’s cancellation of an appearance before the General Assembly of North American Jewish Federations.” (This was one instance where the president deserves the benefit of the doubt, having made the understandable decision to attend a memorial service for the victims at Fort Hood instead. Nonetheless, it has fueled the concerns of some who see it as part of a string of slights.)
The last point is interesting — any reasonable person would agree that the Ft. Hood funeral took emergency precedence over a gathering of Jewish fundraising leaders. Troy gets to have it both ways — take the high road by giving Obama a pass, but include the criticism anyway, attribute the concern to an unnamed “some,” and keep the empty complaint alive.
He does the same thing with the party kerfuffle. In talking about the party, Troy essentially concedes, from experience, the administration’s main points — namely, that the pressure on the White House staff to keep expanding the list becomes enormous, that it will only be harder on a Democratic president who enjoyed a huge Jewish majority in the 2008 election, and that in these belt-tightening times kosher food is considerably more expensive than non-.
In fact, half the essay reads as a defense of the administration from a former Jewish liaison who understands the process better than most. But that would deny Obama’s critics a chance to pile on, and deny Troy his partisan point, so he adds this:
For these reasons, while the size of the party may not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things, even some of Obama’s supporters may see it in the context of this longer train of politically tone-deaf decisions.
Thee’s that “some” again. Troy gets to take the high road (“some — maybe not me — may find this objectionable”) while still scoring his partisan point and keeping this non-controversy alive. C’mon, Tevi — you were an advisor to a president. Give it to us straight: If you were Obama’s Jewish liaison, would you have trimmed the guest list?
Commenting in the Jerusalem Post, Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union takes the highest road of all — although a critic of some of the moves Troy outlines above, he won’t take the bait:
“As we know from Biblical times, we Jews are very good at complaining,” he said. “People shouldn’t complain. It’s very nice that President Obama is having a Hanukka party.
“People can choose to gripe about the guest list or any other aspect of it, but the fact is this White House is going to continue this practice, which is a lovely thing.”