Yesterday’s New York Times reported on the Republican Jewish Coalition’s new “Buyer’s Remorse” ads, featuring disillusioned Democrats voting for Romney. As Ron Kampeas notes, despite the front page photo of Sheldon Adelson, the Times never nails down whether the casino mogul is directly funding the campaign.
But something else bugged me: In rounding up critics, the Times finds two groups that are hardly prepared to give disinterested analysis:
While the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party have increased their outreach, leaders of several Jewish organizations dismissed the possibility that the Republicans could make significant inroads in the November election.
“There is a very large chunk of the Jewish community that is very Democratic that can’t be eaten into,” said Mik Moore, founder of the Jewish Council for Education and Research. “There is a fight for maybe 10-15 percent, but nobody is underestimating the impact that the massive independent spending can have on the campaign.”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a Jewish lobbying group in Washington that favors Democratic candidates, said the effort by Mr. Adelson and the Republican Jewish Coalition would fall short.
“Every single number indicates there is simply no such thing as a Jewish problem for the president,” Mr. Ben-Ami said. “The people who vote only on Israel didn’t vote for Obama last time and know who they are voting for already.”
Okay, fine, in saying J Street ”favors Democratic candidates,” the Times makes it clear that their analysis could be partisan. But the report doesn’t mention that the innocuous-sounding “Jewish Council for Education and Research” is a pro-Obama political action committee, which in 2008 was behind “The Great Schlep” videos and campaigns. Weirder still, given the article’s focus on Adelson, it doesn’t mention that JCER has a new effort called ScissorSheldon.com, in which comedian Sarah Silverman offers to dry hump Adelson if he donates his fortune to Obama. JCER is asking followers to sign a petition “to keep Adelson’s money out of politics.”
JCER is above-board in its intentions, and Mik Moore’s quote is probably not all that different from what a disinterested analyst might say. But by failing to identify him as a partisan, the Times misleads readers and devalues his insight.
Besides, why not find a nonpartisan analyst — say, Steven Windmueller of Hebrew Union College, who tracks Jewish voting, or someone from the Pew Reseach Council, which asks religion questions in its polling?
People will read this and say, “Of course — the Times is pro-Obama.” In fact, the effect is the opposite. By pitting partisans against partisans, it turns the issue into a he said/she said, when there actually has been some solid nonpartisan polling suggesting the Jewish vote may not be as fluid as some insist it is.