WASHINGTON — Today, the choice for the pro-Israel community is clear: Sen. John McCain is the one. I regret that this choice is not shared by more of my co-religionists. As they vote Democratic, more out of habit than out of self-interest, too many fail to appreciate the growing menace of Islamic extremism to both the United States and Israel.
I realize that, for many Jewish Americans, Israel's and America's safety and security appear to be a lower priority than certain social issues, such as preserving abortion rights. I've heard this expressed often by those who sincerely believe that the next president's Supreme Court appointments are more crucial than how a president will face up to the jihadist threat to Israel and the United States.
If McCain had made the abortion issue a defining one of his public life, then this concern might have some validity. But this is not the case. Instead, McCain has focused his energies on issues pertaining to our national security.
For Jews troubled by the moral-equivalence view of our State Department and some mainstream media like The New York Times, it's time to rethink the predilection to support Obama because he is the Democratic candidate, and to seriously consider voting for McCain.
Now a Changed Democrat
In my years in Washington, going back to my first positions in the Kennedy administration, I have worked for both a liberal Democratic congressman and a liberal Democratic senator. But today, I am much more closely aligned with the diminishing number of Democrats who are considered centrists of the Joe Lieberman and "Scoop" Jackson variety.
Unfortunately, the loudest voices now in the Democratic Party belong to the Michael Moores, Dennis Kuciniches and the Moveon.org "progressive" types who are enamored with Obama.
McCain's record contrasts starkly with the shallow background of his opponent. Aside from winning elections and writing two books about himself, what accomplishments can Obama point to?
Comparisons between Obama and the young and charismatic John F. Kennedy also come up short. Actually, it is McCain, not Obama, who, like Kennedy, was commissioned as a naval officer, awarded the Purple Heart and decorated for helping his comrades. And McCain, much like JFK, has pledged to fight for freedom around the world, not to retreat from our enemies.
Many in Congress have fine Israel-related voting records. Obama, in his very brief career, is among them. But some of these same legislators also appear reluctant to confront the growing menace of Islamofascism and the threat it presents to America's vital interests in the Middle East and to Israel's survival.
Only one candidate repeatedly states that "the transcendent challenge we face today is the menace of Islamic extremism." McCain asserts this frequently to all kinds of audiences, and at all times.
One can respect Obama for his ambition, his meteoric rise and his rhetorical skills. But his equivocation on issues like Jerusalem, and the success of the surge in Iraq, is disturbing, as is his approach to dealing with Iran's Ahmadinejad. When not scripted, he has spoken of the "legitimate claims" of Hezbollah and Hamas.
Another primary concern is Obama's meager national security record.
Instead of arriving at well-established positions through years of intensive deliberation and consideration, he will have to rely more heavily on a group of advisers — some 300 by his own count. Given both the backgrounds of several of the more-prominent people who have counseled him, and the endorsements he's received from an infamous list of Israel bashers, this is surely not a promising sign.
One speech to AIPAC cannot make up for off-the-cuff remarks that raise serious questions.
If one believes we live in a very dangerous world, with unprecedented challenges, the choice for voters should be an easy one. On that fabled Day One, Iran, Iraq, Russia, North Korea, Afghanistan, China, global terrorism, Middle East oil and, almost incidentally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be at the top of the new president's agenda.
Given the two candidates' records, experience and core values, this choice for Jewish Americans should not be a difficult one: John McCain for president.
Morris J. Amitay, a Washington attorney, is a former executive director of AIPAC.