With a rise in anti-Semitism around the globe, and with the increasing phenomenon of anti-Semitism written off as legitimate anti-Israeli sentiment, the post of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism was created by an act of Congress during the George W. Bush administration.
“The Special Envoy develops and implements policies and projects to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism,” says the State Department’s job description.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s appointment today to the position is a man steeped in experience in combating the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Longtime Dem operative Ira Forman was executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council from January 1996 through June 2010 and Obama’s Jewish outreach director for his 2012 campaign. In the early 1990s, he worked in the Clinton administration as director of congressional relations at the Office of Personnel Management.
One of Forman’s key jobs in his subsequent lobbying role was tangling with anyone who tried to show Jewish voters that the Democratic Party, and then the Obama administration, had grown dangerously out of touch with their concerns and dangerously distant from the U.S.-Israel special relationship.
A month before election day in 2008, Forman accused the RJC of plumbing “the depths of the political sewer with their anti-Obama smear campaign.”
“Guilt by association is a seriously flawed method of determining a candidate’s policy views toward Israel. There are literally thousands of friends or supporters of each candidate,” Forman wrote in defending candidate Obama from RJC ads about his Mideast policy advisers. “It is not difficult for opposition research to comb through these associations and come up with someone who is less than ‘kosher’ on almost any issue– it is like shooting ducks in a barrel.”
He also lashed out at Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) for expressing concern about Obama’s Mideast peace plan push during a 2009 congressional delegation to Israel and called the Jerusalem Post‘s Caroline Glick “a desperate ideologue armed with a minimal amount of knowledge.”
Forman’s first act will be to join a group of imams to visit the site of the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, the State Department said today.
He’ll then continue on to the International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem.
Forman is far from the first person with deep Democratic campaign connections to be shifted into a post at the State Department.
James Cunningham, a career foreign service officer, was U.S. ambassador to Israel from mid-2008 until June 2011, when he was moved over to the embassy in Kabul. Daniel B. Shapiro, a Middle East adviser to Obama during his first presidential campaign as well as a fundraiser and strategist, was moved into the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Shapiro began his career in Washington as a Hill staffer, including for Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and congressional liaison for National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
He also did in 2008 what Forman did for Obama in 2012: served as Obama’s Jewish outreach director.
After the election, Shapiro had a job waiting at the White House on the National Security Council before getting the ambassadorship.
Over in the communications department, Obama’s traveling press secretary during his re-election campaign just took over the daily press briefings as new State Department spokesman despite having no foreign policy experience.
Jen Psaki was picked by Kerry to be his press secretary, replacing Victoria Nuland, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO in the George W. Bush administration and a former foreign policy adviser to Dick Cheney.
Since Psaki’s mid-February selection, she had been undergoing intensive training within the State Department on global affairs.
Kerry knows Psaki from her work on his 2004 presidential campaign, but unlike the messaging she shaped for Obama’s and Kerry’s campaigns the State Department is expressly a nonpartisan agency. Her messaging since stepping onto the department’s podium has been struggling.