Roger L. Simon

Helen Thomas, Karl Rove, Gaza and Jewish Republicans

How’s that for a collection of  keywords for Google search?  Well, it was (sort of) earned by me last night from the interviews I conducted for PJTV at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition summer bash, this year at the Beverly Hilton.

Most notable was Karl Rove, the RJC’s keynote speaker of the evening, who is apparently a reader (once in a moon anyway) of this blog.  I did something of a formal interview (up soon on PJTV) with Bush 43’s former senior adviser turned author, commentator, etc., etc., on a number of issues pertinent to the occasion, one of which has already become dated. Helen Thomas has retired or — as Drudge wittily put it — been “sent to Poland.”

Shall we sing it all together now?  “Ding, dong, the witch is dead… Which old witch… the wicked witch…”  And on and on.  (It’s worth adding, to be our version of politically correct, that Poland is far from the worst place anyone could be sent these days. How about Turkey?)

But back to Rove.  Other than Thomas, I talked with him about two key areas — the Gaza Flotilla situation and  the direction of the American Jewish vote.

On the former, he was quite explicit that the Flotilla would not have happened under Bush.  It was the atmosphere and policies of the current administration that was allowing it to occur, not to mention expand, as it may.

Regarding the Jewish vote that went 78% for Obama, he was more than guardedly optimistic, seeing the situation at this moment as a great opportunity for Jewish Republicans.

Anecdotally, I think he has a point.  I have been attending this annual RJC event for three years now, first for Pajamas Media and then for the last two years doing interviews for PJTV.  I always asked essentially the same question: What’s the climate with your friends and relatives?  Is everyone in your world (mishpocheh, in the parlance) still a knee-jerk liberal? Can you even speak to each other at the dinner table?

I always got basically the same response — a cynical shrug that signaled the old Yiddish expression “Vat den?” (’twas ever thus).

But not last night.  Almost uniformly the attendees to whom I asked this question responded differently.  Yes, they said, things were changing.  Their mishpocheh — in the smaller and larger senses — were listening to them, not getting angry or walking away. Sometimes they just remained silent, but it was a thoughtful, worried silence. From what I could tell at the Beverly Hilton last night,  the polls showing Jews deserting Obama were evidently not entirely apocryphal.

Most surprising to me were some words I exchanged with Rep. Dan Lederman of the South Dakota House of Representatives. (I didn’t even know there were Jews in South Dakota.)  Lederman told me of  his recently making a speech strongly attacking Obama policies to an audience of seventy or so B’nai B’rith members in his neighboring Nebraska and not getting a peep of objection.  This would have been unheard of a year ago.  Cue Bob Dylan — or should I say Zimmerman — and change, change you, or at least I, can believe in.

So I went home last night with a partial sense of optimism. (Alas, the Lakers lost.) I had an autographed copy of Rove’s new book Courage and Consequence under my arm and cracked it open in order to  distract myself from the Lakers defeat.  So far it’s a riveting read — not what you would expect.  More on that later.  For now, watch for my interview with the political guru on PJTV.

Update: My interview with Rove is now online at PJTV; click here to watch.