During every major election, readers of the Cleveland Jewish News (CJN) write in to protest the ads run in the CJN by the The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). (This year for the first time there was an organized campaign by a "new, dovish pro-Israel" group called J Street, which flooded many Jewish newspapers with letters urging them not to run RJC ads attacking Obama. Source: JTA)
Sometimes readers write letters to the editor excoriating the paper for printing the ads (see "Reprehensible to print Republican ads").
But for income-strapped community newspapers like the CJN, printing those ads have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with economics. The CJN doesn't endorse the ads -- the paper doesn't make any political endorsements of any kind.
But the CJN's operating costs are paid for by advertising (not, as commonly believed, by Federation or even subscriptions). So the paper will print pretty much any ad it is paid to run, barring those that are anti-Semitic; contain hate speech or incite hate crimes; break the law or encourage others to break the law.
Sometimes the RJC's propaganda has barely met even these loose standards. This year in particular, the RJC's newspaper ads, direct mailings, and emails seem to many to have been excessively divisive, inflammatory, or misleading.
Even now, at the 11th hour, the RJC is living down to its reputation as chief fear-mongerer and mud-slinger with "a wave of incendiary new mailers," reports TalkingPointsMemo.com. One flyer reads: "Barack Obama's friends and advisors: Pro-Palestinian, Anti-Israel, even hostile to America," and claims that his friends' "anti-Israel views" are "dangerous, naive and reckless." (click picture to view enlarged)
Then there's the Wailing Wall mailer, which claims Obama has reneged on his support for an undivided Jerusalem, a claim strongly disputed by the Obama camp:
Jewish voters favor Obama over McCain by a ratio of more than 3-to-1, according to Gallup poll results released Thursday. Republicans are desperate, sure, but their tactics stink. They're unlikely to sway Jewish voters at this point, but they could have lasting repercussions within the Jewish community.
Four years ago, the RJC used similar tactics to attempt to discredit John Kerry among Jewish voters. According CNN:
"More than any year in the past, Republican operatives have crowed about the increasing proportion of the Jewish vote going to Republicans this year," Ira N. Forman, the National Jewish Democratic Committee's Executive Director said in a statement about the Gallup poll results. "In fact, for every election since at least 1972 we've heard 'sky is falling' predictions concerning the Democratic proportion of the vote. However, it looks like this is going to be one more year when political pundits, some in the media, Jewish Republicans, and other partisans were wrong in their over the top forecasts," Forman added.
But this year, latent racism and overt anti-Muslim sentiment have made our politics even uglier. After the election, will the bad taste just go away? Or will it coagulate in our throats and choke us?