The Bushes and the Jews
Explaining the president's philo-Semitism.
Another factor is shrewd political judgment. At pains to avoid repeating political mistakes his father made, Bush has actively courted conservatives within the Republican coalition. That includes Jewish neoconservatives such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who hopes to encourage Bush to avoid another mistake of his father's—failing to topple Saddam Hussein. It was Wolfowitz who Bush sent to address the big pro-Israel rally that took place at the Capitol on April 15.
But the biggest reason Bush has been able to win over Jews may be personal. Despite his own Skull & Bones pedigree, the president is far less WASP-ish in his tastes and manner than past generations of Bushes, making him less suspect in the eyes of some Jewish Americans. Moreover, he is openly religious in a way that conveys deep respect for religious believers of all kinds. He may even be influenced by the view of Gary Bauer and other fundamentalist Christians who believe that the Jews are biblically ordained to live in the Holy Land. And unlike his father's administration, George W. Bush's is prominently filled with members of the tribe. Most notably, the public face of the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer, is a practicing Jew.
But whatever the impetus, Bush appears to be entirely sincere in his warmth toward the Jewish people. Since Sept. 11, he has resisted condemning his old tour guide, Ariel Sharon, as harshly as his father condemned former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He has also applied the "Bush Doctrine" to Israel, saying in his April 4 Rose Garden address: "Terror must be stopped. No nation can negotiate with terrorists. For there is no way to make peace with those whose only goal is death." It's hard to imagine any Bush from a previous generation taking the side of the Jews so unequivocally.
Anne E. Kornblut is the senior political correspondent for the Boston Globe.
Photograph of George W. Bush by Mati Stein/AP/Worldwide Photos.