Sunday, July 24, 2016

Is Tim Kaine Jewy?

Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, Senator, Tim Kaine
I hate to keep talking politics. But I can’t let this one go without comment. It seems that Forward columnist Ari Feldman has decided that Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Tim Kaine would be the Jewiest of Vice Presidents.

I’m not sure exactly what it means to be ‘Jewy’. Maybe what he means that Kaine is an exceptionally pro Jewish and pro Israel candidate. So much so that he should be considered an honorary Jew.

I don’t really know much about Tim Kaine. He seems like a nice guy. But to claim that he is especially pro Israel is ridiculous. Especially since he boycotted Netanyhu’s speech to congress last year.

The explanation Kaine gave is that he ‘did not agree with the timing of the talk, and Netanyahu’s perceived political motivations for delivering it before the Israeli elections’.

OK. I can understand his objection even if I didn’t agree with it. But does that mean you dishonor the sitting head of state of America’s closest ally? Do you boycott a leader that was invited by the sitting Speaker of the House to address both houses of congress? Kaine was one of the few senators that did that. There were many Democrats that had similar misgivings about  the timing of the speech. But only 8 senators out of 100 boycotted it. He was one of them.

This is not the behavior of someone that is exceptionally pro Israel. It may not make him an antisemite. But I can’t see calling such behavior Jewy. He could have done what other Democratic senators did and expressed those same reservations about Netanyahu without boycotting him. To the best of my knowledge Kaine has never boycotted any other head of state, let alone one that is such a close ally of the United States.

What about the other reasons that Feldman gave that make him Jewy? Let me answer one of them -reason number 3 - with a question: Hummus? Really?  That Kaine wanted an Israeli Hummus company to set up shop in his state that would provide create jobs is not what I would call being Jewy. I would call it wooing an industry that would help boost his state’s economy.

That he supports a two state solution for Israel and the Palestians (reason number 1) makes him no more pro Jewish than it does pro Palestinian. I’m not saying that he’s wrong about that. But that does not make him Jewy either.

That Kaine is a religious Catholic is cited as reason number 2. I agree that this is a plus. Religious values have increasingly been challenged in recent years. I think we could use a little more of those values these days – as more people than ever are rejecting them on the alter of instant personal gratification, humanism, and political correctness.

But I don’t see those values being translated into policy. Catholicism opposes abortion even more than Judaism does. And yet Kaine is pro choice. I am pro choice too. But that’s because my religious views require me to leave that medical option open to women who would be permitted – and even required by Halacha to have an abortion.  For Kaine, however, what is the point of having religious values if they don’t inform you policies? If you believe in the righteousness of your values, then you ought to be promoting them.

But even if he did, being a devout Catholic does not him any more Jewy than the Pope.

Another thing that is cited is that as Virginia’s Governor he hosted a Passover Seder (reason number 4). OK. That’s a nice gesture. But not enough to make him Jewy if you factor in the other stuff.

All of that said - I am still supporting the Democratic ticket this year because of who is running against them. Even though I do not see Kaine as particularly Jewy, he is not an antisemite. I just can’t stand it when the secular Jewish media needs to go to ridiculous lengths to show how pro Jewish a candidate is. The truth matters and it ought not to be stretched in order to get more Jews to vote for a favored Presidential ticket.

Both Clinton and Kaine will continue the current status quo. Their policies with respect to Israel will be a carryover from the current administration. Which is by far not the end of the world. But it isn’t the best of all possible worlds either. Not even close.