Palin will repel Jewish voters
A journalist friend phoned me up last weekend to announce the breaking news that Republican presidential candidate John McCain had chosen his running mate.
He listed her attributes in telegraphic style. Female, 44, pro-choice, mother to five children - including, he added in hushed tones, a baby with Down's syndrome whom she had chosen to have.
You don't have to be a cynical-minded hack to realise the genius of this list. Palin, with her troupe of outlandishly-named children - Trig Paxson Van Palin, anyone? - her solidly bouffant hair-do and her toothy, mooseburger-fed grin, resembles nothing we may recognise as a political figure on this side of the Atlantic.
But she is a picture-perfect poster girl for the right-wing blue-collar American voter, and thus ticks all the boxes McCain's campaign felt were lacking. Not only is she a woman, but she is a staunch and outspoken feminist, albeit one who vociferously disagrees with a woman's right to choose.
She isn't too sure on the theory of evolution, either, although she is a big fan of the right to bear arms, all of which balances out McCain's more liberal approach. And Palin was also once named America's Hottest Governor by Alaska magazine, although she was forced to share the front cover with a story about halibut.
The announcement that Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter was pregnant, rather than shaking this apple-pie image, has made her even more a woman of the (hunting, shooting and fishing) people.
Inevitably, the Jewish media have scrambled to ascertain the friendliness or otherwise of Palin, the JC included. It hasn't been easy.
Anchorage? Are there even any Jews there? Apparently so, as well as a Chabad outpost whose director, Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, was quick to announce that not only had Palin "established a great relationship" with the community, she had attended "several of our Jewish cultural gala events".
Does she have any pro-Israel credentials? Well, this summer she signed a resolution celebrating 60 years of Alaska-Israel relations. And the best the Republicans could do was to argue that Palin's
interest in energy independence would help lessen "our need to buy oil from nations not sharing
American and Israel's foreign policy".
Rather countering this, Palin was there to welcome the allegedly antisemitic Pat Buchanan as he campaigned in Alaska in 1999. Palin, then mayor of the town of Wasilla, even wore a Buchanan badge. Mere politeness, she says now, although Buchanan unhelpfully still describes her as "a terrific gal".
This week, Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council pointed out that "she is totally out of step with Jewish public opinion" - and he has a point. This Christian, anti-abortion, socially illiberal agenda is one at odds with the US Jewish electorate.
It would be hard to imagine a candidate with less connection to Jewish or Israeli issues. Palin is not even slightly relevant to Jewish voters.
The Republicans say that they aim to entice a record-breaking number of Jewish voters over from the Democratic camp. Some of this constituency might have been swayed had McCain been able to choose one of his first choices, Joe Lieberman. But of course he couldn't, because Lieberman is similarly tolerant on civil liberties. Palin is McCain's counterweight, and Jewish voters will find her as repellent as the evangelist masses will find her so charming.
This is about the family values, about energising the Christian right and the blue-collar voters, neither typically Jewish demographics.
Most Americans, like Palin herself, instinctively back Israel without any particular knowledge of the Middle East or the issues involved. That doesn't mean they will support the Jewish state if it attacks Iran and the price of their gasoline doubles, nor if another war in the Middle East means the sons of Middle America (and not the nice Jewish boys) are the ones who will be fighting. This is not about Israel, and not about Iran. American voters have other far more pressing concerns, all nearer home and all rather more fundamental, in every sense of the word.