Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Appraising the Jewishness of Last Night’s Debate

Who had the town hall debate’s most Jewish question?

Print Email
Jeremy Epstein, Left; Carol Goldberg, Top(Getty)

Enough of the Heartland nonsense. The presidential debate two weeks ago in Denver put more people to sleep than a Terrence Malick film. Weighted down in part by President Obama’s listlessness, the tedium of the first debate was so soporific, so somnolent that in the aftermath of the events, some viewers went completely insane.

To keep everyone tuned in, America had to forget the passivity of Jim Lehrer and the politesse of PBS. What the debate season needed was a little Long Island. Some CNN and some Candy Crowley. What it needed was the Jews.

Last night’s debate, in which both candidates did reasonably well, was perhaps one of the most important events in recent American political history. It was also one of the most Jewish, enabled by four words: Town Hall. Long Island.

From the very first question, asked by Jeremy Epstein, a 20-year-old college student, to the very last asked by a man named Barry Green, the Jews set the tempo of the debate. Interestingly enough, the questions posed by each of the Jewish participants did not have to do with the issues we frequently hear the most about, namely Israel and Iran. But perhaps that should not be surprising given the data.

In the 2012 Survey of American Jewish Opinion conducted by the AJC, only 22% of Jewish voters placed Israel as one of top three issues in deciding which candidate to vote for in the election. Only 15% said Iran. Overwhelmingly, the top issues were the economy (80%) and health care (57%), followed by taxes and national security.

So, who had the most Jewish question of last night? Let’s take a look, starting with Jeremy Epstein, our nervous college student.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

At first glance this seems like a normal question. ‘How am I going to get a job?‘ But look closer.

QUESTION: Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

Verdict: Pretty Jewish.

The second question came from Susan Katz.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration.Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

Well for starters, she’s undecided and disappointed. But she’s got some perspective. And so she asks, ‘are you who I fear you might be?

Verdict: Also pretty Jewish, a close second to Jeremy Epstein.

Third question: Carol Goldberg.

QUESTION: The outsourcing of American jobs overseas has taken a toll on our economy. What plans do you have to put back and keep jobs here in the United States?

Hmm…that’s pretty topical. And incisive. But way too short.

Verdict: Not so Jewish.

Last question: Barry Green.

QUESTION: I think this is a tough question. To each of you. What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?

Oh wow. Barry.

First of all, the preface: I think this is a tough question. Is he being considerate of the two candidates and saying ‘it’s okay if you fail’ or is Barry saying with a hardly subterranean self-satisfaction, ‘look at me asking you this tough question a little bit?

Secondly, Barry asks TWO questions, the first of which has that existential prod behind it. It’s not only ‘who are you?’ but ‘who do you think that we think you are?’ Followed by, ‘can you help yourself escape?’

Verdict: Game over. Barry wins.


Did Obama Just Throw Away the Entire Election?
[Andrew Sullivan]

Print Email

gwhepner says:

I agree that Barry’s tdoublehanded question was the smartest and the one best designed to elicit useful information . But does that make the question Jewish? It would be nice to think it does, but regrettably mistaken.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

marjorie ingall says:

I think the humblebrag inherent in Barry’s remark puts him in first place. As does asking TWO questions instead of one. (Also: “put more people to sleep than a Terence Malick film”!) Nicely done, Adam.

Beatrix17 says:

No one who plans to vote for Romney considered the first debate soporific.
Epstein had a question for Romney, but he looked at Obama while asking it. That seemed more rude than Jewish. After the debate, Epstein never left Obama’s side, but Katz took pictues with both candidates and so maybe she really is undecided.
Barry Green’s question pleased Romney more than Obama, but that probably wasn’t intentional.

FRED a. kAHN says:

mt name us Fred A. Kahn, a jewish immigrant from Belgium in 1952. I had survived the Holocaust in hiding in Southeast Belgiyum, I was born in Germany and escped alone at 5 years old,, yes 5 yearsold to Belgium where my biological parents had gove shortly after my virth leaving me in Germany in the care of foster parents , The fster parents were murdered in the extermination camp of sobibor four years later as i would have been had i remained with them, In l956, I jimp started the idea of presidential debates with thepersonal endorsement of former firsy lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Artocle of many others can be fou nd at the Washington Jewish Weekly, September 20, 2012 at: http://washingtonjewishweek.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=18017&SectionID=4&SubSectionID=4&S=1

Attention American Pro-Israel voters: Decision time has arrived between reelecting a President who is at best neutral towards Israel and at worse who is anti-Israel versus a pro-Israel candidate who will visit Israel first as President, not Cairo like Obama. It’s an easy decision this year: Vote for Romney!!

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Appraising the Jewishness of Last Night’s Debate

Who had the town hall debate’s most Jewish question?

More on Tablet:

Digging Up My Jewish Roots in My Grandfather’s Ukrainian Village

By David Kalis — My grandfather told me his hometown no longer existed. But I found it—and finally came to appreciate my own heritage.