In an email to supporters, former New York City mayor Ed Koch—the man who, more than any other individual, was responsible for turning the New York ninth’s special election into a referendum on President Obama’s Israel policies, having told the district’s Jewish voters to vote for the Republican in order to send the president a message—announced he is endorsing Obama for re-election. “The President should be praised for intervening with the Egyptian army to save the Israeli diplomatic personnel from physical assault and providing the Israeli military with bunker buster bombs, advanced military technology and providing military intelligence cooperation far exceeding his predecessors,” Koch wrote. “I’m now on board the Obama Reelection Express.”
Cue the spin. “@mayoredkoch won over by Obama charm offensive endorses his reelection. Dem critics of him now in awk pos.,” tweeted Matthew Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Which is certainly quite the take on it, but in fairness the RJC’s feed is currently a cornucopia of quotes from Jewish Democrats calling Koch, for example, “squarely outside the mainstream of the American Jewish community.” The National Jewish Democratic Council’s inevitable backtracking will, frankly, be no less opportunistic than the RJC’s sophistry.
However, none of this takes away from the fact that Koch—indeed, a lifelong Democrat—has endorsed Obama. And this is important for two related reasons. First, it’s a sign that the administration/campaign’s charm offensive—beginning with the embassy rescue, continuing to the unequivocal support Obama offered Israel at the United Nations in both his deeds and his speech, and going through the new revelations of heightened military-to-military cooperation—are having an impact on convincing fence-sitting American Jews that Obama is their friend. Second, it’s important because, as Tevi Troy presciently wrote many months ago in Tablet Magazine, Koch is the emblematic figure of this sort, whom Democratic candidates need on their side. “Obama should beware,” Troy warned. “When Ed Koch goes against his party’s presidential candidate, it is often a very bad sign.” This morning, then, Obama should allow himself a small sigh of relief.