President Obama and His Inner Circle

By | Jul 15, 2008
President Obama

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a front-page article on President Obama and his inner circle of advisors and friends.

Although the article focused on the Chicago-based commonality in Obama’s circles, we couldn’t help but notice another fascinating attribute they all had in common: The innermost circle that the Post assembled (which can easily be viewed in the accompanying graphic) is comprised of seven people, all of whom are minorities.

Four of the seven—John W. Rogers Jr., Valerie B. Jarrett, Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt—are African American. The other three—David Axelrod, James Crown and Penny S. Pritzker—are Jewish.

Axelrod, Obama’s senior political strategist, is a former writer for the Chicago Tribune and political consultant. He is in large part responsible for the hope rhetoric and focus on an outsider image that has driven Obama’s success thus far. Crown and national fundraising chairwoman Pritzker, on the other hand, are just two of the large Jewish contingency in Obama’s fundraising platoon.

In our current issue, we covered the impressive role Jews are playing in the campaign finances for both Obama and John McCain. The Post article, however, goes beyond finance with regards to Pritzker and Crown:

Pritzker and Crown have played instrumental roles in building Obama’s huge campaign war chest, but their prominence has also provided him a pathway to Jewish voters. Speaking at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Fla., in May, Obama called Pritzker and Crown “dear friends” from “pretty prominent” Jewish families, and told the crowd: “One of the raps on me when I first ran for Congress in the African American community was, ‘He’s too close to the Jewish community.’ You can look this up. ‘All his friends are Jews. He’s from Hyde Park; he’s from the University of Chicago.’ “

These associations have indeed proven crucial for Obama as he continues to battle intense scrutiny and criticism on his views regarding not only Israel, but Iran, Iraq and all foreign policy closest to Jews’ hearts.

Any similar prevalence of Jews in McCain’s inner circle is, as of now, less obvious; phone calls to various Republican sources were not returned at the time of this post.

—Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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