The National Jewish Democratic Council will hold a series of events Sunday and Monday to mark the inauguration of Barack Obama, featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta. N.Y. Minute offered NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman a chance to gloat after eight years heading up the Jewish opposition.
Q: So, it must feel pretty good to be a Democrat now, with your party controlling the White House and Congress.
A: Yeah, but people feel that with great power comes great responsibility, and at this particular time the country is in some difficult straits. So it’s not just being giddy with joy, but we also feel glad to have this opportunity.
The country needs great leadership.
I hear you hedged your bets and booked a bloc of hotel rooms for the inauguration way in advance of Obama’s victory. How far ahead?
We were talking to people at least a month or so beforehand.
Would you have given them to your supporters to watch the McCain-Palin inauguration, or sold them to the Republican Jewish Coalition?
I’m sure we would have been able to sell them, whether to individuals or a group. We wouldn’t be worried about the ability to market hotel rooms during the inauguration so close to the festivities.
Are your events celebrations or fundraisers?
No fundraising events. One of our breakfasts we are charging just to break even, and everything else we’re just holding.
There’s a lot of anxiety in the pro-Israel community about how President Obama will handle the Mideast. Are you feeling it?
Not particularly. We have a president-elect who was very specific about his feelings about Israel’s security needs and that he also believed it was important for the United States to be committed to the peace process. So I think we have a pretty good handle, not on specifics but the general direction, and the people he has been appointing to foreign policy positions lead us to believe what he talked about is what he needs to do. There’s always nervousness in the Jewish community any time there is an incoming administration.
Have you met Barack Obama?
I just shook his hand and wished him luck, early in the campaign, at a fundraiser.
Will you miss anything at all about George W. Bush?
I don’t know about miss. It’s not a time to be denigrating others. If you want to talk about something he did well, his commitment to fighting AIDS in Africa was something I think he can be proud of. But obviously people in the country wanted change and a dramatically different policy agenda than they’ve had and a very different type of president.
Do you credit Bush with protecting the country from another terrorist attack?
I’m not in the business this week of reviewing the old. I’m looking forward, to the future.