By: Norman Blumenthal  | 

From the Editor’s Desk: The 50.8% Dilemma (Vol. 40, Issue 1)

Rationalizations and denials earmark many of the utterings of Nixon supporters. Even the 50.8% of last year's student body who, according to The Commentator poll, supported President Nixon must now reconcile their vote with what has transpired this summer. However, the conflict is even greater for myself and the two other members of last year’s Governing Board. Having openly endorsed a pro-Nixon column, we are denied the luxury of anonymity. The apparent choice left to us is to admit to having erred or honestly defend our stand despite these recent events. Since neither posture suits me, I'd rather analyze the situation in light of my considerations last November.

A popular post-Watergate rationalization is the “everybody does it” one. A finger has been repeatedly pointed at Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson and just about every president blessed with the opportunity to serve during an era of modern technology. However, this argument is as tenable as the old two wrongs equal a right. It’s an attempt to salvage the President's image at the expense of dismissing the issue at hand.

The Nixonian pragmatists (which include the President himself) prefer to shun the issue. Concerns such as national security, economic stability and world peace are presumably sabotaged by the various accusations and investigations. Watergate has supposedly taken an unwarranted dominance over these more consequential issues and some Nixonians have gone as far as to portray the investigations as a liberal plot with the intention of interfering with the more noble efforts of the White House.

The shortcomings of this argument are apparent. Unauthorized wiretapping, secret warfare, dubious purchases and the various aberrations exhumed in the recent months are hardly picayune issues. It is not unreasonable to contend that to, once and for all, curtail such tyrannical practices is vital to the nation’s well-being.

Nevertheless, for the 50.8% of last year’s student body, a similar but different pragmatic approach warrants consideration. I am convinced that only few of the Yeshiva Nixonians voted as they did out of a belief in the President's sincerity and honesty. As college students we were particularly sensitive to the various past antics of “Tricky Dick” ranging from the notorious Checkers speech to the, at that time, more recent ITT anti-trust suit dismissal. For the most part, it was a vote out of concern for Israel’s security. It was a vote for one of the most supportive presidents towards the Jewish state. It was, as well, a vote against a man who appeared more amenable to the Arab cause. In fact, 81% of the student body polled last year supported the President's policy towards Israel while only 40% felt that Nixon's character best represents that of a president,

Concern for Israel’s security has little changed since last November. The world’s insatiable thirst for oil makes Israel's position more tenuous than ever before. 

Thus, the Yeshiva student is forced into a dilemma as old as the Jewish diaspora. His training and background make him ever so sensitive to the ethical implications of the various and disturbing Watergate aberrations. He is probably not disposed to accept Nixon’s cavalier attitude of totally dismissing Watergate in view of the supposedly more weighty issues of foreign and economic policy. However, the Yeshiva student may be inclined to raise his sides past Watergate where it concerns Israel’s safety which is so fatefully dependent on the political action of American Jewry. For as long as the world deals unethically with Israel can we afford to give such ethical considerations, as regards Watergate, the paramount importance they deserve? If various nations allow practical consideration to determine their diplomacy, should we not vote in a similar fashion? How much weight can we give Watergate when the United Nations persists in its one-sided condemnation of Israel? How relevant are cover-ups and the invasion of privacy when air piracy and terrorism are tacitly condoned? 

I am not suggesting that the execrable events now under investigation be forgiven and forgotten. Measures must be taken to prevent unbridled executive privilege from impinging on our democratic system, This is particularly true of the secret bombing of Cambodia through which innocent lives were lost. However, if it comes down to impeachment or even the election of 1976, Jewish concerns and the particular dilemma they create should be considered and resolved despite the pull of public opinion. World events and injustices have repeatedly forced us into the unfortunate position of having to weigh universal ideals versus chauvinistic considerations—or even plain survival.