Campaign Confidential

Obama to Name Rahm Emanuel Chief of Staff

By Brett Lieberman

UPDATE 2:15 p.m.

Jews still questioning whether they will have a strong ally in the next White House may have their answer.

In one of his first decisions, President-elect Barack Obama has asked Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel to be White House chief of staff, according to three leaders in the Jewish community and Washington insiders.

Emanuel worked in the Clinton White House.

When Emanuel lived in the Washington, D.C. area, he was a member of Agudas Achim Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Alexandria, Va.

“Rahm Emanuel and hopefully many other Jewish Americans will have a role in helping to move the country in a new direction,” said a Washington lobbyist.

A formal announcement is expected this afternoon.

UPDATE Emanuel was said to be mulling the offer, which wasn’t part of the career trajectory he planned. But media reports now indicate that he has in fact accepted the position.


Obama Chats With 900 Rabbis on Issues and Renewal

By Brett Lieberman

Rosh Hashanah is more than a week away, but Barack Obama drew upon the High Holy Days themes of renewal and rededication in a conference call with more than 900 rabbis.

“I know that for rabbis this is the busiest time of the year as you prepare for the High Holy Days,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the rabbis on Thursday, according to a statement his campaign provided.

“So I am grateful for a few minutes of your time. I extend my New Years greetings to you and to your congregations and communities. I want to wish everybody a Shana Tovah and I hope that you will convey my wishes to all of those you pray and celebrate with this Rosh Hashanah,” Obama said. “The Jewish New Year is unlike the new years of any other cultures. In part because it’s not simply a time for revelry; it’s a time for what might be called determined rejoicing. A time to put your affairs with other people in order so you can honestly turn to God. A time to recommit to the serious work of tikkun olam―of mending the world.”

Obama was introduced on the call by Rabbi Sam Gordon of Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette, Ill. and Rabbi Eliott Dorf, vice-chair of the Conservative Movements Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and Professor at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. The two are involved in the new Rabbis for Obama group.

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Report: Lieberman Not Welcome to Break Bread With Democrats

By Brett Lieberman

Retribution was swift for U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman after the Connecticut Indepedent/Democrat’s speech supporting John McCain and criticizing Barack Obama at last week’s Republican National Convention.

Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call [Registration required] reports that he’s no longer welcome at the Democrats’ weekly lunches and biweekly lunches of committee chairman.

Speculation remains on what will happen to Lieberman’s chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

At least for now, Democrats need his vote now to remain in the majority. But with Democrats expected to pick up seats in the November elections that may not be the case for long.

UPDATE: Lieberman tells The Hill: “I think it’s probably wise for me and for my colleagues in the Democratic caucus to dine somewhere else for the next few weeks.”


Israel a Non-Issue That Might Haunt U.S. Election

By Brett Lieberman

Israel has”ceased to exist as a campaign issue” at the moment in this year’s presidential contest, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant.

In fact, writing in Haaretz, Bradley Burston notes Israel’s influence on the election could be one military strike, one peace deal or one terrorist strike away.

He outlines a half dozen ways, most of which are not good news, in which Israel could once again become a central U.S. election issue.

In a separate article, Burston breaks down the Democratic and Republican party platforms on Israel.


Ed Koch: U.S. 'Safer' With Obama

By Brett Lieberman

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who bucked the Democratic Party and endorsed President Bush over Democrat John Kerry in 2004, has no regrets about that decision. Kerry did not fully understood the need to support Israel at the time, he says.

“That is not an issue in this election,” Koch writes in a statement today. “Both parties and their candidates have made clear, before and during this election campaign their understanding of the need to support Israel and oppose acts of terrorism waged against it by Hamas and other Muslim supporters of terrorism.”

For him, it comes down to who will “best protect and defend America.”

The answer, according to Koch, is that “the country is safer in the hands of Barack Obama, leader of the Democratic Party and protector of the philosophy of that party.”

Besides issues such as civil rights, health care, taxation and abortion rights, Koch writes that “Frankly, it would scare me if [GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin] were to succeed John McCain in the presidency.”

Here’s Koch’s full statement:

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The Buchanan-Palin Connection

By Brett Lieberman

Was Sarah Palin, Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, a Buchananite?

There’s been a lot of speculation that the former mayor of Wasilla supported Patrick Buchanan after The Nation dug up an old Associated Press story that reported she welcomed the controversial conservative to a reception in Wasilla and wore a Buchanan button.

The McCain campaign denies Palin ever backed Buchanan.

We caught up with Buchanan this morning at Key’s Cafe (“Minnesota’s most awarded family restaurant”), where MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” programming is broadcasting during the Republican National Convention week to get his take on the whole episode.

“This is odd because I wasn’t even on the ballot in 2000,” Buchanan told the Forward. “I dropped out and went for the reform party. I dropped out in 1999 and the caucuses were in 2000, so I wasn’t even on the ballot in 2000.”

This may not clarify things since the AP story was from 1999, when Buchanan acknowledges he was still running as a Republican.

As for Palin, he says, “I think she’s a terrific pick. I think she’s terrific.”


Lieberman Still Part of GOP Convention Schedule

By Brett Lieberman

Republicans apparently couldn’t pass up the chance to include Democrat-turned-Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman as part of their convention program, and of course the chance to poke Democrats.

Lieberman, who was scheduled to speak during Monday’s opening program that was abbreviated because of Hurricane Gustav, will speak Tuesday night, the Associated Press reports.

The changing line-up means that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be bumped.

Lieberman told CNN he plans to talk about ” “why I am an independent Democrat voting for Sen. McCain,” according to AP.


Schumer Plans Florida Swing to Court Jewish Vote

By Brett Lieberman

Hoping to make up ground in a key battleground state, Democrats are sending in some of their big guns to court the Jewish vote.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer will pinch hit for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama in the Sunshine state this weeend.

Schumer, architect of the Democrats’ gains in the Senate, will speak with voters at the Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Temple Solel in Hollywood and Temple Beth Shalom in Century Village in Boca Raton on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Republican John McCain has stronger than usual support for a GOP candidate in part because of concerns about Obama among Jewish voters. Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has also provided a critical boost for McCain among Jewish voters.


RJC Fashion Show Goes On Amid Scaled Back GOP Convention

By Brett Lieberman

With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Gustav barreling down on the Gulf Coast, Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain said that convention-goers should take off their Republican hats and put on their American hats in an effort to avoid the perception that the GOP is having a party at the same time of a potential national disaster.

Much of today’s formal Twin Cities schedule at the Republican National Convention has been scrapped, but that doesn’t mean there’s no fun and games.

Parties and receptions will go on. The same goes for a planned Republican Jewish Coalition fashion show featuring guest of honor Hadassah Lieberman, who was scheduled to give remarks and not walk down the runway.

Her husband, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, was scheduled to speak Monday night at the convention. But his speech as well as those of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were scrubbed because of the scaled back convention. Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said the campaign hoped to give all the speakers an opportunity to speak, but it was unclear when or if that will happen.

Even though the fashion show, including a silent auction and luncheon, organized by the RJC’s National Women’s Committee Event was to benefit the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, perceptions of a fashion show/fund-raiser going on was a bit too much for the sober image McCain and convention organizers were trying.

Perception and image being the most important thing these days in politics, the fashion show is going on. Yet we received notice Sunday night that it’s now closed to the media – meaning no photos or news reports.


Report: 'Rove Tried To Kill Lieberman VP Pick'

By Brett Lieberman

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman rejected a request by former presidential aide Karl Rove to withdraw his name from consideration as John McCain’s vice presidential pick, according to a report by Politico.

Three sources confirmed the effort by the controversial architect of President Bush’s election and one person told the news organization that Lieberman refused to make the call.

There’s strong support for choosing Lieberman within the McCain campaign, according to columnist Robert Novak, who warns picking Lieberman would be disastrous.

The Democrat-turned-Independent senator has campaigned for McCain, the Republican presidential candidate and a good friend, because Lieberman supports his stances on Iraq and foreign policy. His support for McCain, and sharp criticism for Democrat Barack Obama and Democrats, has widened a rift between Lieberman and his Democratic friends.

Reports say that McCain has selected his running mate and will notify that individual on Thursday. The pair will make their first joint appearance at a large campaign rally in Ohio on Friday.

While Lieberman appeals to many moderates and Independent voters, Jewish voters and the move would bolster McCain’s reputation as a maverick, conservatives such as talk show host Rush Limbaugh have warned such a move would blow-up the Republican Party. Lieberman and McCain agree on foreign policy matters, but Lieberman’s support for abortion rights and many other social and domestic issue positions run counter to conservative and Republican agendas.

Selecting Lieberman would certainly shake up the presidential race and be seen as unconventional – two things that analysts say McCain need to do.


Democrats Predict 'Historic' Jewish Vote for Obama

By Brett Lieberman

Barack Obama is under-performing in his support among Jewish voters compared to Democratic candidates’ historical performance, according to pollsters. Yet Jewish leaders in Congress predict the soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee will exceed Democrats’ usual support within the Jewish community.

“We believe there is broad, deep and enthusiastic support for Barack Obama in the Jewish community,” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said in a news conference announced after elected officials from Florida voiced concerns about the response to Obama in that key state.

Obama’s been a strong and unwavering supporter of Israel — “He never flinched from it,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. — and has also supported legislative proposals to prohibit U.S. pension funds and companies from doing business with Iran, Democratic leaders said.

“Let the Jewish community know that Barack Obama is a friend of Israel,” said U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Obama’s support for abortion rights, gun control, health care, Social Security and other domestic issues is more in sync with the views of Jewish voters, they said.

Earlier this week, pollsters Anna Greenberg and Mark Mellman said that Obama is garnering the support of around 60% to 62% of Jewish voters, which puts him at the low end of the spectrum that Democratic candidates have historically enjoyed. Since the early 1990s when the Republican Party embraced the evangelical community, the Jewish vote has shifted heavily to Democrats, who have won close to 80% of the Jewish vote.

The lawmakers contend that Obama’s support will grow to record levels by the November 4 election.

“The support that Sen. Obama enjoys …is substantial and growing,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla.

California Rep. Adam Schiff predicted “historically high” support for Obama.

Nobody doubts that Obama will win a majority of the Jewish vote. But the question remains whether the margin will be a historically high or low.

“I believe Obama is poised to do well,” said Wexler.



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