Campaign Confidential

Palin Questions Obama's Israel Support; Wasserman Schultz Says 'Look Who's Talking'

By Brett Lieberman

Hello pot, the kettle’s on Line 3.

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who doesn’t exactly have the strongest bona fides when it comes to Israel or any foreign policy, is questioning whether Democrat Barack Obama is really as staunch a supporter of Israel as he contends.

CBS News reports that at a rally in Bowling Green, Ohio, Palin questioned the Democratic presidential nominee’s Israel commitment.

Palin’s remarks came as she raised the issue of a 2003 banquet for Rashid Khalidi, who has been referred to as a former PLO spokesman and has been critical of Israel. Khalidi is now a Columbia University professor.

Today’s New York Times also has a story on the controversy.

Conservative bloggers and more recently John McCain’s campaign have questioned why the Los Angeles Times won’t release a video tape it has of the event.

“And the twist here is that there’s a videotape of a party for this person, back in 2003, a celebration of him, and Barack was there, and we know some very derogatory things were said there about Israel and America’s support for that great nation,” CBS reports Palin said. “And among other things, Israel was described there as the perpetrator of terrorism instead of the victim.”

“What we don’t know is how Barack Obama responded to these slurs on a country that he now professes to support,” she said.

The L.A. Times said it is not releasing the video because of a promise to the source who provided it. But it also notes that this is old news. It reported on the event back in an April 2008 story.

In responding, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., suggested that Palin look in the mirror before throwing out charges.

“Gov. Sarah Palin – who prior to her nomination for Vice President had never spoken publicly about Israel in any major forum – has no standing to question Barack Obama’s unshakable commitment to Israel and its security,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “He has demonstrated this commitment over many years through word, deed, legislation, and votes. Frankly, her attempts to question Barack Obama on Israel are unfounded and pathetic.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Presidential Election, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rashid Khalidi

'Independent' Lieberman on the Synagogue Tour for McCain

By Brett Lieberman

Campaigning as a “Democrat who was re-elected as independent now here to support a Republican for president,” U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman told Jewish voters in southeastern Pennsylvania that he remains convinced that Republican John McCain is the best candidate to lead the country even as the focus of the election has shifted from national security to financial security.

“All days but particularly now country matters more than party, that’s the bottom line,” Lieberman told about 50 Jewish voters at Temple Beth Hillel in Wynnewood Friday morning.

He later spoke to about 70 retirees at B’rith Shalom House in Philadelphia and then about 120 mostly politically conservative Jews at Congregation Shaare Shamayim.

While mostly receptive audiences, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee faced skeptical and sometimes outwardly hostile questioning about McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Lieberman responded that the election is about deciding whether Barack Obama or McCain will be president. Based on his own interactions with Palin and others he’s spoken with, Lieberman described her as a pragmatic and realistic leader who understands everybody does not share all of her ideological views. Lieberman, for one, said he disagrees with many of her social views.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Democrat, Independent, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Philadelphia, Republican, Presidential Election, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama

'Bagels With Joe' in Pennsylvania

By Brett Lieberman

U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, returns to Pennsylvania Friday to plug Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin in the Jewish community.

Here’s his itinerary:

Temple Beth Hillel at 10 a.m. 1001 Remington Rd. Wynnewood, PA 19096

B’rith Shalom House at 11:15 a.m. 3939 Conshohocken Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19131

Congregation Shaare Shamayim at 1:45 p.m. 9768 Verree Road Philadelphia, PA 19096


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sarah Palin, Philadelphia, Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, Republican, Presidential Election

Catch a Nice Jewish Girl and the Biden/Palin Debate

By Brett Lieberman

“I’ll introduce you to some Jewish women,” offered Suzanne Kurtz, spokeswoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition.

It wasn’t exactly the typical sales pitch to attend a political event and there was no official matchmaker, yet it proved effective.

A joint vice presidential debate-watching party that RJC’s National Women’s Committee co-hosted with the Republican womens’ groups RightNOW! and Women Impacting the Nation (WIN) drew a crowd of a couple hundred Republicans including many Republican Jews to cheer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and jeer Sen. Joseph Biden to a downtown Washington law firm.

The event attracted a crowd of mostly young women, but also a large number of men, who not surprisingly gave Palin stellar reviews for her debate performance.

“Sarah Palin is going to kick some tuckus,” Shelley Hymes, a member of all three organizations predicted during a reception prior to the debate.

Hymes was not disappointed in the Republican vice presidential nominee’s performance.

“I thought she was amazing,” she said immediately after the 90-minute debate ended. “She surpassed expectations.”

Thursday night’s event was one of a number of events planned by RJC’s women’s committee since GOP nominee John McCain selected Palin as his running mate.

Though analysts say Palin’s selection may scare off some Jews concerned about her lack of foreign policy experience, it’s been a boon to the women’s group.

“For groups like mine, this is an unprecedented time,” said Lisa Spies, the group’s executive director. Spies said she’s receiving 20 to 30 e-mails a day compared to three to four a week pre-Palin.

The group is planning other watch parties for upcoming debates and election night, but no major fundraising push is planned to take advantage of the enthusiasm.

“Right now I’m just excited to get people participating, to have people excited,” Spies said.

Like many Republicans, Jews and non-Jews, in the audience, Michael Berenhaus, an optometrist in nearby Bethesda, Md., worried before the debate about about how Palin would perform because of several shaky recent interviews with Katie Couric on CBS News and Charles Gibson of ABC News. So, he was relieved when she took strong and unwavering positions, and particularly her staunch support for Israel during the debate.

“I was nervous, but deep down I knew she could do it,” said Berenhaus, who added that “The difference between her and Democrats is she’s not going to change how she feels about Israel the next day when the Arabs protest.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council did not host a similar vice presidential debate watch party. But a spokesman said that the group doesn’t need to use promises of dating opportunities to lure guests to its events.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Debate, Presidential Election, Sarah Palin, Joseph Biden, John McCain, Republican Jewish Coalition, National Jewish Democratic Council

States to Watch: PA, FL, OH, VA, CO

By Brett Lieberman

Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida – all key traditional presidential battlegrounds and all traditional battlegrounds for the Jewish vote will likely be critical once again in this year’s contest between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

Two other states to watch though will be Virginia, where 1.3 percent of the population is Jewish, and Colorado, where 1.7 percent of the population is Jewish, Matt Berger of MSNBC/National Journal predicted on a conference call organized by the United Jewish Communities to discuss the election.

Critical to the election will be what Berger called the “Lieberman Democrats,” those voters like Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, who place a premium on security issues. They may be wary of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lack of experience, he said.

Younger Jewish voters, who are trending conservative in their votes and more open to supporting Republicans, are another critical demographic.

Finally, “Schlepers,” the elderly vote in Florida will be critical as usual in that state, Berger said. Many of these traditionally Democratic voters supported President Bush in 2004 and are looking for a reason to vote for Obama. Yet they remain hesitant to support him.

“They want a reason to vote Democratic and they are wary about Obama,” Berger said. “They need to be convinced that it is OK to vote Obama.” Jewish Democratic leaders have predicted that Obama will do as well or better than 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry did. But Berger was skeptical that Obama will draw the 75 percent of Jewish support that exit polls showed voted for Kerry.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Joseph Lieberman, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Presidential Election, MSNBC, John Kerry, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama

Fla. Congressman: Sarah Palin Comment 'Not Smart'

By Brett Lieberman

Days after telling a group of Jewish Democratic leaders that “Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks,” Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings is apologizing for his not so smart comments about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during last week’s National Jewish Democratic Council’s Washington conference.

“I regret the comments I made last Tuesday that were not smart and certainly not relevant to hunters or sportsmen,” Hastings said in a statement.

Of course, Hastings, who is African American, isn’t completely apologetic. As inarticulate as he might have been, “The point I made, and will continue to make, is that the policies and priorities of a McCain-Palin administration would be anathema to most African Americans and Jews,” he said. “I regret that I was not clearer and apologize to Governor Palin, my host where I was speaking, and those who my comments may have offended.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: National Jewish Democratic Council, Sarah Palin, Alcee Hastings

Obama Still Struggling With Jewish Voters

By Brett Lieberman

Democrat Barack Obama enjoys a nearly 2-1 advantage among Jewish voters over Republican John McCain, yet his support continues to lag well-behind historical levels that Democrats have enjoyed from the Jewish community, according to a new survey of Jewish voters.

The American Jewish Committee’s 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion shows Obama leading McCain 57 percent to 30 percent. Another 13 percent of the 914 self-identifying Jewish respondents surveyed said they were undecided. Exit polls showed that John Kerry received 76 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004.

The poll is the latest evidence that Obama continues to struggle winning over Jewish voters despite the optimism expressed by campaign aides and members of the National Jewish Democratic Council at the organization’s Washington conference this week.

The telephone survey by Synovate was conducted by Sept. 8-21. It has a 3 percent margin of error.

Nearly three quarters of those surveyed approved of Obama’s selection of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate. Fifty-four percent of respondents disapproved of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s choice for vice president.

Democrats have viewed the Palin selection as good news because they say many Jewish voters are turned off by her lack of foreign policy credentials and lack of prior statements about Israel.

More than half of those surveyed – 54 percent – said they want to hear the candidates talk more about the economy. Only 3 percent cites Israel as the issue they want to hear discussed more.

By overwhelming margins, respondents predicted Democrats would do a better job addressing terrorism, strengthening the economy, supporting Israel, working towards energy independence, and the Iraq war.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Presidential Election, Joseph Biden, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Barack Obama, Poll, American Jewish Committee

Fla. Congressman: Sarah Palin Should Motivate Jews to Vote Obama

By Brett Lieberman

Jewish voters unsure whether to cast their vote for Barack Obama or John McCain, might want to think about this little bit of advice U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings offered about Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate:

“If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention,” the Florida congressman said during a National Jewish Democratic Council panel.

“Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through,” Hastings said.

Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., later told the same group that Jesus was “a great Democrat,” according to CNN.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has been accused of its own share of gross distortions, is denouncing Hastings’ comments as “the worst kind of politics.”

“Hastings’ unconscionable remarks do nothing but sow seeds of fear and divide people,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks in a statement. “There should be no place in our country for this sort of political discourse. We can constructively disagree on the issues without denigrating others.”

He also said Cohen’s remark “inappropriate, offensive and should be repudiated.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Matt Brooks, Republican Jewish Coalition, National Jewish Democratic Council, Steve Cohen, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, John McCain, Alcee Hastings

Republicans: Democrats Hand Win to Iran, Ahmadinejad

By Brett Lieberman

After the invitation for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, to speak at next week’s “Stop Iran” rally in New York was rescinded, the blame game began.

The Republican Jewish Coalition joined with the McCain campaign to blame Democratic partisanship for Palin’s removal, which they say hands victory to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Democrats, including Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council countered that the inappropriate invitation to Palin had turned what was supposed to be a non-partisan event into a campaign rally organized by a leading Jewish organization.

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has been quite clear of his intentions to acquire nuclear weapons; his anti-Semitic rants and desire to annihilate Israel are well-known,” RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “Today Senators Obama and Biden and their supporters have handed Ahmadenijad a big win. What should have been a strong effort by the Jewish community to stand up and show the world that we are united in our fight against this madman has instead been hijacked by those with a political agenda. This is a very sad day for the Jewish community.”

Brooks said he was also disappointed that neither Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama nor his running mate, Joseph Biden, chose to participate in the rally. But neither Obama or Biden were invited, which was one of the central complaints of their campaign.

Forman told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that it was wrong for rally organizers to invite only one party to the non-partisan event.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton backed out of the rally earlier in the week after learning of the Palin invitation. Clinton expected a comparable congressional Republican representative would share the stage with her, but didn’t expect to be paired up with the GOP vice presidential candidate at such an event, Forman told reporters on a conference call.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Sarah Palin, National Jewish Democratic Council, Republican Jewish Coalition, John McCain, Hilary Rodham Clinton

Biden, AIPAC Have 'Warm Conversation'

By Brett Lieberman

U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, spoke by phone with the leadership of AIPAC this afternoon.

According to Jewish leaders and campaign officials, Biden and AIPAC leaders had “a warm conversation” that lasted about 20 minutes.

Biden, who was introduced by AIPAC President David Victor, spoke of his long relationship with the organization that extends back to the 1970s. He also spoke of his longstanding support of Israel.

“It was an opportunity to call and talk about some of the issues they’ve worked on in the past and some of the issues they can continue to work on,” said a campaign official.

The conference call was one of a number that Biden has conducted in recent days with the leaderships of various influential organizations.

Alaska Gov. **Sarah Palin*, the Republican vice presidential candidate, met with AIPAC leaders for about 45 minutes during the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul earlier this month.

Biden and presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain have no meetings scheduled with AIPAC leaders, though the organization signaled it would be delighted if the candidates’ schedules permitted for such a gathering.

AIPAC issued the following statement after the Biden conference call:

“We had a very warm conversation with Senator Biden today, as we have many times throughout the years, about the importance of the U.S-Israel relationship, and we look forward to continuing to work with him in the future.   We had an opportunity to express our appreciation for his strong leadership in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we were pleased to hear Senator Biden reaffirm his desire to maintain his close relationship with AIPAC as we work together to strengthen the special friendship between the two democracies over many years to come.

“Senator Biden is a strong supporter of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship, and has longstanding, close ties to AIPAC and the pro-Israel community. Throughout his career in the Senate, he has been a staunch supporter of U.S. aid to Israel, a leader in the fight against Palestinian terrorism, a vocal advocate for the special relationship between the two democracies, and he shares our goal of stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Joe Biden has been to Israel numerous times and has gotten to know many of Israel’s most important leaders, starting with Golda Meir.  

“Now that both the Democrats and the Republicans have determined their respective tickets, AIPAC is pleased that the parties have selected four pro-Israel candidates. In so doing, they have reaffirmed the broad bi-partisan support that exists in our country for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

Update “Sen. Biden expressed his appreciation for AIPAC’s important work supporting Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that he looks forward to continuing to work with them as partners on these issues in the future as he has in the past,” said a campaign adviser.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Joseph Biden, Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, AIPAC




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