McCain back­ers use doubts on Obama to ply Jewish vote

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CHRISTINA BEL­LAN­TONI

Par­ti­san groups are in­vest­ing vast re­sources to sway Jewish vot­ers in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as Repub­li­cans try to win a bloc that tra­di­tion­ally leans to­ward Democrats.

Polls show that the Demo­cratic can­di­date, Sen. Barack Obama, has the sup­port of 60 per­cent to 65 per­cent of Jewish vot­ers, still strong de­spite po­lit­i­cal at­tacks, a tough cam­paign link­ing him to anti-Is­rael groups and e-mail ru­mors ques­tion­ing his faith.

The Repub­li­can Jewish Coali­tion (RJC) is run­ning an ad in Jewish news­pa­pers call­ing Mr. Obama’s po­si­tion on Iran “naive and danger­ous.” The ad uses im­ages of Ay­a­tol­lah Ruholla Khome­ini, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad and demon­stra­tors burn­ing an Is­raeli flag.

“Con­cerned about Barack Obama? You should be. His­tory has shown that a naive and weak for­eign pol­icy has re­sulted in tragic out­comes for the Jewish peo­ple.”

Di­rectly un­der that text is a photo of the can­di­date in front of a huge crowd with the lo­ca­tion iden­ti­fied: “Barack Obama speak­ing in Ger­many, 7/24/08.”

Rep. Debbie Wasser­manSchultz, a Florida Demo­crat, called the ad “dis­gust­ing” and said the Repub­li­cans were try­ing to link Mr. Obama to the Holo­caust and the Nazi Party.

“It’s clearly an ef­fort to sow seeds of doubt,” she said. “Vot­ers in the Jewish com­mu­nity are a lot smarter than that.”

Matt Brooks, RJC’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, called Mrs. Wasser­manSchultz’s con­clu­sion “a mon­u­men­tal stretch” and in­sisted that the group chose the photo of the se­na­tor’s Euro­pean trip in­stead of one from the can­di­date’s hun­dreds of ral­lies in the U.S. be­cause it “couldn’t find a good pic­ture.”

The cap­tion was nec­es­sary be­cause “it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to know where we got the im­age,” he said.

“Right now Barack Obama has a real prob­lem among Jewish vot­ers, which ob­vi­ously McCain is work­ing hard to try and ex­ploit,” said Mr. Brooks.

Jewish vot­ers backed Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore by 80 per­cent in the 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and Sen. John Kerry by 75 per­cent in 2004.

Ira Forman, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Jewish Demo­cratic Coun­cil (NJDC), said his group isn’t moved by scare tac­tics.

“The only ques­tion is does Obama win the Jewish vote 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 as Democrats tended to do in the 1990s,” Mr. Forman said.

The NJDC sug­gested in a re­cent fundrais­ing ap­peal that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has “zero for­eign pol­icy ex­pe­ri­ence” and is “to­tally out of step with pub­lic opin­ion in the Jewish com­mu­nity” on do­mes­tic is­sues such as re­pro­duc­tive rights.

“The Jewish com­mu­nity de­serves to know the facts,” NJDC writes in a fact sheet for vot­ers that tar­gets Mrs. Palin’s con­flict­ing state­ments on the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” and says the Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date wants pub­lic schools to teach cre­ation­ism.

Mrs. Wasser­man-Schultz con­tends Democrats “aren’t try­ing to scare Jewish vot­ers,” but said Mrs. Palin has “ex­treme” views on so­cial is­sues.

She said Jewish vot­ers are pas­sion­ate about abor­tion rights, health care and ed­u­ca­tion, is­sues that tend to fa­vor Democrats.

The Florida Demo­crat said both Mr. Obama and his Repub­li­can ri­val, Sen. John McCain, sup­port Is­rael. “The only way that the Repub­li­cans are go­ing to gain any ground in the Jewish com­mu­nity is if they scare Jewish vot­ers,” she said.

The NJDC noted Mrs. Palin’s at­ten­dance at a “Jews for Je­sus” speech at her church and sug­gested that she sup­ported one-time pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Pat Buchanan.

Mr. Buchanan said Mrs. Palin had been a fundraiser for his cam­paign, but no fundrais­ing is on record and it ap­pears her “sup­port” was lim­ited to wear­ing a Buchanan but­ton when he vis­ited her town. The McCain cam­paign in­sists Mrs. Palin never worked for Mr. Buchanan, whom the Jewish groups por­tray as anti-Is­rael.

Mr. Buchanan called Mrs. Palin a “ter­rific gal” and a “rebel re­former,” and said both she and her hus­band were “bri­gaders” for him in 1996.

The RJC, mean­while, has a print ad star­ring Mr. Buchanan, who has said from his po­si­tion as an MSNBC an­a­lyst: “I think Barack is right; we ought to talk to the Ira­ni­ans.”

That refers to Mr. Obama’s re- sponse in a July 2007 de­bate that he would be will­ing to meet with leaders of rogue na­tions without pre­con­di­tions. How­ever, Mr. Obama has since stepped back from that re­mark, stress­ing diplo­macy but say­ing such meet­ings may not be at the pres­i­den­tial level.

Some Jewish blogs have ac­cused Mr. Obama of hav­ing for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski on the pay­roll. Jewish leaders blame Mr. Brzezin­ski for much of what they see as the pro-Arab tilt in ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy. Mr. Brzezin­ski, who worked for Pres­i­dent Carter, has en­dorsed Mr. Obama but is not for­mally ad­vis­ing the Demo­crat.

Mr. Forman said Mr. McCain “has his own prob­lems.” He noted that for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James A. Baker III backs Mr. McCain who has sug­gested that Mr. Baker — who once used an ex­ple­tive about Jews — could be a Mid­dle East en­voy in a McCain ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“If they in­sist on play­ing that game they are just as vul­ner­a­ble,” he said.

In May 2006 with the news­pa­per Ha’aretz, Mr. McCain said he would send “the smartest guy I know” to the Mid­dle East.

“Brent Scowcroft, or Jim Baker, though I know that you in Is­rael don’t like Baker,” he said.

Mr. Forman said the tac­tics haven’t changed and have lit­tle to do with Mr. Obama.

“In 2004, they were putting out ma­te­rial say­ing Kerry is en­dorsed by Arafat,” he said, and McCain backer Sen. Joe Lieber­man, who is Jewish, was a tar­get in 2000 as the Demo­cratic vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

Politico two weeks ago un­cov­ered the RJC’s push poll against Mr. Obama. Af­ter con­firm­ing that the re­spon­dent was Jewish, the poll taker would ask ques­tions such as, “Would it change your mind if you knew he had met with the leaders of Ha­mas?” or “if she knew that he had given money to the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Rep. Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, said Jewish vot­ers have a “com­fort level” with Mr. McCain.

Mr. Can­tor, who is Jewish, said Mr. Obama’s ac­cep­tance of sup­port from Mr. Brzezin­ski “in­di­cates some kind of open­ness to Jimmy Carter-like for­eign pol­icy,” adding that those days “re­ally put some fear into peo­ple.”

On the highly pub­li­cized trip abroad, Mr. Obama was well-re­ceived while spending sev­eral days in Jor­dan and Is­rael.

Mr. Obama told the Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee in June that they should not be­lieve “provoca­tive” e-mails that claim he is Mus­lim. He is Chris­tian.

He added that he was “speak­ing from my heart and as a true friend of Is­rael.”

GETTY IM­AGES

JEWISH MES­SAGE: A del­e­gate wears a pin that reads “Barack Obama” in He­brew at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion.

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