CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published December 02, 2005, issue of December 02, 2005.
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Iraq Attack: A Florida Democratic congressman’s vote for a resolution calling for a quick American withdrawal from Iraq is reviving some of the heated rhetoric of the 2004 presidential campaign in the Sunshine State.

One of three votes for the resolution was cast by Rep. Robert Wexler, who is Jewish. Republicans offered the resolution in response to calls by Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and former marine who is close to the military, for a speedy pullback of Iraq forces in order to force a vote of confidence in President Bush’s Iraq strategy.

The decision to introduce the measure was widely seen as an attempt to put Democrats in a bind by forcing them either to vote for a quick pullout or to be seen as siding with Republicans. In the end, almost all the congressional Democrats opted to vote with the GOP.

“Most of my Democratic colleagues made the strategic decision to oppose the resolution because they rightfully objected to the unfair process and the Republicans’ craven political goals,” Wexler wrote in an opinion piece in the Palm Beach Post. “I respect their decision, but for me the vote was ultimately a referendum on the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq. I chose to support the withdrawal resolution and cast a vote of ‘no confidence’ on the president’s war.”

The Wexler vote drew a quick condemnation from Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. In an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Dinerstein said that Wexler had “called for a surrender to the terrorists,” and Dinerstein described the vote as “anti-Israel.”

Wexler is a strong supporter of Israel who early in the Bush presidency called for the ouster of Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat.

Dinerstein’s rhetoric was similar to charges that the Florida GOP made against 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, in which the party tried to undermine support for him among Jews by linking him to Arafat and to Malaysia’s former premier, Mahathir Mohammed, who made anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli comments.

* * *

Mayoral Musings: Discussions of the Jewish vote were almost entirely absent from a forum on the 2005 New York City mayoral campaign, held Tuesday at the New School University. That’s because the Jewish vote went resoundingly for the Republican incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg — about 80%, according to some estimates.

The forum, however, featured one surprise: At one point in a discussion on ethnic stereotyping, Bloomberg spokesman Stuart Loeser noted that an African American operative from Harlem, Terence Tolbert, had “conducted our Jewish operations.”

One other Bloomberg note: The cross-party endorsement of Bloomberg by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an outspoken Orthodox supporter of Israel’s settlers, apparently counted for little. In 2001, when Hikind endorsed Democrat Mark Green over Bloomberg, Hikind’s assembly district went 15,001 for Bloomberg and 4,591 for Green. This year, according to unofficial numbers, Hikind’s district went 12,745 to 3,319 for Bloomberg. In other words, Bloomberg did only slightly better this time around, rising to 77% from 74%.

* * *

Defending DeLay: Pro-Israel activists are emerging as some of the biggest fundraisers for the defense of Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who is facing a criminal trial in Texas on money-laundering charges related to the 2002 Texas statehouse campaign. Of the $177,020 raised for DeLay’s legal expense trust in the third quarter of this year, about $30,000 appears traceable to a fund raiser held this past summer by Norpac, a New Jersey-based pro-Israel political action committee.






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