CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published July 15, 2005, issue of July 15, 2005.
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Air Force Ad: In its latest print campaign, the National Jewish Democratic Council is buying a full-page ad in two Jewish newspapers in order to highlight what it calls “congressional inaction” on the allegations of proselytizing and religious coercion at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The ad, set to run in the journal Florida Jewish and in the Texas Jewish Herald-Voice, targets Republican lawmakers who voted against a recent amendment offered by Rep. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat, asking that the Air Force submit a full report to Congress about its plan to deal with the academy’s problems.

GOP lawmakers rejected the amendment and two others offered by Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, on a party-line vote, saying the measures would damage Christians’ rights to evangelize. The Air Force published its own report on the Colorado situation recently and named a retired Navy chaplain and interfaith expert, Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, to help the Air Force’s chief of staff deal with rectifying the problems found at the academy.

The NJDC ad, which features the iconic Uncle Sam from the World War I-era recruitment poster, targets Rep. Clay Shaw of Florida and Reps. Tom DeLay and John Culberson of Texas for their “no” votes. “Have you been born again?” the ad asks in bold block letters. “If not, Rep. [fill in the name] isn’t sure that the U.S. Air Force Academy is right for you.” The ad describes the allegations of coercion and slurs at Colorado Springs, and then notes that the congressman in question “joined the House Republican leadership in opposing a bill designed to force the Academy to fix this problem.”

The NJDC’s GOP counterpart, the Republican Jewish Coalition, blasted the Democratic group for seeking to capitalize on the Colorado problems politically — and for doing it badly.

“In their original e-mail solicitation, the NJDC said that they wanted to raise $50,000 to fund ads in newspapers all across the country,” said RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “Given the fact that they are only running ads in two newspapers at a fraction of the cost of $50,000, it shows that they fell well short of their stated goal because the Jewish community realizes that this is not an issue to be playing politics with and that this issue is being addressed and rectified at the highest levels of the Air Force and the Pentagon with real reforms being put in place for the future.”

NJDC executive director Ira Forman retorted: “The RJC should be a little more concerned with the GOP leadership whitewashing antisemitism and proselytizing at the academy — and a little less concerned with our fund raising. If the RJC thinks that Republican refusal to squarely address religious coercion at the academy has no traction in the Jewish community, they should get their political antennae checked.”

* * *

High Court Pick: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the famed proponent of compromise who announced her retirement from the high court last week, may or may not resemble a rabbi, as the Forward’s Ami Eden mused in a column last week. O’Connor, however, clearly has emerged as something of a favorite in the Jewish community — not only with Jewish communal groups, which stampeded to issue statements asking President Bush to choose a new justice like her, but also with Jewish lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the moderate GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told a television interviewer this week that he supports the idea of O’Connor being elevated to chief justice if Chief Justice William Rehnquist steps down, as many predict.

“I think it would be very tempting if the president said to Justice O’Connor, ‘You could help the country now,’” Specter said on the July 10 edition of the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

“She has received so much adulation that a confirmation proceeding would be more like a coronation, and she might be willing to stay on for a year or so,” Specter said.

Specter isn’t the first lawmaker to suggest the move. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, promoted the same idea in a little-noticed online talk she gave before O’Connor announced her impending retirement.

“Now, my idea for chief if Rehnquist steps down is Sandra Day O’Connor,” Boxer said in a June 29 discussion sponsored by the National Women’s Law Center. “I think that would be a healing choice. She’s a moderate, a woman, wonderful, respected, terrific. That, I think, would flow through the Senate like water down a hill.”






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