CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published December 24, 2004, issue of December 24, 2004.
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Jon Corzine, Ladies’ Man: If acting Governor Richard Codey of New Jersey is finding that his campaign for the 2005 Democratic gubernatorial nomination might depend on improving his relations with the state’s old boy-dominated county machines, his rival Senator Jon Corzine appears to be reaching out to another potent constituency: female voters.

At least, that’s the impression left by a speech that Corzine gave Monday night at a Jewish communal function at Manhattan’s Pierre Hotel.

In his 15-minute keynote address at the inaugural gala for the new president of the American Jewish Congress, Paul Miller, Corzine mentioned “women” or “women’s rights,” including “reproductive rights,” no fewer than four times – more than he mentioned any other topic. Not that he’s any feminist-come-lately. “That’s the authentic Jon Corzine,” said one New Jersey politics-watcher, David Twersky, a former editor of the New Jersey Jewish News who directs international affairs at the American Jewish Congress.

Corzine’s most topical line was a Democratic take on the so-called values debate. “Whatever else they may be, American values don’t include bigotry and indifference,” said Corzine, who announced earlier this month that he is running for governor. “You can’t claim we’re a Christian nation and then tell those who don’t agree to go to Israel,” he said in a swipe at Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly.

Jews represent about 5% of the general electorate in New Jersey and an even greater percentage of the Democratic primary electorate.

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Jim Baker, Ignored Adviser: Add former secretary of state James Addison Baker III to the growing chorus of Republican voices who are gently — or not so gently — trying to steer President Bush’s foreign policy in a different direction. The longtime Bush family adviser, last seen negotiating the presidential debates for Bush-Cheney ’04, has proffered foreign policy advice for the administration in two recent opinion pieces. In a December 2 op-ed in The New York Times, Baker argued that Bush’s re-election and Yasser Arafat’s death “have created a unique opportunity for negotiating peace between Arabs and Israelis.” In a December 17 Washington Post piece penned with former Democratic secretary of state Warren Christopher, Baker, who sounded almost like John Kerry, plumped for “increased investment in the full range of diplomatic, development and humanitarian tools” as a strategy for fighting terrorism. Not that anyone at the White House is listening.

According to Council on Foreign Relations scholar Lee Feinstein, a foreign policy aide in the Clinton administration, Baker’s pleas are best understood as part of “the unease within the mainstream Republican Party about this team’s foreign policy” that has manifested itself recently in congressional criticism of the Iraq war and right-wing attacks on the performance of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But Baker and the others can forget about it. “Clearly there’s an effort to try to steer [Bush’s] foreign policy in a different direction from within,” Feinstein said. “But the president has given no indication that he wants to change.”

* * *

Russ Feingold, Presidential Candidate? Wisconsin’s maverick Jewish senator, Democrat Russell Feingold, having just earned re-election, is being touted as a 2008 presidential contender. The Madison Capital Times, a liberal newspaper, reported that “the buzz is growing” in the state for a candidacy on the part of Feingold, who’s known nationally for authoring the campaign finance reform that bears his name and that of Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. Feingold’s friend Hannah Rosenthal, a former executive director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin who now heads the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said that Feingold “has earned the right to be listened to and put forth his agenda. It’s important that he not allow people to marginalize him because he’s viewed as a maverick.” A Feingold presidential coalition would consist of “deficit hawks, thoughtful civil libertarians and civil rights advocates, women, the pro-Israel community [and]… moderates who are tired of polarization” because in Wisconsin, Rosenthal said, Feingold “has learned to reach across party lines.”






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