By E.J. Kessler

Published October 08, 2004, issue of October 08, 2004.
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George Bush, Truman Democrat?: During the first presidential debate last week, Senator John Kerry chided President Bush for not heeding the advice of a Republican former president: his father.

“You know, the president’s father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra,” Kerry said in words that clearly rankled Bush. “And the reason he didn’t is because there was no viable exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile land. That’s exactly where we find ourselves today.”

This week, Bush returned the favor: He touted the leadership of that dyed-in-the-wool Democrat President Truman as a model for his own foreign policy. “[A]fter World War II, after we won, Harry Truman believed that liberty could transform an enemy into an ally. That’s what he believed,” Bush said at a campaign stop in Iowa on Monday. “And I bet there was a lot of skepticism, don’t you? There was a lot of heartache, lot of anger at the Japanese. Why help them, you know, they killed some of our sons? Why do we care? But Harry Truman cared, because he had a vision that was a long-term vision about world peace. People in America cared, because they have deep faith in the values that make us a unique nation. As a result of Harry Truman’s faith in liberty, I now sit down at the table with the leader of a country that… was a sworn enemy, talking about the peace we all want. Think about that. Think about what liberty can do.”

* * *

Flipping for Florida: As part of a “national Jewish unity day,” a number of East Coast Democratic lawmakers campaigned for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in Florida Sunday. Among the surrogates the campaign dispatched to synagogues and community centers in the southern part of the state were John Kerry’s brother, Cameron, a convert to Judaism; 2000 vice presidential nominee Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who remains wildly popular in Florida; Senator Charles Schumer of New York; Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida; and Reps. Tom Lantos, Howard Berman, and Adam Schiff of California.

Cam Kerry got a big applause line at the kick-off rally in Tamarac, Fla. when he announced that 21 years ago he had decided to become a “Jew by choice” and raise his family Jewish, according to news accounts. “Mazel Tov!” one man shouted.

Schumer stoked good will by asking the former New Yorkers in the crowd to identify themselves by county. He also employed his folksy New Yorkese, saying of John Kerry: “He understands that Yasser Arafat is a you-know-what.”

The ticket also got out some star power Sunday, hosting “house parties” around the country that participated in a conference call. Celebrity guests included actresses Natalie Portman in Chicago and Fran Drescher in Los Angeles.

Republicans also have been targeting the Sunshine State: former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke at a Boca Raton synagogue recently and his predecessor Edward Koch, was slated to appear this week at events in Boca Raton and Miami, surrounded by Republican Jewish legislators and mayors, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

* * *

Springsteen as Strategist: Rock icon Bruce Springsteen, headlining the “Vote for Change” concert tour on behalf of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, could set up shop as a political strategist, according to American Prospect online columnist Kenneth Baer. Baer, who caught one of the shows, argues in his latest column that Springsteen hit all the notes Kerry must, and in the right order, starting his set with patriotic favorites such as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Born in the USA,” and keeping them pumped with Kerry’s campaign song, “No Surrender.” Next, Baer wrote, Springsteen “began the dismantling of Bush and his presidency,” hitting the president with an anti-war song and two songs about economic hardship. “Finally, to get out the vote, Springsteen played ‘Born to Run,’ and then ended with all the artists singing Patti Smith’s ‘People Have the Power.’”

“Springsteen showed how to make the sale: Assert your strength and patriotism, hammer Bush on security and his character, and remind swing voters that they’re also economically worse off than they were four years ago. Now, it’s up to Kerry to hit the same notes.”

Of course, Kerry will never look as good as “The Boss” in a T-shirt.

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