By E.J. Kessler

Published December 03, 2004, issue of December 03, 2004.
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Democratic Dynamo? As top Democrats furiously jockey to be considered among the potential candidates for the post of chairman of the Democratic National Committee, one Jewish figure has surfaced among the lot.

Rep. Martin Frost, who lost his seat as a result of Texas’s controversial redistricting plan in what was the most expensive and acrimonious House race of 2004, is known as a sharp political operative from his days as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The longest-serving Jewish member of the House, Frost was making calls pursuant to his interest in the post, The Associated Press reported this week.

But Frost is facing some resistance from Steve Grossman, a Jewish former DNC chairman who was chairman of Howard Dean’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, who has emerged as a big booster of Dean for the DNC post.

“Martin clearly did a good job when he was head of the DCCC, but to use a phrase of Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘Life is action and passion.’ They want an action-oriented, passionate person who can grow the base,” Grossman told the Forward. “A lot of DNC members believe Howard’s strength as a party builder, a constituency builder, would serve this party well.”

Grossman said that Dean had not decided whether to seek the DNC post, although there is rampant speculation in the press that he will.

Grossman said Monday: “I will not make any calls until Howard asks. He has not asked me to make a single call.”

In a telephone interview with the Forward last week, Frost said only that “a number of key people in the party” have sounded him out about the position and he “would be interested in the position,” but he hasn’t made any decision to seek it. The 447 DNC members elect the DNC chairman in the month of February.

* * *

Cantor Copout? Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the chief deputy majority whip and the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, voted for the so-called DeLay rule change passed recently by the House’s Republican Conference.

The controversial rule change, which was bitterly resented by some members of the Republican Conference, allowed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, to keep his status as majority leader in case he is indicted, as he may be as a result of an investigation into a Texas campaign finance scandal that has yielded indictments of several of his top aides. Before the change, Republican rules mandated that an indictment required a leader to step down as such, although not to relinquish his seat. The House Republicans adopted the rule in the 1990s to show that they were more ethical than Democrats.

Cantor’s office did not respond to several calls asking for the reason for his vote. Republican congressmen around the country who voted for the rule change have been taking heat from outraged constituents, according to press reports.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Cantor called the Texas investigation “a witch-hunt” and “a totally partisan exercise.”

Cantor, 41, an observant Jew who is a rising star in the GOP, is often held up as an avatar of clean-living Jewish Republicanism.

Cantor’s vote was reported in a tally of the rule change vote at a Web blog titled “The Daily DeLay” maintained by David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. The blog reported that Cantor received $15,000 from a DeLay-associated political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority.

* * *

College Kudos: The leader of the Jewish College Republicans won the College Republican National Committee’s most prestigious honor, the Ronald Reagan Award, in part for bringing Jewish students to the Republican cause.

University of Pennsylvania senior David Copley, who is also the state chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans, was presented with the award at the CRNC national board meeting November 20 in New Orleans.

Copley, 21, a finance and accounting major at the Wharton School, said that the Jewish College Republicans did intensive recruitment efforts on battleground-state campuses including Penn State, Ohio State, University of Florida and Florida State. The effort was most successful among Orthodox Jews, Copley told the Forward, because “they responded better than more secular Jews did” to President Bush’s message regarding the war on terror, support for Israel and faith-based values. He said it was rough going recruiting Jewish Republicans on campus, because “the Democrats certainly did not want to cede their ground in the Jewish community.”

Copley grew up in Bellevue, Wash., and attended a Conservative synagogue, Herzl-Ner Tamid.

According to statistics reported by Grassroots Pennsylvania, a conservative Web site, the Pennsylvania College Republicans registered 8,257 new Republican voters statewide, including 6,113 new College Republicans.

* * *

Affair to Remember: Rep. Bob Beauprez, a Colorado Republican, got pretty lovey-dovey in his language this week during a visit to Israel.

Commenting on the newfound affection of Orthodox Jews for the Republican Party, he told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz: “What we’re seeing is not a flirtation [between the two camps] but rather a serious love affair. Jews one after another have been very open about their support for the president, and they backed that up recently at the ballot box.”

* * *

Stormin’ Norman: Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, one of two Jewish Republicans in the upper chamber, is picking up where former senator Jesse Helms, an uncompromising North Carolinian who headed the Foreign Relations Committee, left off. Helms, recall, in his day was the foremost critic in the legislature of the corruption and ineptitude of the United Nations, for some years withholding American dues from the world body. Coleman, the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has been uncovering abuses in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. According to the senator, the scandal has resulted in more than $21 billion in international humanitarian aid that was supposed to have been monitored by the U.N. being siphoned off to enrich Saddam, his cronies and sympathetic westerners. Now Coleman is calling for the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, to resign.

“Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the Oil-for-Food program, and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the U.N.’s utter failure to detect or stop Saddam’s abuses,” Coleman wrote Wednesday in an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal. “The consequences of the U.N.’s ineptitude cannot be overstated: Saddam was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and even rebuild his military. Needless to say, he made the Iraqi people suffer even more by importing substandard food and medicine under the Oil-for-Food program and pawning it off as first-rate humanitarian aid.”

Helms, we’re sure, is proud.

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