John-John Ticket: In Senator John Edwards, Senator John Kerry has chosen a running mate who shadowed him to the right on Arab-Israel matters during the Democratic primaries.
Edwards scored high marks among pro-Israel Democrats for his forceful anti-terror language in the Iowa debates. The North Carolinian, who enjoyed the staunch backing of members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee from his state, such as businessman Randall Kaplan, tried to leverage that support into a bid for hawkish Jewish voters in the March 2 New York primary, his last stand against Kerry. In the end, Kerry swept the state and its Jews.
Lionel Kaplan, a former Aipac president who swung behind Edwards after Senator Joseph Lieberman dropped out of the primaries, said he is “very happy” with Kerry’s choice, which he said “reinforces” the Massachusetts senator’s “outstanding record” on Israel. Aipac gave its official seal of approval. Spokesman Andrew Schwartz noted that Edwards always has been a “strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship” and that Edwards traveled to Israel in 2001 on a trip organized in part by an Aipac-linked foundation.
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Unintended Compliment?: Kerry’s pro-Israel stances on the Middle East are antagonizing supporters of the Palestinians, if a headline on the Web site Electronic Intifada is any measure. Sneers the headline: “Kerry Campaign Releases Middle East Policy Seemingly Drafted in Tel Aviv.”
The headline was referring to a policy paper disseminated by Kerry’s senior adviser on Middle East and Jewish affairs, Jay Footlik, titled “John Kerry: Strengthening Israel’s Security and Bolstering the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship.”
Kerry used the occasion of a June 28 conference call to a B’nai B’rith confab to reiterate his position that he would continue the American policy of isolating Arafat. He also criticized Bush’s record on fighting antisemitism and the war on terror. “I believe that I can run a far more effective war on terror and do better by Israel. And I’ll tell you why,” he said, according to excerpts of the call circulated by his campaign. “Because I think the sweetheart relationship between this administration and Saudi Arabia and the lack of willingness of this administration to hold Arab countries accountable for their newspaper articles, for their antisemitism, for their conspiracy theories, to stop the funding that goes to Hezbollah, to Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, to Hamas, has not made the world safer and has not protected Israel.”
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Web War: Last weekend, the Bush-Cheney campaign dropped from its Web site a video advertisement containing footage of Adolf Hitler that several Jewish organizations had asked it to withdraw. The video, which featured stills and audio of a shouting Hitler interspersed among clips of shouting Democrats such as Howard Dean, purported to show that Kerry and his supporters constitute a “coalition of the wild-eyed,” in the campaign’s words. The Hitler footage came from a contest submission rejected and denounced by MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy group, but the campaign insisted that it was typical of “the ugliness that has come to dominate the political discourse” from Kerry’s supporters.
Bush-Cheney ’04 spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said the campaign pulled the video from its site because it “ran its course. We are now featuring a new ad. It’s normal procedure.”
“It ran its course?” Kerry spokesman David Wade asked incredulously in an e-mail. “They talk about this vulgar and insulting ad like it’s a virus they picked up on vacation. These guys can’t just admit that they experienced a lethal lapse in judgment, featured Hitler in an ad attacking a man whose relatives were killed in the Holocaust, and then buckled under the backlash when Americans got angry with their reprehensible political tactics. How will they top this? What’s next, a Mussolini-inspired direct mail campaign?”
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Christian Campaigning: The Bush-Cheney campaign is shaking the pews of conservative Christian churches in hopes of turning out more voters, according to a memo it issued to volunteers that became public last week.
The memo, issued by the campaign’s national headquarters, asks volunteers to perform 22 “duties” between the end of July and October 31. Using explicitly Christian terminology aimed at what the memo identifies as “Conservative churches,” the duties detail tasks such as “Talk to Your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive” and “Place reminder bulletin about all Christian citizens needing to vote in Sunday program or on a board near the church entrance.”
People of other faiths shouldn’t feel excluded by the language, however. Bush-Cheney wants them, too.
“There are other efforts in other communities for people who support the president,” Castillo wrote in an e-mail. “A simple review of our Web site indicates that we are attempting to organize both in the Jewish and Arab American communities.”
The memo comes on the heels of a Bush-Cheney drive to recruit 1,600 “friendly congregations” in Pennsylvania, in which volunteers could place campaign literature and talk up the campaign. Like the drive in Pennsylvania, the new memo raised the ire of strict church-state separationists, who charged that the Bush campaign instructions would cause congregations to break the tax laws; as tax-exempt organizations, houses or worship and their leaders (in their official capacity) may not endorse parties or candidates.
“Efforts aimed at transforming houses of worship into political campaign offices stink to high heaven,” one church-state separationist, the head of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi David Saperstein, said in a statement criticizing the Bush campaign.
According to Internal Revenue Service guidelines, tax-exempt organizations “may encourage people to participate in the electoral process by sponsoring debates or forums to educate voters, distributing voter guides, or conducting voter registration or get-out-the-vote drives. If the debate or forum, voter guide, or voter registration or get-out-the-vote drive shows a preference for or against a certain candidate or party, however, it becomes a prohibited activity.”
The leading Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox organizations, along with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, united to create a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote guide. The guide is available online at www.rac.org/pubs/vote04.html.