CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published September 03, 2004, issue of September 03, 2004.
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Chosen Chicken: The National Jewish Democratic Council has a message for the Bush campaign’s Jewish surrogates, such as Senator Norm Coleman, Rep. Eric Cantor and campaign manager Ken Mehlman: “You’re yellow.” Trying to ruffle some feathers during the Republican National Convention, the group is claiming that the Bush campaign surrogates are running from a debate challenge laid down last month by 20 Democratic lawmakers. In a New York deli Monday, the council held a mock debate with State Senator Eric Schneiderman, whose district includes heavily Jewish areas of the Bronx and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, representing the Democratic side. The Republican side was represented by a man in a chicken suit — with the label of a kosher poultry concern hanging from his “wings.” “The Bush-Cheney camp likes to throw rocks from behind a wall,” said the executive director of the council, Ira Forman. Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matthew Brooks, for his part, threw eggs at the press conference, saying Bush campaign surrogates had agreed to debate Democrats on October 21 in Cincinnati. Brooks said: “You guys always fall for [Forman’s] publicity stunts.” Riposted Forman: “I’ve not been told of any surrogates. Bush-Cheney sent us a letter saying, ‘We’ll consider it.’”

* * *

Brief Bloomie: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, mindful that he is running for re-election next year in a heavily Democratic city, gave a short and nonpartisan address at the convention Monday. The 1,130-word speech waxed poetic about New York City attractions but stinted on any talk about re-electing Bush. Here’s the sum total of its partisanship: “The president deserves our support. We are here to support him. I am here to support him.”

Bloomberg was more forthcoming Sunday at the Jewish “community celebration” put on to welcome the Republican convention. There, he said: “When it comes to standing up for Israel, which to me means standing up for America, George Bush has been there. He’s going to get my vote, and I hope he gets yours.”

But if Republican Jews lacked a partisan in the mayor, they got it in former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whose speech before the convention Monday contained several references to terrorist attacks against Jews. He mentioned the attack on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the Achille Lauro and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, whom he said, the terrorists “marked… for murder solely because he was Jewish.” Giuliani also faulted John Kerry for his position on Israel’s security fence, saying it had been inconsistent. Democrats said Kerry’s position on the fence was identical to that of Bush, who early on was sharply critical of the fence and its route.

* * *

Babe’s Blasts: A longtime Texas Democrat is advising Kerry that if he wants to win, he ought to “shut up.”

“If Kerry loses… it’s because he doesn’t have good enough sense to shut up,” said A.R. “Babe” Schwartz, who served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1955 to 1959 and in the Texas Senate from 1960 to 1981.

Schwartz, who makes a cameo appearance in the new documentary about presidential adviser Karl Rove, “Bush’s Brain,” is no lover of Republicans. In salty Texas style, Schwartz called Rove “the bottom feeder of all time” because “he makes his living trashing the opponents of his candidates.” Schwartz said that he has “watched in disgust” as Robert Perry, the Houston builder and Republican donor who is among those financing the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has funded right-wing candidates and causes.

Even so, Schwartz, a politician for 55 years, shakes his head over some of the Democratic nominee’s moves.

“What damn fool would say something unkind about bringing troops back from Europe and Asia,” he asked incredulously, referring to Kerry’s cool reception of Bush’s plan for troop withdrawals.

“I don’t know why you’d do that if you’ve been in the military and have good sense,” Schwartz averred, given the size of the absentee military vote. “You ought to say it’s wonderful George Bush finally woke up and brought these guys home.”

And Schwartz isn’t too impressed with Kerry’s communications style, thinking that “he would be well advised not to make so many contradictory statements.”

“I suggest Kerry keep better notes about what he’s talked about in the past,” he said. “Kerry’s acting more like a U.S. senator than a statesman. It would behoove him to be hotboxed [by consultants such as James Carville and Paul Begala] and be told, ‘The answer is yes. The answer is no.’”

Texas businessman and Bush friend Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, defended Rove as a “brilliant mind” and “ethical” person.

“I’ll support Karl Rove to the death,” he said. Zeidman called Perry “principled.”

* * *

Conservative Causes: Speaking about Perry, one little-known fact about him is that he is a major donor to the Jewish Institute for National Security, a not-for-profit membership group and think tank with a hawkish cast that supports strategic ties between Israel and the Pentagon.

“He’s been supporting us for many, many years,” said the group’s executive director, Tom Neumann. “He’s a very committed man to ideology. He believes in Israel and national security. He’s one of the purest-motive donors I know. He’s an exceptional patriot and human being…. He does not seek publicity. He does not seek access.”

Citing the group’s nonpartisan status, Neumann said the group would “not get involved” in the swift-boat controversy.

* * *

Rousting Ralph: Steve Grossman, Massachusetts Jewish philanthropist and former chairman of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, has a new bag: front man for the Stop Nader campaign.

“As a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former chairman of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, I can appreciate much of what Ralph Nader stands for,” Grossman writes in an e-mail message. “He and I share a lot of the same beliefs. He’s fought for American consumers and workers throughout his career.

“But after the debacle of the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader’s candidacy must be taken seriously. America can’t take another four years of Republican leadership. America can’t let Ralph Nader siphon votes away from John Kerry and gift-wrap another election for George W. Bush. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to stop him.”

* * *

Baker’s Not Dozin’: The pro-Israel community’s favorite Republican public servant is back on the campaign trail.

Former secretary of state James Baker III, has agreed to lead the Bush-Cheney ’04 debates negotiation team, CNN reported.

Coincidently, Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot is trying to make amends to Muslims, whose vote he said Bush had won decisively in 2000. The community since has become disaffected because of Bush Mideast policy. “[W]e are just coming as a country to know and understand Islam,” Racicot told The Washington Times, adding, “I’m not sure we’re as far along in that process of maturation…as we need to be.”

The Bush campaign senses an opening. Arab and Muslim leaders have been complaining publicly and privately that Kerry’s positions are “worse” — i.e., more pro-Israel and anti-Saudi — than Bush’s.






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