Sunshine State Scuttlebutt: The chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, Bush friend Fred Zeidman, has joined the Bush-Cheney campaign in Florida to help get out the president’s Jewish vote there.
Zeidman said he is helping Florida Jewish outreach coordinator Diane Sembler, having resigned from the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition in order to do so.
Democratic Florida Senator Bob Graham said, however, that Zeidman’s efforts will be for naught. “I firmly believe the vast majority of Jews will not vote for Bush,” Graham told the Forward’s Marc Perelman in an interview (please see Page 1).
The Republicans have been pushing the notion that Bush is Israel’s best friend, but Graham said: “I would not define Bush’s policy as being fully supportive of Israel. What needs to happen is for the United States to be actively and seriously involved in reaching a political solution with the Palestinians and other countries like Syria.”
He added: “The Jewish community is still very interested in other issues, for instance the separation of church and state where the administration’s stance has been suspicious and insensitive to their concerns.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition is buying ads in many Jewish outlets around the state through its new soft-money arm. One full-page ad to debut this week in the Jewish Press of Tampa features a picture of Bush at the Western Wall with a quote: “An attack on Israel is like an attack on the United States.” The National Jewish Democratic Council soft-money arm is buying its own ad in the Jewish Press, quoting Bush, saying: “Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences.”
“There is a choice,” the ad says.
The National Journal reported that the RJC is “expected to spend more than $1 million on issue ads and other communications aimed at the Jewish community in key battleground states.” Other states in which the RJC is buying ads include Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
* * *
Reaching Relatives: Speaking of Florida, a young Democrat is launching a program to get Sunshine State Jewish voters to the polls, by sending young Jews down there to help transport their grandparents and others. Mik Moore, 30, said he hatched Operation Bubbe (www.operationbubbe.com) at a recent Sabbath dinner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at which people were talking about taking time off to work for the Democrats in swing states.
“The Jewish community of Florida played a central role in the 2000 election,” Moore said. “It’s important that they get out and vote. It’s the only visible Jewish target in the country, in a way, because it’s a Jewish community in a swing state and close knit.”
Moore said that the program, which is aimed at Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, will not pay for flights down, but will provide transportation and lodging for people once they arrive. Like a walkathon, the program will ask participants to seek sponsors. It plans some activities such as letter-writing and phone banking in New York, and a kick-off party in South Beach. “We’re going to target folks who work in the Jewish world,” Moore said. A graduate of Georgetown Law School who worked as deputy political director of the health care workers union SEIU 32BJ, Moore is no stranger to Jewish communal life. The son of noted historian of American Judaism Deborah Dash Moore, he edited the national Jewish student publication “New Voices” from 1996 to 1998.
* * *
Sibling Stumble: Cameron Kerry, John Kerry’s younger brother and a convert to Judaism who is acting as a surrogate for the campaign in the community, committed a faux pas in a meeting with some Orthodox Jewish leaders in Manhattan on August 26. The younger Kerry, who was described by several with knowledge of the meeting as not being well versed, criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft before those present for, among other things, starting his day with a prayer. That went over badly with the assembled Jews, who also start their day with a prayer, and at least one said so. “It did not get better,” said someone with knowledge of the meeting.
However, Agudath Israel of America general counsel David Zwiebel, who was there, had a different take. “I appreciate very much that an effort was made to reach out to Orthodox Jewish leaders,” he said. “He made a very persuasive case for his brother’s credentials. There were other issues where we diplomatically might say there was a frank exchange.”
* * *
Mideast Muzzling: A writer at the leftist Web site Counterpunch.org is complaining that administrators at the Web site of the Kerry-Edwards campaign “have shut down all discussion [at the site’s open forum] of the Israel/Palestine conflict… after a number of pro-Israel posters complained of un-civility and insensitivity, antisemitism, etc.”
The Counterpunch writer, Mike Burke, quoted a statement from the Kerry-Edwards site administrators, saying: “We have no desire to suppress civil and reasoned debate, but due to the continued lack of civility, insensitivity toward race or religion and use of offensive language, this forum will no longer host the debate about Israeli-Palestinian issues” and claiming that the action “has the approval of both the Arab and Jewish constituency outreach desks at campaign HQ in Washington, D.C.”
Jay Footlik, Kerry’s senior adviser on Middle East and Jewish affairs, said, “We did take it down. We weren’t going to provide a forum for hate.”
* * *
More Hitler Hubbub: The Bush-Cheney campaign, which put images of Adolf Hitler in an anti-Democrat video on its Web site, is claiming that Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer Labor Party has been distributing bumper stickers saying “Bush/Cheney — Most hated world leaders since Hitler.”
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt sent around an electronic file containing an image of the bumper sticker along with statements by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly and former senator Rudy Boschwitz slashing the Minnesota party for allegedly distributing the stickers and asking Kerry to condemn the DFL.
The DFL denies it did the deed. Managing Communications Director Tonya Tennessen told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that 10 such stickers arrived in the mail from “an organization I’ve never heard of” and sat on a receptionist’s desk “for about two hours until I removed them.”
“These are not something we were or are distributing,” Tennessen said.
Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, accepted the DFL’s explanation and denounced the stickers, saying: “The Holocaust should not be trivialized.”
The Bush campaign never has removed its Hitler video from its Web site, despite calls to do so from Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the Zionist Organization of America.
* * *
Homebody Hillary: New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was to speak at the fete of the Hudson Valley Political Action Committee in Monsey, N.Y. September 12, had to cancel because of the heart bypass operation of her husband, Bill. It was his first weekend home from the hospital. Clinton has a relationship with Huvpac’s founder, Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, from the time of her Senate run, when he was president of the Orthodox Union. The 500 guests heard a speech by Missouri Senator Jim Talent.