CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published January 30, 2004, issue of January 30, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Push Calls?: Howard Dean’s campaign is accusing John Kerry’s of stoking anti-Jewish sentiment in what the Dean campaign is describing as “dozens” of so-called “push calls” it claims that Dean supporters received in New Hampshire.

The Kerry campaign hotly denied the charge and threw it back at the Dean campaign, accusing it of using “deeply insulting” tactics and spreading division for political gain.

The charges arose earlier this week when a Dean volunteer, Frances Gehling of Londonderry, N.H., reported that she had received a call from a woman claiming to be a Kerry volunteer who brought up Dean’s Jewish wife and children and asked how someone who was married to a Jew and raising a Jewish family could have Christian values. Dean has said he would talk about Jesus in Southern states.

Gehling told the Forward that she spoke to the woman about various subjects for about 15 minutes and was “shocked” when she brought up Dean’s family’s Judaism. “I did feel she was playing to antisemitism,” Gehling said. She said she did not know if the remark came from a script or whether it was the thought of “an inappropriate, overzealous volunteer.”

The Dean campaign alleges the sentiment was part of a Kerry campaign script for what is known in the political business as a “push call,” one that seeks to sow negative feelings about a candidate. “We have reports of dozens of these calls being received,” said Dean’s Jewish affairs adviser, Matt Dorf. He said none of the other Dean supporters who had received the alleged calls was willing to talk to the press.

The Kerry campaign lashed out at Dorf and the other Dean operatives who were pushing the story, which appeared widely in the press.

“The masters of misdirection in the Dean campaign are launching 11th-hour, desperate allegations against the Kerry campaign which are not only false, but deeply insulting,” Kerry spokesman David Wade said in an e-mail to the Forward. “They should be ashamed that their dying campaign rejected by voters is now unleashing attack dogs to make unsubstantiated claims. Voters will see through these transparently baseless, politically motivated, divisive claims.”

Political consultants and Jewish communal professionals said such complaints sometimes arise when campaigns are hotly contested.

“Does it happen? Yes,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League National. “Is this subject susceptible to political game-playing? Yes. Is it acceptable? Absolutely not.”

Both Foxman and the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Manchester, Adam Solender, said that they had not heard a single report of the alleged calls.

* * *

Dean Family Values: Former Vermont governor Dean and his doctor wife Judith Steinberg Dean, in the course of trying to stanch the damage from his post-loss Iowa scream, have shed light on how one Jewish-Christian interfaith family handles the question of religious observance in modern America.

During a now-famous television interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last week, the couple answered questions about religious observance in their home and how their families viewed their marriage.

“We celebrate all the Jewish holidays, usually with my family,” Steinberg Dean said in response to Sawyer’s query. “And we celebrate the Christian holidays with Howard’s family. And we try to involve the children with both faiths and have them make their own decisions about what they want to do. And that’s what they’re doing.”

Steinberg Dean denied that there was ever any tension among her family because of the marriage, saying, “Even my grandmother loves Howard.” Her husband, however, added a caveat about her Jewish grandmother that many Jews will recognize: “I think she would’ve been happier if I was Jewish,” he said.

The former governor added that his Christian family readily accepted his wife. “My father and mother, first of all, they adore Judy,” he said. “My mother loved Judy because she read The New York Times Book Review and nobody else in the house did. My father thought she was great. And my father and mother had very difficult times. My father was Protestant and my mother was Catholic. In those days, that was a big deal. I mean, they did have a rough time. And I think my parents were determined not, because I married outside my faith… they were never going to make an issue of that and they never did.”

At one point in the interview, Dean launched into a paean to his independent wife that seems certain to raise his standing with women. “She’s a real life partner, not just a, you know, somebody I fell in love with,” he said. “She is a friend and I respect her, and that is enormous for me. Plus, she’s a lot smarter than I am.”

After the scream, there’s no doubt about that.






Find us on Facebook!
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.