Cheers, Jeers Greet Democratic Contenders

By E.J. Kessler

Published October 24, 2003, issue of October 24, 2003.
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Lieberman Defections: A number of fundraisers are joining the exodus of staffers from Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman’s presidential campaign.

Fundraisers Jaclyn Brot of his New York operation and Chad Fitzgerald and Colleen McCarthy of his Washington-area operation have left, campaign spokesman Jano Cabrera confirmed.

Cabrera suggested the campaign was streamlining.

“As the campaign season begins in earnest, we are going to marshal and redeploy our resources as any other campaign will do,” Cabrera said.

Others said the staff departures likely were a more ominous signal.

As the Forward reported last week, consultant Shari Yost and Mid-Atlantic fundraising director Stephanie Friedman Schneider recently departed, in an echo of an earlier staff shakeup that operatives said was an indication that Lieberman’s fundraising operation is losing steam.

The added defections underscored that point, professionals said: Campaign operatives seldom depart if they have steady paychecks and there is still plenty for them to do.

Even so, the campaign was trying to spin its third-quarter fundraising figures to show that Lieberman’s fundraising has room to grow, especially in Florida. That state’s favorite son, Senator Bob Graham, left the presidential race last month, so Lieberman stands to pick up many of the moderate Graham’s supporters, Lieberman’s campaign is arguing. The campaign noted in a memo sent to reporters that Lieberman raised $318,444 in Florida last quarter, compared to $174,705.40 raised by former Vermont governor Howard Dean and $155,183.67 raised by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. “Our analysis also shows that Lieberman has outraised all of his rivals (again, except Graham) in Florida since the campaign began,” the memo states.

Lieberman has raised $802,719.63 in Florida so far in 2003, while Kerry has collected $787,877.62 and North Carolina Senator John Edwards $576,535.30. Lieberman raised a total of $3.6 million in the third quarter, which ended September 30, down from $5.1 million the second quarter. In another retreat, he pulled most of his campaign operation out of Iowa this week, declining to compete in the January 19 caucuses.

* * *

Extirpating Arafat: At least six Republican members of Congress evidently think that President Bush has not taken a hard enough line against Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

In a letter being circulated by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado and the Republican Jewish Coalition, the members are urging Bush to support the decision of the Israeli cabinet, as yet unenforced, to exile Arafat from the territories.

“Recently, Israel has called for the removal of Yasser Arafat as the leader of the Palestinian Authority, and we urge the administration to take a firm stance in support of his removal,” states the letter, which was dated October 15 and was obtained by the Forward. “We are a nation committed to ending terrorism, and now is the time to be consistent in that vow. Yasser Arafat is a terrorist. We urge you to lend your strong support to the people of Israel in their call to remove Yasser Arafat, the chief obstacle to progress in the peace process, as the leader of the Palestinian Authority.”

An observer noted that it was highly unusual for the Republican Jewish Coalition to be circulating such a letter, because that group rarely criticizes Bush, even implicitly.

As of Monday, the signers of the letter, in addition to Musgrave, included Reps. Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, Eric Cantor of Virginia, John Sweeney of New York, Wally Herger of California and Steve King of Iowa.

* * *

Campaign Conquests?: On the lighter side, Lieberman’s 29-year-old “minister of information” (a.k.a. campaign press secretary) Jano Cabrera has gained a nickname on the trail. Some call the merry mouthpiece, a dark-haired charmer with horn-rimmed specs, “Don Juano” because of his winning way with women.

* * *

Martinizing: Dean’s campaign is hiring Tara Martin, chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Committee’s “Caucus of Color,” as its New York political director, the campaign confirmed. Martin was an aide to New York City Councilwoman Yvette Clark of Brooklyn.

In a busy few days of events, both Jewish and Arab Americans had a chance to hear Democratic presidential candidates pander to them last weekend.

On Friday, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean spoke to 27 Jewish communal leaders and Democratic activists at a synagogue in New York. That weekend, seven hopefuls, including Dean, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt addressed a three-day confab of the Arab American Institute.

Press reports highlighted the heckling of Lieberman and the applause received by Dean at the Arab-American parley, but Kerry, who spoke via satellite, may have made the most gains there.

Kerry, who called the path of Israel’s West Bank security fence “provocative and counterproductive” and “a barrier to peace” in his remarks, evidently dispelled many doubts he had created several weeks ago when he chastised Dean for being insufficiently supportive of Israel.

“The response to [Kerry’s] remarks was significant,” said the president of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby. “Many folks were saying, ‘We’ve got to think about this guy’…. Some folks were saying, ‘What was his debate with Dean about?’”

Kerry also was feted at a reception for about 100 sponsored by Bill Shaheen, the Arab-American husband of New Hampshire’s governor.

Dean, for his part, threw red meat to the Jews on Friday. He told those assembled at Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue that he does not support giving East Jerusalem to the Palestinians, that the Bush administration has not cracked down enough on Saudi Arabia for supporting terrorism and that Yasser Arafat must be excluded from negotiations because he is an unrepentant terrorist, according to several participants.

“He was clearly going after Bush from the right,” said the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie.

Such moves managed to dispel any doubts Dean had created by his remarks on the campaign trail some weeks ago in which he said America “ought not to take sides” in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“We were encouraged,” said a pro-Israel Democratic activist who attended, Stuart Shorenstein. “He understood the angst that spread through the Jewish community over statements he made and was reassuring.”

On Saturday, however, Dean turned around and threw red meat to the Arab Americans, scoring points with them by blasting the Bush administration for violations of Arabs’ and Muslims’ civil rights in its prosecution of the war on terror and by emphasizing his opposition to the Iraq war. Dean, like Kerry and Bush, has what he has termed “concerns” about the path of Israel’s security barrier, he told the Arab parley, although he mentioned Israel’s right to self-defense in framing the matter. Gephardt and Lieberman say the course of the fence is no concern, because they consider the barrier to be temporary.

It was poor Lieberman — a lightning rod for hecklers, as he himself noted during the September 25 candidates’ debate in New York — who received the chilliest reception at the Arab-American conference, with some booing of his responses during a question-and-answer period. But that was not from a lack of trying to find points of agreement with the audience: Lieberman’s speech, delivered on Friday, also took the administration to task for excesses in the war on terror and for what he described as its “sporadic” attention toward fostering Arab-Israeli negotiations.

A mortified Zogby took pains to distance his organization from the hecklers who interrupted Lieberman.

“We’re glad you understood that the unfortunate vocal opposition to some parts of your address was expressed by only a few audience members, most of whom were not Arab American,” he wrote to the candidate this week. “Most of our conferees recognized the importance of your attendance and appreciated your decision to come. Despite disagreements over some points, as you noted from the applause, much of what you said resonated strongly with our leadership. In meetings held the next day, the vast majority of attendees condemned the outbursts and further resolved to send you letters of appreciation for your attendance.”

Perhaps the most neutral approach to the Arab-American parley was taken by Gephardt, who eschewed any reference to Middle Eastern affairs by giving his standard stump speech on Saturday. The choice did not hurt him, Zogby said, explaining that the Missourian had “connected” with the crowd.

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