CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published November 21, 2003, issue of November 21, 2003.
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Food Fight: Here’s a delicious piece of opposition research that crossed our desk: A campaign that does not want to be identified was hoping — tongue in cheek, of course — that it could get someone to slice into former Vermont governor Howard Dean for an old position he took on a Jewish hole-y matter.

Seems that in the 1990s, when he was the Green Mountain State’s chief executive, Dean vigorously defended the state’s 7% meals tax, even when it was assessed retroactively on the Burlington Bagel Bakery for individually sold plain bagels.

“Governor Defends the Taxing of Bagels,” barked the headline of a 1993 Associated Press report printed in a Vermont newspaper. The report quoted Dean as saying that the bakery was derelict because it should have known about the tax.

“The policy is written down,” Dean told the AP in his characteristically hard-boiled style. “It has been written since 1968.”

There is probably some argument to be made that this particular excise starves small businesses. But we think it’s a better illustration of the lengths folks will go to take a bite out of Dean.

* * *

Marriage Maunderings: Some of the Democratic presidential contenders weighed in on gay marriage this week after Massachusetts’s Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling against the ban on same-sex unions in the Bay State. Their stances on such unions sound much like Dean’s position on guns: While they’re not in favor of the thing in question, they say it’s up to the states to decide whether to allow it or not.

“Although I am opposed to gay marriage, I have also long believed that states have the right to adopt for themselves laws that allow same-sex unions,” Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman said in a statement. “I will oppose any attempts by the right wing to change the Constitution in response to today’s ruling, which would be unnecessary and divisive.”

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said, “I have long believed that gay men and lesbians should be assured equal protection and the same benefits — from health to survivor benefits to hospital visitation — that all families deserve. While I continue to oppose gay marriage, I believe that today’s decision calls on the Massachusetts state legislature to take action to ensure equal protection for gay couples. These protections are long overdue.”

Dean signed a bill authorizing same-sex civil unions — offering the benefits of marriage without actually using the M-word — when he was governor of Vermont.

* * *

Iowa Indignation: In more candidate sparring, during a speech at a synagogue in Iowa on Sunday, Kerry hammered Dean for the Vermonter’s remark that America “ought not to take sides” in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Kerry, who made his remarks at a candidates’ forum at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Des Moines, used the gaffe to argue that Dean is inexperienced in foreign policy, according to an account of the forum in the Des Moines Register.

“We are an ally of Israel. And when you say things like ‘We don’t take sides,’ you send messages that have profound implications on people’s perceptions. I’ve never heard an American politician call Hamas ‘soldiers,’ like Governor Dean did,” the Register quoted Kerry as saying.

From the podium, Kerry also referred to his Jewish forbears — his grandfather was an Austrian Jew — and denounced Saturday’s terrorist bombings of two Istanbul synagogues.

Dean, asked whether the United States should serve as Israel’s ally or as a neutral, “honest broker” in Middle East peace negotiations, said at the forum, “The United States has a long-standing relationship with Israel. But we have to be seen as an honest broker at the bargaining table, as we were under President Clinton and President Carter,” the Register reported.

Both men dropped Jewish phrases, according to news reports. Dean, whose wife is Jewish and who once told the Forward that he got his “visceral” attachment to Israel from listening to his wife’s grandmother, used the Yiddish word bubkes (“nothing”) to describe what President Bush had delivered in terms of Middle East peace. Kerry used the Hebrew phrase “Am Yisrael Chai” (“The people of Israel live”), according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Dean also released a statement Sunday on the Istanbul attacks. “Yesterday’s terrorist attack against two synagogues in Turkey was a terrible tragedy,” he said. “My deepest sympathies go out to the families of those killed in the attacks and all those who were injured. I share the anger and outrage of people of all nations at such a brazen assault on houses of worship. We must bring swiftly to justice the terrorists who committed these attacks.”

* * *

Jabbing at Joe: Heeb magazine, the cheeky “New Jew Review” for hipsters, does a scabrous send up of Lieberman in its fall issue, with a feature of a Lieberman paper doll.

“Dress up and fess up!” says the left-leaning magazine, razzing the candidate, whom it calls “a son of Israel who does not make us blush with pride.”

Heeb gives its Joe cutout four outfits: a gay leather fetishist “Lieberman the slave” (“And you thought he was a top. Really, Joe’s an obedient bottom who takes orders from the rich — ooh, daddy!”), a French maid “Lieberman the cleaning lady” (“Eager to scrub the country clean of rogue elements….”), a trance rocker “Lieberman the raver” (lampooning him for sponsoring a bill to curb the use of the club drug Ecstasy) and a golf duffer “Lieberman the snowbird” (for his “hearty fundraising” in Florida).

In a final cut, the magazine puts a kind of parental advisory notice on the doll. “For ages 21 and up,” it says. “Not intended for use by backwoods Jewish conspiracy theorists, bored Lieberman campaign staffers, or fetishists with a thing for old guys.”

* * *

Editing Edwards: Marcia Lieberman, candidate Joe’s 89-year-old mother, is responding to a claim made in jest by North Carolina Senator John Edwards this week at a health care forum in New Hampshire. Edwards joked that she endorses Edwards’s health care plan.

“Is my son’s health care plan the best, or what?” she said, according to a statement released by her son’s campaign. “That John Edwards is a nice-looking boy, but I don’t know what he was talking about. I’ve been telling Joe for years that we need a prescription drug benefit and I know he’ll get it done as president.”

Marcia Lieberman accompanied her son as he filed Monday to participate in the New Hampshire primary.

* * *

Moran’s Man: Dean was endorsed this week by several members of Congress, including Rep. James Moran, a controversial Virginia Democrat.

Moran endorsed Dean at the candidate’s 55th birthday party at the Capitol Brewery in Washington, D.C., said Moran’s campaign manager, Dan Lucas, confirming a report by Felix Schein of NBC News.

“Jim endorsed Howard because he thought he was a terrific candidate and he likes how he jumpstarted the party,” Lucas told the Forward.

The congressman has been sticking close to the candidate: He has appeared at three recent events with Dean, including one sponsored by the Asian American Action Fund, according to NBC’s Schein.

Dean might want to return the booby prize of a Moran endorsement, however. Moran is known among some as “Congressman Moron” for his remark last March that the Jewish community pushed the United States into the Iraq war. The brouhaha over Moran’s comment has spurred at least two Democrats to mount primary challenges against him; it is an open secret that many of his Democratic colleagues would like to throw the loudmouth lawmaker off the sled. Rick Ally, campaign manager of Moran challenger Andy Rosenberg, told the Forward earlier this year that some in Congress quietly were helping Rosenberg’s effort.

Dean spokeswoman Tricia Enright told the Forward, “Obviously… the governor does not share all of [Moran’s] views.”

In other endorsement news, Lieberman gained the nod of a prominent black Democrat, Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida.






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