CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published December 12, 2003, issue of December 12, 2003.

Junk Food Joe: Before the news of Al Gore’s endorsement roiled the field, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman was pushing his pro-family sally against junk food and those who would sell it to American children.

“Parents today are being forced to contend with a new threat: big food companies targeting junk food at children,” Lieberman said last week, pushing the newest plank of what he calls his “Valuing Families Agenda,” which includes initiatives on paid family leave and children’s health care. “And that’s literally feeding an epidemic of obesity that our top public health experts contend is the biggest health threat out there today. It’s time to stand up to the companies that hype food to children and to stand up for an important principle — informed choices by people who can make informed decisions.”

Speaking at a New Hampshire learning center last Thursday, Lieberman found his anti-junk food gambit a hard sell, however.

“Who here likes doughnuts?” he asked the assembled children, who “responded with a rousing cheer,” according to the Manchester Union Leader. “Well, I have a confession to make,” Lieberman continued. “I like them too. But it’s important not to eat too many of them.”

One Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity, questioned the timing of Lieberman’s anti-doughnut initiative on religious grounds.

“It is kind of funny that Senator Lieberman is coming out against jelly doughnuts — sufganiyot — two weeks before Chanukah,” the Republican said. “I hope latkes aren’t next. All the songs may have to be changed — or at least regulated by the FDA.”

* * *

Sad About Simon: The death this week of former Illinois senator Paul Simon was mourned by the Jewish community in his home state and around the country. The crusading good-government Democrat, who once ran for president and was known for his honesty, loyalty and bow tie, gained many friends among Jews for his strong pro-Israel stances.

“His defeat of Chuck Percy when Percy was chairman of Senate Foreign Relations was absolutely enormous — the political coming of age in the pro-Israel community,” remembered Democratic strategist Steve Rabinowitz, who worked for Simon during his 1988 re-election campaign.

As recounted in a 1993 article in the magazine Illinois Issues, Simon earned the support of his state’s Jewish voters with opposition to school prayer, which Percy did not oppose. Percy also had described Jews as “an intelligent people, but an emotional people.” Before a debate with Percy at a Jewish venue, the Simon campaign distributed a thousand buttons that read, “I’m an intelligent and emotional Jew for Simon.”

Among the Jewish communal groups that mourned Simon was the Jewish National Fund, which noted that “Simon was an avid supporter of Israel and Jewish National Fund’s work on water reclamation and recycling. “

“We are saddened to have lost a man of vision, a man who understood that water was not only the essence of life, but also a formula for peace,” said the JNF’s president, Ronald Lauder.



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