CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL

By E.J. Kessler

Published August 08, 2003, issue of August 08, 2003.

Saddam’s Skeletons: A remark about Iraq former Vermont governor Howard Dean made on television is drawing the scorn of a Jewish communal leader.

In an interview late last month on Iowa Public Television, Dean made the case for sending American troops to stop situations of genocide, including the butchery going on in Liberia. But at the same time, Dean seemed to suggest that there was a statute of limitations on genocide, arguing that while Saddam Hussein’s assaults on Iraq’s Kurdish and Shiite populations may have constituted genocide, there was no need to engage the dictator today because those assaults happened a long time ago.

On the “Iowa Press” talk show July 20, Des Moines Register reporter David Yepsen asked Dean: “So it’s okay to send American troops to Liberia because of genocide, but it’s not okay to send American troops to stop Saddam’s genocide against the Kurds?”

Dean answered, according to the show’s transcript, “Well, see, the issue was we didn’t do that. If there were to have been a case made — if President Bush first had said we’re going to go all the way to Baghdad and take out Saddam as a result of the attack on Kuwait and the attack — the subsequent attack on the Shiites, which was genocide, then a case could have been made, but that’s not what happened. Saddam Hussein, frightful though he was, had not engaged in genocide for many, many years. All the skeletons that they’re unearthing now from southern Iraq and the Kurds — the gassing of the Kurds took place quite some years ago, as much as a decade ago. And so to say, well, he committed genocide 10 years ago and so, therefore, we’re going to take him out now, that doesn’t seem quite — quite to square with what the facts are.”

Dean’s response rubbed the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, the wrong way. “A man of his stature should know better,” Foxman told the Forward through an aide. “There is no statute of limitations on murder, and certainly there cannot be a statute of limitations on genocide.”

Dean spokesman Eric Schmeltzer explained his principal’s argument thus: Timing is everything. “The argument Governor Dean was making and has made is this: Force is justified when we’re attacked, when there’s an imminent threat to our security or there’s a looming humanitarian crisis or genocide,” Schmeltzer wrote in an e-mail response to the Forward. “However, he does not believe it is wise to use our military to get rid of regimes that have a track record of evil. Saddam falls into that category. Liberia meets the third criterion. That’s why Howard Dean was right to call for intervention there weeks ago before hundreds more died and Monrovia was attacked. Whatever one may think of Saddam’s regime, it cannot be argued that our invasion was designed to head off an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.”

* * *

Internet Invitation: Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman has launched his first major “branded” fundraising drive over the Internet, and its target is Jewish donors.

On August 1, his campaign launched what it is calling the “1,800 Challenge,” a bid to gain 1,800 new donors in the first 18 days of the month. The number “18” is richly symbolic in Jewish tradition: It is the numerical equivalent to the Hebrew letters of the word chai, or “life,” and is considered by Jews to be a lucky number.

In an e-mail message sent to 5,500 supporters, Lieberman asked them to donate multiples of $18 and to pass a message along to 18 friends, supplying an electronic form for the purpose. The campaign has sent out Internet solicitations before, but this is its first packaged appeal with a name, gimmick and targeted audience, and is the work of its new Internet fundraising maestro, Mike Liddell.

“I am extraordinarily proud of the way the Jewish community has embraced my campaign,” Lieberman writes in the message. “But despite that, some have been questioning my support within the community — and even my decision to run for President. Help me prove those skeptics wrong.” To support the drive, the campaign also posted a special Web page for Jewish donors, www.JewishAmericansForJoe.com. The site features position papers, recent articles from the press and opportunities to volunteer and donate.

“We are extremely proud of the support that Joe Lieberman’s campaign has received from the Jewish community — which has often been expressed in contributions in multiples of 18 — but we’re hoping to take it to a ‘chai-er’ plane with this challenge,” campaign director Craig Smith wrote in an e-mail message. “We are asking our friends and supporters to spread the word through the Internet, as well as in their synagogues, Hillels and JCCs, and help us strengthen the foundation for Joe’s historic candidacy.”

Lieberman is not the first Democratic presidential candidate to make an overt appeal to his own ethnic community. According to Democratic fundraising consultant Scott Gale, such ethnic appeals are “fairly common: Jesse Jackson made an overt appeal to the African American community. Michael Dukakis made an overt appeal to the Greek-American community.” The new drive should help Lieberman on the margins, but doesn’t signal a turnaround in his chances, Gale said. “Do I think it will bring in money that otherwise would not have come in? Yes. Do I think it will change the overall dynamic of his fundraising? No.”

* * *

Dog Days: How’s this for howlers: Dean’s campaign is biting back after a New Hampshire Democratic activist told The Chicago Tribune last month that she was supporting Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, and not Dean, for president, because Gephardt shook the paw of her pooch and Dean ignored the animal. Not to be outfoxed on the four-legged front, Dean’s dogged crew promptly named campaign manager Joe Trippi’s terrier, Kasey, as “director of canine outreach” and posted the pretty pup’s picture on Dean’s web log, “Blog for America,” with a message asking supporters to send photos of “Dogs with Dean.” As of this writing, there are three “gallery pages” of “Pets for Dean” at the site, including a chocolate Labrador named Savannah and at least one cat. “Obviously, the Dean campaign is going to the dogs,” quipped Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith. Now if anyone else has a bone to pick with Trippi….

* * *

Singing Senator: Florida Senator Bob Graham indulged his wacky side in a New York stump appearance last week. Addressing Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century, a young activist group, at a Manhattan bar, the presidential hopeful regaled the crowd with lines from two songs. He sang a verse of “Plant a Radish,” from the musical “The Fantasticks,” which he said he had learned on one of the 389 days during the last 25 years that he had volunteered to work in another job — in this case, as an actor. He sang, “But if your issue/ will not kiss you/ you’re out of luck/ because once you’ve planted children/ you’re stuck.”

He also sang a verse of “You’ve Got a Friend in Bob Graham,” which he said was written by a friend and appears on a CD of Graham campaign songs sung in both English and Spanish. It went, “You’ve got a friend in Bob Graham/ That’s what everybody’s sayin’/ All across the U.S.A./ From the Atlantic to the Pacific/ We all say he’s terrific/ Bob Graham is what America needs today.”

Inter alia, when he wasn’t providing musical entertainment, Graham spoke about energy policy — the Bush administration has a policy of “drain America first,” which was “all done in secret,” he said — terrorism (the fact that the president won’t release the part of the September 11 report dealing with the Saudis is “an outrage”) and his experience in politics. “Florida state politics is a contact sport,” he said. “I’ve never lost an election. I’ve run and won five times statewide…. I can win in Florida, and I won’t have to ask the United States Supreme Court to cast the last ballot.”

The musical numbers left the crowd with the impression that Graham shouldn’t give up his day job. It remains to be seen whether they added to anyone’s impression that he should be given Bush’s job. Graham spokesman Jamal Simmons explained his principal’s recourse to song by conceding that “he’s folksy.”



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