By E.J. Kessler

Published October 10, 2003, issue of October 10, 2003.
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Dean Damage Control: Former Vermont governor Howard Dean has hired the former Washington bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to do outreach for him in the Jewish community.

Matthew Dorf, a partner in Rabinowitz Media, a Washington public relations firm, has been hired as a senior adviser to the campaign. Before joining Rabinowitz as managing partner, Dorf worked as director of governmental relations and public affairs for the American Jewish Congress.

Dean is doing some Jewish outreach of his own: He attended a Reform Jewish Kol Nidre Yom Kippur evening service put on by the Hillel of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

* * *

Lone Star of David: The continuing swordplay in the Texas legislature over redistricting managed to get entangled this week with the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Democratic legislators, several of whom are Jewish, were up in arms over the plan of Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick to hold a legislative session to discuss the plan over the holiday, which started Sunday night and ended Monday night.

In the end, Craddick adjourned the session on Sunday before the holiday started — but not before the Houston Chronicle rapped him in an editorial for being “inconsiderate” of Jewish sensitivities.

“He can be called insensitive for having scheduled a session on Monday, but it didn’t happen,” said Craddick spokesman Bob Richter. He said the speaker had adjourned the session until Wednesday for three reasons: “One, because he didn’t have anything to vote on; two, because of Yom Kippur, out of respect, and three, because of a funeral for a member’s husband” that was to take place Tuesday.

That did not satisfy the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman. “They had plenty of heads up from the Jewish community and Jewish members, but they didn’t seem to care,” he said. “Excuse me for being cynical, but I think this is about their own political machinations, not about sensitivity to the Jewish community.”

* * *

Decking Dean: Republican Jewish activists are looking to make political hay out of what many see as Howard Dean’s Israel-related gaffes. In a September 19 e-mail bulletin, the Republican Jewish Coalition quoted a mid-September opinion column by former American Israel Public Affairs Committee executive director Morris J. Amitay, which looked to some observers as if the coalition might be rehearsing arguments to use against Dean, should he become the Democratic nominee, among donors and in ads.

“Should the Democrats select Dean as their standard bearer in ’04, and should George Bush maintain his clearly more positive position vis-à-vis Israel, the conclusion is inescapable that, for at least those Jewish Americans for whom Israel is important, voting for Dean will be a no-no,” the bulletin quoted Amitay as writing. “One could also hope that given Dean’s McGovern-like positions with regard to national security and the war on terrorism, he would share McGovern’s political fate at the polls back in 1972. But, for those in the pro-Israel community who may have had doubts as to where this Democrat from Vermont stood on our issues, he has already made this clear. And whether this is through ignorance or willfulness, we have been put on notice.”

The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, was coy about his group’s strategy. Dean is only one of the Democratic Party’s leaders who is “problematic” on Israel, he said, naming Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Senator Fritz Hollings of South Carolina, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia and the “43 Democrats who voted no or abstained” from a pro-Israel resolution last year. “Whomever the Democrats nominate will give voters a distinct contrast in visions on the Middle East,” he said.

A Republican operative said, however, that “any effort to attract the Jewish community will be to educate it positively on what the president is doing, rather than run a slash-and-burn campaign of criticizing Democrats.”

Dean national campaign chairman Steve Grossman, a former Aipac president, acknowledged to the Forward that some critical stories about Dean in recent weeks had caused pro-Israel Democrats to “ask questions,” but he insisted that the articles “have not had a measurable impact on support in the Jewish community,” which he called “tremendous.”

* * *

Hot Diggity Dog: The presidential campaign of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is adopting a canine mascot: Fenway Timbers, a yellow Labrador retriever owned by Joe 2004 staffer Ted Timbers.

In an e-mail message to supporters, the campaign wrote that the dog, who, of course, is named for Boston’s ball park, had agreed to serve as the campaign’s official mascot “despite Lieberman’s strong support for the Yankees.”

“Even though we disagree completely on baseball,” the campaign quotes Fenway as saying, “I respect Joe Lieberman’s integrity in refusing to pander to win my support and admire his loyalty, which as most people know is very important to Labs. I will stand — and sit — by his side all the way to the White House.”

The adoption of a canine mascot — complete with a request that supporters send the campaign’s Web site pictures of “Dogs for Joe” — could be seen as yet another instance of a campaign imitating the gold standard of online populist electioneering, Dean for America. The campaign of the former Vermont governor began posting pictures of “Dogs With Dean” months ago, naming Kasey, the terrier of campaign manager Joe Trippi, as “director of canine outreach.”

A Lieberman campaign source said, however, that “Dogs for Joe” was less artless imitation than teasing taunt. Fenway’s “quote,” the source said, was meant as “a playful dig at Dean’s odd switch of allegiance” from the Yankees to their archrivals, the Boston Red Sox.

Dean, a native New Yorker and erstwhile Yankees fan, fetched up at a Boston rally September 23 in a Red Sox cap, causing the campaign of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to take offense, according to The Boston Globe.

Dean’s campaign responded to the dig with its own good humor. “Fenway has a great reputation,” joked Dean spokesman Eric Schmeltzer. “We’re going to need strong canine support to take on President Bush and his dog. So, I’m sure Kasey will eventually consider him for deputy director of canine outreach with Dean for America.”

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