By E.J. Kessler

Published May 16, 2003, issue of May 16, 2003.
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Much has been made of the barbs recently traded by former Vermont governor Howard Dean and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry over their respective postures toward the Iraq war, among other issues. Now a supporter of another presidential candidate, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, has decided to join the fray.

George Spitz, Kucinich’s chief supporter in New York, has been sending around an e-mail broadside attacking Dean. The gist of Spitz’s screed is that Dean’s criticisms of Rep. Richard Gephardt’s universal healthcare plan disqualify Dean as a good liberal.

“Dean has a lot of nerve trying before some audiences to do an imitation [Paul] Wellstone,” Spitz writes, referring to Dean’s trademark line: “I’m Howard Dean, and I come from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” Wellstone reportedly originated the quip.

Spitz’s e-mail also calls Dean’s opposition to the Iraq war “shaky” and accuses him of being a “Likudnik” for meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on a trip to Israel in November.

“Likudnik Dean’s attack from the right on Gephardt should once and for all dispel the notion that he is worth backing except, of course, against [President] Bush and perhaps against [Connecticut Senator Joseph] Lieberman,” Spitz writes.

Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi did not take Spitz’s taunts lying down. “The e-mail in question, sent by a supporter of another campaign, mischaracterizes Governor Dean’s record on multiple counts,” Trippi wrote in a statement to the Forward. “Governor Dean supports access to health care for all, and it is absurd to suggest that his reservations about Rep. Gephardt’s health-care plan come from the right. Rep. Gephardt’s plan to give hundreds of billions of dollars worth of subsidies to the nation’s largest corporations raises questions for many on the left, as well.”

Trippi calls Dean’s opposition to the war in Iraq “unwavering,” adding, “As to the suggestion that he is a ‘Likudnik’ — Governor Dean is an American and a Democrat. Governor Dean doesn’t believe it is appropriate to take sides between political parties in other countries.”

* * *

Retired General Wesley Clark, the CNN military analyst who is often mentioned as a “draft pick” presidential candidate for the Democrats, has steadfastly refused to respond to the clamor for him to jump into the race. That hasn’t stopped his fans, however, from organizing the embryo of a Clark campaign.

“These people are moving ahead at an amazing rate,” writes one Clark admirer who has been monitoring the movement to draft Clark on a Yahoo! message board. “They’re buying Web advertising in New Hampshire; they are forming state committees; they even have office space in Florida. It’s a pretty remarkable thing to watch. The only thing holding them back at this point is… Clark.”

* * *

Middle Eastern fans of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be able to buy the British or American edition of the former first lady’s forthcoming memoir, “Living History,” in Israel, according to Clinton’s Simon & Schuster publicist, Victoria Meyer. The book has not been translated into the local languages yet, however. “We have not sold the Arabic and Hebrew rights yet,” Meyers told the Forward. “Everybody’s interested, but they want to read [the manuscript] first.” German and French editions will be available in Europe for the book’s June 9 launch, since publishers there bought the manuscript sight unseen.

* * *

In campaign staff news, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s press secretary has been tapped to become press secretary for Howard Dean’s New York campaign operation. Eric Schmeltzer will assume his new post June 2, according to Ethan Geto, the New York state director of Dean’s campaign. Geto told the Forward that Schmeltzer also will have political and field outreach and organizing duties as part of his portfolio. Helping Schmeltzer with press will be two other staffers from Geto’s public affairs and lobbying firm, Geto & deMilly: Victoria Streitfeld, a former press secretary for the Federal Trade Commission and Senator Bill Bradley, and Elaine Bennett, a former speechwriter for Warren Buffett.

* * *

Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, already running hard for the Senate seat being vacated in 2004 by Democratic presidential aspirant Bob Graham, appears to be pushing hard to garner the Sunshine State’s Jewish vote. Foley, who has been sponsoring Holocaust survivor restitution legislation, spoke last week at the Israeli Embassy in Washington in honor of Israel’s 55th anniversary and has been shopping around an excerpt of the speech as an op-ed piece. In the speech, Foley manages to hit the GOP trifecta — linking himself to President Bush, standing with Israel and bashing France — all in the space of two sentences: “As President Bush has declared time and time again, those nations that harbor terrorists or seek to develop weapons of mass destruction against us are on notice that we are watching… and their time has run out. In that vein, Israel must be allowed, without restraint, to defend itself from threats it faces both domestically and from beyond its borders without interference from members of the international community that — for some like France — don’t have the courage to address global terrorism.”

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