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Billary Takes Manhattan; Not All Supporters Are Going Steady

When Senator Hillary Clinton addressed one-thousand supporters at a Manhattan fundraiser on Sunday night, her to-do list for America was long: provide universal health-care; increase America’s energy independence; expand head-start; make college affordable; boost science research; return fiscal responsibility to government, and restore America’s standing in the world.

Oh, and “change direction” on Iraq.

After continuing to tussle with Illinois Senator Barack Obama over the war this week, the Clinton camp seemed eager to take the focus off the Middle East and play to Hillary’s apparent strengths – her experience and visions for domestic policy.

After 9-11 “many of us were waiting for our president to summon us to something … and what we were asked to do was go shopping,” the New York lawmaker said at the beginning of her address. “We are still waiting to be asked to play a part in making America all it should be in the 21st century.”

Clinton got around to Iraq only after running through a long list of domestic initiatives, beginning with universal health-care (“I probably know better than anyone how difficult that is, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it,” she said.)

On the war, Clinton echoed her comments in The New York Times earlier this week that she supports leaving a small number of U.S. troops in Iraq, while being committed to ending the war itself.

“We never should have gone there … but we are there now and we’ve got to end the war in the right way,” Clinton said. “If [President Bush] doesn’t begin to extricate us from Iraq by the end of his term, as President, I will.”

While Clinton has dwelled on the dangers presented by a nuclear Iran in recent addresses to pro-Israel audiences, she barely mentioned Tehran in Sunday night’s speech. At one point, talking about the importance of energy efficiency, the senator quipped, “When I turn off the light, I say, ‘Take that, Iran,’ and ‘Take that, Venezuela.’” (Outside the hotel, roughly two dozen protesters, identifying themselves with the Socialist Workers and Code Pink, carried signs that said, “U.S. out of Middle East. No War on Iran.”)

Sunday’s fundraiser, held at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers just north of Times Square, was expected to take in more than $1 million, according to a spokeswoman for the Clinton campaign. New York’s Democratic delegation, led by Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Charlie Rangel, was on hand for the event, as was Clinton’s most famous supporter – former president Bill Clinton.

Introducing the senator with the promise “you will never find anybody who will do a better job than she would,” the former president dwelled on Hillary Clinton’s early legal career and work on behalf of children. He seemed to be clearly trying to emphasize that she had a long and distinguished career before ascending to elective office. (If Obama is aiming for the high-ground on Iraq, the Clintons seemed to be trying to seize it on experience.)

A number of well-known Jewish bigwigs were members of Clinton’s event committee, including Lanny Davis, Menachem Genack, Gail and Lonny Kaplan, Ron Perelman, Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Edgar Bronfman. (Geraldine Ferraro was also listed.)

One Jewish attendee, a New York businessman who did not wish to be named, told the Forward that he was “officially” supporting Clinton – but secretly had his heart set on Giuliani, who he praised as “very pro-Israel all the time” and “a very tough leader.”

Angela Dorn, an African-American lawyer who lives in New York City, said she has given donations to both Clinton and Obama and had not yet decided whom she would ultimately support.

“I’m just hoping that one excellent Democrat will be chosen,” Dorn told the Forward. “I feel like if either one of them wins, I win – I’m a black woman.”

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