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Kerry Critique: The campaign of John Kerry is missing an opportunity to criticize President Bush’s lack of adroitness in selling Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan internationally, some Democrats are saying.

Others feel that Kerry should be attacking the president for immediately backtracking on his promises to Sharon.

In other words, hit him from the left, hit him from the right, but hit him.

“I thought Senator Kerry could come down harder on the Bush administration for the unilateral way it went about sealing the deal with Sharon,” said Will Marshall, the president of the centrist Progressive Policy Institute. “Leaving aside the merits of what the president endorsed, it seems to me the United States should have had parallel channels open to the Palestinians and should have done better preparing the Europeans.”

The administration, he said, “doesn’t take time to explain its next turn,” and then “has to go back and repair the damage, which could have been avoided by intelligent diplomacy…. The Kerry campaign missed an opportunity to connect the Bush-Sharon deal with this larger pattern.”

The institute, in its “New Democrat Daily” newsletter, accused Bush of “flip-flopping” on his promises to Sharon last week when the administration signed on to a statement by the so-called Middle East Quartet that made no mention of Bush’s promises, which were contained in a letter to Sharon. Democratic activist Adena Berkowitz, speaking at a National Jewish Democratic Council forum in Manhattan last Tuesday, called on Jewish Democrats to stress the idea that Bush “had agreed to gut” the Sharon letter by signing the Quartet statement.

The Kerry campaign, for its part, repeated its line that the president’s “disengagement” from the Arab-Israeli conflict constitutes his greatest weakness.

“The biggest inconsistency [in Bush’s diplomacy] is saying you care about Israel’s safety and security and doing very little in the way of movement to help restore that security, to end the violence,” Kerry’s senior adviser on Middle East and Jewish affairs, Jay Footlik, told the Forward. “This administration prefers to talk rather than to act. The president has any number of initiatives in regard to the conflict but never has shown a willingness to do what his predecessors have done: to put the full weight of his administration behind the initiatives.”

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Slaying Cynthia: The four candidates seeking to deny outspoken former Rep. Cynthia McKinney the chance to reclaim her old Georgia congressional seat will attend Aipac’s annual policy conference in Washington early next week.

Atlanta City Council President Cathy Woolard and Georgia State Senators Liane Levetan, Connie Stokes and Nadine Thomas all will be traveling to D.C. to make the scene at Aipac, aides told the Forward.

McKinney, who represented Georgia’s 4th congressional district for 10 years, was defeated in the 2002 Democratic primary by Judge Denise Majette, who won the general election that year and as a freshman congresswoman has declared her intention to run for the seat of retiring Senator Zell Miller. Now McKinney wants her seat back.

The current primary, scheduled for July 20, threatens to reprise some of the features of the contentious 2002 contest. To raise money for her 2002 bid, Majette capitalized on the fact that McKinney had fraught relations with Georgia’s Jewish community and had taken many positions that antagonized pro-Israel activists. McKinney, for her part, turned to Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in an effort to keep her seat. Now, the four other candidates are jostling for the support of pro-Israel activists who want to thwart a McKinney comeback to the seat, which comprises most of DeKalb County, a suburb of Atlanta.

McKinney’s press secretary, Richard Searcy, said the fact that the other candidates are seeking pro-Israel support “is not something that concerns or surprises us. Anyone running against McKinney can expect large sums of Jewish money and support.” But he insisted that McKinney would garner “some Jewish money and Jewish support” as she had for all her bids and said she is “not going to counter their Aipac money with Arab money to replay the Middle East in DeKalb County.”

“Cynthia McKinney has national and international support,” Searcy said. “We are not trying to get into that whole Aipac-Jewish argument this time around.” He added that Majette had defeated McKinney only because 47,000 Republicans had crossed over to vote against McKinney in the state’s open primary, but that such voters “can ill-afford” to do so this year given contested elections on the Republican side. Without such cross-over votes, his candidate will win, he said.

Stokes, Thomas and Woolard, like McKinney, are African American, which helps them in the heavily African-American district. Levetan, 68, a former chief executive of DeKalb County, is an Austrian-born Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Europe.

Levetan’s campaign is circulating a private poll taken in mid-April that shows her doing well in match-ups against McKinney, with 28% to McKinney’s 27%. Woolard garnered 13% in that poll and Thomas 5%. The polls showed that Levetan would beat McKinney 54% to 36% in a runoff.

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Slapping Sharpton: The head of a New York Jewish charitable agency is criticizing Kerry for offering the Rev. Al Sharpton a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention.

William Rapfogel, the executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, called Kerry’s invitation to Sharpton “a very disheartening message to send to people who are supportive of Democrats.”

“You’re talking about a guy who hasn’t followed FEC rules… who has a track record as a racial arsonist,” Rapfogel continued. “If he were an athlete, his league would try to discipline him. The DNC should not see itself as a higher authority than the NFL or the NBA.”

Sharpton spokesman Charles Halloran said, “If the reverend were an athlete, he’d be getting an award for most valuable assist” and called the rest of what Rapfogel said “spurious.”

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Kennedy Comment: The campaign of Rep. James Moran, the longtime Virginia congressman known for his sometimes-impolitic candor, is sloughing off the latest sally of Moran’s Democratic primary challenger, lawyer Andy Rosenberg.

Rosenberg’s campaign is spotlighting an inaccurate remark by Moran’s campaign chairman, Dan Steen, who announced recently at a Democratic gathering that Moran would be getting the endorsement of some Kennedys — either Senator Edward of Massachusetts or Rep. Patrick of Rhode Island (stories differ).

That was news to Rosenberg’s camp. Rosenberg once worked as an aide to the senator, as did his campaign manager, Rick Ally. They promptly got Kennedy aides to pooh-pooh the Steen comment.

The incident showed, ironically, what little traction Rosenberg has gained against Moran, who raised the ire of the Jewish community when, last year, he blamed it for dragging the nation into the Iraq war – remarks since recanted.

Moran’s campaign manager, Dan Lucas, acknowledged that Steen “got a little overenthused” at the gathering, but said, basically, he doesn’t care.

“It’s completely irrelevant if Ted Kennedy or Patrick Kennedy endorses,” he told the Forward, because Moran has the endorsements of the AFL-CIO, the teachers’ union, the humane society, NARAL, NOW and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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