**Elliott Abrams **
This year, following the departures of Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith from the Pentagon, and that of Scooter Libby from the White House, Elliott Abrams became the senior neoconservative policy voice in the Bush administration. And, in his new role as deputy national security adviser, Abrams, 58, has achieved the impossible: bridging the gap between the State Department and the White House. A son-in-law of neoconservative patriarch Norman Podhoretz, Abrams served in the Reagan administration and was convicted (and later pardoned) in the Iran-Contra scandal. He joined the Bush administration as Middle East director at the National Security Council under then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. When Rice moved to State, he became number two at the NSC but maintained close ties to his old boss. He accompanied her on a Middle East swing during last summer’s Lebanon war, advocating a hands-off U.S. approach that let Israel pursue military operations at its own pace. State Department officials urged an American brokered cease-fire, but Rice followed Abrams’s lead. At a time when Washington is rethinking neoconservatism, Abrams has held his own – and, more important, cemented his role as a key player in Middle East policy-making.
From his post as executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks orchestrated an aggressive, hard-knuckled media campaign this season to convince voters and political donors that the Democratic Party could no longer be counted on to stand by Israel. It was an uphill battle, but Brooks, 40, has gotten used to running uphill since he took over the coalition in 1990. He’s had modest success in moving Jewish votes to the GOP, and even less success assembling a body of senior Jewish Republican office-holders. What he has shown is a prodigious ability to raise money and a skill at mobilizing top GOP officials, Jewish and non-Jewish, to speak directly to the Jewish community. Most of all, he’s helped drive the discourse in the Jewish community media, energized Republican Jewish donors and lay leaders to speak out and created an atmosphere of parity between the two parties in a community that still votes 4-to-1 Democratic. His organization’s provocative ads – starting with one declaring thtat Democratic voters had “silenced” the pro-Israel voice of Senator Joseph Lieberman – sent Democrats scrambling to shore up their support in the Jewish community. In a year that looks Democratic from every other viewpoint, that is some achievement.
As the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman has been among her party’s most hawkish members. At the same time, she is one of the sharpest critics of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War. Now, as post-election jockeying begins, the six-term legislator is certain to grab more headlines fighting to keep her post as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. For months, Washington insiders have suspected that the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, intends to rotate Harman off the committee, just as the Democrats prepare to take control. Harman has made it equally clear that she intends to stay, launching an unabashed lobbying campaign that has played out in the media and included pleas from prominent donors. A graduate of Harvard Law School, wife of hi-fi pioneer Sidney Harman and a former deputy secretary in the Carter administration, the 61-year-old Southern Californian is a seasoned political fighter with an independent streak. A member of the Democrats’ centrist Blue Dog Coalition, she voted to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq, but has since drawn the administration’s ire by repeatedly denouncing the war’s execution as a “failed strategy.” Her liberal detractors, reportedly including Pelosi, say she has not been critical enough, particularly of the GOP’s program of domestic wiretaps.
In just six years, Joseph Lieberman went from making history as the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee to being dumped by primary voters enraged by his support for the Iraq War and his sharp jabs at its critics. In defeat, however, Connecticut’s junior senator found redemption, handily winning the general election with strong support from Republicans and independents – and more than a few Democrats. That’s no small achievement in an era of extreme partisanship. During the primary, Lieberman, 68, was on the defensive, desperate to prove his Democratic bona fides. Running as an independent, he seemed comfortable in his centrist skin. Even in 2000, at the apogee of his career as a Democrat, Lieberman’s hawkish foreign-policy views and religion-infused rhetoric drew the suspicion of liberal activists, including many of his fellow Jews. But however strained his party ties, Lieberman is in his element reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans on such issues as global warming and aid to faith-based charities. While Lieberman has promised to caucus with the Democrats, many predict that he’ll be charting his own course. With the Senate closely divided, that could give this path-breaking Jewish politician more clout than ever.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Newly re-elected to a second term in the House of Representatives after running unopposed, Debbie Wasserman Schultz continues to be a Democratic rising star. A good-government liberal from south Florida, the 40-year-old lawmaker burst onto the national scene as a forceful opponent of congressional intervention during the 2005 Terri Schiavo controversy. She’s since won growing esteem from senior colleagues: Last winter, she was tapped to testify at the Senate hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, and, with her selection as senior whip, became the only freshman representative to join the House Democratic leadership team. Wasserman Schultz played a key role in the Democrats’ campaign to retake the House this fall as co-chair of the Red to Blue program, which provided financial and technical help to three-dozen of its most competitive challengers. A mother of three who represents one of the nation’s most heavily Jewish districts – stretching northward from Miami to Hollywood – Wasserman Schultz is unabashed about her heritage. For her swearing-in ceremony in January 2005, she insisted on using a Hebrew Bible instead of the standard Christian one. This year she sponsored a measure, passed by both chambers of Congress, setting in motion an official Jewish American History Month.