Sen. George McGovern, the Democratic Presidential candidate, greeted American Jews today on the occasion of the High Holy Days. “Mrs. McGovern joins me in wishing our Jewish friends and Jews around the world a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year,” the South Dakotan said.
“Traditionally,” McGovern’s message continued. “the High Holy Days has been a period for reflection and rededication. Jews have chosen the Days of Awe as a time for the individual to look at himself to examine how he can better fulfill his responsibilities to his Maker and his fellow man.
“Rosh Hashana symbolizes a reaffirmation of the values that have shaped the Jewish role within the world community. It marks a renewed commitment to the task of improving the world unto the Almighty. I join the Jewish community in the prayer that the New Year 5733 will bring a time of peace, Justice and brotherhood for all men.” McGovern’s message concluded.
John Burton, the chairman of the Democratic Party in California, apologized to those who took offense at his remarks comparing Republican statements to Nazi propaganda.
Following an uproar over the remarks, which were condemned by Democrats and Republicans, Burton issued a statement on Monday.
“To correct press reports of my recent comments about Republican lies, I did not call Republicans Nazis nor would I ever. In fact, I didn’t even use the word,” the statement said. “If Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republicans are insulted by my describing their campaign tactic as the big lie — I most humbly apologize to them or anyone who might have been offended by that comment.”
Speaking earlier in the day to a California radio station, Burton had said of Republicans in general and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan more specifically, “They lie, and they don’t care if people think they lie.” He also said, “As long as you lie, Joseph Goebbels, the big lie, you keep repeating it, you know.”
Goebbels was minister of propaganda for the Nazi Party and was a close associate of Adolf Hitler.
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, criticized Burton for his comments.
“John Burton ought to know better than to bring the Nazis and their victims into our current political debates, but apparently the offense such remarks cause to Holocaust survivors and their families are of less concern to him than the prospect of political gain.”
Also condemning Burton was Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, who said, “That obviously doesn’t represent the views of the campaign,” adding, “There’s no place for that in the political discourse.”
Late last year, U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) also had likened Democrats to Goebbels, noting, “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine.”
A host of Democrats condemned West’s remarks at the time.
The election season is heating up early, and the video warfare is already sizzling. The Republican Jewish Coalition has initiated a new campaign in ‘battleground states’ aimed at persuading lifelong Jewish Democrats dissatisfied with President Barack Obama to vote instead for Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, titled “My Buyer’s Remorse,” will be aired in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and is slated to begin in the coming weeks.
“For the past three years we’ve been hearing from people who were deeply disappointed and who wish they could have their vote back,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks told The Jewish Press. “It became self-evident to us that we should take those testimonials and share them with everyone.”
Brooks said the people featured in what he said will be a “significant number” of ads were found through the RJC local offices. The ad campaign uses testimonials from Jews who voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign and now express regret over that decision, citing what they see as his poor treatment of Israel, and his ineffective economic policies.
The first ad can be previewed on the RJC website. It features Michael Goldstein, a 40-something community college administrator and lifelong democrat from New Jersey who voted for Obama in 2008 because he “believed in what Obama stood for.” Goldstein became disillusioned when he started hearing and seeing things he did not like from Obama once the election was over. What kind of things?
“That speech about the ’67 borders,” Goldstein explained, “that really changed my mind.” Also very troublesome for Goldstein was the way the president treated the Israeli Prime Minister when Netanyahu visited the White House. “He’s not just the Prime Minister of Israel, he represents all of us, Jews, Israelis, people throughout the world who believe in the State of Israel.” Goldstein was turned off by what he says was Obama’s incredible disrespect towards Netanyahu.
In a motif the RJC clearly wants to emphasize throughout the remainder of the campaign, the ad hones in on the concern that Jewish American voter has about what will be different if President Obama is elected for a second term.
“I think in the second term we’ll see the real Barack Obama,” Goldstein says, as the video pans over Jerusalem, “when he has no voters to deal with, I think he will change the game when it comes to Israel. He’s going to put Israel in a position where they’re in danger.”
The RJC appears convinced that, despite the long and largely monogamous relationship between Jews and the Democratic party, there are certain strategic moves it can make that will be sufficient to have Jewish voters be the decisive factor in electing Mitt Romney.
Recent polls suggest that Jewish support for Obama has diminished, with him receiving 67 percent to Romney’s 25 percent – which would be the highest level of support for a republican candidate since George Bush received 35 percent of the vote in the 1988 contest against Democrat Michael Dukakis.
By following RJC polling calculations and concentrating on Jews in certain areas of three key states – Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, the RJC is banking on Jewish votes determining the outcome in those swing states.
Featured prominently in a New York Times story about the “My Buyer’s Remorse” campaign was the role allegedly played by casino magnate and staunchly pro-Israel Sheldon Adelson’s involvement. When asked about Adelson’s role in this effort, Brooks told The Jewish Press that while Adelson has been an active supporter and member of the RJC board for a number of years, the organization is the form of non-profit that does not have to – and does not – disclose confidential information about donors, so “any stories about Mr. Adelson’s involvement is purely conjecture.” What Brooks was willing to say is that “there is a large number of people involved in this effort.”
Whether or not Adelson was directly involved in this RJC campaign effort, he has been a strong presence in this year’s presidential campaign on behalf of the Republican party. In the Republican primaries earlier this year, he and his family donated $16.5 million to Newt Gingrich’s campaign, and when Romney came out the victor in the primaries, Adelson gave a $10 million donation to a Super PAC that supports Romney.
Sheldon Lisbon, currently city commissioner of Surfside, has filed to run as a democrat in House District 100. The new district hugs the coastline and takes in many of the beachfront condos, home to mostly retirees from the Northeast United States.
“This new district shares many common interests and I know I am best able to serve the citizens of House District 100,” said Lisbon.
Lisbon taught American government and economics in the D.C. public school system for 36 years. He and his wife also ran a small business in the Silver Spring, Maryland area. Since relocating to Florida in 1996, he has been active in many local associations, was president of his synagogue, and is currently a part-time teacher at three high schools in the area.
Lisbon plans to bring his small-business experience to Tallahassee to create more jobs, with special focus on targeted job training for our unemployed and underemployed. He also will dedicate himself full-time to fight for seniors who deserve high quality healthcare.
“It is time our community has someone who will speak up for the taxpayers instead of the lobbyists,” he said. “My pledge to the voters on August 14 is that I will work tirelessly for the residents of Florida, not the special interests in Tallahassee.”
The recent Obama-Netanyahu conclave has evoked much media speculation: Will Israel act unilaterally to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities? Does the Obama administration really have Israel’s back as the president indicated? And where is that “red line,” the point at which an attack must occur to prevent an Iran with “secure” nuclear weapons? Despite all the diplomatic bonhomie and announcements of solidarity, questions with uncomfortable implications remain.
U.S. officials made it clear that President Obama will not go beyond the broad policy enunciated in the past: that the United States is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy and sanctions and, as a last resort, force. Here too equivocation prevails. Secretary of Defense Panetta has indicated a reluctance to apply military force in this matter, and questioned the effectiveness of an Israeli strike, a position adopted by others in the administration.
By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated unequivocally that his primary responsibility as Israel’s political leader is to ensure that this Jewish state survives and remains the master of its own fate. But the U.S. holds many high cards in this poker hand. Several officials already suggested that should an unauthorized attack occur, the U.S. would not replenish the ordnance and advanced military technology Israel needs to maintain its superior military position in the Middle East.
These strains in the relationship may not seem apparent at the moment, but the difference in perspective will emerge on the political front in the next few months, if not sooner.
Even the U.N. – notably hostile to Israel – voiced concern that Tehran “might” be developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reiterated its concern that Tehran has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be weaponized.
The threat and the ominous effects of an air attack against Iran, however, is the pull and tug of sovereignty versus suzerainty. Is Israel an independent nation free of American influence? Does the president of the U.S. have a veto over Israeli military actions? Or is Israel free of outside influences, a state enjoined by what it believes to be its self interest?
At the moment, both sides hedge. Israel wants U.S. support, but if it launches an attack, the Prime Minister will provide only 24 hours of prior notice. The Obama administration seemingly fears an Israeli assault, particularly the blowback from across the Arab world, but it is obvious that the United States cannot prevent this decision from being made. This is not a test of wills, but rather a test of interests and strategic perspective.
On at least one matter, there appears to be consensus: containment, of the kind that seemingly worked during the Cold War, is not applicable in this scenario, albeit that may be the United States’ default position. But it is clear, even to the bureaucrats in Foggy Bottom, that an Iranian nuclear weapon has political as well as military consequences. U.S. interests across the Middle East would be imperiled by the Persian bomb. Moreover, it is also clear that a “Japanese solution,” in which Iran has enough fissionable material to produce several bombs and ICBM’s to deliver them but doesn’t bring the two together, is not acceptable. Presumably, with the right applications, the ICBM’s could be weaponized in relatively short order — and every nation in the Middle East will find out what is in that Iranian tent.
Clearly it is better to see Israel and the U.S. move closer on this strategic issue than they were previously, but there is a nagging feeling that President Obama will say whatever is necessary to forge ties to Jewish wealth and the Jewish Democratic voting bloc. Does he mean what he says? Based on past public commentary, the jury is skeptically out. The next months, however, could shape the future of global affairs for decades.