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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Democrats’

Frank Lautenberg, Senate’s Oldest Member, Dies at Age 89

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

World War II veteran and New Jersey Jewish Sen. Frank Lautenberg died Monday at the age of 89. His health had failed the past several months, and the Democratic senator has not been seen on the Senate floor for most of the year because of what his office said was “muscle weakness and fatigue.”

Republican Gov. Chris Christie will appoint a replacement until a special election this year, followed by another election in 2014, when Lautenberg’s six-year term of office expires.

Last week, the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus life honored Sen. Lautenberg for his contributions to the Jewish community and Israel. The celebration was broadcast to his home, where he was confined because of his illness, and his wife Bonnie accepted the organization’s Renaissance Award.

He was the son of poor but hard-working Russian and Polish immigrant parents in Paterson, New Jersey, and he succeeded in business and helped found the nation’s first payroll services company, Automatic Data Processing. He served in the Senate for 18 years, retired in 2000 and returned to the Senate in 2002.

Sen. Lautenberg was a strong liberal. He was pro-choice, supported gun control, introduced bills increasing penalties for carjacking and car theft, and criticized the Bush administration on national security issues.

He was vigorous in his opposition to the war in Iraq.

The senator was heavily involved in various anti-smoking and airline safety legislation and co-sponsored legislation to increase drunken driving penalties.

One of his best known bills that passed into law was the prohibition of smoking from most commercial airline flights.

He also authored the Ryan White Care Act, which provides services to AIDS patients.

Hiz Onner Ed Koch Dies at 88

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Ed Koch, the pugnacious former New York mayor whose political hechsher was eagerly sought by Republicans and Democrats alike, has died.

Koch, 88, died Friday morning, the New York Times reported. Koch, famous for greeting constituents with “How’m I doing,” presided over New York’s most difficult late 20th century years, from 1978-1989, and helped spur the recovery that would flourish under one of his successors, Rudy Giuliani.

Koch’s third term was mired by corruption scandals and burgeoning racial tensions and after losing his fourth bid for reelection in 1988, Koch retired into a happy existence as a Jewish yoda, blessing or cursing political penitents as he saw fit, and not always hewing to the prescripts of his Democratic Party.

Koch never met a solicitation for an opinion that he didn’t like.

He endorsed Giuliani, a Republican, in his successful 1992 bid to defeat David Dinkins, who had defeated Koch four years earlier, and went on to share — and sometimes take over — the stage at endorsements for other Republicans, including New York Gov. George Pataki, Sen. Al D’Amato and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He stumped hard for George W, Bush’s presidential reelection in 2004, and was not afraid to tell baffled Jewish Democrats why: Bush had Israel’s back, according to Koch.

Four years later, Republicans hoped to win a repeat endorsement for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), but Koch, alarmed at what he saw as Republican plans to degrade the social safety net he had championed as a congressman in the 1970s, instead threw in with Barack Obama.

He proceeded to become Obama’s biggest Jewish headache, lacerating the president with criticism for his perceived coolness to Israel.

“I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel,” he wrote on the Huffington Post in April 2010. “What makes these verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being orchestrated by President Obama.”

In 2011, Koch endorsed Bob Turner, a Republican contending what was seen as a safe Democratic seat in a special election, even though his opponent, David Weprin, was both Jewish and stridently pro-Israel.

Turner won and, message sent, Koch watched Obama retreat from criticism of Israel’s settlement policies — and did not hesitate to claim credit for the conversion.

“I believe the recent vote in the 9th Congressional District in New York affected in a positive way the policy of the U.S. on the Mideast,” Koch wrote supporters in an email after that election.

Koch turned away Republican pleas to re-up his attacks on Obama before the last election, and enjoyed telling friends that he had received no less a pleader than Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who made the president’s unseating his mission.

Koch instead enthusiastically endorsed Obama in a long video just before the election — an appearance Jewish Democrats credit with upping Obama’s Jewish numbers in Florida, a critical swing state.

Four Jewish Democrats in Top House Committee Slots

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) preserved his top slot on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, as did Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on the Energy Committee, after the caucus’ standing committee announced its selections on Tuesday.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) ascended to the top slot on the Appropriations Committee and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) is now the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Lowey replaced Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who is retiring, and Engel replaced Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who was defeated in the November election.

Berman is one of two Jewish Democrats relinquishing top committee spots; Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is retiring, leaves the top slot on the House Finance Committee to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

The Democratic leadership touted the preponderance of women and minorities in top slots on 22 committees, casting it against the all-white male Republican leadership in the House.

Alan Dershowitz: National Jewish Democratic Council Doesn’t Speak for Me on Adelson

Monday, July 9th, 2012

David Harris, the President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has asked Jewish Democrats to sign a petition demanding that Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Party stop taking campaign contributions from Sheldon Adelson, and return those already received. They claim his money is “tainted.” This absurd allegation comes from a highly questionable, if not totally discredited, source—namely a former employee who was fired and is suing Adelson. He claims that Adelson approved of prostitution in his Macau casinos. Harris has apparently credited this claim even though no evidence has been submitted to support it and no finding has been made by any court. Has he never heard of “due process” or the “presumption of innocence?”

I know Sheldon Adelson and I have worked with him on several matters relating to Israel and the Jewish community. I have spoken on behalf of the wonderful school he has built in Las Vegas. And have had the pleasure of teaching one of the brilliant graduates of that school. Adelson was deeply involved in the creation of the Birthright Israel Program, which has had extraordinary success in exposing young Jews to Israel. It’s hard to find anyone who has done as much for the Jewish community as Sheldon Adelson. Adelson grew up in Boston in near poverty and is a shining example of the American dream. He is a self-made multibillionaire who has contributed significantly to the world of modern technology and to the economic growth of Las Vegas and other areas. His generosity has helped repair the world.

I am a Democrat and do not agree with many of Adelson’s political views, but I think it’s outrageous for the National Jewish Democratic Council to level unfounded allegations against Adelson. They do not speak for me, and for the many other Jews who admire Adelson’s contributions to the world, to America, to Israel and to the Jewish community. I don’t know who Harris purports to speak for as President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, but his partisan gamesmanship is an embarrassment to many Jewish Democrats. The attack comes with particular ill grace from a Jewish organization, considering all that Adelson has done for Jewish causes, and considering the fact that there is nothing uniquely “Jewish” about the questionable allegations against him.

Moreover, the demand that Mitt Romney return Adelson’s contributions is absurd. If all candidates had to return the contributions of every businessman against whom questionable allegations were made in a vengeful lawsuit, millions of dollars would have to be returned by hundreds of candidates all around the country. Consider just one highly publicized example: the million dollars given by comedian Bill Maher to a super PAC supporting Barack Obama. I single out Maher, whose comedy I generally like, because he said that he “decided to become the Sheldon Adelson of the Obama campaign,” and because extremists on the right have similarly demanded that the Super PAC return Maher’s contribution, claiming it is tainted by his misogynistic rants against female Republicans such as Sarah Palin, against whom he has used vile, sexist language. This is how the Christian Science Monitor delicately characterized Maher’s remarks: “[H]e has said some very bad things about Sarah Palin and other Republican women. He’s started with “bimbo” and then moved on into derogatory gynecological references that are too obscene for us to repeat.”

I’m sure that if the Democrats were to apply David Harris’ “Adelson test” to all the contributions they have received from Hollywood moguls and other wealthy business people, they wouldn’t like the results.

So let extremists in both parties stop this nonsense about returning “tainted” contributions and focus on the real issues that separate the Democrats from the Republicans.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

J Street Endorses Senator Feinstein, Seeking to Access the Mainstream

Friday, June 1st, 2012

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein accepted the endorsement of J Street’s political action committee.

Feinstein (D-Calif.) joins Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) as Senate candidates who have received JStreetPAC’s endorsement for the 2012 election cycle.

“Senator Feinstein joins a long and growing list of American politicians who recognize that there is significant political support to be found from Americans who support Israel and deeply believe that American and Israeli interests would be better served through active American diplomacy to achieve two states,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement.

Feinstein, who is Jewish, has backed assistance for Israel, but in some areas she has departed from pro-Israel orthodoxy. She sponsored legislation in 2006 that would ban the sale of cluster bombs to countries that would use them in highly populated areas, which likely would have included Israel.

The legislation was defeated after a strong lobbying effort by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In 2010, Feinstein drafted a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she emphasized that “for too long,” Israel’s “expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermined confidence.”

J Street has tried to recover from a blitz in 2009 and 2010 by right-wing groups targeting politicians who associated with the group; a number of Jewish Democrats now distance themselves from J Street.

Endorsing Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat whose influence as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has helped shore up support for a tough posture on Iran, could regain some of that lost clout. However, J Street also endorsed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) in his losing 2010 reelection bid.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, five Jewish Democrats have accepted J Street’s endorsement: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Overall, in addition to the four Senate candidates, J Street is endorsing 47 House incumbents and eight House challengers.

Health Care Vote Could Mean Tough Prospects For Some Jewish Dems

Monday, March 29th, 2010

WASHINGTON – A window was shattered by a pellet gun in an apparent vandalism attack at her Tucson district office. Sarah Palin has put her on the list of Democratic lawmakers she is targeting this fall. Arizona Tea Party activists are pledging to help defeat her bid for re-election.

All this because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) voted for health care reform.

Giffords is one of a few Jewish Democrats political observers say could have a difficult re-election campaign because of her vote for the controversial Democratic-backed health care bill.

The bill passed Sunday would provide access to insurance for more than 30 million uninsured Americans, provide subsidies for those who cannot afford it, eliminate the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and require all Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax. Republicans have attacked the bill as too costly and portray it as government takeover of the health care industry.

While support for the health care bill represents a potential political liability if disaffection with the president runs high on Election Day, November is still far enough away that it’s not clear how much influence it will have.

The general mood of the country, which probably will depend on the state of the economy, will likely be the determining factor, said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. If the mood is sour, he said, voters “are going to evaluate health care in that light.”

Two-term congresswoman Giffords is in a more vulnerable spot than most. She hasn’t been in office long, and her district is not solidly Democratic. John McCain won it in the 2008 presidential election, with 52 percent of the district vote.

Helping those who cannot afford health insurance, rather than focusing on re-election, was Gifford’s paramount concern in deciding which way to vote, her spokesman said.

“The congresswoman is convinced it was the right thing to do, and good for the country,” said her communications director, C.J. Karamargin.

Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who has been particularly outspoken on health care issues, is another potentially vulnerable Jewish Democrat. Grayson has called the U.S. health care system a “holocaust” – making him a darling of the left but a target of the right.

Grayson unseated a four-term Republican in 2008 to win the 8th congressional district in Florida, which includes part of Orlando. While President Obama carried the district in 2008, George W. Bush carried it in the prior two presidential races.

National Jewish Democratic Council CEO Ira Forman acknowledged that votes in favor of health care reform could be problematic for Jewish Democrats like Giffords and Grayson, but he is “doubtful it will be the determinative vote” for an incumbent’s prospects of survival this fall.

Victory on a historic reform of health care “is much better for Democrats in general” than a defeat, Forman said. However, the larger issues of the economy and the unemployment rate are likely to be greater factors for vulnerable Democrats come election time, he said.

The only Jewish Democrat to vote against the health care bill was New Jersey first-termer John Adler, who is also likely to face a tough battle in November. Hailing from a district in the Philadelphia suburbs, Adler will be facing off against former Philadelphia Eagles lineman John Runyan.

Adler said he did not back the legislation because it didn’t do enough to control costs and make health care affordable for his constituents. He also reportedly had encountered strong opposition to the bill at meetings throughout his district.

Obama carried Adler’s district by five points in 2008, but Bush eked out a slight win in 2004. Before Adler, the district’s congressional seat was held by a Republican for 16 years.

Adler’s vote will make it easier for him to argue that he is “not a rubber stamp” for the president, said Rothenberg.

The executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Matt Brooks, agreed that the health care bill is likely to be a big issue in the 2010 election. The RJC has called for repealing the bill.

More upsetting than the bill itself, Brooks said, is that, “with an exploding debt and deficit, the president is focusing not on jobs but on health care.”

Meanwhile, at least one Jewish Republican challenger is hoping that his opposition to the health care reform legislation will help him knock off a Democratic incumbent. Randy Altschuler, a contender for the GOP nomination in New York’s 1st congressional district, which includes much of Suffolk County on Long Island, said he backs repealing the health care legislation and replacing it with a different type of reform because the “spending, tax increases, and heavy government intervention” outweigh its “marginal benefits.”

Altschuler first must win a tough primary race against Chris Cox, Richard Nixon’s grandson, before being able to square off against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

“That’s a race where these kinds of issues are going to resonate,” Brooks said of the brouhaha over health care. (JTA)

Poll: Jewish Democrats Still In Love With Obama

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

WASHINGTON – A new poll shows that 92 percent of Jewish Democrats approve of President Obama’s job performance.

The survey, based on calls July 22-24 to 500 self-identified Jewish Democrats, was commissioned by the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative lobbying organization. It was conducted by Global Marketing Research Services and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Along with the nearly unanimous approval of Obama’s efforts, the poll found that 58 percent of the respondents said he was “doing a good job of promoting peace in the Middle East” compared to 16 percent who disagreed.

Asked whether the president was being “too tough on Israel,” just 18 percent said yes and 55 percent said no.

The survey suggests that despite the Obama administration’s repeated calls for an Israeli settlement freeze, support for the president among American Jews remains high.

But the Traditional Values Coalition and the husband-wife team of political consultants Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have cited several of the survey’s other findings in arguing that the results point to a potential rift between the president and Jewish supporters.

“Support among Jewish Americans is a mile wide, but when specific issues about Israel’s defense are raised it is about halved and looks ‘an inch deep,’ ” the coalition’s founder and chairman, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, said in a statement titled “TVC Poll Finds American Jews Conflicted Over Israel and Obama.”

Sheldon, as well as Morris and McGann in a column for the New York Post, noted that only 20 percent of respondents agreed with what the survey defined as Obama’s view that “if Israel could settle its dispute with the Palestinian refugees and give them a nation of their own, that the Arabs would live in peace with Israel.”

Fifty-two percent opted for the view that “the Arabs will never live in peace with Israel and that giving them a nation of their own will just make them stronger.”

Similarly, they pointed to a question in which Obama is described as saying it is “very important that Israel not expand its settlements on the West Bank so as not to alienate the Palestinians” and told that “Israel says it should be allowed to build new homes in existing settlements but not to start new ones.”

Respondents again chose the option not associated with Obama, this time by a 52-37 percent margin.

In both cases, Obama supporters say the survey oversimplified the president’s position.

“Based on the phraseology of the questions, they are misrepresenting the position of the Israeli government and the Obama administration,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

“Whenever anyone shows me a poll from any interested party, from one side or another, I have questions about the veracity of that poll,” he said.

Sheldon also pointed to the issue of Iran.

Asked whether there is “any real chance that Iran could be stopped from developing a bomb without an Israeli attack,” 38 percent said yes and 25 percent said no – 38 percent were unsure. Still, 62 percent said they opposed an Israeli bombing strike against Iran to stop the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons, with only 15 percent in favor.

About 40 percent of respondents said they thought the president “would support Israel if it attacked Iran,” while 45 percent said they weren’t sure.

The question that showed perhaps the most disagreement with Obama also was hypothetical: “If President Obama told Israel not to attack Iran but offered no real assurance that he could stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, would you support or oppose Obama’s decision?”

Just 26 percent backed Obama’s decision in that scenario, while 40 percent opposed it and 34 percent were “not sure.”

In his statement, Sheldon said the poll was done “to better understand attitudes in the American Jewish community as the threat to Israel increases and radical Islam rises throughout the world.”

(JTA)

Poll: Jewish Democrats Still In Love With Obama

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009


WASHINGTON – A new poll shows that 92 percent of Jewish Democrats approve of President Obama’s job performance.


The survey, based on calls July 22-24 to 500 self-identified Jewish Democrats, was commissioned by the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative lobbying organization. It was conducted by Global Marketing Research Services and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.


Along with the nearly unanimous approval of Obama’s efforts, the poll found that 58 percent of the respondents said he was “doing a good job of promoting peace in the Middle East” compared to 16 percent who disagreed.


Asked whether the president was being “too tough on Israel,” just 18 percent said yes and 55 percent said no.


The survey suggests that despite the Obama administration’s repeated calls for an Israeli settlement freeze, support for the president among American Jews remains high.


But the Traditional Values Coalition and the husband-wife team of political consultants Dick Morris and Eileen McGann have cited several of the survey’s other findings in arguing that the results point to a potential rift between the president and Jewish supporters.


“Support among Jewish Americans is a mile wide, but when specific issues about Israel’s defense are raised it is about halved and looks ‘an inch deep,’ ” the coalition’s founder and chairman, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, said in a statement titled “TVC Poll Finds American Jews Conflicted Over Israel and Obama.”


Sheldon, as well as Morris and McGann in a column for the New York Post, noted that only 20 percent of respondents agreed with what the survey defined as Obama’s view that “if Israel could settle its dispute with the Palestinian refugees and give them a nation of their own, that the Arabs would live in peace with Israel.”


Fifty-two percent opted for the view that “the Arabs will never live in peace with Israel and that giving them a nation of their own will just make them stronger.”


Similarly, they pointed to a question in which Obama is described as saying it is “very important that Israel not expand its settlements on the West Bank so as not to alienate the Palestinians” and told that “Israel says it should be allowed to build new homes in existing settlements but not to start new ones.”


Respondents again chose the option not associated with Obama, this time by a 52-37 percent margin.


In both cases, Obama supporters say the survey oversimplified the president’s position.


“Based on the phraseology of the questions, they are misrepresenting the position of the Israeli government and the Obama administration,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.


“Whenever anyone shows me a poll from any interested party, from one side or another, I have questions about the veracity of that poll,” he said.


Sheldon also pointed to the issue of Iran.


Asked whether there is “any real chance that Iran could be stopped from developing a bomb without an Israeli attack,” 38 percent said yes and 25 percent said no – 38 percent were unsure. Still, 62 percent said they opposed an Israeli bombing strike against Iran to stop the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons, with only 15 percent in favor.


About 40 percent of respondents said they thought the president “would support Israel if it attacked Iran,” while 45 percent said they weren’t sure.


The question that showed perhaps the most disagreement with Obama also was hypothetical: “If President Obama told Israel not to attack Iran but offered no real assurance that he could stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, would you support or oppose Obama’s decision?”


Just 26 percent backed Obama’s decision in that scenario, while 40 percent opposed it and 34 percent were “not sure.”


In his statement, Sheldon said the poll was done “to better understand attitudes in the American Jewish community as the threat to Israel increases and radical Islam rises throughout the world.”

(JTA)

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