Romney Affinity Group Led by Iran Sanctions Foes, Israel Critics

— by David Streeter

BuzzFeed reported that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is touting the support of Iran sanctions opponents as well as individuals with questionable Israel records. BuzzFeed reported:

[O]n the roster is George Salem, an advisor to global lobbying firm DLA Piper who has recently been involved in bitter infighting in Washington’s pro-Palestinian community, pushing for a more confrontational stance toward Israel….

Salem was at the heart of a dispute last year inside the organization, in which, according to an ally’s account, he pressed for the group to support the Palestinian pursuit of statehood before the United Nations, a move Israel feared and that the United States openly opposed….

Pro-Israel Democrats, however, complained to BuzzFeed Thursday that Romney was paying no political price for associating him with Israel critics at a time when Obama has been pounded constantly on alleged breaches of faith with the Jewish State.

‘I’m not saying all these individuals are anti-Israel, but if this were the other way around, that’s exactly how they’d be portrayed,’ said Democratic strategist Aaron Keyak, a veteran of the partisan Israel wars, of the list. ‘There would be a breaking [Republican Jewish Committee] release and a big bold headline on Drudge, Free Beacon, Weekly Standard, and Fox News: “Obama’s Anti-Israel Kitchen Cabinet.” Instead — silence.’…

‘There’s nothing wrong fundamentally with having an Arab-American group,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council. ‘But I’m sure the Obama folks would be pilloried if they put out any affinity group led by individuals who were deeply opposed in principle to Iran sanctions, for example,’ he said, referring to Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian and ally of Rep. Ron Paul who voted against the sanctions.

‘To say that there’s a double standard here is putting it mildly,’ Harris said.

Other pro-Israel activists were agitated but declined to be quoted criticizing Romney.

‘The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,’ said one official with a Jewish organization. ‘If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives — and rightly so.’

Salem’s role produced particular complaints, in part because of his role in connecting President George W. Bush with Arab American leaders who were later pushed well out of the political mainstream. Salem has served as a lawyer for the Holy Land Foundation, a group with ties to Hamas, which President Bush shut down in 2001, and has been the target of at-times intense intra-party criticism since then.

This BuzzFeed report is in addition to the well known relationship between Romney and Israel-challenged former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Sununu — who has a questionable record on Israel — is a top Romney campaign surrogate and was one of the individuals Romney chose to formally nominate him during the Republican National Convention.

JTA’s Ron Kampeas also reported on this story and noted:

Fun related fact: Amash’s opponent, Steve Pestka, is a conservative Jewish Democrat who says he is within striking distance of unseating Amash.

If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem: Both Parties Weaken Platform

GOP Weakens Israel Language in 2012 Party Platform

— by David A. Harris

Today we’re learning that the Republican Party removed strong language pertaining to Israel and Jerusalem from their party platform between 2008 and 2012, yet they have the temerity to point fingers at Democrats and President Barack Obama — the leader who has built a stellar pro-Israel record of accomplishment. Their hypocrisy is stunning, but not surprising.

In 2008, the GOP platform noted, ‘We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.’ In 2012, that language was gone. No reference to an undivided capital, no reference to America’s embassy — gone. Does this mean the Republican Party is suddenly anti-Israel? Of course not. But it does mean that GOP leaders pointing fingers are wildly hypocritical — given this change and others.

The original media report, according to Buzzfeed, appears below:

Republicans Also Dialed Back Platform’s Israel Language
The missing language: “Undivided” Jerusalem and an embassy move.
Democrats under fire for a similar move.

With Democrats trying to put out a fire around the party platform’s lack of specific language backing Israel that appeared in the 2008 version, a Democratic source points out that Republicans also toned down elements of their stance on Israel in the document.

A close ally of Mitt Romney, Jim Talent, beat back an attempt at the platform committee to remove a reference to the two-state solution last month.

There are also elements of the 2008 Republican platform absent from the 2012 version.

The key sentence present in 2008 and missing in 2012 is:

“We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.”

In both parties’ cases, the revisions don’t seem to reflect a dramatic policy shift, but rather attempts by party leadership to avoid foreign policy commitments in the non-binding political document.

Update
In the first order of business today at the Democratic National Convention, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland moved to amend the 2012 Democratic platform to add the sentence: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” A voice vote was called by DNC Chairman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The delegates approved by more than the required two-thirds majority, so the amendment was adopted.

Romney Perfects Endorsements


Candidate cannot leave well enough alone.

Romney was endorsed by the Arizona Republic on Friday, and he was quick to share the news with voters in Arizona, but in reproducing the endorsement he left out key sections critical of his immigration policy.

Similarly, last week he was endorsed by the Detroit News and left out the key paragraph highlighting Romney’s criticism of the auto bailout:

We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan – his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.

This manipulation of the endorsement was charactized by the Detroit News as a “distortion” of their words.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:

The auto czar who led the bailout, Steve Rattner, has a simple challenge to Mitt Romney’s claim that private investors could have rescued Detroit: find me one.

Rattner, writing in the New York Times, wrote on Friday that Romney’s contention that American automakers didn’t need federal loans to move them through a managed bankruptcy intact is ludicrous given that the only financiers big enough to step in were barely hanging on for dear lives themselves.


Last month, Buzzfeed reported that the Romney campaign was also editing transcripts of its own conference calls with the press to leave out pointed questions and less than stellar answers from its surrogates. In addition, the campaign edited an article on supporter John McCain to leave out a section on their past disagreements and left out concerns in a Des Moines Register endorsement over Romney’s history of changing positions on some issues.

When Mitt Romney Praised “Obamacare” And Individual Mandate

Mitt Romney at Emory University. Photo: John Bazemore/APHat tip to Buzzfeed for pointing out this March 2010 interview of Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) by The Emory Wheel:

Editor-in-Chief Asher Smith: Earlier today, President Obama remarked to NBC on the degree of similarity between his health-care reform policies and those that you passed in Massachusetts under your term as governor. How is the health-care reform legislation signed by Obama last week significantly different from the policies that you passed in Massachusetts?

Gov. Mitt Romney: Well, there are similarities. And some of the best features of his health-care plan are like ours – such as, we do not allow insurance companies to drop people who develop illnesses, our insurance is entirely portable, virtually all of our citizens are insured and there is an individual responsibility for getting insurance.

The big differences are that he raised taxes; we did not. He cut Medicare; we did not. He put in place price controls; we did not. And his is a federal program — a one-size-fits-all solution — and in our view — in my view, the best approach is a state-by-state creation of programs designed to fit the needs of citizens of each state.

Smith: Do you have any regrets now about signing Massachusetts’ version of health-care reform into law?

Romney: I am proud of what we accomplished. It was a step forward. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than what we had before.