Stark Contrast for Jews Between Democratic, Republican Conventions

The National Jewish Democratic Coalition welcomed delegates to the Democratic National Convention at their mobile headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA13) stopped by NJDC’s mobile headquarters and explained why she supports Obama/Biden 2012.

PA State Representative Brian Sims.

Equality Pennsylvania’s President Adrian Shanker.

— by David A. Harris, President of NJDC

The Democratic and Republican conventions held over the last two weeks will continue to make it clear to the vast majority of Jewish voters that the Democratic Party is the one party that champions their values. If the stark contrast between the Democratic Party’s platform-which commits to expanding civil rights, pursuing social justice, and working toward peace and security for Israel-and the “antisocial, anti-science, anti-reason” Republican platform is not enough to remind Jews of the immense stakes ahead in this election, the sights and speeches of the two conventions certainly will.

The Republican Party kicked off its convention by allowing its speakers to trash the President, Vice President, and fellow Democrats-often with language and jokes ranging from corny to disrespectful-on a variety of domestic issues that put the policy gaps between the GOP and most Jews on full display. Pledges to repeal Obamacare, pursue anti-choice and anti-marriage equality policies, and to support dangerous cuts to essential social services advocated in the Romney-Ryan budget-like ending Medicare as we know it-were the standard talking points from the seemingly endless stream of negative and divisive speeches delivered from the podium. When the “severely conservative” Mitt Romney and GOP “young gun” Paul Ryan took the stage for their headlining speeches, they kept up with the flow established by the previous speakers and delivered mendacious (per repeated objective analyses) speeches full of policy positions out of step with most Jews. Romney even belittled the idea of healing the world – the very heart of tikkun olam.

But if the policy differences between most Jews and the GOP weren’t enough, Romney and his Republican Party allowed two very Israel-challenged individuals to play significant roles in the convention. Romney personally selected Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu to officially nominate him for president. And after NJDC and others sounded every alarm bell imaginable that anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was becoming a legitimate force within the GOP, the Republican Party honored him with a video tribute that completely ignored his dreadful foreign policy positions. The GOP then gave his son Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)-who shares many of the same extreme foreign and domestic positions-a prime speaking slot.

More after the jump.

The Democratic National Convention will be different. The Democratic Party has historically been the home of most American Jews-and the 2012 convention will help affirm this. One needs only to look to the records of President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to understand why the majority of Jews will pull the lever for Democrats this November.

President Obama and his party passed a historic health insurance reform bill that has expanded-and will continue to expand-access to affordable health insurance for millions of Americans. The Democratic Party has fought against Republican obstruction to protect women’s rights, whether on matters of choice, contraception, domestic violence protections, or equal pay. The President has led on advancing equal rights for all by voicing support for marriage equality and working to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

President Obama has been Israel’s most important advocate on the international stage and has provided the Jewish state with unprecedented amounts of security aid-including $275 million in supplemental aid for missile defense programs that protect Israeli cities like Sderot from terrorist rocket fire, and an overall total of more than twice as much funding for missile defense programs as the prior administration. He is leading the global coalition to responsibly sanction Iran over its pursuit of nuclear weapons. His leadership has resulted in the largest and most significant sanctions regimen in history to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. The President also ordered the raid that brought justice to Osama Bin Laden and firmly communicated to those seeking to harm America and its citizens that this President will not hesitate to use force to protect our country or its interests.

The multitude of policy positions and values shared by the Democratic Party and American Jews will be on full display in Charlotte, which simply cannot be said for the Republican convention. American Jews will listen when President Obama delivers his speech under the stadium lights, and will hear a President who has worked hand-in-hand with the Jewish community in the pursuit of social justice and security for Israel. For many American Jews, the Democratic Convention will be their point of entry to the 2012 campaign-and what they see will remind them why they overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in 2008 and will do so again in 2012.

Reprinted courtesy of the Washington Jewish Week.

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.

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.

GOP Convention, Night Two: Repelling the American Jewish Vote

— by David Streeter

Despite all claims to the contrary, meeting on the second night of its shortened convention in Tampa, the GOP appeared tonight to be doing everything possible to drive away every last American Jewish voter who might be watching. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris noted:

Tonight, American Jews saw an over-the-top tribute to one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill — Rep. Ron Paul — with Republican official after Republican official, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), singing his praises. Then Jewish voters, whom the GOP claims to prize, got the privilege of hearing from his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who shares so many of his father’s policy positions albeit with less baggage. If they can stay tuned long enough, they’ll have the pleasure of seeing vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, whose social safety net-gutting budget was so widely scored in the Jewish community &jmdash; and who holds so many positions at odds with the values of so many American Jews.

If this is the Republican Party’s idea of Jewish outreach, I can only hope they keep trying.

Video of Rand Paul at the Republican National Convention follows the jump.

Republicans have a major Jewish problem

Originally published in Politico

In the last two weeks, the Republican Party has demonstrated that it is simply out of touch with the majority of American Jews. First, its standard bearer selected a running mate who has been criticized by the Jewish community for his plans to end Medicare as we know it and gut the social safety net. Then, its 2012 official party platform took policy stands that are the opposite of those held by most Jews. When you add on RNC Platform Chair Gov. Bob McDonnell mixing up former President Ronald Reagan with Rabbi Hillel — well, the GOP has proven that there isn’t much room in their tent for most Jews.

But if that weren’t enough proof of the wide chasm separating the Republican Party from most American Jews, two of their representatives emerged in recent days as poster children for why Jewish voters do not trust or support the GOP. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) made his outrageously offensive statements on rape — the policies of which are now enshrined in the GOP’s official platform. Akin then bucked party leadership — including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — to remain a candidate for the Missouri Senate seat. And, according to a news report broken by POLITICO, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and several of his colleagues took a less-than-kosher nighttime dip in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) during their Israel trip last summer — behavior that reportedly enraged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress.

As Americans begin to tune back in to politics in the coming weeks, they’re going to see a Republican Party that is more extreme than the one they last saw two and four years ago. To put it plainly, the GOP of 2012 will help reinforce why most American Jews will be backing President Obama.

Hardly Surprised by Tribute to Ron Paul at GOP Convention

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today expressed deep disappointment — but not surprise — at the announcement that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at the Republican National Convention. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is extremely disturbing for so many Americans — especially American Jews — to see that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at its convention next week, but it is not the least bit surprising. Throughout the campaign, every alarm bell possible has sounded signaling that Paul is a legitimate factor within the GOP — whether it was his strategic partnership with Mitt Romney, his delegates winning multiple state party conventions, his former spokesman receiving a senior position at the RNC, or the legions of followers who turned out the cheer him on during debates. As these alarms were sounding, Jewish Republicans and other pro-Israel Republicans utterly failed to counter Paul’s influence. Now they will be sitting respectfully — or perhaps even applauding — while their Party honors one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill.

Paying tribute to this man who disparaged the U.S.-Israel relationship on Iranian television and empathized with Iran’s nuclear weapons program — on top of the history of his hate-filled newsletters — is a national disgrace. Romney and the RNC should cancel the tribute and end this dangerous strategic partnership once and for all.

More after the jump.
TPM reported:

Ron Paul and his supporters will have a lot to look forward to at Mitt Romney’s Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign told reporters Friday. Paul will be the subject of a ‘short film’ played to the crowd in Tampa and the national TV audience Tuesday night.

‘Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul, while they certainly disagree on many issues … they’ve always had — if you watched part of the debates this year, you’ve have seen there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two of them,’ Romney strategist Russ Schriefer said. ‘And so Rep. Paul’s people came to us and said they’d like to do a short tribute to him, and we said absolutely, it would be a good time to do that.’

Schriefer noted that the next generation of the Paul Nation is getting a prominent role in Tampa as well. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is speaking at the podium Monday night. ‘We look forward to his speech,’ Schriefer said.

Israel Trip Showed Romney’s Not Ready

— by David A. Harris

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s trip overseas was designed to show that he is ready to be our nation’s commander in chief. It was supposed to show that he has the capability to steward key alliances and honorably represent our citizens.

By those measures, it was a complete failure.

More after the jump.
In addition to Romney insulting one of our closest allies by questioning British preparedness for the London Olympics, he boasted of the meeting he held with Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, even though one is not supposed to speak publicly of such meetings. Shouldn’t someone aspiring to be the Commander in Chief know when to keep his lips sealed – regardless of whether it involves intelligence or just being a gracious visitor?

But what was most extraordinary about Romney’s international visit was how irresponsible and reckless he was while discussing one of the most sensitive diplomatic issues of our time: the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

At first, Romney’s Israel excursion seemed harmless enough, mostly scheduled with photo-ops and events with high-dollar donors. In fact, Romney was almost never available to the travelling press and gave few public remarks. But what is truly remarkable though is just how damaging those few remarks were.

Romney displayed how woefully unequipped he is to be our Commander in Chief and seemed to not understand the diplomatic sensitivities and the potential costs to our national interests as he casually took a stance that was contrary to decades of U.S. Middle East policy, including under Democratic and Republican administrations.

By declaring that a Romney administration would ignore a precedent set by Republican leaders such as President George W. Bush and President Ronald Reagan, he introduced uncertainty into an already volatile region and may have pushed back the peace process before he had a chance to set foot in the Oval Office. And this is above and beyond the fact that he broke his promise which he made before he embarked on his international tour to not criticize President Obama on foreign soil.

And Romney did not stop there; he insulted Israelis and Palestinians alike, by saying that when it comes to the economic success – or failures – of those two peoples, “culture makes all the difference.” Not the free market, not international trade relationships, not education levels, not government investment, not geopolitical realities, and not ingenuity – economic wellbeing is a result of “culture.” These remarks were harshly condemned by Palestinians leadership and one Tel Aviv professor even said, “You can say it’s anti-Semitic. ‘Jews and money.'”

What’s most notable about Romney’s trip is that regardless of what happened abroad, he had already caused harm before leaving theUnited States. His reckless rhetoric about Russia, his bluster without details regarding Iran, and his pledge to “do the opposite” of one of the most pro-Israel presidents in history have all raised serious concerns among many in the Jewish community.

During the campaign season these missteps may be labeled as gaffes, but such leeway won’t be available to the President of the United States. The occupant of the most powerful seat in the world must pay attention to every word and action that he or she takes. A seemingly small misstep or cultural faux pas could damage key strategic alliances, seriously undermining America’s ability to pursue its national interest.

By showing that he was unable to visit three allies without serious diplomatic mistakes, Romney not only revealed how unsuited he is to be Commander in Chief, but his overseas performance would have disqualified him from being a first-year diplomat. And that is to say nothing of the many Republicans cringing over his foreign policy weaknesses.

President Obama has a proven record of strengthening America abroad and has not hesitated to use swift and powerful force when necessary. Our President has demonstrated that he understands when to be the ultimate diplomat and when to act unilaterally to protect our national interests throughout the world.

Romney’s international misadventures clarified in the minds of many Americans and American Jews who in this race is qualified to be Commander in Chief – and unfortunately for Romney, he displayed that it’s not him.

Originally published in The Times of Israel.

Israelis Thank Obama for Unprecedented Missile Defense Support

— by David A. Harris

Since President Barack Obama entered office back in 2009, the NJDC has been reporting the facts about his extensive pro-Israel record. But even with all of the praise from Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, what do average Israelis have to say about the President and his commitment to securing Israel — especially when it comes to missile defense programs like the Iron Dome?

Quotes follow the jump.
Sasson from Sderot — which faces daily rocket attacks from Hamas — said:

Sderot is important to him. The Jewish people are important to him. The State of Israel is important to him. .. Obama is sympathetic to our problems and he supports the protection of the citizens of Israel.

Chaim Yosef, another Sderot resident, said:

Before the Iron Dome I was afraid to fall asleep because every time the siren went off, I knew I had to run to safety. Now, with the Iron Dome existing, I am a lot less fearful.


Clearest Proof Yet Romney Doesn’t Reflect Jewish Community Values

— by David A. Harris

Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan to serve as his vice presidential candidate is the clearest indication yet that Romney does not reflect the values of most American Jews. Ryan’s signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class, and the poor-yet Romney today proudly hitched his horse to Ryan’s dangerous plan. This alarming partnership between Romney and Ryan will further reinforce the reasons why such a significant majority of American Jews will be voting to reelect President Barack Obama this November.

Israel Can’t Afford Reagan 2.0

Originally published in Haaretz

— by David A. Harris

During these perilous times, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. Mitt Romney’s admiration for the Reagan and Bush administrations, which consistently gave Israel slaps in the face, is a warning sign of his potential policies towards Israel if elected.    

We hear it from Republican candidates all the time – the pledge to be the next Ronald Reagan, to return to the conservative principles and policies of Republican presidents of the past.

More after the jump.
Mitt Romney is no different. His proposals look like carbon copies of Republicans’ greatest hits: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, weakened regulations that ensure public safety, an end to Medicare as we know it, and an embrace of the same failed ideas that undermined our middle class and left our economy in tatters.

Governor Romney says he’ll do all of this and more, and we should take him at his word. Yet, when it comes to Israel, is following the path of Republican predecessors really in the best interest of the Jewish state?

Given Romney’s admiration for former U.S. presidents Reagan and Bush, a look at their records reveal some clues to how Romney might approach the U.S.-Israel relationship. The results do not bode well for Israel.

Think back to the days of President Reagan. To protest Israeli actions of which he didn’t approve, Reagan suspended a U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation agreement – in what the conservative commentator William Safire has called “the most stinging slap in the face administered to any US ally in recent history.” The Reagan Administration sold sophisticated weaponry to Saudi Arabia – AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes – while blocking the delivery of F-16s to Israel. And it supported anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, while condemning Israel’s attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Time after time, Reagan publicly humiliated the United States’ best friend in the Middle East. Is Mitt Romney going to follow suit?

Now, think back to President George W. Bush. His administration allowed Israel’s qualitative military edge to erode and deteriorate, violating security agreements with Israel. It rescinded nearly $300 million in loan guarantees to our closest Middle East ally as punishment for construction activities in the West Bank. The Bush Administration endorsed Hamas’ participation in Palestinian elections over Israeli objections.

When Bush took office, Iran’s nuclear weapons program was virtually non-existent. By the time he left, Iran had thousands of centrifuges spinning and its power in the region was on the rise. Yet, when Israel requested bunker-busting bombs for potential use against the Iranian nuclear threat, Bush said no. Will Mitt Romney follow in his footsteps?

With this history, a pro-Israel voter would think Mitt Romney would want to “do the opposite” of these Republican presidents and not model his proposals after their actions. But instead, he claims he’ll reverse course from U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies, which leads to the question: why?

Obama has restored Israel’s qualitative military edge with record levels of aid and the deepest security cooperation in the history of our alliance. He has repeatedly defended Israel at the UN, vetoing anti-Israel resolutions, denouncing the Goldstone Report, and boycotting the anti-Semitic Durban conference. He has said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with any entity dedicated to its destruction and that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, from any threat.

To combat the rise of a nuclear Iran, the president imposed the most crippling sanctions regime in history – and the sanctions are biting. He secretly sold bunker-busting bombs to Israel to ensure it had the tools necessary to defend against the Iranian threat. He has stated that America will take no options off the table to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran – and, as we know, this president doesn’t bluff.

Elections are about choices, and this year is no different. In November, voters must choose between a candidate who seeks to follow the path of Reagan and Bush or a president who backs his words with actions and stands up for Israel’s security through thick and thin.

Many of Romney’s advisors were part of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman – among many others. Will they steer Romney in the same direction, such as rejecting Israel’s request for bunker-busting bombs for use against Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

During these perilous times, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. When it comes to Bush’s freezing of loan guarantees or Reagan’s blocking of arms sales to Israel, we can’t afford for the next president to follow in their footsteps.

ECI Supports Romney Not Israel

— by David A. Harris

The motivation behind the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel’s newest ad can be summed up by its last line’s inclusion of ‘President Mitt Romney.’ If their previous behavior — including one of their founders appearing at a Romney fundraising retreat — wasn’t enough to show that their focus is only about electing a Republican president, then their cover is certainly blown today. ECI is not concerned with supporting Israel or adhering to the long-standing norms of the pro-Israel community. The Emergency Committee for Israel is a fraud — plain and simple.

What’s more, ECI’s top leader William Kristol publicly said recently, ‘I’m happy to sit here and agree with President Obama to a considerable degree’ about Israel — further evidence of the cynicism of their campaign to elect a Republican. And when it comes to Jerusalem, the position they’re criticizing is one carried out of course by the Bush Administration, and administrations before it as well. Given their long history of lying, ECI’s ads should be rejected by networks and ignored by voters.