New Website: The Jewish Voter Test

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, The Jewish Voter Test, asking Jewish voters if they agree or disagree with basic questions underlying some of the most pressing domestic and foreign policy issues of our time.

“Every Jewish voter faces a clear choice between two candidates with almost polar opposite stances on so many issues that are vitally important to our community,” said David A. Harris, President and CEO of NJDC. “This new website will offer American Jews a fun, easy and factual test to see where they really stand on the political spectrum.”

The quiz leads participants through the following “yes” and “no” questions:

More after the jump.

  1. Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children should be allowed to earn a path to citizenship if they join the military or go to college.
  2. As the Buffett Rule suggests, legislation should bar America’s wealthiest from paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than those in the middle class.
  3. Laws regarding abortion should be based on the concept that life begins at conception.
    Insurance companies should be required to cover the cost of contraceptives.
  4. Same-sex marriage should be illegal.
    Healthcare in this country should reflect the values of the Affordable Care Act, which expands access to healthcare regardless of income or pre-existing conditions, as well as allowing those under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan.
  5. Medicare should be completely overhauled and privatized.
  6. Federal legislation, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, is necessary to provide women with more legal pathways in the fight for equal pay.
  7. America and Israel should have an unbreakable bond, and the unprecedented level of security cooperation between our two countries should continue.
  8. To prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, there must be very strong sanctions, and no options — including military action — should be taken off the table.

You can visit the website here:

Anti-Choice Extremism Will Repel Jews

TPM: American Bridge, the Democratic super PAC, is targeting Mitt Romney online with one of the harshest ‘war on women’-themed spots of the cycle.”

— by Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Mitt Romney has staked out an aggressively anti-choice stance from the beginning of his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. To this day his website says that ‘he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,’ pledges to end federal funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a burdensome policy that undermines the efforts of international organizations to promote safe and effective family planning programs.

He has also gone further, proposing a fiscal plan that would completely eliminate Title X – the only federal program dedicated exclusively to family planning – taking a harder line stance than many other pro-life advocates.

But that’s not Romney’s only extremist position when it comes to a woman’s right to make medical decisions about her own body. Last year, when Mitt Romney was asked by Mike Huckabee on FOX News whether, while governor of Massachusetts, he would have ‘supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life as conception’ Romney replied, ‘absolutely.’ And it’s hard to forget earlier this year, when he referred to morning-after pills as ‘abortive pills’ and referred to the president’s health care provision providing free contraception as a ‘violation of conscience’ at a rally in Colorado.

Perhaps Gov. Romney’s most egregious attempt to appeal to anti-choice voters was his selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Congressman Ryan proudly cosponsored the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ which only made exceptions for federally funded abortions in the case of “forcible rape,” excluding victims of ‘non-forcible rape’ such as those who are victims of statutory rape, those who are raped while drugged, or those who have a limited mental capacity. Rape is rape, there are no valid distinctions. Congressman Ryan also cosponsored the ‘Sanctity of Human Life Act’ – also known as a ‘Personhood Amendment’ – which would define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, effectively outlawing abortion, many types of birth control, and procedures like IVF that help couples trying to conceive.

When it comes to a woman’s right to choose, the Romney-Ryan ticket is about as extreme as it gets….

According to the 2012 Jewish Values Survey by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 95 percent of Jewish Democrats support abortion rights in all or most cases, along with 77 percent of Jewish Republicans. We need a leader who we know we can trust to protect a woman’s right to make her own decision, not Mitt Romney, who would take that right away….

Abortion is a sensitive topic to discuss and one on which not everyone agrees. Nonetheless, the Jewish community seems to speak in virtually one voice on the issue of choice – it is a fundamental and important right that must not be taken away…. For this pro-choice Jewish mother of three, the choice is clear – President Barack Obama will stand up for the rights of women of my generation, and that of my daughters.

Complete article can be read at Haaretz

Mitt Said He Would Shut Down FEMA

Exchange from CNN’s June GOP Primary Debate

CNN Moderator John King: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

Governor Mitt Romney: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

King: Including disaster relief, though?

Romney: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Follow up

Yesterday, after a storm relief event campaign rally in Ohio, Mitt Romney refused to answer questions about how he would handle the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to the Romney pool report,

TV pool asked Romney at least five times whether he would eliminate FEMA as president/what he would do with FEMA. He ignored the q[uestions]s but they are audible on cam[era]. The music stopped at points and the q[uestions]s would have been audible to him.

New Website Shows Romney’s Iran Ties

— by David A. Harris

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, titled Mitt Romney and Iran, showing the troublesome economic ties Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to Iran. While Romney tries to talk tough on Iran, he allowed his personal investments and Massachusetts’s pension fund to directly benefit from business with Iran.

Jewish voters deserve to know the numerous financial ties Mitt Romney has with Iran. Governor Romney often talks a good game when speaking about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but when he had the opportunity to act-both as governor and with his personal investment-he came up far short. Former Congressman Mel Levine summed it up best:

If Romney has seemingly gotten away with this … in the name of gaining even more personal wealth, imagine what he would do as president when he actually has the responsibility to make tough decisions to stop Iran.

You can visit Mitt Romney and Iran by clicking here

Background after the jump.
The website Mitt Romney and Iran details Mitt Romney’s personal investments and the various ties many of his investments have with Iran. Such companies include China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Gazprom, and BNP Paribas. The website also covers various companies involved with Iran that the Massachusetts pension fund was invested in during the time Romney served as governor of the state. These companies include the AXA Group and Barclays.  

Sorting out Israel post-debate

President Obama and Mitt Romney competed during their last debate to trumpet their support for Israel. What could Bob Schieffer say?
Most Americans no doubt spend little time thinking about Israel. Not that they have anything against it, but its fate is not high on their priority lists.

Yet Israel figured prominently into the Oct. 22 foreign policy debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Obama broached it first, saying, “If Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.”

Romney did him one better: “If Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily.”

How do you top that?

As I watched C-Span the next morning, a caller questioned why we must focus on a country 5,600 miles eastward when we neglect our own nation’s ills. Prior to the debate, a group of church leaders asked Congress to reassess military aid on grounds that Israel commits human rights abuses. On Oct. 23, 70 rockets fired from Gaza injured some foreign workers and damaged homes in southern Israel.

So Israel has emerged as somewhat of a campaign issue. Much of it stems from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s vast donations to Romney, who pledged to keep the issue alive. Obama mentioned the word “Israel” 16 times; Romney, 13 times; and moderator Bob Schieffer, three times, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

A fraction of American Jews despise Obama because they believe he is an instrument of the Arabs, while a greater number of Jews have questioned some of his words and actions. When Israel confronts a crisis, many Americans fear oil prices will skyrocket and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will drag us into World War 111.

To set the record straight, 75 percent of Jews vote Democratic or for Republicans perceived as moderates. Obama’s Jewish support might dip somewhat on Nov. 6, but not dramatically. American Jews, while strongly pro-Israel, are as concerned as other citizens about jobs, health care and misguided wars. Many wealthy Jews vote for Democrats, which means that higher taxes do not worry them.

Some Jews will probably switch their votes to Romney because of Obama’s inconsistent approach to Israel. Jews who are hardcore conservatives or at least hawkish on Israel probably account for 20 percent of Jews here, as an educated guess.

When Vice President Biden visited Israel two years ago, he charged that Israel put “trust” at risk when the interior minister announced the construction of new residences in East Jerusalem.

My view is that Biden overreacted. The community in question is an established ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. Also, Biden would been justified to respond this way if the construction was planned for the West Bank, but even more moderate Jews question why Palestinians should share Jerusalem.…

U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley of Nevada criticized Obama for suggesting that Israel and the Palestinians return to the 1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps. According to The Forward, she said, “I thought he made the statement at the absolute wrong time, because all the Arabs heard was going back to 1967 borders, not one of them heard the swaps.”

Jewish members of Congress, almost all Democrats, met with the president several months ago to convey Jewish concerns about Obama’s shaky relations with Israel. Jonathan Tobin, a rightwing columnist who previously edited The Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, noted recently that Obama has demonstrated much stronger support for Israel during the latter part of his term. He sounded disappointed.

During the final debate, Obama recounted his efforts to help Israel and Romney accused him of throwing Israel “under the bus.” Besides appealing to Jewish voters, they both likely sought to hold onto Jewish donors and Romney reminded evangelical Christians of his support for Israel.

There is plenty of room to criticize the Israeli government, but Arab transgressions are far worse. This statement by itself is almost simplistic without further explanation, but that would fill up several more columns.

Support for Israel is slightly softer among Democrats, but well-intentioned Republicans worsened conditions in the last decade. A segment of Democrats, including members of Congress, equate Israel’s existence with colonization. Republican members of Congress sound very resolute and articulate when they assess Middle East issues.

Yet President Bush’s invasion of Iraq eliminated a counterweight to Iran when we conquered Saddam Hussein’s army. It left a void filled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to destroy Israel with a nuclear device.

Conversely, sanctions have severely damaged Iran’s economy, and the ayatollahs have reportedly agreed to talks with the United States, while Ahmadinejad must leave office next June. They could end up choosing between their designs on Israel and saving their economy.

So, a Republican president supplied Iran with the bus, and a Democratic president helped slow it down. Who has ended up to be better for Israel?  

Bruce S. Ticker of Philadelphia is author of the e-book “George Costanza Goes to Washington” which describes fault lines in the political system. It is available at TheWriteDeal. Ticker can be reached at [email protected]

Gov. Rendell on Romney’s Desperate Play for Pennsylvania

— by Former Governor Ed Rendell

Let me make myself clear: President Obama will win Pennsylvania, and Mitt Romney’s attempt to make a play for this state is more of a sign of desperation on his part than anything else. This is part of the old Republican playbook. They tried a last ditch attempt to expand the electoral base in 2008 when they were losing Ohio, Iowa, Florida and other traditional battleground states. Mitt Romney ignored Pennsylvania over the course of the last two years, and didn’t ask Pennsylvanians for their vote. A week of advertising won’t change that.

Romney Still Won’t Answer Elie Wiesel

— by Steve Sheffey

Something is not right about a candidate for President of the United States ignoring a request from Elie Wiesel.

It’s now been more than eight months since Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel asked Mitt Romney to “speak to his own church and say they should stop” performing posthumous proxy baptisms on Jews, including Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2012 that Wiesel, who has devoted his life to fighting intolerance, said that the posthumous baptisms were “not only objectionable” but “scandalous.” Said Wiesel:

“I wonder if as a candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney is aware of what his church is doing. I hope that if he hears about this that he will speak up.”

But as I wrote in April, Romney didn’t speak up. In an email accidentally sent to the Huffington Post reporter, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request. And so they have, for eight months.

Even after the Boston Globe reported on February 29, 2012 that members of the Mormon Church posthumously baptized Daniel Pearl, the reporter killed by Islamic terrorists whose last words were an affirmation of his Judaism, Romney said nothing in response to Wiesel’s request.

More after the jump.
The issue is not whether Romney is responsible for this Mormon practice, nor is the issue Romney’s religion. The issue is Romney’s insensitivity to other religious beliefs and concerns, as evidenced by his disrespect for Elie Wiesel, one of the leading moral voices of our time.

Romney can say Wiesel is right about the Mormon Church. Romney can say Wiesel is wrong about the Mormon Church. Romney can say it’s none of Wiesel’s business about the Mormon Church. Instead, Romney says nothing.

Elie Wiesel finds the practice objectionable and scandalous. It’s easy to see why. Some may think that these Mormons aren’t hurting anyone because they are baptizing dead people, but for many people, posthumous baptism is offensive for the same reason spitting on a grave is offensive.

The Boston Globe explained that

“Mormons baptize deceased Jews and members of other religions as part of a rite intended to give them access to salvation… In 1995, the church, after meeting with Jewish leaders, agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims. Current church policy encourages church members to baptize their ancestors, but does not explicitly forbid the baptism of deceased Jews and people of other faiths.”

Why won’t Romney answer Elie Wiesel’s questions about where he stands on this practice?

John F. Kennedy addressed concerns about his allegiance to the Pope. Joseph Lieberman addressed concerns about whether his Sabbath observance would interfere with his duties as Vice President.  Jack Lew addressed questions about whether his religious beliefs would interfere with his duties as President Obama’s chief of staff. Yet when called upon by one of the leading moral authorities of our generation, Mitt Romney says nothing.

Romney is running for president. He is answerable not just to Elie Wiesel, but to the American people. Did Romney himself ever participate in posthumous baptisms of Jews or anyone else? Does Romney understand why many Jews find this practice so offensive and if so, what is Romney’s position on this practice?

As Sylvia Gurinsky wrote earlier this month,

“Throughout the campaign, Romney has had a bad habit of not being open about his past actions. His holding back of most of his tax returns is the most public example. It is imperative that Romney answer the proxy baptism question. He and his supporters have criticized President Barack Obama’s supposed disrespect of Israel. But how can Romney possibly respect Israel or the Jewish people if he can’t respect the history of either?”

Romney Pledged To Shift Foreign Aid Toward Private Sector

During his address to the Clinton Global Initiative, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed dramatic changes to the foreign aid budget-something which the pro-Israel community has repeatedly opposed because of the potential curbs on U.S. soft power and because of the potential negative long-term effects on U.S. aid to Israel. According to Foreign Policy:

Mitt Romney pledged Tuesday to shift foreign aid toward the private sector and deprioritize humanitarian aid in favor of promoting free enterprise and business development around the world.

In remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Romney laid out his most detailed proposals on foreign aid thus far, including his plan to move foreign aid to rely more on public-private partnerships that enlist American corporations to the cause of helping the developing world….

Romney then said he would lower the priority of foreign aid as a means to address humanitarian needs, such as health, as well as foreign aid as a means to promote U.S. strategic interests. (emphasis added) He said the foreign aid goal that will receive ‘more attention and a much higher priority’ if he is elected would be ‘aid that elevates people and brings about lasting change in communities and in nations.’

During the primary season, Romney joined with other Republican presidential candidates in recklessly calling for alterations to the foreign aid budget. As we wrote then, support for robust foreign aid packages has long been a key component of support for Israel. Perhaps Romney’s latest proposal to alter foreign aid is part of his pledge to “do the opposite” on Israel?

Previously, Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and Related Programs, argued that the “security imperatives” of preserving a robust foreign aid program are essential to America’s national security interests. Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ) also warned:

Cutting foreign aid will not right our struggling economy, but will ultimately cost us more in U.S. lives and taxpayer dollars. It will surely cause direct and substantial harm to America’s national security.

Further, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition-a foreign policy organization that includes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-strongly opposes cuts to America’s foreign assistance programs because of their potential to negatively impact American interests abroad.

What Mourdock’s Rape Comments Mean for Jews

— by Ann Lewis

“And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”— Richard Mourdock, U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana

For Jewish voters still thinking about their vote for President of the United States, these comments should sound a loud warning bell: Not because we disagree with Richard Mourdock’s views, or his right to express them — but because he wants to write his own theology into law, imposing his own opinion of God’s will over those who believe differently.

Disturbingly, Richard Murdock has company at the top of the Republican Party. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan explained that he also wants to outlaw women’s ability to make their own decisions – even in such tragic cases as rape or incest. Ryan said,

“I’m very proud of my pro-life record. I’ve always adopted the idea that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.”

And presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while announcing that he disagrees with Richard Murdock, has also said that he would be “delighted” to sign legislation that would ban all abortions and strip women of their right to control their bodies.

More after the jump.
And yet Republican partisans, especially those who tell us that they disagree with these positions, claim that attention to women’s health is a diversion — not a real issue. They liken women’s health to a “side show” — as if it were a carnival attraction.

Women’s health and well being is not a “special interest” or a “side issue” or even a “social issue!” The trauma of rape is not easily overlooked by the women who are victims. Serious people cannot consider rape as just one “method of conception!”

The ability of women and their families to be able to choose their own personal options is an essential part of women’s ability to live fully human lives. That means protecting our right to make our health care decisions, according to our own faith, — and yes, our own opinions about what is God’s will!

Richard Mourdock didn’t just reveal his own confusion between his personal beliefs and the role of lawmakers in a democracy — he also reminded us of the importance of the 2012 election.

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) wrote that the

“the next president likely will nominate one or more new Supreme Court justices… The next Senate will be tasked with confirming or rejecting the President’s Supreme Court nominees….”

The decisions that we make this year will determine our laws and how those laws are interpreted in the courts for years to come, impacting our children and our grandchildren in their own life choices.

For American Jews proud of our nation’s history of religious liberty, this approach to lawmaking is especially dangerous.

We have learned through experience to be wary of those who seek to legislate their own interpretations of religious authority.

Will we now allow one particular interpretation of “God’s will” to be written into law? Is this the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?  

Not if I can help it.

Ann Lewis was Communications Director for President Bill Clinton and a Senior Adviser to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. She is a member of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s Chairman’s Council. This editorial appeared in The Huffington Post.