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.

Surrogate John Sununu: Romney’s No-No In The Jewish Community

John H. Sununu, right, with Mitt Romney. — by David Streeter

The Forward‘s J.J. Goldberg wrote about the problems posed for leading Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by his use of former New Hampshire Governor and President George H.W. Bush’s Chief of Staff John Sununu as a major surrogate. Goldberg wrote:

In the end, of course, it’s presidents that make foreign policy. A Romney White House would reflect the personal convictions of Mitt Romney. Whatever those turn out to be.

This is what made primary night television coverage so unsettling: the reminders that we don’t really know what Romney believes, and he may have no intention of telling us until he’s inaugurated.

Of all those reminders, the most chilling was the appearance of former New Hampshire governor John Sununu as a Romney spokesman. For those with long memories, it harkened back to the 1988 election, when Sununu was Republican candidate George H.W. Bush’s national campaign manager.

…  Sununu was also the only one of the 50 governors who refused to sign a 1987 proclamation saluting the 90th anniversary of Zionism and calling on the United Nations to rescind its Zionism-racism resolution. His reasoning was that governors shouldn’t dabble in foreign affairs – though he’d issued proclamations honoring Bastille Day and saluting Polish freedom on Pulaski Day. In 1988 he issued a proclamation honoring the veterans of the U.S.S. Liberty, an American naval vessel mistakenly attacked by Israeli jets in June 1967, causing 34 deaths. Sununu called the attack ‘vicious and unprovoked.’

Bush’s Jewish supporters insisted Sununu’s views didn’t reflect Bush’s. When word came out that Sununu was to be White House chief of staff, they said he wouldn’t be involved in Middle East policy. They said Bush was a devoted friend of Israel. Then we found out he wasn’t.

We hadn’t seen much of Sununu lately, until Romney went and found him. Or they found each other.