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October 2, 2008

The Shamelessness of the Republican Jewish Coalition

Listed in: Israel, Other Domestic Policy, Other Foreign Policy, GOP Hypocrisies, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in The Huffington Post

By Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC)

The 2008 presidential campaign will be remembered as a year in which the McCain campaign and its GOP supporters reached new depths of cynicism when attacking the candidacies of Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Yet in this year of sleazy campaign tactics, (see the McCain's campaign claim that Senator Obama wants to teach sex education to kindergarteners) the Republican Jewish Coalitions (RJC) ads in Jewish newspapers stand out for their hypocrisy and the blatant disregard for truth.

The latest in their series of mud-slinging attack ads highlights five so-called "advisors" to Obama and points out their dubious associations. The first problem with this ad is that it mischaracterizes the attitudes of some of these individuals. Many of us may disagree with Robert Malley or David Bonior on certain policy matters, but to call them "anti-Israel Arab supporters" is over the top, hurtful and shameful. The second problem with this ad is that the majority of these people are not policy advisors to Obama and none of these five individuals have anything to do with advising Obama on Israel-related matters. RJC will not print who actually advises Obama on the U.S.-Israel relationship because they all have impeccable pro-Israel credentials.

That's the essence of the RJC campaign against Obama-- guilt by association. For at least forty years, the pro-Israel community has had objective standards to judge whether candidates for President are supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Those standards were to, first and most importantly, examine the candidate's voting record on issues like foreign aid, arm sales to hostile Arab states and attitudes towards issues like Hamas' support for terrorism. By this first standard Obama's four year record in the U.S. Senate and as well as his record in the Illinois Senate have been outstanding. The second means by which we judge candidates is to examine the candidates' public statements over the years. Here again, going back to Obama's first years in politics in the mid 1990s one can only find statements that are supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Guilt by association is a seriously flawed method of determining a candidate's policy views toward Israel. There are literally thousands of friends or supporters of each candidate. It is not difficult for opposition research to comb through these associations and come up with someone who is less than "kosher" on almost any issue-- it is like shooting ducks in a barrel. That is why the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) does not use guilt by association against Senator John McCain in our ads or other educational tools.

However, if the RJC insists on this standard to judge Obama then they should apply the same standard to the GOP standard bearers. For example, the RJC claims Zbigniew Brzezinski is an advisor to Obama. How do they explain McCain's comments the last time he ran for President that on foreign policy one of "the best minds I know" and someone he would consult with is Zbigniew Brzezinski?

Moreover, how do they explain McCain's statement to Israeli press that he would send "the smartest guy I know" to the Middle East, "Brent Scowcroft, or Jim Baker, though I know that you in Israel don't like Baker"? Or how do they defend the selection as national finance co-chairman, Fred Malek? The same Fred Malek who was tasked by then President Richard Nixon to dig up all the Jews in the Bureau of Labor Statistics so they could then be fired. Or what do they say when it is pointed out that McCain's Chief Economic Advisor, Carly Fiorina, was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard when the company was surreptitiously working to circumvent the prohibition of selling certain technology to Iran?

We could, of course, go on and on with our questions for the Republican Jewish mouthpieces both about McCain's advisors as well as Governor Sarah Palin's associations. That is how guilt by association works. It is a flawed method of analysis because you can always find people "associated" with the candidate or campaign that you disagree with. So with this type of standard any candidate can be shown to be anti-Israel.

In 1954 Senator Joe McCarthy was finally brought down in the public's eye when Counsel to the Army, Joseph Welch asked the following questions to McCarthy in a nationally televised congressional hearing: "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

As the RJC plumbs the depths of the political sewer with their anti-Obama smear campaign perhaps we can ask of them the same questions.