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The Compelling Case For Re-Electing President Obama

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Compelling Case For Obama

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-sheffey

By Steve Sheffey

 

Israel should not be an issue in this election–President Obama and Romney both support Israel.  All administrations have ups and downs, but there have been fewer downs in this administration than in previous administrations, and many unprecedented successes.

 

Paul Ryan was wrong about President Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and he was wrong about Iran sanctions.

 

President Obama is the clear choice on the economic and social issues that most of us care about. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch observed in its must-read endorsement of President Obama, “If more Americans were paying attention, this election would not be close. Barack Obama would win going away, at least 53 to 47, perhaps even 99 to 1.”

 

Friends,

 

The Romney campaign is based on, as Joe Biden delicately put it, “malarkey.” Paul Ryan said at the debate that President Obama was in New York the same day as Prime Minister Netanyahu but went on a TV show instead of meeting him. The truth, according to Politfact, is that “the two leaders were not there on the same day: Obama was there Monday and Tuesday, and Netanyahu was there later in the week, on Thursday and Friday.” Ryan out and out lied. That’s the only way Romney-Ryan can win this election. Ryan also misrepresented President Obama’s position on Iran sanctions; more on that below. And by the way–Joe Biden was right to laugh, because the Romney-Ryan tax plan is an insulting joke on the American people.

 

For most of us, Israel is our threshold test. We won’t even consider voting for someone unless we are confident that he or she supports Israel. The good news is that both President Obama and Governor Romney support Israel. The bad news is that the Republican path to victory depends on denying that basic fact. So the first part of  today’s newsletter sets the record straight on Israel.

 

The Facts on Israel

 

The rest of this section is from my October 11, 2012 Times of Israel article, “Playing Politics With Israel.” I urge you to read it on-line because the links are there and because, well, it looks better on-line. Please click here.

 

Israel should not be an issue in the November election.  No one argues that President Obama’s record on Israel is perfect. But our legitimate concerns about Israel are being manipulated for partisan gain by those who attack Obama for policies that are no different from previous administrations.

 

The United States has never officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That’s why the US embassy is not in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires that the US embassy be moved to Jerusalem unless the President signs a waiver every six months preventing the move. Bill Clinton signed the waiver every six months. George W. Bush signed the waiver every six months. Barack Obama signed the waiver every six months. And unless the parties to the conflict reach an agreement on Jerusalem, the next president will continue to sign the waiver every six months. We’ve seen videos of State Department officials refusing to say that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. But we’ve never seen videos of State Department officials from prior administrations saying that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It’s been this way for over 60 years, and it will continue this way no matter who wins in November.

 

The United States has always objected to settlements. Settlements are not the root cause of the conflict. There were no settlements when the Arabs attacked Israel in 1948, nor were there any settlements prior to the Six Day War. The root cause of the conflict is Arab refusal to accept and recognize the permanent reality of a Jewish state of Israel. But every American administration since the Six Day War has opposed settlements because the more settlements there are, the more difficult it becomes to draw reasonable borders for a Palestinian state. The Bush administration publicly objected to construction even in Jerusalem, and George W. Bush publicly expressed frustration with Israel’s Prime Minister. The Bush roadmap for peace explicitly forbids “natural growth” of settlements. It’s not a new issue.

 

Even President Obama’s statement that “we believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states” was simply a restatement of George W. Bush’s declaration that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians “will require mutually agreed adjustments to the armistice lines of 1949 to reflect current realities and to ensure that the Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.”

 

The policies of this administration toward Israel that some question are continuations of American policy that will persist no matter who is president. But this is what sets the Obama administration apart from previous administrations: President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, secretly sold Israel the bunker-busting bombs it requested but did not receive during the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, took US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against a one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

 

Contrary to Paul Ryan’s claim during the vice-presidential debate, President Obama did not oppose Iran sanctions-the issue was executive prerogative, and the provisions President Obama requested actually gave the President more flexibility to impose tougher sanctions.

 

Yet we’ve all seen the videos–some of which feature attractive young people who claim to have voted for Obama in 2008 and are now shocked, SHOCKED that his election did not usher in an era of world peace and universal love and that the US and Israel disagree on certain issues.

 

The reality is that US policy toward Israel has remained remarkably consistent over the past 60 years. There have been ups and downs throughout the history of US-Israel relations, but there have been many fewer downs during this administration than in previous administrations. We don’t know what Romney will do if elected. While there are legitimate questions about his foreign policy expertise, chances are that a Romney administration would resemble a Bush administration on Israel, for better or for worse.

 

Israel is an election issue because Republicans need it to be an election issue: It’s their only hope for winning Jewish votes. The problem for Republicans is that while they are generally supportive of Israel, the Democrats are too. There are real differences between the parties and the candidates, but Israel is not one of them. Where the parties do differ, the Democratic party is much better on the social and economic issues that most Jews care about.

 

The Republicans have a choice: Admit that both parties support Israel and concede the Jewish vote on social and economic issues, or use Israel as a partisan wedge issue by denying the Democratic party’s strong record of support for Israel (you can read my reaction to the Democrats who booed Jerusalem here). Unfortunately for America and Israel, the Republicans have chosen to ignore Michael Oren’s warningabout turning Israel into a partisan issue.  Fortunately for America and Israel, the vast majority of Jews are smart enough to see through these divisive Republican tactics and will vote to re-elect President Obama.

 

The Facts on Social and Economic Issues

 

On October 7, the St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed President Obama. If you click on only one link in today’s newsletter, click on this one.  You should really read all of it, but at least read this:

 

Mr. Obama sees an America where the common good is as important as the individual good. That is the vision on which the nation was founded. It is the vision that has seen America through its darkest days and illuminated its best days. It is the vision that underlies the president’s greatest achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Twenty years from now, it will be hard to find anyone who remembers being opposed to Obamacare.

 

He continues to steer the nation through the most perilous economic challenges since the Great Depression. Those who complain that unemployment remains high, or that economic growth is too slow, either do not understand the scope of the catastrophe imposed upon the nation by Wall Street and its enablers, or they are lying about it.

 

To expect Barack Obama to have repaired, in four years, what took 30 years to undermine, is simply absurd. He might have gotten further had he not been saddled with an opposition party, funded by plutocrats, that sneers at the word compromise. But even if Mr. Obama had had Franklin Roosevelt’s majorities, the economy would still be in peril.

 

Extraordinary, perhaps existential, economic challenges lie just beyond Election Day. The nation’s $16 trillion debt must be addressed, but in ways that do not endanger the sick and elderly, or further erode the middle class or drive the poor deeper into penury.

 

The social Darwinist solutions put forward by Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are not worthy of this nation’s history, except that part of it known as the Gilded Age.

 

The Dispatch says this about Mitt Romney:

 

Mr. Romney apparently will say anything that will help him win an election. As a president, he might well govern as a pragmatic chief executive, or he might sell himself to the plutocrats and the crazies who have taken over his party. He is asking Americans to take a lot on faith – there’s nothing to see in his tax returns; he can cut taxes and whack away debt while trimming deductions he will not specify.

 

Mr. Romney’s business career is the only way to judge his foundational beliefs: He did not run a company that built things and created jobs and strong communities. He became fabulously wealthy by loading up companies with tax-deductible debt, taking millions out up front along with big management fees. Some companies were saved. Others went bankrupt. Mr. Romney’s firm always got out before the bills came due, either in lost jobs, bankruptcies or both.

 

If the nation’s most pressing issue is debt, why elect a president whose entire business career was based on loading up companies with debt?

In picking Mr. Ryan as his running mate, Mr. Romney signaled that he’s ready to perpetuate that model in public office. The middle class hasn’t had a raise in 20 years. Income inequality has reached record heights. Mr. Romney is the very embodiment of what’s gone wrong with the economy: Too many people at the top create vast wealth that they do not share, either by creating jobs or by paying fair tax rates.

 

If more Americans were paying attention, this election would not be close. Barack Obama would win going away, at least 53 to 47, perhaps even 99 to 1.

 

But the atmosphere has been polluted by lies, distortion, voter suppression and spending by desperate plutocrats who see the nation’s changing demographicsand fear that their time is almost up. They’ve had the help of a partisan Supreme Court.

 

The question for voters is actually very simple. The nation has wrestled with it since its founding: Will this be government for the many or the few?

 

Choose the many. Choose Barack Obama.

 

Read the entire editorial here.

 

Just for fun…your reward for getting through another newsletter. Bill Clinton’s take on the first Obama-Romney debate. Click here.

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Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at where Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney stand on a selection of issues, in brief:

ABORTION and BIRTH CONTROL:

Obama: Supports access to abortion. Health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.

Romney: Opposes access to abortion. Previously supported that. Says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. Said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

___

DEBT:

Obama: Promises to cut projected deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, a goal that will require Congress to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning over $250,000 a year, impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million, and more. First-term pledge to cut deficit he inherited by half will fall well-short.

Romney: Promises to cut $500 billion per year from the federal budget by 2016 to bring spending below 20 percent of the U.S. economy and to balance it by 2020, but vital specifics are lacking. At same time would increase military spending, reverse $716 billion in Medicare cuts and cut taxes. Favors constitutional balanced budget amendment.

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ECONOMY:

Obama: Term marked by high unemployment, a deep recession that began in previous administration and officially ended within six months and gradual recovery with persistently high jobless rates of over 8 percent, until the rate dropped to 7.8 in September, the same as it was in February 2009, Obama’s first full month in office. Businesses have added jobs for more than two years straight while public sector jobs have lagged. Responded to recession with a roughly $800 billion stimulus plan, expanded auto industry bailout begun under George W. Bush, inherited and carried forward Wall Street bailout.

Romney: Lower taxes, less regulation, balanced budget, more trade deals to spur growth. Replace jobless benefits with unemployment savings accounts. Proposes replacing certain provisions of the law toughening financial-industry regulations after the meltdown in that sector. Proposes changing the law tightening accounting corporate regulations to ease requirements for mid-sized companies.

___

EDUCATION:

Obama: Has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. “Race to the Top” competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies Obama supports. Won approval from Congress for a $10,000 college tax credit over four years and increases in Pell grants and other financial aid.

___

Romney: Supported the federal accountability standards of No Child Left Behind law. Has said the student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher evaluation standards of Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition “make sense” although the federal government should have less control of education. Says increases in federal student aid encourage tuition to go up, too. Wants to see private lenders return to the federal student loan program.

___

ENERGY and ENVIRONMENT:

Obama: Ordered temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but U.S. produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003 and all forms of energy production have increased under Obama. Achieved historic increases in fuel economy standards that will save money at the pump while raising the cost of new vehicles. Achieved first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. Spent heavily on green energy and has embraced nuclear power as a clean source. Failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits he promised on carbon emissions. Set goal of cutting oil imports by half by 2020.

Romney: Pledges U.S. will become independent of energy sources outside of North America by 2020, through more aggressive exploitation of domestic oil, gas, coal and other resources and quick approval of Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Supports opening Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. Says green power has yet to become viable and causes of climate change are unproved.

___

FOREIGN POLICY:

Obama: Opposes near-term military strike on Iran but holds that option open if it proves the only way to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Declined to repeat the Libya air power commitment for Syrian opposition, instead seeks international pressure against Syrian government. Chastised Israel for continuing to build housing settlements in disputed areas and pressed both sides to begin a new round of peace talks based on land borders established after 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Signed law to expand military and civilian cooperation with Israel. Sought penalties against China for unfair trade but opposes branding China a currency manipulator.

Romney: Appears to present a clearer U.S. military threat to Iran and has spoken in more permissive terms about Israel’s right to act against Iran’s nuclear facilities, without explicitly approving of such a step. Would identify those in Syrian opposition who share U.S. values, then work with U.S. allies to “ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat” Syrian government. But has not proposed direct U.S. arms supplies to rebels. Associates himself more closely with hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledges more military assistance to Israel. Branded Russia the “No. 1 geopolitical foe” of the U.S. and threatened to label China a currency manipulator in a move that could lead to broad trade sanctions.

___

GAY RIGHTS:

Obama: Supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. Opposed that recognition in 2008 presidential campaign and in 2004 Senate campaign, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. Achieved repeal of the military ban on openly gay members. Has not achieved repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. Administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.

Romney: Opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned with a constitutional amendment, not left to states. “Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state.” Also opposes civil unions “if they are identical to marriage other than by name,” but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. Says certain domestic partnership benefits — largely unspecified — as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but “others are not.” Says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.

___

GUNS:

Obama: Has not pushed for stricter gun laws as president. Signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. Favors “robust steps, within existing law” to address gun issues, White House says. Voices support for renewed ban on assault-type weapons but has not tried to get that done. Previously backed stronger gun controls.

Romney: Opposes stricter gun control laws. Suggested after the Colorado theater shooting that he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, vowed in 2002 to protect the state’s “tough gun laws,” and in 2004 signed a Massachusetts ban on assault weapons.

___

HEALTH CARE:

Obama: Achieved landmark overhaul putting U.S. on path to universal coverage now that Supreme Court has upheld the law’s mandate for almost everyone to obtain insurance. Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business gets help for offering insurance and Medicaid will expand.

Romney: Promises to work for repeal of the law modeled largely after his universal health care achievement in Massachusetts because he says states, not Washington, should drive policy on the uninsured. Says he would protect people with pre-existing conditions, though his plan only does so for those who maintain continuous coverage, not a major change from federal protections in effect before Obama’s health care overhaul. Would expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums as well as personal medical costs.

___

IMMIGRATION:

Obama: Issued directive in June that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. Took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. Says he is still committed to it. Government has deported a record number of illegal immigrants under Obama.

Romney: Favors U.S.-Mexico border fence, opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. Opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college, but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. Would establish a national immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire noncitizens who do not prove their authorized status. Would end visa caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants. Would honor work permits for immigrants who benefit from Obama’s new policy and promises to put a comprehensive immigration plan into place before those permits expire.

___

MEDICARE:

Obama: His health care law improves coverage for beneficiaries with high prescription costs and removes co-pays for a set of preventive benefits. It also cuts Medicare spending for hospitals and other providers by more than $700 billion over a decade. Those cuts are being used to provide health insurance to more working-age Americans, and the government also counts them as extending the life of the program’s giant trust fund. But he hasn’t ruled out increasing costs for middle-class and upper-income Medicare recipients or raising the eligibility age to 67 from 65.

Romney: Introduce “generous” but undetermined subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance or join a government plan modeled on traditional Medicare. Gradually increase eligibility age to 67. Repealing Obama’s health care law would roll back improved benefits for seniors unless Congress acts to protect them. It also would reverse Obama’s Medicare cuts to hospitals and other providers, which could hasten insolvency of Medicare’s trust fund.

___

SOCIAL SECURITY:

Obama: Has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s long-term financial problems. In 2011, proposed a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in Social Security benefits. The proposal would reduce the long-term financing shortfall by about 25 percent, according to the Social Security actuaries.

Romney: Protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years and reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

___

TAXES:

Obama: Wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and ensure they pay 30 percent of their income at minimum. Supports extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone making under $200,000, or $250,000 for couples. But in 2010, agreed to a two-year extension of the lower rates for all. Wants to let the top two tax rates go back up 3 to 4 percentage points to 39.6 percent and 36 percent, and raise rates on capital gains and dividends for the wealthy. Health care law provides for tax on highest-value health insurance plans. Together with Congress, built a first-term record of significant tax cuts, some temporary.

Romney: Keep Bush-era tax cuts for all incomes and drop all tax rates further, by 20 percent, bringing the top rate, for example, down to 28 percent from 35 percent and the lowest rate to 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Curtail deductions, credits and exemptions for the wealthiest. End Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals, eliminate capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Does not specify which tax breaks or programs he would curtail to help cover costs.

___

TERRORISM:

Obama: Approved the raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden, set policy that U.S. would no longer use harsh interrogation techniques, a practice that had essentially ended late in George W. Bush’s presidency. Largely carried forward Bush’s key anti-terrorism policies, including detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay despite promise to close the prison. Expanded use of unmanned drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

Romney: No constitutional rights for foreign terrorism suspects. In 2007, refused to rule out use of waterboarding to interrogate terrorist suspects. In 2011, his campaign said he does not consider waterboarding to be torture.

___

WAR:

Obama: Ended the Iraq war, increased U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan then began drawing down the force with a plan to have all out by the end of 2014. Approved U.S. air power in NATO-led campaign that helped Libyan opposition topple government. Major cuts coming in the size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of agreement with congressional Republicans to cut military spending over a decade.

Romney: Proposes increase in military spending. Endorses 2014 end to U.S. combat in Afghanistan, subject to conditions at the time. Would increase strength of armed forces, including number of troops and warships, adding almost $100 billion to the Pentagon budget in 2016. In addition, criticized congressional Republicans for negotiating a deficit-cutting deal with the White House that will mean automatic and massive cuts in Pentagon spending next year if federal budget deal is not reached in time.

___

Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed to this report.

 

A great post from Steve Sheffey’s Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

September 9, 2012 Leave a comment
A great post from
Steve Sheffey’s
Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

 

September 9, 2012

 

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What Really Happened at the Democratic Convention

 

Last week Republicans accused Democrats of doing what they did just the week before regarding Jerusalem. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats clarified their position by amending the platform, resulting in a statement on Israel that is stronger in several respects than the Republican platform.

 

The voice vote was messy, but far more problematic was the Republican tribute to Ron Paul, the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in decades, and the GOP decision to let Rand Paul, who supports cutting foreign aid to Israel, address their convention in person.

 

Rational pro-Israel voters should not base their 2012 votes on Jerusalem because both parties have the same position.

 

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was right about Michael Oren and the danger that Republican partisanship on Israel poses to the US-Israel relationship.

 

The slightly fewer number of US troops participating in upcoming joint exercises with Israel is not a “signal” of any sort; Israel knew about this when Israel requested that the exercises be moved from spring to fall.

 

Rabbi David Wolpe delivered the closing convocation at the convention on Wednesday.

 

Friends,

 

As many of you know, I was a delegate from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention last week. After Shabbat services yesterday, many people approached me during kiddush lunch with questions.  This newsletter will be longer than usual.  If these issues are important to you, I hope you’ll take the time to read to the end.

 

Ron Kampeas accurately summarizes what happened. Republicans attacked Democrats for not including certain language on Jerusalem and when Democrats added the language back, the voice vote did not go smoothly.

 

We first need to separate politics from policy. The Democrats kicked the ball into their own goal. This entire firestorm could have been avoided if someone had done what the Republicans did the minute they had a chance: compare the 2008 platform to the 2012 platform for emotional issues. We’ll talk below about the policy rationale for not including the Jerusalem language, but not initially including it created an unnecessary distraction.

 

The Democrats then scored another goal against themselves with the voice vote. We’ll talk below about why it went down the way it did,  but the optics were terrible. Should any of this matter to pro-Israel voters? That’s where policy comes in.

 

To understand the Democratic platform on Israel, one first has to understand the Republican platform on Israel. This election is a choice, not a referendum. I was not able to find a link to only the Israel part of the Republican platform, but here is a link to the entire Republican platform.

 

Scroll down past the part about how taxes reduce freedom, past the part about repealing the estate tax, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment restricting marriage to unions of one man and one woman, past the part supporting prayer in public schools, past the part supporting a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children, past the part opposing federal funding for embryonic  stem cell research, past the part about reining in the EPA, past the part about saving Medicare by “modernizing” it (I’m not making this up),  past the part about repealing Obamacare, and you’ll eventually get to a section titled “American Exceptionalism.”  The last two parts of that section talk about Israel.

 

Most Democrats would probably agree with the 2012 Republican platform on Israel. I certainly do. Everything in the Republican platform on Israel is fine, but in 2008, the Republicans also said this: “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.” Now that language is gone.

 

Does that mean that Republicans now think Jerusalem should be divided? Does that mean that Republicans now oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem? It does by the logic of those who are attacking the Democrats, but as Buzzfeed correctly observed, “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.”

 

Only a week before the Democratic Convention, the Republicans omitted key language on Jerusalem. As Bill Clinton said, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”

 

Now let’s look at the pre-amended Democratic platform. Once again, you’ll have to scroll down to get the Middle East section. The Democratic platform is very strong on Israel; in many ways, it describes how President Obama has already done what the Republicans say they want to do.  But it too is not the same as the 2008 platform.

 

The Democratic platform is stronger on Israel. For example, as JTAreports, the Democrats say this about Iran:

 

“At the same time, [Obama] has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options – including military force – remain on the table.”

 

Specifying military force explicitly is new — the Republicans fall back on the coy “all options” language, which is interesting because that elision has frustrated pro-Israel groups and Republicans and Democrats in Congress no end in the last year, and helped bring about more explicit warnings from the White House, culminating in the explicit mention of “military force” in the DNC platform.

 

Here’s the GOP 2012 language:

 

“We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the safety of our friends.”

 

But what about Jerusalem? As Josh Rogin reported, “the drafters [of the platform] made a deliberate and conscious decision to reframe the Israel section of the platform around Obama’s record, to limit the section to cover his existing policies, and to intentionally avoid any and all final-status issues.”  That might not be how to win US elections, but it does make sense.

 

Then why did the Democrats add the Jerusalem language to the platform on Wednesday? Politics. The only chance to amend the platform was during the convention. The language was irrelevant from a policy standpoint. The platform is not meant to be a checklist of every issue. But given that no policy change was intended, and given that Republicans had the brass to allege a policy change, the Democrats decided it would be easier just to add the language and remove all doubt. So, with President Obama’s approval, they added this: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

 

Note that this language too is stronger than the 2012 Republican platform, which omits the word “undivided.”

 

But what about other language that was not added? Republicans also complained that language about Hamas in the 2008 platform is not in the 2012 platform. Robert Wexler responded that the 2012 platform is stronger because it covers all Palestinian terror groups:  “The platform doesn’t say ‘Hamas,’ but it says that any potential Palestinian partner has to meet the conditions necessary for peace. That’s even stronger and of course it applies to Hamas.”  President Obama’s position is clear on the refugee issue and the armistice lines issue, both of which are final status issues that are not necessary to include in the platform.

 

The voice vote was blown out of proportion. I knew in advance that the platform would be amended at 5:00. Do you know where I was at 5:00? I was having dinner at Bentley’s with most of the Illinois delegation. It was a done deal. Many of the people there at 5:00 weren’t even delegates and had to get there early because they didn’t have reserved seats. When C-SPAN wasn’t zooming in on those two Arab-Americans, they showed the main floor, plainly revealing how few people were there. The Illinois section was virtually deserted.

 

Why the booing? Some delegates were upset because they had no notice of the amendments (they didn’t). Some delegates were upset because the “under God” language was also being added (it was). And yes, there probably were some people upset about the Jerusalem language, but it’s impossible to know how many of the nays and boos were actually from delegates. What we do know for certain is that Democratic leadership strongly backs the Jerusalem language. I was at an AIPAC lunch earlier in the day, and Senator after Senator, Congressperson after Congressperson, re-affirmed their support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And this being the Democratic Convention, all of them were Democrats.

 

Republican delegates exhibited anti-Israel sentiment only a week earlier. The voice vote at the Democratic convention was ambiguous, but you don’t have to guess what Republican delegates supported. Rep. Ron Paul is the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in either party for decades, maybe ever. YetRon Paul was honored at the Republican convention, no doubt to appease the Ron Paul delegates who were elected during the Republican primary. And Sen. Rand Paul, who is not quite as extreme as his father but who does favor cutting foreign aid to Israel, spoke at the Republican convention. Can you imagine the outcry if a Democrat who supported cutting foreign aid to Israel spoke in person at the Democratic convention?

 

Pro-Israel voters shouldn’t vote based on Jerusalem anyway. I was tempted to lead with this, but so many people want their questions answered first that I defied what might be good PR strategy and decided to actually answer the questions people are asking. But Aaron David Miller is 100% correct on this:

 

The Jerusalem issue defies logic and rationality when it comes to our presidential elections. Presidential candidates say all kinds of things in order to win elections, including repeated commitments to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And then, once in office, they turn around and seek ways to avoid doing it.

 

Despite all of the campaign rhetoric, no administration has changed the bottom line U.S. position on the embassy, or for that matter the status of Jerusalem, since 1967. Its fate is to be determined in negotiations.

 

And here’s a news flash for you. Should Mitt Romney become president and serious negotiations start between the Israelis and Palestinians, his position would conform to that of his predecessors, and might even go further to allow for Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem.

 

Read all of his article here.

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke accurately about Michael Oren. I was in the room when the DNC Chair said “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” I don’t know if the “reporter” stayed for all of what she said, but it was obvious to me, as it should have been obvious to anyone familiar with Oren’s warnings about using Israel for partisan gain, that she was right.

 

The confusing part is that following the reporting of Wasserman Schultz’s comments, Oren issued a statement stating that “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

 

Oren is right. But that’s not the point. In 2010, Oren “expressed deep concern over the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics. The Ambassador stressed that bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.”

 

Republicans have repeatedly attempted to use Israel as a partisan issue. Whatever Romney meant when he said he’d “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, there is no way to interpret his statement as anything but the opposite of bipartisanship. And if accusing President Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus” even as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called US military and intelligence support for Israel under President Obama unprecedented isn’t playing politics with Israel, I don’t know what is.

 

So while it’s true that Oren did not specifically call out Republicans, it’s also true that Republicans are engaging in exactly the behavior that Oren so rightly condemned. I was in the room. It was obvious that’s what Wasserman Schultz meant. And good for her for speaking up.

 

But what about the troop exercises? Someone asked me about this in shul too. Some have suggested that the US is sending Israel a signal because the number of US troops participating in an upcoming major joint military exercise with Israel is smaller than originally planned.  The reality is that the exercises were moved at the request of Israel from the spring to the fall. At that time the administration told Israel that if the date was changed, then due to troop rotations the number participating would be a bit smaller.  Time reported that only 1500 US troops would participate, but the actual number is about 3,000.

 

Just for fun…your reward for reading through a very long newsletter.Rabbi David Wolpe delivered the closing convocation at the Convention on Wednesday. Rabbi Wolpe is a great speaker and a great writer. He also has a healthy ego. In this video, Rabbi Wolpe mocks both himself and another Los Angeles celebrity rabbi, Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar, a very progressive outspoken activist rabbi (she keynoted our Schechter Torathan a few years ago).

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SCOTUS ALERT: The Affordable Care Act is Constitutional

June 28, 2012 1 comment

SCOTUS ALERT: The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is Constitutional

http://www.scribd.com/doc/98543773

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

FROM SCOTUSBLOG: Essentially, a majority of the Court has accepted the Administration’s backup argument that, as Roberts put it, “the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition — not owning health insurance — that triggers a tax — the required payment to IRS.” Actually, this was the Administration’s second backup argument: first argument was Commerce Clause, second was Necessary and Proper Clause, and third was as a tax. The third argument won.

The rejection of the Commerce Clause and Nec. and Proper Clause should be understood as a major blow to Congress’s authority to pass social welfare laws. Using the tax code — especially in the current political environment — to promote social welfare is going to be a very chancy proposition.

Interesting, at least to scholars, that while the mandate and its attached penalty are a tax for purposes of its constitutionality, but not for the Anti-Injunction Act. If it were a tax for AIA purposes, this case would not have been decided re the mandate.

For all of those who second-guessed the Solicitor General’s defense of ACA, it might be worth noting that the tax defense of the mandate was, indeed, an argument that the government lawyer did advance.