GOP Uses Remarks to Court Jews
Moran's Comments Cited in New Appeal
By Thomas B. Edsall and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 13, 2003; Page A01
Republicans have seized
on the assertion of Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) that Jews are determining
American policy toward Iraq as a new weapon in the GOP's long-term effort
to attract traditionally Democratic Jewish voters and donors.
Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) told a group of more than 150 Orthodox
Jewish leaders from around the country yesterday that the Democratic Party
"appears to countenance remarks like those made by Representative Moran in
the past few weeks."
DeLay has been the driving force in the
Republican effort to capitalize on President Bush's strong support of Israel
and his leadership in the war on terrorism to weaken Democratic support and
financial backing from Jews.
"There are only a few key pillars
left holding up the Democratic coalition, especially financial pillars, and
if we can fracture one of them, they [Democrats] are going to go into 2004
in big trouble," a GOP strategist said.
In states such as Florida
and New York, Jewish voters are a large enough percentage of voters to play
a crucial role in election outcomes. In presidential elections, Democratic
candidates depend on Jewish supporters to supply as much as 60 percent of
the money raised from private sources. Any significant reduction in the
financial support will weaken Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party
While Bill Clinton was president, he received
strong support from Jewish voters, many of whom backed his efforts to negotiate
a peace settlement in the Middle East. But with the collapse of the peace
process and the outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the
GOP has sought to win support from more right-leaning Jews who no longer
view the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate negotiating partner.
DeLay yesterday in his meeting with representatives of the Union of Orthodox
Jewish Congregations of America was another key figure in the Republican
effort, Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.). Cantor said Moran's comments were "reminiscent
of the accusations contained in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a notorious
Czarist forgery that fomented pogroms against Jews in 19th-century Russia.
Cantor, the chief deputy whip and the only Jewish Republican
in the House, said in an interview, "Jews in this country may not be able
to afford to be Democrats. . . . One party [the GOP] is absolutely resolute
in its commitment to Israel."
The remarks by Cantor and DeLay drew sustained applause and a standing ovation from the Orthodox Jewish leaders.
many issues that are very important to the Jewish community, and especially
the Orthodox community that I represent, the Republicans are striking chords
that ring very true, and that's going to be reflected in future elections,"
said Harvey Blitz of New York, president of the Orthodox Union.
is evidence that Republicans are winning defections among some moderate
and liberal Jews, as well. Late last year, two prominent Jewish leaders
who strongly supported Democrats in the past -- Jack Rosen, chairman of the
American Jewish Congress, and Michael Sonnenfeldt, former chairman of the
moderate Israel Policy Forum -- gave $100,000 and $10,000, respectively,
to the Republican National Committee. Dawn Arnall of California, who has
donated primarily to Democrats, gave the RNC $1 million on Oct. 24, 2002.
Polling data are more ambiguous.
M. Cohen of the Hebrew University's Melton Centre for Jewish Education said
a survey he oversaw in late 2002 suggests that "American Jews may be poised
on the edge of a historic shift to the right in their political views. .
. . Younger Jews are far more willing than their elders to identify as Republicans
and to approve of President Bush, suggesting that the Democrats' advantage
among Jews will shrink during the coming decades."
surveys conduced by the American Jewish Committee dispute this finding, and
show very little shift away from either liberalism or the Democratic Party.
Rosen said that as long as the political agenda is dominated
by terrorism and threats to the survival of Israel, Republicans will have
a strong chance to make gains in the Jewish community. But if the agenda
returns to domestic issues, including abortion, prayer in school and minority
rights, Democratic strength among Jews will revive, he said.
a church forum in Reston earlier this month, Moran said, "if it were not
for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we
would not be doing this." His comments were more ammunition for the GOP's
contention that Democrats who oppose a war in Iraq are insufficiently concerned
about Israel's security.
For the past three days, Democrats have
put on a full-court press to try to limit the damage from Moran's comments,
with a parade of Democratic congressional leaders and presidential candidates
denouncing his comments.
Six Jewish Democrats in the House, including
Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.) and Sander M. Levin (Mich.),
yesterday called on Moran to retire in 2004, and if he runs again, "we cannot
and will not support his candidacy." They warned that Moran's "inflammatory"
comments "can unleash unintended and dangerous consequences."
Republican strategists, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war on terrorism
and the prospect of war with Iraq have been key to building an alliance with
Jews. In the main, Jews have been suspicious of the GOP's ties to the
religious right, have opposed the GOP's stand against abortion and have
criticized the Republican Party's willingness to weaken the separation of
church and state through such policies as Bush's "faith-based" initiative.
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, calls
the changed environment the "perfect storm" that could lead to a historic
DeLay has perhaps the strongest ties to the
Christian right of any Republican in the House. He has repeatedly stressed
his commitment to Israel, and helped foster a growing bond between American
Jewish leaders and evangelical Christians who support the Israeli cause.
path to security and stability lies down the road that Israel has already
traveled," DeLay told the Orthodox group yesterday. "The Israelis don't need
to change their course. They don't need to travel the path of weakness as
defined by the neo-appeasers."
DeLay's adamant backing of Israel
played a key role in a successful fundraiser he held last summer in Englewood,
N.J., at which Jewish donors gave his Americans for a Republican Majority
PAC about $100,000.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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