January 31, 2008
So Cal Jews’ primary colors are red and blue
(Page 3 - Previous Page)A decade and a half later, this debt has translated into trips across the country to promote Clinton among various Jewish communities and hosting discussions at her home between members of Los Angeles' Jewish community and Madeleine Albright, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo). (Bill Clinton is expected to make a trip out, too, Ziman said.)
"I've had to take a huge chunk of time to support Hillary, and I am happy to do that for two reasons: One is Israel and the other is children at risk," she said. "That is it. I honestly and truly to the depth of my being believe I can trust in the future of my children if Hillary is going to be in the president's office," she said. "It's the most important election, and the most indescribable and the most incomprehensible election, we've ever been through."
Clinton had a 17-point lead over Obama in the L.A. Times poll. Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, was running in third. His support from the Jewish community had been much smaller than Clinton's and Obama's.
"The biggest problems I have with Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama don't have to deal with their policies and positions. It's about electability," Coby King, a public affairs professional who held a fundraiser for Edwards at his West Valley home last summer, said before his candidate dropped out Wednesday.
"But should Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama be the nominee, I will be enthusiastic about their candidacy and do whatever I can to make sure they are elected president of the United States. More than the differences between any of the Democratic candidates, the country has a huge choice between Democrats and Republicans, and we obviously need a huge change in direction."
Clinton and Obama have proven so popular among Jews because of what they represent.
Clinton is not only a Clinton -- a plus for many Jews -- she is also the first viable female candidate for the presidency. But Obama also would be a barrier-breaker, and in many ways he personifies what so many Jews fought so hard for during the Civil Rights movement. A Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, of humble means and superior education, Obama's story is a familiar one.
"The options here are unbelievably forward from where we've ever been. And that is a great thing," said Abby Leibman, a management consultant who co-founded the California Women's Law Center and is a Clinton fan. "But I don't have the same excitement about an African American man because I am not one."
Supporters of each senator have been casting the other as a bad choice for Israel. The rhetoric, however, appears to be political fear mongering.
"What I have seen with Clinton and Obama maybe more than the others -- though I don't want to say there isn't an appreciation with the others -- is a desire to see a peace process that is based on a premise that Israel can't be the one that is always taking the initiatives," said former Ambassador Dennis Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has given both candidates advice.
"Israel can't be the only one to compromise. Palestinians have to live up to the commitments they've made, and the Arab world has to assume responsibility and can't just sit on the sideline. They are both in favor of having a much more active peace process, which I am. But if you have an active peace process, it has to be grounded in reality."
Obama, though, has faced another challenge. An Internet rumor campaign has accused him of being an uncover Muslim and a veiled anti-Semite. He's taken these attacks so seriously that Monday, even after a number of Jewish organizational leaders signed an open letter condemning the smears and seven Jewish senators penned another, Obama held a conference call with reporters from Jewish publications to reiterate his support for Israel and his affinity for American Jewry.
"My strong and deep commitment and connection to the Jewish community should not be questioned," he said.
It's anybody's guess how the Jewish vote here will split between the two. But there are certainly plenty of people trying to shape it.
In November, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) endorsed Clinton. Three weeks ago, his colleague, Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Pasadena) opted for Obama. And former Congressman Mel Levine, who left office 15 years ago, joined Schiff at a City Hall press conference, adding his name to the growing list of supporters.
"I must confess that I have become emotionally excited about the prospect of a President Obama and what that means to America's image throughout the world," said Levine, who has been working with the senator's foreign policy team. "This man is a uniter. He reaches out, and he clearly respects the views of people on all sides of an issue, and that is critically important in intractable conflicts, such as Israel-Palestine."
"I should be a poor American and a poor Catholic alike if I injected religious discussion into a political campaign." Alfred E. Smith, the great New Yorker, wrote those words little more than 80 years ago as he campaigned for the presidency amid rumors and slanders that his Catholic worldview would imperil Americans. How the times have changed.
In 2008, presidential candidates not only inject religious language into their campaigns, but also at times seem to fully infuse their stump speeches with it, "thumpin' it," as Jacques Berlinerblau dubs the strategy in a book by that name (Westminster John Knox, 2007).