Jewish Journal

Obama campaign cancels debates with Republican Jewish Coalition

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 15, 2008 | 11:12 pm

I just missed the presidential debate because I was dealing with breaking news that actually had to do with Barack Obama and the debates his surrogates had been having with officials from the Republican Jewish Coalition, the organization behind the negative poll. As of today, those affairs are kaput.

Here’s the scoop:

This prohibition led Wednesday to the canceling of a debate scheduled for Sunday at Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Van Nuys organized by the Council of Israeli Community in Los Angeles. Larry Greenfield, California director of the RJC, said he still plans to show up. His counterpart, former Rep. Mel Levine, who is a Middle East adviser for Obama, will not participate in what would have been his fourth debate with Greenfield.

“My appearing with him gives him a prominence that he doesn’t deserve,” Levine said when asked about the cancellation Wednesday afternoon by the Journal. “The RJC’s tactics have been continually dishonest, and the campaign has made a decision to not keep getting on the same stage with them.”

Levine pointed specifically to the RJC’s constant attacks on Israel-critic Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is an Obama foreign policy adviser but not concerning Obama’s Israel policy, and its claims that Obama would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Indeed, Obama has said he would meet with leaders of rogue nations, but Ahmadinejad, a rabid anti-Semite, isn’t the head of Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei is.

Greenfield defended the RJC ads, which recently have carried headlines like: “Barack Obama’s Friends: Pro-Palestinian. Anti-Israel. Hostile to America.”

“Everything in our ads is sourced and cited,” Greenfield said. “We’ve never been involved in smears or talking about Obama’s religion or his middle name.”

Greenfield called the decision by the Obama campaign, “huge blunder.” The campaign’s Jewish liason did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“No one is going to respect canceling a debate at the last minute. People are still going to show up; I’m going to be there,” Greenfield said. “It is just not the way you do business. You don’t avoid Jewish conversation.”

Levine said Obama advisers will continue debating surrogates for the McCain campaign—he’s scheduled to face-off against Sen. Orrin Hatch in Las Vegas tomorrow—as long as they are not affiliated with the RJC. It’s unclear what this means for Obama representatives holding elected office; Rep. Howard Berman’s chief of staff said Berman still plans to participate in upcoming debates with Greenfield at Stephen S. Wise Temple and Valley Beth Shalom.

The prohibition is a surprising one.

Read why here.

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