Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
By the third or fourth time Mitt Romney called the Iranian nuclear threat “the greatest national security threat we face,” a good number of the few dozen youngish Jews who had gathered at Federation headquarters to watch Monday evening’s Presidential debate appeared to have stopped listening.
Some were perusing their Twitter feeds, others were nursing plastic cups of kosher wine, and a handful were busy finishing off the sliders on pretzel bread on the buffet near the back of the room.
Even in the Federation boardroom, where there was no shortage of interest from voters in the candidates’ pro-Israel bona fides, people seemed well entrenched in their positions, and little they heard from the men projected on the two big screens at the front was going to change their minds.
“Certainly, the Israeli question is going to very important to me,” John Mirisch, vice mayor of the nearby city of Beverly Hills, told me near the beginning of the debate.
Mirisch, a registered Republican who’s a self-described social liberal (he’ll be voting for Prop. 34 on Nov. 6, which would abolish the death penalty in California), said he wasn’t too happy about casting his vote for either Romney or President Barack Obama.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been a fan of a candidate for President,” he said. “I was a fan of Al Gore.”
Well aware that the issues of greatest importance to most American voters are domestic, Romney and Obama frequently pivoted away from the prompts being lobbed at them by CBS News’s Bob Schieffer to address subjects including education, fiscal policy and who would best prepare America for another generation of prosperity and economic growth.
The biggest cheer from the crowd came from the more vocal of the Democrats, who exulted when Obama responded to Romney’s criticism that the U.S. Navy’s fleet was smaller than it had been in nearly a century with a barb about how the army also had “fewer horses and bayonets."
But as expected, the debate did feature a number of exchanges between the candidates about Israel. On more than one occasion during Monday evening’s debate, Romney made reference to the President’s perceived distance from Israel, a criticism that clearly had resonance among some at the Federation’s Wilshire Boulevard headquarters.
The President’s supporters in the audience were audibly impressed by the response Obama had ready for Romney’s criticism of his not having visited Israel during his first term. Obama described his 2008 visit to Israel as a candidate and drew a sharp distinction between his itinerary -- which included trips to Yad Vashem and Sederot -- and Romney’s, which featured two fundraisers attended by wealthy Republican Jewish donors.
“His response about visiting Israel as a candidate was very effective,” said Leeor Alpern, President of the Los Angeles chapter of Democrats for Israel, who called the criticism of Obama for not visiting Israel “a straw man." The last two Presidents to visit in their first terms were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the latter for the funeral of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin, Alpern said.
Obama’s opponents, like Ron Rothstain, were undeterred. He pointed to President’s lack of a visit to Israel as just one piece of evidence of the friction he saw between Obama and the Jewish state.
“A couple of weeks ago, Bibi wanted a one-on-one meeting with him after the whole U.N. address, and he wanted to be on ‘The View’ instead, having no time to set aside for him,” Rothstain said a few minutes after the debate ended . “So clearly there are issues there.”
5.15.13 at 4:51 pm | Attorney Ron Galperin is unhappy with Los Angeles. . .
4.25.13 at 12:28 pm | When Jesse Gabriel, an alumnus from the Jewish. . .
4.16.13 at 9:49 pm | “The appeal to violence and to extreme violence. . .
4.11.13 at 9:26 pm | Differences between the two veteran politicians. . .
4.10.13 at 10:29 pm | (Post includes a link to video of a one-hour. . .
4.4.13 at 11:35 pm | This time, he's off to Turkey.
5.15.13 at 4:51 pm | Attorney Ron Galperin is unhappy with Los Angeles. . . (765)
4.10.13 at 10:29 pm | (Post includes a link to video of a one-hour. . . (26)
4.16.13 at 9:49 pm | “The appeal to violence and to extreme violence. . . (25)
October 19, 2012 | 10:08 am
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
For Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, the inherent peril of the third and final debate’s focus on foreign policy is obvious.
“All he has is speeches,” my colleague Shmuel Rosner writes in this week’s Jewish Journal cover story, a formulation that sounds ironically similar to the very attack Republicans like to level against President Barack Obama. Aaron David Miller, in a recent article in Foreign Policy, notes that the argument Romney has to make – that he’ll be markedly better than the man he’s seeking to replace – is a “counterfactual” one. He won’t point to his stint as Governor to illustrate his experience abroad (because you can’t see Russia from Massachusetts), and pointing to policies by way of illustration is tough, too, because his policies on significant international issues often don’t differ much from the President’s.
So, what we can expect from Romney on Monday night is a bit more of what we’ve seen already. He’ll probably have polished the attack he used (clumsily, yes) in the town hall debate, when he assailed Obama for his administration’s response to the murder of four Americans in Libya. Romney will likely also take on Obama for having “apologized for America,” a cliché that even the Wall Street Journal editorial board is tired of.
Though it’s less apparent, there’s peril lurking in the foreign policy debate for Obama, too – but it’s a strategic peril. Could Obama clean up on Monday night simply by claiming credit for ending the war in Iraq, drawing down the American military’s presence in Afghanistan and killing Osama Bin Laden? Maybe, but even if he gets a “win,” the impact will be blunted, in part because the debate over foreign policy matters less to voters (polls show they’re making their decisions based on economic issues) and in part because unlike the first and second debates (which 67 and 65.6 million people watched, respectively), at least a few (million) Americans are going to be tuning out the candidates and watching the Lions and Bears instead.
If the challenges are different – Romney has to make a strong showing on a subject where he’s at a disadvantage; Obama needs to retroactively win a more significant debate that he already lost a few weeks ago – the answer for both candidates is the same.
Go domestic. No matter the question, the candidates would do well to treat every one of those 90 minutes as an opportunity to get back to the issues most likely to be driving votes in November by connecting foreign policy to the economy and healthcare.
For Romney, the central argument should be that the biggest obstacle to continued American leadership in the world is the sluggish recovery of the American economy. Accusing Obama of mismanaging the world’s most powerful economy – thereby weakening the world’s only true superpower – might be the challenger’s best line of attack. It gets to what people care about and harks back to Romney’s strong suit, his business experience.
On Monday, Obama needs to do the exact same thing, and answer questions about foreign policy in ways that remind voters about the unease they have about Romney and his domestic policies.
Imagine how each candidate could address a question about the Middle East, for example.
Romney could quickly deliver his piece about how the President has distanced the United States from its allies and then say something to the effect of, “Our allies around the world are strongest when we are strongest at home. Any President has to be able to do more than one thing at a time, sure, but this President went on a world tour when he should’ve been busy in Washington creating jobs, which is what I intend to do from my very first day in office. When world leaders need me, they’ll know where to find me – working to put American people back to work, every single day.”
Obama’s argument would have to be that Romney has made so many conflicting statements over the last seven years he’s been running for President (Will he “recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state,” as he said at the Virginia Military Institute earlier this month? Or will he just “kick the can,” as he was recorded as saying in the “47 percent” video this summer?) that neither allies abroad nor voters at home know enough about him to trust him.
“Where does my opponent stand on the challenging issues facing this country and the world? We don’t know,” Obama could say. “Our allies can’t tell what kind of foreign policy he’ll pursue any more than Americans can tell you which tax loopholes he’ll close, because Mr. Romney has offered no details.”
Take the foreign and make it domestic – that’s the task facing Obama and Romney next week. Because when Election Day rolls around, voters are almost certainly going to be thinking about how this election will affect them at home more than how it might affect their country’s standing abroad.
October 9, 2012 | 10:34 pm
Posted by Jonah Lowenfeld
As anyone who listened to Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney’s recent foreign policy speech, the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran to the United States and to its ally Israel sits at the center of the contest to determine who will lead the United States for the next four years.
No surprise then that on Sunday, Oct. 14, when the Iranian-American Jewish group 30 Years After holds its third Biennial Civic Action Conference, the participants in nearly every political race going on right now will be represented.
All four declared candidates running for mayor of Los Angeles will be there, as will the man who currently holds the job, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Surrogates for each of the Presidential candidates are taking part, as are both halves of the “Berman v. Sherman” race (although those two won’t share the same stage).
A host of rabbis and a few U.S. and Israeli diplomats are also scheduled to appear at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel at some point during the daylong conference, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 people.
“Our community stands at the nexus of a dangerous conflict between the United States, Israel, and Iran,” Sam Yebri, president of the five-year-old organization, said in a statement.
The conference, Yebri said, is intended to empower young members of the Iranian-American Jewish community with the political know-how to advocate against a nuclear-armed Iran and to inspire them to become more active in improving their city, state, and country.
For more information about 30 Years After’s and this Sunday’s conference, visit www.30yearsafter.org/conference.php.