Commentary Magazine


Topic: Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Time to Discard Liberal Caricature of Bibi

Earlier this month, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz found herself in hot water after she seemingly fabricated a statement she attributed to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, essentially accusing Republicans of playing politics on Israel. Now Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has taken it a step further, echoing a sentiment that has been floating around the American media for a while. Boxer wrote an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing him of “inject[ing] politics” into the effort to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Of course, we should always be wary of someone accusing a country’s most senior political figure of playing politics, as if presidents and prime ministers are somehow non-political actors. Boxer writes that she is “stunned” that Netanyahu would ever doubt President Obama’s commitment to Israel, and then played a bit of politics herself, instructing Netanyahu to publicly recant his comments and replace them with statements that might better help the president’s image on this issue:

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Earlier this month, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz found herself in hot water after she seemingly fabricated a statement she attributed to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, essentially accusing Republicans of playing politics on Israel. Now Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has taken it a step further, echoing a sentiment that has been floating around the American media for a while. Boxer wrote an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing him of “inject[ing] politics” into the effort to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Of course, we should always be wary of someone accusing a country’s most senior political figure of playing politics, as if presidents and prime ministers are somehow non-political actors. Boxer writes that she is “stunned” that Netanyahu would ever doubt President Obama’s commitment to Israel, and then played a bit of politics herself, instructing Netanyahu to publicly recant his comments and replace them with statements that might better help the president’s image on this issue:

I urge you to step back and clarify your remarks so that the world sees that there is no daylight between the United States and Israel. As you personally stated during an appearance with President Obama in March, “We are you, and you are us. We’re together. So if there’s one thing that stands out clearly in the Middle East today, it’s that Israel and America stand together.”

Thank you for that statement. I am hoping to hear that statement again.

At the heart of this controversy is the ignorant assumption, produced by a suspicious liberal establishment that seems willing to believe just about anything about Netanyahu, that the prime minister’s statements and actions are designed not to protect his own people from nuclear annihilation but from a desire to meddle in the American election. They worry he’s trying to influence the election and may be contemplating going to war with Iran to achieve that end.

But the truth is, as usual, much more mundane. Netanyahu simply understands the value of having a credible threat of force to back up sanctions and diplomacy. Rather than encourage military conflict, Netanyahu has been working to convince the West to enact tough sanctions for the last decade and a half, in order to prevent the necessity of war.

This is in keeping with Netanyahu’s general demeanor. The caricature of him in the American press as a right-wing ideologue could not be farther from the truth. In Israel, he is perceived as just the opposite—a cautious pragmatist who prioritizes stability over everything else. This is not always meant as a compliment in Israel; indeed, many Israelis wish they could say Bibi was “on their side.”

In Israel achieving a stable Knesset coalition is difficult–and maintaining one even more so—but is also beneficial to a populace that at times tires of the permanent campaigning that takes place when coalitions crumble every two years. Neither the settlers nor the left may see Netanyahu as an ideological ally, but they appreciate, at least, his even-tempered disposition that usually keeps the country out of trouble–and war.

And on that last point, it’s instructive to look back at Netanyahu’s two premierships. He has been as reluctant to use the military as any modern Israeli prime minister, and perhaps even more reluctant than most. Some of this is surely circumstantial—he wasn’t in office during the Palestinian intifadas, for example. But he has always been the opposite of a warmonger.

This lends him some credibility at home, then, when the issue of Iran’s nuclear program arises. As the New York Times discovered, “Israelis were generally sympathetic to Mr. Netanyahu even as they mulled the possible damage to ties with the White House.” Netanyahu’s rift with President Obama, they understand, stems in large part from his desire to keep Israel out of war.

Additionally, the idea that any Israeli leader would be more inclined to strike during an American presidential election does not pass the laugh test. Israeli history leads to the opposite conclusion—just look at how the Israelis wrapped up their Gaza counteroffensive in January 2009 in time for Obama’s swearing-in ceremony, declaring a unilateral ceasefire and beginning their withdrawal two days before the event. Israelis may not prioritize the opinion of the “international community” over their own self-defense, but they certainly take American opinion into consideration. Boxer’s letter to Netanyahu is predicated on an alternate reality that exists only in the minds of liberals, and deserves to be discarded rather than indulged.

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Who’s Playing Politics on Israel Now?

At a joint event sponsored by J Street and the American Arab Institute during the Democratic National Convention last week, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen claimed that Mitt Romney “would be game over for Israel’s existence,” according to the JTA. Surely Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council will strongly rebuke this partisan attack on Romney’s Israel policy any minute now?

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is going on the offensive, accusing Mitt Romney of not just being bad for Israel, but of being an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state.

“I think that Mitt Romney would be game over for Israel’s existence,” he said at a panel discussion co-sponsored Tuesday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, “because just allowing us to follow what Netanyahu wants and not to try to force the process into bringing about a two-state solution will lead to  Israel’s nonexistence.”

He said that such a path “inevitably will result in a war,” warning that nuclear weapons could be involved.

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At a joint event sponsored by J Street and the American Arab Institute during the Democratic National Convention last week, Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen claimed that Mitt Romney “would be game over for Israel’s existence,” according to the JTA. Surely Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council will strongly rebuke this partisan attack on Romney’s Israel policy any minute now?

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is going on the offensive, accusing Mitt Romney of not just being bad for Israel, but of being an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state.

“I think that Mitt Romney would be game over for Israel’s existence,” he said at a panel discussion co-sponsored Tuesday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, “because just allowing us to follow what Netanyahu wants and not to try to force the process into bringing about a two-state solution will lead to  Israel’s nonexistence.”

He said that such a path “inevitably will result in a war,” warning that nuclear weapons could be involved.

So, in Cohen’s estimation, the real looming existential threat to Israel is if the U.S. allows Israel’s democratically-elected leader to determine his government’s own policies. This is one of those “America must save Israel from itself” arguments that is wrong, patronizing, and anti-democratic on its own. But the additional hyperbole about Romney’s policies destroying Israel is ridiculously tone deaf during a time when Cohen’s own party is insisting any criticism of GOP or Democratic policies on Israel is “dangerous” for the Jewish state.

That notion — promoted by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the National Jewish Democratic Council — seems unnecessarily closed-minded. Most Israel supporters would surely welcome a debate over which presidential candidate has a stronger pro-Israel policy, and, of course, politicians can’t be held accountable unless we have an open discussion about their records.

Still, that is the stance of Democratic Party leaders. On CNN last weekend, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz reiterated her position that nobody should ever criticize GOP or Democratic policies as anti-Israel.

“I did not say that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon. “In fact, saying that policies are different between the Republicans and Democrats on the United States is harmful to Israel, and I didn’t say it.”

If DWS actually believes that (as opposed to the alternative that she’s just trying to shut down legitimate GOP criticism of Obama’s Israel policies), where’s her condemnation of Cohen’s comments?

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CNN Confronts DWS Over Oren Lie

CNN’s Don Lemon took on the unenviable — and apparently impossible — task of trying to wrench a truthful comment out of Debbie Wasserman Schultz last night. Lemon played DWS audio of her comments about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, which contradicted her claim that the Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein misquoted her. Even faced with her own recorded words, DWS continued to insist that Klein misquoted her:

CNN’s Don Lemon: You accused the reporter of misquoting you, you said you didn’t say it. But then in the clip, you said it. And then you said ‘I categorically deny saying it’ — but there it is. How do you respond to that?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: So Don, if you look at what the Examiner — which is a conservative blog site, so it’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me — and I’ll reiterate that they did deliberately misquote me. First, they took only the first line of what i said, and then they cut it off. And so you haven’t played the rest of what I said. And what they did was, they reported that I said that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel, and actually that’s what Ambassador Oren commented on. I never said that Republican policies are bad for Israel.

In fact, Klein never reported that DWS claimed Oren said Republican policies were dangerous for Israel.

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CNN’s Don Lemon took on the unenviable — and apparently impossible — task of trying to wrench a truthful comment out of Debbie Wasserman Schultz last night. Lemon played DWS audio of her comments about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, which contradicted her claim that the Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein misquoted her. Even faced with her own recorded words, DWS continued to insist that Klein misquoted her:

CNN’s Don Lemon: You accused the reporter of misquoting you, you said you didn’t say it. But then in the clip, you said it. And then you said ‘I categorically deny saying it’ — but there it is. How do you respond to that?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: So Don, if you look at what the Examiner — which is a conservative blog site, so it’s not surprising that they would deliberately misquote me — and I’ll reiterate that they did deliberately misquote me. First, they took only the first line of what i said, and then they cut it off. And so you haven’t played the rest of what I said. And what they did was, they reported that I said that Republican policies were dangerous for Israel, and actually that’s what Ambassador Oren commented on. I never said that Republican policies are bad for Israel.

In fact, Klein never reported that DWS claimed Oren said Republican policies were dangerous for Israel.

The article never even mentioned the word “policy,” and the lede made it clear that DWS was talking about GOP criticism of Israel:

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed on Monday that Israel’s ambassador to the United States has accused Republicans of being “dangerous” to Israel by criticizing President Obama’s record.

At the Examiner, Klein responds to DWS’s misstatements about his reporting. Journalists may not be able to get DWS to admit to any inaccurate statements — clearly Lemon gave it a solid try — but how can the media trust anything she says after watching her deny the truth so casually and so often?

UPDATE: Lemon had Klein on last night to answer DWS’s charges in person (video via Mediate):

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Shifting Blame for the Israel Debacle

Via the Washington Examiner, Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on CBS today and blamed “others” for removing pro-Israel language from the Democratic platform while Obama was distracted with other obligations:

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett played cleanup this morning on the Democratic platform mess, blaming ‘others’ for allowing ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘God’ to drop out of the platform language.

“Honestly Charlie, he was counting on others, he had some other duties and responsibilities so when he learned that it had been taken out of the platform, he had it put back in,” Axelrod said, explaining that the President learned about the missing language yesterday.

Who are the “others” Axelrod is referring to? We actually don’t have to wonder, since it’s listed on the DNC website.

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Via the Washington Examiner, Obama advisor David Axelrod appeared on CBS today and blamed “others” for removing pro-Israel language from the Democratic platform while Obama was distracted with other obligations:

David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett played cleanup this morning on the Democratic platform mess, blaming ‘others’ for allowing ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘God’ to drop out of the platform language.

“Honestly Charlie, he was counting on others, he had some other duties and responsibilities so when he learned that it had been taken out of the platform, he had it put back in,” Axelrod said, explaining that the President learned about the missing language yesterday.

Who are the “others” Axelrod is referring to? We actually don’t have to wonder, since it’s listed on the DNC website.

The platform drafting committee was organized jointly by the Obama campaign and the DNC, and included the following members:

The Platform Drafting Committee will be chaired by former Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio. Named to serve as members on the committee are former U.S. Representative Tony Coelho, Tino Cuellar, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Donna Harris-Aikens, Colin Kahl, Nancy Keenan, Heather Kendall Miller, Thea Lee, U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Susan Ness, Mayor Michael Nutter, Carlos Odio, former U.S. Representative Robert Wexler and Christen Young. Serving as ex-officio members are Governor Deval Patrick, DNC Secretary Alice Germond, and Tom Wheeler.

Not only was this group responsible for drafting the initial platform, but also all publicly proposed changes to the original draft had to be approved by a majority of the board members. If Axelrod wants us to believe Obama and/or his staff didn’t see the platform until yesterday (which is absurd), his only option is to shift the blame to the DNC.

Which raises additional problems for the Democrats. Remember, the DNC attacked the Romney campaign for segments of the GOP platform that Romney has publicly disagreed with. According to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, “he had an opportunity during the drafting of that platform language to make sure that his own view, if that really is his view, is in that party’s platform language.”

“There is no way that a presidential candidate, a party’s nominee, can separate themselves from that party’s platform,” she told Anderson Cooper in August.

It’s difficult to see how DWS could stand by that comment at this point.

The fiasco has had an unintended benefit for the Romney campaign, beyond just highlighting Obama’s poor record on Israel and distracting from the convention. It’s also destroyed the biggest link Democrats had between Romney and “extremist” positions on abortion. Democrats had planned to contrast Romney and Obama on women’s issues, and they were going to do that (in part) by continuing to link Romney to segments of his party’s platform that he doesn’t support. After elevating the importance of the RNC platform, Democrats really have no excuse for dropping the ball on their own.

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Dems Respect Voting Rights? Not Yesterday

Yesterday, as Alana reported, a voice vote over an amendment to change the Democratic platform went horribly awry. Apparently at the behest of the president, language to add the word God as well as calling the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel was reinserted into the Democratic platform. Despite it being present in 2008, the language was removed from the platform that was written (and uncontroversially passed) by the Democratic delegates present in Charlotte this year. After Republicans made the issue a story only a week after Democrats hammered Republicans about parts of their platform, the president decided to intervene.

As you can see from the video that Alana posted from BuzzFeed, the voice vote was so unclear that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to ask for three different votes. Before announcing his interpretation of the “yeas” and “nays” an unidentified woman approached him and audibly told him “Let them do what they’re gonna do.” From the video each vote sounds at best 50/50, with the nays sounding louder as the votes go on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg was on the scene and reported his (and his liberal reporter-seat mate’s) interpretation of the vote:

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Yesterday, as Alana reported, a voice vote over an amendment to change the Democratic platform went horribly awry. Apparently at the behest of the president, language to add the word God as well as calling the city of Jerusalem the capital of Israel was reinserted into the Democratic platform. Despite it being present in 2008, the language was removed from the platform that was written (and uncontroversially passed) by the Democratic delegates present in Charlotte this year. After Republicans made the issue a story only a week after Democrats hammered Republicans about parts of their platform, the president decided to intervene.

As you can see from the video that Alana posted from BuzzFeed, the voice vote was so unclear that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had to ask for three different votes. Before announcing his interpretation of the “yeas” and “nays” an unidentified woman approached him and audibly told him “Let them do what they’re gonna do.” From the video each vote sounds at best 50/50, with the nays sounding louder as the votes go on. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg was on the scene and reported his (and his liberal reporter-seat mate’s) interpretation of the vote:

The first time he couldn’t tell if he got it. The second time the no votes clearly had it. The third time: the nos won again. I’m sitting in the upper decks by the Fox cameras, so I’m in a very good place to hear without being misled by proximity to one faction or another. It was obvious that the nos had it. Still, I suppose it’s possible the ayes were in a bare majority. But there’s simply no way they had a two-thirds majority. I was sitting with a decidedly non-conservative journalist and he was even more sure than me that the no voters won. Villaraigosa simply opted to declare the amendment adopted. Boos rang out.

Only a few hours after the Democratic party clearly and publicly ignored their own delegate’s votes on the amendment, Cristina Saralegui, a Latina media personality, took the stage to deliver her remarks to the same crowd of delegates. She remarked, “So I’m asking toda mi gente—all of my people—to join me. Many of us come from countries where votes aren’t counted properly or are not counted at all. Here, we Latinos have a powerful voice, but only if we use it.” The irony that only hours earlier a Latino official ignored the votes of his fellow Democrats was lost on Saralegui.

Later, former President Bill Clinton took the stage. He also took aim at what he viewed as Republicans’ disrespect for voter’s rights: “If you want every American to vote and you think its wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.” It appears that Clinton was taking issue with voter ID laws like the one that recently passed in Pennsylvania. Clinton stood on stage, hours after his party ignored the rights of members of his own party to vote on their platform and lectured Republicans on their attempts to ensure that eligible citizens receive one vote, and that vote be counted properly. If that’s not the definition of chutzpah, I don’t know what is.

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The Changing Story of the DNC Platform

Even the DNC can’t keep its story straight on why it initially omitted language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its 2012 platform, and then hastily shoved it back in over the objections of delegates.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Dana Bash said the DNC told her it was “simply following what the Obama administration’s policy is, and the White House said several months ago that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

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Even the DNC can’t keep its story straight on why it initially omitted language affirming Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from its 2012 platform, and then hastily shoved it back in over the objections of delegates.

On Tuesday, CNN’s Dana Bash said the DNC told her it was “simply following what the Obama administration’s policy is, and the White House said several months ago that the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in the final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

But this morning on CNN, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz contradicted that initial statement, claiming the removal of the pro-Israel language was a “technical omission” that wasn’t discussed before the convention.

“Essentially, with Jerusalem, it was a technical omission and nothing more than that,” Wasserman Schultz said Thursday on CNN. “There was never any discussion or debate commentary over adding or subtracting it.”

Why didn’t the DNC just say it was a technical error in the first place, instead of calling it a reflection of Obama’s policies? If that wasn’t confusing enough, Politico reports that President Obama saw the Israel plank before the convention, but didn’t press for changes until after Republicans seized on the issue:

Two platform planks sparked division at the Democratic National Convention here Wednesday.

Things got so bad that President Barack Obama was forced to personally intervene, ordering language mentioning God and naming Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel be added.

Obama had seen the language prior to the convention, a campaign source said, but did not seek to change it until after Republicans jumped on the omissions of God and Jerusalem late Wednesday. And even then, it had to be forced through a convention hall full of delegates who nearly shouted down the change.

And yet Wasserman Schultz went on Starting Point this morning and claimed Obama was completely unaware of the omission before the convention, and “when he realized there was this omission said, this platform should reflect my personal view” on “an important issue like Jerusalem.” David Frum immediately skewered this argument:

So we’re supposed to believe Obama feels so passionately about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and yet, 1.) The only time he’s ever mentioned it was in a 2008 campaign speech to AIPAC, which he immediately walked back, 2.) His White House not only scrubbed its own website of any reference that Jerusalem is in Israel, it also scrubbed the Bush administration’s references to it, 3.) While Obama administration officials have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when pressed by reporters, none of them have ever mentioned the president’s supposedly strong personal view.

Beyond that, we’re also supposed to believe that neither Obama nor his staff — who would presumably be aware of a position the president is allegedly so passionate about — ever saw the DNC platform before it was released. Do they really think the public is that clueless?

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DWS Refuses to Apologize for Israel Flap

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is apparently unrepentant, after falsely accusing a Washington Examiner reporter of misquoting her in a story that put her at odds with the Israeli ambassador. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo confronted the beleaguered DNC chair at the Democratic convention last night:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) told the Washington Free Beacon Wednesday evening that she will not be apologizing to Washington Examiner reporter Philip Klein after she falsely accused him of “deliberately misquoting” her.

“No, I definitely will not” offer Klein an apology, Wasserman Schultz said with a slight laugh as she was exiting an event meant to honor Center For American Progress founder John Podesta.

Asked if she had a message for Klein, Wasserman Schultz bristled.

“I don’t,” she said.

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz is apparently unrepentant, after falsely accusing a Washington Examiner reporter of misquoting her in a story that put her at odds with the Israeli ambassador. The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo confronted the beleaguered DNC chair at the Democratic convention last night:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) told the Washington Free Beacon Wednesday evening that she will not be apologizing to Washington Examiner reporter Philip Klein after she falsely accused him of “deliberately misquoting” her.

“No, I definitely will not” offer Klein an apology, Wasserman Schultz said with a slight laugh as she was exiting an event meant to honor Center For American Progress founder John Podesta.

Asked if she had a message for Klein, Wasserman Schultz bristled.

“I don’t,” she said.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren has publicly denied that he made the anti-GOP comment, as Wasserman Schultz claimed; and an audio recording of the Florida congresswoman’s remarks confirmed that Klein did not misquote her. She’s been caught dead to rights on this, so her refusal to apologize is all the more remarkable. It makes you wonder whether DWS would actually issue an apology for lying under any circumstances.

Klein certainly isn’t under any illusions: “If I could hold my breath long enough to wait for a Debbie Wasserman Schultz apology then I’d probably try to enter myself in the Guinness Book of World Records,” he told Kredo.

Meanwhile, DWS has reportedly been skipping out on news interviews — hardly a surprise, considering all the disasters that have plagued the DNC this week. As for her possible options after her first term as party chairwoman runs out, Politico takes a look and finds they’re few and far between.

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What Are They Going to Do About Debbie?

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not having a good convention. The Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein busted her yesterday. Klein reported that DWS falsely claimed that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren had told her that what Republicans were doing “was dangerous for Israel.” Oren flatly denied that he said it. DWS then went on Fox to claim that Klein was misquoting her and that she never quoted Oren in that manner. Of course she had and Klein had the audio to prove it.

That earned her a “pants on fire” truth rating from PoliticFact but unfortunately when she next appeared on national television she wasn’t asked about it. Yet CNN’s convention floor interview with DWS was not without some interest. Wasserman Schultz was asked about the embarrassing moment earlier that night when a majority of Democratic delegates seemed to vote no on changing their platform to include God and reaffirm support for Israel on Jerusalem. With a straight face Wasserman Schultz not only falsely claimed there had been a two-thirds majority for the change, she insisted that Jerusalem had actually never been taken out of the original draft! While politicians like DWS are used to lying with impunity and not being called on it, when CNN cut back to the commentators in the booth, her statements were met with incredulity and laughter.

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Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not having a good convention. The Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein busted her yesterday. Klein reported that DWS falsely claimed that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren had told her that what Republicans were doing “was dangerous for Israel.” Oren flatly denied that he said it. DWS then went on Fox to claim that Klein was misquoting her and that she never quoted Oren in that manner. Of course she had and Klein had the audio to prove it.

That earned her a “pants on fire” truth rating from PoliticFact but unfortunately when she next appeared on national television she wasn’t asked about it. Yet CNN’s convention floor interview with DWS was not without some interest. Wasserman Schultz was asked about the embarrassing moment earlier that night when a majority of Democratic delegates seemed to vote no on changing their platform to include God and reaffirm support for Israel on Jerusalem. With a straight face Wasserman Schultz not only falsely claimed there had been a two-thirds majority for the change, she insisted that Jerusalem had actually never been taken out of the original draft! While politicians like DWS are used to lying with impunity and not being called on it, when CNN cut back to the commentators in the booth, her statements were met with incredulity and laughter.

Anderson Cooper quickly said she was clearly operating in “an alternate universe.” The rest of the crew laughed along and noted the brazen matter in which she misrepresented the issue and the truth.

As for her lie about Oren, Fox News, the network where she had falsely accused Phil Klein of distorting her words, did revisit the issue and played the audio of her quote in which she lied about the Israeli ambassador’s opinion of the GOP. They were not able to snag an interview with her but noted her spokesman was still trying to claim that she had been taken out of context even after the audiotape proved the contrary.

All of which leads us to ask what exactly are the Democrats to do about DWS? As the rumors out of Washington indicate, there’s little doubt President Obama’s inner circle is unhappy about her performance at the DNC. Some of their criticism of her whiny partisanship is unfair. As party chair, she’s supposed to be a whiny partisan. But getting caught in barefaced lies is something else.

We expect politicians to spin reality to conform to their political views. Indeed most of what we have heard from the two conventions is nothing but spin. It may be hard for Congress, the parties and the political system to sink any lower in the eyes of the public, but if it is at all possible, the spectacle of DWS lying to the cameras, and then being laughed at by a group of commentators on a network friendly to the Democrats, must do it.

Wasserman Shultz has a safe Democratic Congressional seat and is in no danger of losing it. But her record of public deceit is catching up with her. The day is coming when she will no longer be able to continue to traipse about the country pretending to represent her party and American Jews without being called out for these lies.

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Will Media Confront DWS Over Falsehoods?

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol draws a comparison between disgraced Senate candidate Todd Akin — who was promptly branded a pariah by Republican officials after his comments about “legitimate rape” — and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was caught misrepresenting comments from the Israeli ambassador this week:

Every important Republican was asked about Akin in the days following his comment. Will reporters ask leading Democrats whether they stand by their national chair, who has doubly lied about a matter of international import? Will any Democrats have the courage to call on Debbie to go?

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At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol draws a comparison between disgraced Senate candidate Todd Akin — who was promptly branded a pariah by Republican officials after his comments about “legitimate rape” — and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was caught misrepresenting comments from the Israeli ambassador this week:

Every important Republican was asked about Akin in the days following his comment. Will reporters ask leading Democrats whether they stand by their national chair, who has doubly lied about a matter of international import? Will any Democrats have the courage to call on Debbie to go?

Not only should the media press Democrats on this issue, they should also confront Wasserman Schultz. It’s not just that she was caught misrepresenting a statement by the Israeli ambassador, or denying that she made comments that were recorded on audiotape. Journalists should be even more concerned to see the DNC chair uttering blatantly false claims so casually, knowing full well that audio evidence and an objection from the Israeli ambassador could (and did) emerge to discredit her.

Will the media challenge Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats over her falsehoods at the convention? Or will reporters let her get away with something that RNC chair Reince Priebus would have been hammered over?

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The Motive for Partisan Lies About Israel

As Alana wrote last night, the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein has now produced an audiotape of a talk given by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz that resolves the mystery surrounding her recent comments about Israel. There is now no doubt that, despite her denial on national television last night, Wasserman Schultz told a group of Jewish Democrats that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said, “that what the Republicans are doing is bad for Israel.” Oren says he never said such a thing and that denial is credible since, as he pointed out, Israel has good friends on both sides of the political aisle. That leaves us not only with the question of why Wasserman Schultz felt constrained to lie about it but why she ever made such a claim in the first place.

Wasserman Schultz lied about making the claim that Oren backed her ideas about the GOP because she probably didn’t know there was a tape of her talk and figured she could simply deny the truth. Perhaps she also thought Oren would not wish to contradict her publicly. She didn’t count on the fact that the ambassador is an honorable man and that it is not in his country’s interest to allow the Democrats to falsely portray him as taking sides in a partisan dispute. That DWS has been publicly outed as a brazen liar is a disgrace to her party, the Congress and the Jewish community she pretends to lead. But it is not terribly surprising given the vicious partisanship she has come to exemplify. Yet of far greater interest is the argument this lie was used to buttress: the claim that Republican criticism of President Obama’s attitude and policies toward Israel is hurting the Jewish state.

DWS and other Democrats have sought to brand the GOP as dragging what ought to be a bipartisan concern into the mud of election year politics. This is an absurd and hypocritical charge that says more about their contempt for democracy that it does about their love for Israel.

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As Alana wrote last night, the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein has now produced an audiotape of a talk given by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz that resolves the mystery surrounding her recent comments about Israel. There is now no doubt that, despite her denial on national television last night, Wasserman Schultz told a group of Jewish Democrats that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said, “that what the Republicans are doing is bad for Israel.” Oren says he never said such a thing and that denial is credible since, as he pointed out, Israel has good friends on both sides of the political aisle. That leaves us not only with the question of why Wasserman Schultz felt constrained to lie about it but why she ever made such a claim in the first place.

Wasserman Schultz lied about making the claim that Oren backed her ideas about the GOP because she probably didn’t know there was a tape of her talk and figured she could simply deny the truth. Perhaps she also thought Oren would not wish to contradict her publicly. She didn’t count on the fact that the ambassador is an honorable man and that it is not in his country’s interest to allow the Democrats to falsely portray him as taking sides in a partisan dispute. That DWS has been publicly outed as a brazen liar is a disgrace to her party, the Congress and the Jewish community she pretends to lead. But it is not terribly surprising given the vicious partisanship she has come to exemplify. Yet of far greater interest is the argument this lie was used to buttress: the claim that Republican criticism of President Obama’s attitude and policies toward Israel is hurting the Jewish state.

DWS and other Democrats have sought to brand the GOP as dragging what ought to be a bipartisan concern into the mud of election year politics. This is an absurd and hypocritical charge that says more about their contempt for democracy that it does about their love for Israel.

It is true that both Democrats and Republicans are strong supporters of Israel. As President Obama learned to his dismay last year when both parties cheered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his speech to a joint meeting of Congress, there is a bipartisan coalition that stands ready to back the Jewish state even against ambushes set by a president of the United States. That consensus is a reflection of broad support for Israel by the overwhelming majority of Americans. But it is not maintained by silence or acquiescence when the leader of one of those parties picks fights with and seeks to undermine Israel’s government.

For the past several election cycles, the standard argument of Jewish Democrats has been to seek to quash any discussion of the issue, not because they truly feared that such a debate would damage the pro-Israel consensus but because any discussion is bound to center on the fact that there is a sizeable portion of their party that is not terribly supportive of the Jewish state.

Democrats also know that only one issue endangers their hold on Jewish votes: Israel. Most Jews are liberal and can be counted on to oppose the Republicans on domestic issues. But in the past few decades, Republicans have not only matched their rivals in their fervor for Israel but also often exceeded it. Moreover, in Barack Obama, Democrats have produced a president who is, in Aaron David Miller’s phrase, “not in love with the idea of Israel” and sought from his first moment in office to distance the U.S. from the Jewish state.

In any debate about how bad Obama has been for Israel, Democrats can make arguments about his preservation of the security relationship and seek to downplay the awkward moments he has produced. But that is not their purpose as DWS’s indiscreet lie about Oren showed. What they want is to have no debate about Israel whatsoever.

But far from strengthening the pro-consensus such a stance would be a harbinger of its dissolution. Accountability is the backbone of democracy. If a politician strays from his campaign promises on Israel the only way to keep them honest is to have an opponent make an issue of this betrayal. Indeed, the only reason why Obama reversed three years of fights with Jerusalem and initiated an election year Jewish charm offensive was his fear that he would lose votes to the Republicans.

Rather than resting on their laurels, Democrats need to be made to compete for the votes of pro-Israel voters. So should Republicans. Those Democrats who want to spike this discussion are doing so for the sake of partisan interests that they clearly prize more than the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. The lies about partisanship merely betray how low they are willing to go for this purpose.

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Audio Proves DWS Wasn’t Misquoted

After Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren disputed DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that he called the GOP “dangerous” for Israel, the Florida congresswoman tried to dodge blame by insisting the Washington Examiner misquoted her. Unfortunately for DWS, the Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein just posted audio of her comment, and it matches up exactly with his original report.

First, here’s Wasserman Schultz insisting that she was misquoted by Klein on Fox News earlier tonight:

Now, listen to the audio of Wasserman Schultz at a DNC Jewish outreach event yesterday, saying exactly what Klein reported she said:

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After Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren disputed DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that he called the GOP “dangerous” for Israel, the Florida congresswoman tried to dodge blame by insisting the Washington Examiner misquoted her. Unfortunately for DWS, the Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein just posted audio of her comment, and it matches up exactly with his original report.

First, here’s Wasserman Schultz insisting that she was misquoted by Klein on Fox News earlier tonight:

Now, listen to the audio of Wasserman Schultz at a DNC Jewish outreach event yesterday, saying exactly what Klein reported she said:

Could this possibly get any more embarrassing for the DNC? Wasserman Schultz not only misled Fox News, she also tried to baselessly smear a meticulous reporter, Phil Klein, who fortunately happened to record her statement on audio. Not only did DWS misrepresent the Israeli Ambassador’s comments, she also inaccurately claimed that Klein misquoted her. Why would any journalist — or, for that matter, any foreign diplomat — take her seriously again?

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Oren Rejects Wasserman Schultz Claim

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren “categorically” rejected DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that he told her Republican actions are “dangerous” to Israel this afternoon. The ambassador issued this statement in response to Phil Klein’s report in the Washington Examiner:

“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.”

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Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren “categorically” rejected DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that he told her Republican actions are “dangerous” to Israel this afternoon. The ambassador issued this statement in response to Phil Klein’s report in the Washington Examiner:

“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.”

Being directly contradicted by the Israeli ambassador is a major embarrassment for the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, particularly since she’s one of Obama’s top Jewish outreach surrogates. It’s hard to imagine the embassy is happy it was ensnared in this controversy, all thanks to DWS’s (apparently inaccurate) claims.

The question now is whether Wasserman Schultz responds. She’d be better off keeping her mouth shut, but obviously that’s going to be hard to do at a convention teeming with reporters. What’s her best option here? Dig in against the embassy, and say she stands by her characterization of Oren’s comments? Make up some lame excuse for why she apparently manufactured a remark from the Israeli ambassador? Schedule an emergency root canal?

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Did Ambassador Say Republicans Are “Dangerous” for Israel?

If true, this is a huge blunder by the Israeli embassy. Why on earth — even in assumed confidence — would Israeli ambassador Michael Oren tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the woman responsible for getting Democrats elected — that the GOP was “dangerous” for Israel? That isn’t the type of thing that stays secret for long.

I am willing to give Oren the benefit of the doubt here that he didn’t actually say it, mainly because DWS a.) isn’t exactly known for sticking to the truth, and b.) has been insisting to every Israeli official in earshot for the past year that GOP criticism of Obama is bad for Israel, and it could be that she interpreted a polite non-response from Oren as an endorsement of that view. But judge for yourself. Phil Klein reports:

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed on Monday that Israel’s ambassador to the United States has accused Republicans of being “dangerous” to Israel by criticizing President Obama’s record.

The Florida congresswoman made the charge at a training session for Jewish Democrats held by the Obama campaign here at the Democratic National Convention, aimed at teaching Jewish Democrats how to convince their fellow Jews to vote for Obama. …

As she was wrapping up her remarks, she claimed that, “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”

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If true, this is a huge blunder by the Israeli embassy. Why on earth — even in assumed confidence — would Israeli ambassador Michael Oren tell Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the woman responsible for getting Democrats elected — that the GOP was “dangerous” for Israel? That isn’t the type of thing that stays secret for long.

I am willing to give Oren the benefit of the doubt here that he didn’t actually say it, mainly because DWS a.) isn’t exactly known for sticking to the truth, and b.) has been insisting to every Israeli official in earshot for the past year that GOP criticism of Obama is bad for Israel, and it could be that she interpreted a polite non-response from Oren as an endorsement of that view. But judge for yourself. Phil Klein reports:

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz claimed on Monday that Israel’s ambassador to the United States has accused Republicans of being “dangerous” to Israel by criticizing President Obama’s record.

The Florida congresswoman made the charge at a training session for Jewish Democrats held by the Obama campaign here at the Democratic National Convention, aimed at teaching Jewish Democrats how to convince their fellow Jews to vote for Obama. …

As she was wrapping up her remarks, she claimed that, “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.”

Unfortunately, we only have DWS’s word to go on this for now. The Israeli embassy apparently turned down the Washington Examiner when asked to comment:

The Washington Examiner could find no such public reference by Oren accusing Republicans of being “dangerous” to Israel. The Israeli embassy would not respond to a request for comment.

Even if DWS’s allegation is bunk, Oren probably doesn’t want to be on record directly contradicting the chair of the DNC. While that’s understandable, imagine if the roles were reversed. If RNC chair Reince Priebus claimed Oren trashed the Democrats to him in private, there would be a mob of Democratic leaders (publicly and behind the scenes) calling for the Israeli embassy to respond to the allegation. Oren needs to either own up to it, or acknowledge that DWS’s comment is inaccurate. Whether or not he actually said the GOP is “dangerous,” it’s still going to be taken as a slap in the face of Republicans, who have been vocal defenders or Israel and friends of the embassy. They deserve an answer.

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Anderson Cooper Demolishes DWS Abortion Claim

This hasn’t been the best month for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Last week, Wolf Blitzer called her out for misleading comments on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, and last night Anderson Cooper tore apart her allegations about Mitt Romney’s abortion position (via Allahpundit):

As usual, Wasserman Schultz refused to back down, but since she’s defending a completely indefensible and obviously false claim there’s only so much she can say. When Cooper reads her the Los Angeles Times article that she completely took out of context in a fundraising email, it’s pretty much game over.

Does this mean the Democratic National Committee will stop sending out breathless, over-the-top fundraising emails about how the Romney campaign wants to send women back to the dark ages? Somehow, I doubt it.

This hasn’t been the best month for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Last week, Wolf Blitzer called her out for misleading comments on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, and last night Anderson Cooper tore apart her allegations about Mitt Romney’s abortion position (via Allahpundit):

As usual, Wasserman Schultz refused to back down, but since she’s defending a completely indefensible and obviously false claim there’s only so much she can say. When Cooper reads her the Los Angeles Times article that she completely took out of context in a fundraising email, it’s pretty much game over.

Does this mean the Democratic National Committee will stop sending out breathless, over-the-top fundraising emails about how the Romney campaign wants to send women back to the dark ages? Somehow, I doubt it.

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In Defense of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

It’s not often that I feel the urge to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But this criticism of her in Politico struck me as a little ridiculous:

Many of Obama’s advisers have quietly begun questioning whether they should have picked Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, as his DNC chairwoman. She has clashed with Chicago over her choice of staff and air-time on national TV shows — and they think she comes across as too partisan over the airwaves.

Obama’s brain trust secretly commissioned pollster David Binder to conduct an internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates. Number one was former press secretary Robert Gibbs, followed by Cutter. Traveling press secretary Jen Psaki, who was added to a second study, was third. Axelrod, Plouffe and current White House press secretary Jay Carney were bunched in the middle. Wasserman Schultz ranked at the bottom.

This seems hard to believe. Conservatives can find plenty to complain about when it comes to Wasserman Schultz, but on the partisan hackery scale, is she really any worse than Gibbs, Carney, Cutter, et al.?

Apparently that’s what some members of the Obama campaign want us to believe. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama advisors made a concerted effort to get DWS to “tone it down”:

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It’s not often that I feel the urge to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But this criticism of her in Politico struck me as a little ridiculous:

Many of Obama’s advisers have quietly begun questioning whether they should have picked Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, as his DNC chairwoman. She has clashed with Chicago over her choice of staff and air-time on national TV shows — and they think she comes across as too partisan over the airwaves.

Obama’s brain trust secretly commissioned pollster David Binder to conduct an internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates. Number one was former press secretary Robert Gibbs, followed by Cutter. Traveling press secretary Jen Psaki, who was added to a second study, was third. Axelrod, Plouffe and current White House press secretary Jay Carney were bunched in the middle. Wasserman Schultz ranked at the bottom.

This seems hard to believe. Conservatives can find plenty to complain about when it comes to Wasserman Schultz, but on the partisan hackery scale, is she really any worse than Gibbs, Carney, Cutter, et al.?

Apparently that’s what some members of the Obama campaign want us to believe. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama advisors made a concerted effort to get DWS to “tone it down”:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

So according to the Journal, the Obama campaign’s problems with Wasserman Schultz had nothing to do with the partisanship. The campaign liked her partisanship. Here’s what they didn’t like, according to the article: the loud clothes, the curly hair, the hand gestures, her laugh. Are you getting the hint here?

Gibbs and Axelrod are celebrated for being obnoxious loudmouths. Cutter and Psaki can spin and unfairly attack Republicans on TV all they want. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the pushy Jewish woman with the Long Island accent, is apparently the one who needs to “tone it down.” Here’s a question: Would she be getting the same grief from Chicago if she wasn’t a woman? How about if she had straighter hair and was born in Atlanta instead of Forest Hills?

Maybe these anonymous Obama advisors trashing her to Politico and the WSJ are right that she’s not a great fit for the position. But I can’t see how she’s any more partisan or more aggressive or more obnoxious than the others. As far as I can tell, all of them are equally adherent to the party dogma, and Wasserman Schultz should not change a thing about her hair.

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What the Media Got Wrong Yesterday

Mary Katharine Ham catches several media distortions about Paul Ryan yesterday, including the misleading claim that Ryan voted to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In fact, Ryan was one of more than 60 co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which doesn’t technically ban anything. As Ramesh Ponnuru explains, the act simply affirms the right of state legislatures to protect unborn life. The question of how to act on that right is up to the individual legislatures:

The first item: “He supports the Sanctity of Human Life Act (emphasis in original). Odell wrote that the bill “seeks to ban all abortions, including in instances of rape and incest.” Ryan may, for all I know, believe that abortion should be illegal with exceptions only to save a mother’s life. But has he really co-sponsored a bill to effect this policy? No. The bill declares that fertilization marks the beginning of a human life and then “affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.” In other words, it doesn’t ban anything: It merely affirms that legislatures have the authority to protect unborn life. If Odell wishes to argue that a legislature moved by the convictions of the bill must, to be consistent, ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest, she can do so. It’s not in the bill.

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Mary Katharine Ham catches several media distortions about Paul Ryan yesterday, including the misleading claim that Ryan voted to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In fact, Ryan was one of more than 60 co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which doesn’t technically ban anything. As Ramesh Ponnuru explains, the act simply affirms the right of state legislatures to protect unborn life. The question of how to act on that right is up to the individual legislatures:

The first item: “He supports the Sanctity of Human Life Act (emphasis in original). Odell wrote that the bill “seeks to ban all abortions, including in instances of rape and incest.” Ryan may, for all I know, believe that abortion should be illegal with exceptions only to save a mother’s life. But has he really co-sponsored a bill to effect this policy? No. The bill declares that fertilization marks the beginning of a human life and then “affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.” In other words, it doesn’t ban anything: It merely affirms that legislatures have the authority to protect unborn life. If Odell wishes to argue that a legislature moved by the convictions of the bill must, to be consistent, ban abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest, she can do so. It’s not in the bill.

Here is the text of the actual bill:

  1. In the exercise of the powers of the Congress, including Congress’ power under article I, section 8 of the Constitution, to make necessary and proper laws, and Congress’ power under section 5 of the 14th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States–
  • (1) the Congress declares that–
    1. (A) the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being, and is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; and
      (B) the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood; and
  • (2) the Congress affirms that the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.

The act is an affirmation of when life begins, but it leaves the enforcement and specifics up to the state legislatures (or, up to subsequent acts by Congress).

But the media coverage wasn’t all bad yesterday. As Guy Benson notes, Wolf Blitzer shredded Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s claim that Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan wouldn’t exempt people over the age of 55:

DWS has no defense on this, short of outright lying, which she valiantly attempts to do before getting swatted down by Blitzer. Democrats know that Ryan’s proposed Medicare reform wouldn’t go into effect for anyone over the age of 55 — but if they acknowledge that, then the Mediscaring in Florida becomes far less effective. That’s why DWS dug in so hard on this. In the end, she finally had to admit the truth; but let’s see how many in the media call her on it if she continues to distort Ryan’s plan.

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Dems Don’t Want a Big-Picture Election

For a party that’s supposedly so thrilled at the opportunity to run against Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the Democrats are spending an awful lot of time focusing on unrelated social issues. Here’s the DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz hammering Ryan’s pro-life views in an email blast today (via Weekly Standard):

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve seen firsthand just how extreme Paul Ryan is, so I’m not going to mince words: Paul Ryan in the White House would be a nightmare.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of attacks on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions — and Congressman Ryan has been at the forefront of all of them.

He wants to end Medicare as we know it. He co-sponsored a radical “personhood” bill that could have banned the birth control pill, in vitro fertilization, and all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest. What’s more? He wants to allow states to criminally prosecute women who choose to have abortions and the doctors who perform them.

We cannot afford to let this man be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

There’s only so much mud the Democrats can sling at Paul Ryan’s deficit plan before the public starts to catch on that the Democratic Party has no plan for tackling the problem whatsoever. So they’re still going to have to continue to make this election about small issues — hence the completely irrelevant attack on Ryan’s views on abortion. Planned Parenthood is also ramping up its Paul Ryan fear mongering, lest the American people elect a pro-lifer “a heartbeat away from the presidency” (ignore the fact that Romney, who would be the actual president under this scenario, is also pro-life).

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For a party that’s supposedly so thrilled at the opportunity to run against Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the Democrats are spending an awful lot of time focusing on unrelated social issues. Here’s the DNC’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz hammering Ryan’s pro-life views in an email blast today (via Weekly Standard):

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve seen firsthand just how extreme Paul Ryan is, so I’m not going to mince words: Paul Ryan in the White House would be a nightmare.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen an unprecedented number of attacks on a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions — and Congressman Ryan has been at the forefront of all of them.

He wants to end Medicare as we know it. He co-sponsored a radical “personhood” bill that could have banned the birth control pill, in vitro fertilization, and all abortions — even in cases of rape or incest. What’s more? He wants to allow states to criminally prosecute women who choose to have abortions and the doctors who perform them.

We cannot afford to let this man be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

There’s only so much mud the Democrats can sling at Paul Ryan’s deficit plan before the public starts to catch on that the Democratic Party has no plan for tackling the problem whatsoever. So they’re still going to have to continue to make this election about small issues — hence the completely irrelevant attack on Ryan’s views on abortion. Planned Parenthood is also ramping up its Paul Ryan fear mongering, lest the American people elect a pro-lifer “a heartbeat away from the presidency” (ignore the fact that Romney, who would be the actual president under this scenario, is also pro-life).

The attacks are entirely predictable, and they have nothing to do with the candidate. As much as Democrats are crowing about how Ryan is so beatable because of the Ryan plan, they’re pulling out many of the same exact attacks that would have been launched against Pawlenty or Portman or Rubio.

Ryan is best when he’s talking about the budget and deficit; Democrats clearly want to push him onto less familiar social-issues territory in order to, a.) Knock him off his game and hope he makes a mistake, and b.) Ensure that he doesn’t have a chance to sell the plan to the public.

Whether they succeed depends on whether the Romney campaign — and the rest of the GOP — can stay focused on the big picture.

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Religious Venues as Partisan Outposts?

Back in May, I wrote about the controversy that ensued when a Miami synagogue invited Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to speak at a Friday evening Sabbath service. When members protested about the hijacking of a religious observance for partisan purposes, Miami’s Temple Israel disinvited her, leading to some spurious charges that local Republicans had “bullied” the shul. As Bryan Schwartzman of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent reports, DWS is back in the news this week for another synagogue appearance, this time at Reform Congregation Knesseth Israel (KI) in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and again, Republicans are complaining.

While this event is far more defensible than the Miami appearance, it still raises some important questions about the way religious institutions get dragged into partisan politics. With polls showing President Obama losing popularity among Jewish voters, Democrats are going all out to try to prevent a precipitous drop in support in this otherwise solidly liberal community. Which means synagogues are on the front lines of a nasty partisan argument that they would do well to avoid.

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Back in May, I wrote about the controversy that ensued when a Miami synagogue invited Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to speak at a Friday evening Sabbath service. When members protested about the hijacking of a religious observance for partisan purposes, Miami’s Temple Israel disinvited her, leading to some spurious charges that local Republicans had “bullied” the shul. As Bryan Schwartzman of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent reports, DWS is back in the news this week for another synagogue appearance, this time at Reform Congregation Knesseth Israel (KI) in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and again, Republicans are complaining.

While this event is far more defensible than the Miami appearance, it still raises some important questions about the way religious institutions get dragged into partisan politics. With polls showing President Obama losing popularity among Jewish voters, Democrats are going all out to try to prevent a precipitous drop in support in this otherwise solidly liberal community. Which means synagogues are on the front lines of a nasty partisan argument that they would do well to avoid.

We should specify first that there is a big difference between the Miami dustup and the one that is stirring in Pennsylvania. The Elkins Park event is scheduled for a Monday evening and is not part of a synagogue religious observance, meaning that Wasserman Schultz won’t be speaking from the pulpit. The synagogue’s religious leader, Rabbi Lance Sussman, is doing his best to represent the event, which will also feature local Jewish Democratic politicians, as informational. (Full disclosure: I am a member of a Conservative synagogue that shares space at the Knesseth Israel building but is not a co-host of this event.) Sussman, a respected historian, also says he thinks it’s better to hold two separate events in which the major parties will conduct outreach to the community rather than hosting a debate at which the two sides can have at each other.

There is something to be said for that point of view, but the problem is that very little if any effort seems to have been made to schedule a Republican event at the synagogue and, as of this writing, there is nothing in the works. So while the synagogue’s intention may not have been to create the impression of a partisan endorsement, at least for the moment, that is exactly what has happened.

Appearances aside, some question whether the synagogue providing a venue for what is, for all intents and purposes, a partisan political rally, is appropriate or a violation of their tax exempt status. While witch hunts aimed at punishing non-profits for perceived partisanship should be avoided, part of the specific problem here is that, as Adam Kredo reports in the Washington Free Beacon (who obtained an invitation to the event), rather than the Wasserman Schultz appearance being part of a program organized by the synagogue, it appears to be directly staffed by President Obama’s campaign. Theoretically, a Republican event, should one ever occur, could be similarly run by the Romney campaign or its Jewish surrogates. But even if that is true, the spectacle of a political party taking over a religious institution — as opposed to renting its catering hall or public area—is unsettling.

In its defense, Knesseth Israel, which is the largest synagogue in the region, believes it has an obligation to provide programming for its members about important issues where they can hear directly from newsmakers rather than hearing it through the filter of the media. They are right about that. But this is not just one event in a lecture series in which a number of different points of view or issues will be heard. It is a one-off political rally.

It has become all too commonplace for religious venues to become partisan outposts during election years. Sunday services at inner city African-American churches are regular campaign stops for Democrats. Republicans have used evangelical churches in other areas for similar purposes. That is wrong no matter who is the offender. While religious institutions should not be aloof from politics and issues, they should be careful about crossing the line into partisanship. Unlike the Miami dustup, this event falls into a gray area rather than an expression of open partisanship. But given the close identification of Reform Judaism with liberal stands on most of the political issues of the day, all Reform synagogues need to be doubly careful not to reinforce the movement’s proverbial image as a group whose definition of Judaism is the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in. That is not a fair characterization of Reform Judaism, but when synagogues blunder into partisan thickets, they can’t be surprised when they wind up in the middle of disputes in which they have no proper place.

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Keep Politicians Out of the Sanctuary

A Miami synagogue is the center of controversy this week for canceling an appearance by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. The president of Temple Israel there said the invitation for her to speak after Friday night services was cancelled due to “security concerns.” But, as the Miami Herald reports, it’s no secret the real reason is that a prominent member of the synagogue had resigned because he was told there would be no equal time on the program for a Republican.

Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats are representing this as an attempt to prevent her voice from being heard and an instance of Republicans injecting politics into the situation. But the truth is just the opposite. As the congresswoman says, constituents should be able to hear their representative, but the Reform synagogue is not in her district. Even if it was, inviting an intensely partisan figure such as the DNC chair to speak at a religious service during an election year is inappropriate. Sabbath services should not be turned into rallies for the Democratic Party or President Obama or occasions for trashing the GOP, because we all know all too well that is what happens every time DWS opens her mouth. The same principle would apply were it House Majority Leader Eric Cantor being imposed on the congregation.

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A Miami synagogue is the center of controversy this week for canceling an appearance by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. The president of Temple Israel there said the invitation for her to speak after Friday night services was cancelled due to “security concerns.” But, as the Miami Herald reports, it’s no secret the real reason is that a prominent member of the synagogue had resigned because he was told there would be no equal time on the program for a Republican.

Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats are representing this as an attempt to prevent her voice from being heard and an instance of Republicans injecting politics into the situation. But the truth is just the opposite. As the congresswoman says, constituents should be able to hear their representative, but the Reform synagogue is not in her district. Even if it was, inviting an intensely partisan figure such as the DNC chair to speak at a religious service during an election year is inappropriate. Sabbath services should not be turned into rallies for the Democratic Party or President Obama or occasions for trashing the GOP, because we all know all too well that is what happens every time DWS opens her mouth. The same principle would apply were it House Majority Leader Eric Cantor being imposed on the congregation.

Religious institutions with tax-exempt status are forbidden from conducting partisan activities, but this is a rule that is often observed in the breach in some communities, especially where one party predominates. The use of inner city African-American churches as platforms for Democratic politicians seeking to mobilize voters is a tradition that few question. The same is true in some evangelical churches for conservatives. That predominantly liberal American Jewish institutions would be tempted to play the same game is hardly surprising. But though Republicans are a minority in most Jewish communities, they still exist. In the case of Temple Israel, 85-year-old philanthropist Stanley Tate, the co-chair of the Romney campaign in Miami-Dade county is, or was, a member and asked to be able to respond to Wasserman Schultz’s remarks. When he was told that he couldn’t, he quite understandably resigned from the synagogue. Faced with the choice of losing a cherished and generous member, or an appearance by DWS, the temple discovered a “security problem” that forced their cancellation of the congresswoman’s visit.

Tate will be criticized for throwing his weight around and so will the temple leadership (the president is a prominent Democrat) for caving in to him. But Tate should never have been put in that position to begin with. Synagogues and churches should stay away from allowing their services to be commandeered by partisans, especially during a presidential election in which the considerable Jewish vote in Florida may be up for grabs.

The problem here though is not just poor judgment on the part of Temple Israel but the assumption on the part of many liberal Jews that there is no difference between their faith and their political party. Though the old joke persists that Reform Jews define Judaism as the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in, Republican and independent members of Reform synagogues are rightly under the impression that they are there to practice their faith, not cheer for the Democrats. While we don’t blame Wasserman Schultz for seeking any opportunity to address an audience, Temple Israel owes Tate an apology. Other religious institutions similarly tempted to play politics in this manner should take a lesson from their embarrassment and resolve to keep partisanship out of the sanctuary at least until November.

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DNC Adviser Blasts Ann Romney

On “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night, Hilary Rosen slammed Ann Romney for “never actually work[ing] a day in her life.” Within two hours, both David Axelrod and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina were scrambling to distance themselves from Rosen’s comments on Twitter.

Why is the Obama campaign so concerned? Apparently Rosen was enlisted in February to advise Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on public relations (h/t Jim Geraghty’s invaluable Morning Jolt). The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 16 that Rosen was brought on to “tone down” DWS’s image:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

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On “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night, Hilary Rosen slammed Ann Romney for “never actually work[ing] a day in her life.” Within two hours, both David Axelrod and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina were scrambling to distance themselves from Rosen’s comments on Twitter.

Why is the Obama campaign so concerned? Apparently Rosen was enlisted in February to advise Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on public relations (h/t Jim Geraghty’s invaluable Morning Jolt). The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 16 that Rosen was brought on to “tone down” DWS’s image:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

Despite the backlash from conservatives and the repudiation from the Obama campaign, Rosen stood behind her comments in a lengthy post on Anderson Cooper’s blog:

“My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,” Romney told newspaper editors, “and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.”

So it begs the question, is Ann Romney Mitt’s touchstone for women who are struggling economically or not? Nothing in Ann Romney’s history as we have heard it — hardworking mom she may have been — leads me to believe that Mitt has chosen the right expert to get feedback on this problem he professes to be so concerned about.

I have nothing against Ann Romney. She seems like a nice lady who has raised nice boys, struggled with illness and handles its long-term effects with grace and dignity. I admire her grit in talking about her illness publicly.

What is more important to me and 57 percent of current women voters is her husband saying he supports women’s economic issues because they are the only issues that matter to us and then he fails on even those.

Rosen certainly helped “tone down” and “soften” Wasserman Schultz’s image last night, if only because she was the one making the inflammatory charges, not DWS. The question now is whether Messina and Axelrod will stand behind their own criticism of Rosen — that her comments were “offensive” and “inappropriate” and merit an apology. Will Wasserman Schultz and the DNC cut off Rosen’s advisory role? Or is the Obama campaign content to use Rosen as an attack dog and private consultant, while outwardly shunning her attacks on their opponent’s wife?

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