Lawrence J. Hogan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland who is trying to solidify his appeal among conservative voters, told a largely Jewish audience in Montgomery County yesterday that the liberal establishment has deserted Israel and "succumb[ed] to the charms" of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yassar Arafat.
Hogan's effort to establish himself during an hour-long candidates' forum as "a proven friend of Israel" was sidetracked, however, when his opponent, Democratic incumbent Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, pulled a newspaper clipping from his pocket that quoted Hogan somewhat differently.
Sarbanes, reading from an October 1981 issue of The Enterprise, a newspaper in Southern Maryland, quoted Hogan as saying during a campaign stop in St. Mary's County: "There is no question that Jews exert a tremendous influence on legislatures and that is their right. [But] we can't afford to lose the Saudis as our friends. It's important to keep a strong ally sitting on top of those oil fields on which our whole economy depends.... I don't see anything wrong with injecting ourselves in other countries' affairs when our interests are at stake."
Sarbanes, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted against the sale of AWACs and F-15 fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, portrayed Hogan as a rhetorician whose position on Israel depends on the ideology of his audience. Proof of Hogan's wavering attitudes, Sarbanes said, is his support of AWACs sales and his belief that the United States should use economic pressure to influence Israel's stands in the Middle East.
At the forum in Rockville, sponsored by the newspaper Jewish Week, the audience was pointedly pro-Sarbanes from the outset and applauded loudly when the senator finished his final denunciation of Hogan.
"This forum exposed his [Hogan's] manifest weaknesses," said one Sarbanes' aide. "His statements [in Southern Maryland] were code words that are anti-Semitic."
When asked whether Hogan's Southern Maryland statements would hurt him in Montgomery County's influential Jewish community, one Republican observer who is Jewish reflected and then replied: "I think he may be able to redeem himself if he offers to be circumcized."
Hogan said later he had "no response" to Sarbanes' use of the newspaper clipping, but "it might have been an issue to that group."
"Most Americans recognize that we can't put all our eggs in one basket [in the Middle East]," Hogan said. "Israel is our most loyal ally and always has been. But we have to keep a balanced relationship with all of our allies there."
Hogan's interest in appealing to the Jewish community, as well as in establishing himself more clearly as a conservative, has become increasingly apparent as the campaign heads into the final two weeks before the Nov. 2 election. According to recent polls, Hogan and Sarbanes are splitting the conservative vote around the state even though the electorate views Sarbanes as the most liberal of the statewide candidates and Hogan as the most conservative. Overall, Sarbanes holds a commanding lead in the polls.
Hogan's tactic for the next two weeks, according to his aides, will be to launch a media campaign tomorrow that portrays him as a solid conservative, an image they believe has not sunk in with Maryland's voters.
Yesterday, Hogan tied his opponent to the liberal establishment of politicians and the media that, he claimed, turned on Israel "in righteous wrath when it struck out with force against its terrorist enemies -- who are also enemies of the U.S. and stooges of the Soviet Union."
"For years the liberals have been routinely treating our friends like enemies, and our enemies like friends," Hogan continued. "Was it not predictable that they would eventually turn on Israel, our staunchest friend and most loyal ally in the Middle East?. . .Was it not almost inevitable that they would succumb to the charms of Yasser Arafat while deploring the cranky stubborness of [Israeli prime minister] Menachem Begin?"
Hogan asked the voters to look at a fact sheet he provided that detailed his support of Israel during his three terms in Congress from Prince George's County during 1968-74. The sheet listed his appeals on behalf of Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate to the West, a personal tour of Israel and his cosponsorship of a resolution to strengthen U.S. military aid to Israel.
The sheet added that during his four-year term as Prince George's County executive, which began in 1978, he took two actions "probably of interest to the Jewish community." One was an effort to curb crossburning incidents in the county.
"Secondly," the sheet reported, "he participated in efforts to pardon and release early, former Gov. Marvin Mandel."
Mandel, convicted of bribery in 1977 and released from prison last December, is Jewish.