It is almost as if President Obama is daring American Jews to vote against him. His acrimonious attitude toward the Jewish state, coupled with his refusal to articulate the obvious fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state, was bad enough. But then former president Jimmy Carter, the personification of anti-Israel sentiment on the left, is invited to speak, albeit by video, at the Democratic National Convention. It is mind boggling that no one stopped this and that the president’s team, which is micromanaging the convention, does not after 3 ½ y ears “get it.”
Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition e-mailed me: “The fact that the DNC would offer a prime time speaking slot to Jimmy Carter highlights just how out of touch and tone deaf they are. Giving a platform to someone who has been openly hostile to Israel and equated the country to the South African apartheid regime is offensive. At a time when the Obama campaign is launching a charm offensive to the American Jewish community this message will resonate loud and clear with American Jews as to why it’s time for a change in 2012.”
The offense is so obvious that usually staunch Democrats are speaking out. The National Democratic Jewish Council (NJDC) issued a stern rebuke. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did as well:
“He is flawed, he’s got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism,” said [the ADL’s Abe] Foxman. “So that’s not somebody I think should grace the podium of a national convention.”
Foxman added that Carter probably lobbied organizers for the speaking role, putting the DNC in an awkward position. “I don’t think he deserves to be there, except it’s hard to refuse a platform to a former living president especially when he asks for it,” said Foxman.
NJDC President and CEO David Harris also unloaded on Carter in an e-mailed statement.
“When it comes to Israel and the Middle East, President Carter has unfortunately embarrassed himself — as his analysis and commentary has been stubbornly wrong, harmful to the peace process, and getting worse all the time,” said Harris. “I’m confident that he won’t be speaking to the Party about Middle East policy.”
Harris added: “I’d like to know if Senator Rand Paul will be spreading his views of the Middle East and foreign aid in Tampa.”
The ADL previously devoted an entire section of its Web site to lambasting Carter’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic screed, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, which was roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.
For now prominent Democratic lawmakers are lying low. Usually robust defenders of the Jewish state, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) would not comment. However, a Democratic aide on Capitol Hill not authorized to speak on the record conceded the move would only confirm concerns about Obama’s bona fides on Israel.
Carter may be an ex-president, but there is no requirement that he speak at the convention. Former presidents George H.W. Bush (for health reasons) and George W. Bush (for unspecified reasons) aren’t showing up, let alone speaking at the Republican National Convention. That no one in the Democratic Party saw the problem with Carter, or if anyone did, had the nerve to tell him to stay home, says volumes about their tone-deafness on the issue and the degree to which they take pro-Israel voters for granted.
UPDATE (11:10 a.m.): Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee, e-mails me: “Having one of the most vocal critics of Israel, our strongest ally in the Middle East, address the DNC convention is poor choice.”And Kevin Smith, the communications director for Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) comments: “Whether it’s his abysmal record on the economy or his hostility to Israel, you have to wonder why Democrats are so eager to associate themselves with the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter.” A spokesman for House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has often been out front on Israel issues for the GOP, declined to comment.