Bad News for Jewish Dems: Carter Speaking At Convention

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

The Barack Obama presidential campaign, still fighting hard to shore up the Jewish vote (this week Daniel Shapiro, an advisor to the campaign, signed on as official Jewish outreach coordinator) can’t be entirely thrilled with today’s announcement of additional speakers for next week’s convention.

Buried in a long list of names was one certain to raise the hackles of many Jewish voters: former President Jimmy Carter.

It’s traditional to have former presidents speak at conventions; political observers point out there’s no way the Democrats could have barred Carter without a ruckus that would undermine the show of unity the party has planned.

But there’s also no way Jewish Republicans won’t spin Carter’s involvement as just about the biggest news of the convention to a pro-Israel community that, by and large, regards him as hostile to the Jewish state, and maybe anti-Semitic as well.

Having Carter on the dais will also be an unwelcome reminder of 1980, when Ronald Reagan won 39 percent of the Jewish vote in his victory against the incumbent president — a benchmark Jewish Republicans hope Sen. John McCain, their presumptive nominee, will match this year.

Carter will speak at the opening session on Monday night, which will be keynoted by Michelle Obama and feature more than a dozen other speakers. Also on the speakers list: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. whose father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, won’t get any air time at the convention — not surprising after his embarrassing open-mic comments about the man who will be the center of attention in Denver.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.