Jesse Speaks, The World Yawns

Friday, October 17th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

The Rev. Jesse Jackson may have nothing to do with the Barack Obama presidential campaign, but that isn’t stopping the Republicans from using Jackson’s latest bizarre outburst to tar the Democratic presidential nominee.

Addressing the World Policy Forum in France, Jackson – according to the New York Post –said Obama would  produce “fundamental changes” in U.S. Foreign policy and suggested he would emphasize Mideast peacemaking.

“Barack is determined to repair our relations with the world of Islam and Muslims,” Jackson reportedly said. “Thanks to his background and ecumenical approach, he knows how Muslims feel while remaining committed to his own faith.”

Then the zinger: Jackson reportedly said that an Obama administration means “decades of putting Israel’s interests first” would come to an end and that  the “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” would lose power if the Democrat won.

Republican operatives quickly seized on Jackson’s comments as proof that Obama is anti-Israel.  In a telephone news conference on Wednesday,  Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, kept suggesting the conclusion was accurate because Jackson is an “associate” of Obama.

This despite the fact the two have long been at odds and despite Jackson’s crude comments about Obama earlier this summer.

It was no accident that the call included two leaders of the McCain’s Jewish outreach effort in Florida – where Jackson can still arouse strong emotions even as he becomes increasingly irrelevant in the rest of the country.

Jackson denied saying what the Post reported, and there was no independent reporting corroborating that report.  And in a statement, he said  he has “never had a conversation with Senator Obama about Israel or the Middle East, and was not characterizing his views on these issues.”

Still, political observers seemed inclined to believe he said it – and most said it probably won’t have any impact on the election.

“The only ones likely to take this seriously are Jewish voters already leaning heavily to McCain,” said a top Jewish politico who is supporting Obama. “Let’s face it; Jesse Jackson is a political has been with no connection to the campaign. And it’s not likely Sen. Obama is listening to someone who publicly suggested he should be emasculated.”

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.