WASHINGTON--Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Thursday said President Obama will retain Jewish support--even as he faces criticism of his approach to Israel/Palestinian peace talks.
Defending Obama, at a breakfast session with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Wasserman Schultz said, "At the end of the day, the natural home for the Jewish voter is the Democratic Party." Any suggestion Obama--who earned more than 70 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008--is hurt is a "gross overstatement," she said.
Obama triggered questions about his Israel policy when in a speech last Thursday he called for stalled Israeli/Palestinian negotiations to start at the 1967 borders--a non-starter for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it to Obama's face--and in a speech to Congress.
"If you looked at the Jewish community at large, if you polled the Jewish community at large, there are Jewish voters, Jewish Americans, who are expressing concern about the president's policy that he stated on Thursday and then clarified on Sunday or broadened and expounded upon on Sunday at the AIPAC conference," she said. "But what he said, followed on by Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to the joint session on Tuesday, was essentially what has been American policy since President Clinton" and "affirmed" by former President Bush.
And more: "We need to make sure that Israel never becomes a partisan issue."
React from Republican National Committee spokesman Kirsten Kukowski:
"If she has a problem with people criticizing the President's botched position on Israel, perhaps her first phone call should be to Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid," a reference to Reid's disagreement with Obama's speech.
In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at the breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor Wasserman Schultz--the first female elected DNC chief and the first Jew elected to the House from Florida said:
*About Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman -- GOP 2012 hopefuls: "I'm concerned about their commitment to American exceptionalism." She made a point of adding she did not question their patriotism.
To back her assertion she said, "Why aren't they supportive of closing tax loopholes to make sure that we cannot incentivize companies to ship jobs overseas?" she asked, riffing on a series of questions on the GOP's policies on taxes, the auto industry and other issues. "These things -- without them it would have prevented us from out-educating and out-innovating and out-competing our competitors in the global economy.
"Voters like to know that you are who you are, and this is what you stand for," she said. "So when they see Newt Gingrich on a Sunday news show talk about Paul Ryan's 'radical' plan to end Medicare as we know it, and that right-wing social engineering is just as bad as left-wing social engineering, and then two days later he's putting in a phone call to Paul Ryan to apologize -- when you see Jon Huntsman, who supported components of the Affordable Care Act and the essential structure like the Affordable Care Act in Utah, but then runs from that -- when you see Mitt Romney say that he opposes the auto bailout but now tries to embrace it a little bit more, that's just hypocrisy, and the voters see through that."
"Rather than point fingers at Republicans who have demonstrated fiscal leadership, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should take a look in the mirror. Yesterday not a single Democrat was willing to support the president's federal budget, pointing to a speech the president gave in April that he refuses to put on paper and present as an actual plan. Right now, Americans feel that the country is on the wrong track and know Barack Obama is driving the train.," Kukowski said in a statement.
*Republicans are waging a war on women: "It's just so hard for me to grasp how they could be so anti-women as they are."
She added, "The pushback and the guttural reaction from women against the Republican's agenda out of the gate, the war on women that the Republicans have been waging since they took over the House, I think is going to not only restore but possibly helps us exceed the president's margin of victory in the next election."
The basis for her comments, she said: GOP Medicare overhaul plans, a push to defund Planned Parenthood, economic proposals.
"...So if you look on balance at the entire record, their record is anti-women, their record is a war on women and it's a priority for them," said Wasserman Shultz.
*On Democratic wins in New York (House) and Jacksonville, Fl. (mayor) "All of those elections turned on the hard-core, radical, right-wing agenda that the Republicans have given us a preview of.".
*On Democratic 2010 losses: "I don't agree with your characterization that was a wholesale rejection of Democrats...You shouldn't read anything into that other than that voters were incredibly frustrated."