Tuesday night, the place to be was Washington DC, at the National Jewish Democratic Council’s meeting. Vice Presidential candidate Joseph Biden, Jr. and Senate candidate Al Franken were among the guests and speakers at this gathering.
Franken, a comedian, former SNL writer, radio talk show host, and Harvard lecturer, is the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. It is a Senate seat that was been held by Senators Boschwitz and then Wellstone, and it is currently held by Senator Norm Coleman. With three Jews holding the seat in succession, Franken is hoping that Minnesota voters will be willing to continue the tradition of maintaining it as a Jewish seat, albeit a Democratic one. “I’ve made the argument that Minnesota is just not ready for a gentile in the Senate,â€ quipped Franken. Franken got more than a few laughs when he stated that his Republican Jewish rival was for school prayer, but that Franken would support school prayer only if the prayer was the Sh’ma.
Later in the evening, Biden stepped up to the podium, in his first speech to a national Jewish organization since the Democratic convention. Biden, who needed some water, said, â€œNever eat a handful of peanuts before a speech.â€ Biden reinforced the Democratic ticket’s support of Israel, as well as the bills that he and Obama has sponsored, co-sponsored, and voted on in the past, including Obama’s co-sponsorship of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which banned U.S. assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
Biden told a story of how his first trip abroad was to Israel several decades ago, and how he has met the last nine Israeli Prime Ministers, beginning with Golda Meir and her then political aide, Yitzhak Rabin. â€œMy support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head.â€ (I was unsure whether, by â€œstomach,â€ he meant that he eats at Amsterdam Falafel in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood of NW DC)
Biden, who was in the Senate when he helped to stop AWACS sales to Saudi Arabia (but failed), added, “I promise you, I guarantee you â€” I guarantee you â€” I would not have joined Barack Obama’s ticket as Vice President if I had any doubt, even the slightest doubt, that he shares the same commitment to Israel that I share.”
Knowing that American Jews, contrary to perception, are not one issue voters, Biden listed his ticket’s proposed policies for energy, healthcare, and other domestic issues. He also discussed what he called a “pretty successful smear campaign” against Obama, which has been calling him a closet Muslim. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, a tenth to a fifth of American voters think Obama is a Muslim. Remarkably, this perception actually grew over the Summer in a secondary follow-up poll.