Excerpts from DNC Press Conference Call on GOP Candidates Out-Of-Touch With Jewish Community
December 3, 2015
Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, National Jewish Democratic Council Chair Greg Rosenbaum, and GBA Strategies Principal Jim Gerstein held a press call to discuss how the Republican candidates for president are out-of-touch with the priorities of the Jewish community. Here are excerpts from the call as prepared for delivery:
DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
“For some, their version of Middle East foreign policy is pandering to our community about supporting Israel, without fully grasping the deep values and history that drive our relationship. But – if you can believe it – this new crowd is even worse than President Bush.
“After 9/11, President Bush had enough nuance to unequivocally say that the U.S. was not at war with Islam, but with violent extremism. He was right; and we are still at war with a violent ideology and actions that threaten our homeland and our allies. We saw this most recently on a large scale with the attacks of Paris.
“However, the Republican candidates’ first instinct was to politicize this tragedy, rather than focusing on strategies to combat its perpetrators.
“The sort of rhetoric we saw from candidates, whether it was Donald Trump calling for a database of Muslim-Americans, or Marco Rubio saying we need to shut down “not only mosques” but “cafes and diners,” where Muslims congregate in response to terror, was shameful, embarrassing, and dangerous.
“By demonizing an entire religion, it makes it more difficult for the U.S. to prosecute the war on terror and keep our homeland safe. It also stands in stark contrast to American and Jewish values.
“Our community knows what happens when political leaders begin targeting one particular minority community. Whether it is Jews, African-Americans, Christians or Muslims, there is no room in this nation for targeting or scapegoating a minority community. One of the tenets we hold most dear about this nation is not just the base foundation of freedom of religion, but the responsibility of the majority to protect the interests of the minority.
“This quickly translated into the most shameful part of the GOP’s response to the Paris attacks: the scapegoating and turning away refugees fleeing this same terror in their own countries.
“We have seen this movie before. In May 1939, the SS St. Louis left Hamburg, Germany carrying more than 900 passengers, nearly all of them Jewish and seeking refuge in the United States. Our country turned them away, and many who were sent back to mainland Europe were killed in the Holocaust. Instead of learning from that mistake – Republican candidates and politicians were eager to repeat it.
“Demonizing and scapegoating refugees not only betrays our values as a nation, it undermines our faith as Jews.”
GBA Strategist Principal Jim Gerstein
“The Jewish people are an important Democratic constituency that has averaged 70 percent for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since exit polling began in 1972. The 2012 election illustrated the support that Jewish voters have for the Democratic Party. Despite an unprecedented attack on President Obama by Jewish Republican organizations and donors before the election, President Obama still won 70 percent of the vote nationally, including 68 percent in Florida and 69 percent in Ohio.
“For a bit of perspective on the strength of the Jewish voters’ support for Democrats, take Florida as an example. Jews constituted 5 percent of Florida voters in 2012, according to exit polls. Obama won Florida by 1 percent. It would take a shift of 20 points among Jews to move the 2012 Florida result to the Republicans. Despite the claim by Republican Jews every four years that THIS is the year it will happen, it has never happened, and there is no evidence of it happening again.
“The bottom line is that the only problem for Democrats with Jewish voters is that there are not more of them.”
National Jewish Democratic Council Chair Greg Rosenbaum
“For generations, Jews have been drawn to the Democratic Party's message of inclusion, of opportunity, of an economy where people who work for a living can earn enough to get ahead and provide a better life for their families.
“The things that these GOP candidates stand for run counter to that message. They're against raising the minimum wage. They're against helping ensure equal pay for women. They're against health care reform. They're against immigration reform. They're against a fairer tax code that treats work the same as wealth. And when we look at the candidates this party is putting forward, we're amazed by how out-of-sync they are with the priorities of Jewish Americans.
“The RJC attempts to drive a wedge between the parties on Israel, using Israel as a partisan issue, because it is all they've got. It is very clear that attempting to make Israel a partisan issue is bad for US/Israel relations, it is bad for Israel and it is bad for the American Jewish Community. Support for Israel is, and must remain, bipartisan.”