Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 59, No. 40, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 6, 2005 Page: 4 of 32
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Texas Jewish Post
In Our 59th Year
By James D. Besser
DeLay s woes
It was somehow lining and ironic that
Rep. Tom DeLay’s first public appear-
ance after his indictment on campaign
finance charges last week was before a
pro-Israel group that brings together
Jews and evangelical (hnstians.
While loathed by liberal lew's who
focus mostly on domestic issues, the
Texas Republican has become a hero to
right-o!-center lews and the growing
army of Christian Zionists
who mirror the positions
taken by Israeli nationalists.
At a meeting of the pro
Israel lobby three years ago,
DeLay said “I’ve toured Judea
and Samaria, and stood on
the Golan Heights, and I
didn’t see occupied territory",
I saw Israel.” In a speech to
the Knesset in 2003, he said
that “We know our victory in the war
on terror depends on Israel’s survival.’
And speaking to Jewish Republi-
cans during the 2004 Republican
National convention, he said “There
is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There
is only the global war on terrorism.”
Sentiments like that ensured a
warm reception from the (.hristian
Zionists and Jews who were in town
last week for a Washington meeting
organized by Stand for Israel, an off-
shoot of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s
International Fellowship of Chris-
tians and lews, a group comprised
largely of Christians who believe sup-
port tor Israeli is a biblical imperative.
DeLay told the group “It’s good
to be here among so many old
friends and brothers and sisters in
the cause for justice and human
freedom. Today, as you know, the
justice part has taken on a particu-
larly personal meaning for me.”
Akiba Covitz, a University of
Richmond political scientist, said
DeLay has become an important, if
frequently controversial, advocate
for Israel in Congress.
“He is an absolute true believer in
the cause; he believes, more than
anybody in Congress, that there’s a
battle between good and evil in the
world, and that Israel is carrying the
banner of good," he said.
As a result, he said, “his most loyal
supporters are strongly pro Israel,
conservative lews and Christians.
That support is stronger than his sup-
port among his constituents in Texas.
Jewish Democrats took a dif-
ferent tack; the growing visibility of
DeLay as an Israel supporter, they
said, could come back to haunt the
Jewish community if he is brought
down by scandal.
“This not just about lorn I Hay, it’s
about a culture of corruption that
often arises when one party has a
mnm tiittlv on nower.’said Ira Forman,
executive director of the National
lewish Democratic Council (NIDC).
And Forman said the affair con-
tains political lessons for the
“Its understandahk* when our com-
munity thanks people who support us
on one issue or another,’ he said. "But
there a Miles a tinx.' when we shtMild be
cognizant that when you be down with
dogs, you get up with fleas. And for a king
while, it should have been evident that
Tom DeLay has a lot of fleas.
Last week’s DeLay indict -
ment, and his temporary
removal as House Majority
Leader, may give a big boost to
the ambitions of a brash
young Jewish legislator.
DeLay’s departure as Majority
I-eader means that Majority Whip
Rov Blunt (R-Mo.) will take over
many of his duties; Blunt’s top lieu-
tenant, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), will
assume some of the Whip’s functions.
Cantor, the only Jewish Repub-
lican in the House, rocketed to the
post of chief deputy minority whip
in his second term; he has been an
effective behind-the-scenes player as
the GOP enforces party discipline to
advance its agenda and the agenda
of a Republican administration.
Cantor is a loyal DeLay disciple,
said political scientist Akiba Covitz.
“He will carry on with everything
DeLay believes in,” he said. “And he
is a ‘hammer,’ like DeLay,” referring
to a nickname DeLay earned
through his pummeling approach to
keeping fellow Republicans in line.
The shift means Cantor, who has
also become a primary Republican
liaison to the Jewish community,
will take on a much higher profile.
“Cantor is usually more of a
behind-the-scenes guy,” said Univer-
sity ofVirginia political scientist Larry
Sabato.“m be looking to see whether
this promotion, even if temporary,
moves him more into the public eye.”
Cantor, he said, “clearly has the
confidence” of House Speaker
Dennis Hastert, the reason for his
quick ascent of the leadership ladder.
And Cantor is widely believed to
be intensely ambitious, although his
ambitions seem confined to the rel-
atively narrow arena of the House.
“While from time to time, Cantor
expresses some interest in a statewide
race or a Senate contest, I believe he
is very likely to spend his career in the
House," Sabato said. “He is utterly
safe in Virginia’s most Republican
district, and at an early age, he is
already on the leadership ladder,
quite possibly heading for Whip,
then Majority leader, then Speaker.”
DeLay’s woes, he said, have
opened up yet another opportunity
for Cantor, and sure enough, he has
Jewish senators split on
Last week’s Senate confirmation
of Judge John Roberts as Chief jus-
tice of the Supreme Court produced
few surprises; as expected, the
Democrats split almost evenly, w hile
every Republican voted for the jurist.
When the votes were counted, lewish
l )emocrats were a little more supportive
of the nominee than their party.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.),Sen. Joe
Lieberman (D-Conn.), Sen. Herb
Kohl (D-Wisc.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-
Ore.) and Sen. Russ Feingold
(D-Wisc.) — a presidential hopeful
for 2008 — all voted to confirm, along
with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), the
only lewish Republicans in the Senate.
Sea Dianne Feinstein (D-Cali£), Sea
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sea Chuck
Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Frank Laut
enherg (D-NJ) voted against Roberts.
The National Council of lewish
Women (NCJW), the only major
lewish group to openly oppose
Roberts, responded angrily.
“We were surprised by how many
Democrats decided to support some-
body based on what they characterized
as their hopes as opposed to their fears,
given that this is a lifetime appoint-
ment,” said the group’s Washington
director, Sammie Moshenberg.
NCJW, she said, will continue
fighting nominees regarded as hos-
tile to abortion rights. “NCIW
people are genuinely inspired by
what they see as doing the right
thing,” she said.
By the time Roberts was sworn in
later that day, NCJW and other
groups opposed to Roberts were
getting set for the next battle. And
that fight could be bloodier.
Roberts will replace the late Jus-
tice William Rehnquist, a strong
conservative, so the Court’s delicate
balance on issues such as church-
state separation and abortion rights
is unlikely to change much. But the
second battle is for the seat being
given up bv Justice Sandra Day
O’Connor - the Court’s swing
voter on many critical cases.
“The stakes are higher lor the
O’Connor seat and 1 expect the
questions will be much tougher,
said an official with a lewish organi-
zation that did not take a position on
the Roberts nomination. “There is
an awareness that church-state law,
in particular, is hanging in the bal-
ance with this second nomination.
Rabbi David Saperstein, the
director of the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism, congrat-
ulated Roberts, but expressed strong
concern about the way the confir-
mation hearings were conducted.
“The administration’s refusal to
fully release germane documents
and the nominee’s opaque responses
during questioning are both cause
for great concern,” Saperstein said in
a statement. “With the upcoming
confirmation hearings to fill the seat
of retiring Justice Sandra Day
O’Connor, we have an opportunity
to improve upon the shortcomings
of the past several months. The
American people deserve better.”
Lieberman critical in big
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.)
will be a top target for Jewish groups
trying to derail an amendment to a
Head Start reauthorization bill that
they say would open the door to job
discrimination using federal money.
Nobody expects to change
Lieberman’s mind; the lawmaker, the
only Orthodox jew in the Senate, has
been a reliable supporter of “chari-
table choice” legislation, which aims
to ease restrictions on religious
groups that get government money
to provide various services.
“But we re hoping he will under-
stand the importance of this issue
from a civil rights perspective,” said
an official with one major Jewish
group. “We are hoping Sen.
Lieberman will not actively coop-
erate with those who are trying to
push this through Congress on the
back of the Head Start bill.”
Two weeks ago, the House passed
an amendment to the Head Start bill
authored by Rep. Charles Boustany
I r. (R- LA) that would ease civil rights
regulations on hiring for churches,
synagogues and other religious
groups that get Head Start money.
Orthodox groups say that will pro-
vide their institutions the same ability
to offer services as Jewish groups that
operate under the old rules, which
require a strict separation of religious
and secular functions.
But critics say the bill, if passed,
will be a major blow to civil rights
because it will create a precedent for
allowing hiring discrimination
when federal funds are involved.
That sets the stage for what several
leading Jewish activists are calling the
biggest church-state fight in six years
when the Senate takes up the bill.
Richard Foltin, legislative director for
the American Jewish Committee, said
that the Senate has traditionally been
more reluctant than the House to pass
charitable choice legislation — but
warned that “the numbers have changed
since the last major charitable choice
vote,” with the Republican majority
increasing alter last year’s election.
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Wisch, Rene & Wisch-Ray, Sharon. Texas Jewish Post (Fort Worth, Tex.), Vol. 59, No. 40, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 6, 2005, newspaper, October 6, 2005; Fort Worth, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth754588/m1/4/: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .