Solidarity on Standing Up To Iran? Not in the Obama Camp

The facts surrounding the New York City rally organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, to protest the visit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and demonstrate opposition to the Iranian government's effort to acquire nuclear weapons, are slowly trickling out.

Governor Sarah Palin, on behalf of the Republican presidential ticket, was invited and accepted.

Senator Hillary Clinton was invited presumably to represent the Obama team but then withdrew in a fit of pique, we are told, upon learning that Palin would be there.

An effort was extended to Senator Joe Biden but he was otherwise occupied.

A group of liberal Jewish groups then prevailed on the rally organizers to disinvite Palin. What was to be a bipartisan show of support had collapsed. The McCain camp fired off a statement on Thursday:

Throughout my political career, I have sought to rise above partisanship on critical national issues. Nowhere is this truer than on important matters of national security. Earlier this year, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and I issued a joint statement on the genocide in Darfur and pledged to support efforts to bring it to an end. Earlier this month, Senator Obama and I put the campaign aside to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country and talk about the importance of national service.

"Next Monday, the day before Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to speak before the United Nations General Assembly, several organizations will sponsor an event to draw attention to the importance of halting Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Governor Palin and I share a strong belief that a nuclear armed Iran poses a grave threat to the security of Americans and to our allies. Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. The risk that Iran would provide terrorists with a nuclear weapon is too great for the world to ignore. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust occurred and called Israel a 'stinking corpse.' A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the entire region.

Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be a shared goal of every American, not another occasion for partisan posturing.

"Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue, regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad's goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama's campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.

Thursday evening I spoke with Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, about the cancellation of the event next week. He said: "This is one of the saddest days for the Jewish community -- to let a vocal minority of partisan folks hijack a bipartisan event." "We should send a message to Iran and the rest of the world that Iran's effort to acquire nuclear weapons is unacceptable," he added. Brooks holds activist groups such as  "J Street" (a group of Left wing activists attempting to style themselves as an alternative to AIPAC) responsible for "stirring the pot" and pressuring the event's sponsors to withdraw the invitation to allow Palin to speak. He said, "At the end of the day all we can ask of community leaders is to invite both sides to attend."

Many observers, regardless of political preference, would agree that this was a shameful episode.

Apparently, the Obama camp and its allies on the left have higher priorities than a showing of bipartisan solidarity on an issue they claim to care about. Whatever drama surrounds the Clintons had ripped through the Jewish community, dashed a showing of bipartisan support, and given Ahmadinejad a moral victory.

But Barack Obama may have been the biggest loser on a number of fronts.

Obama is after all struggling to overcome skepticism in the Jewish community. His past affiliation with Palestinian groups, his flip-flop on an "Undivided Jerusalem," his coterie of advisors who have made troubling comments regarding Israel or America Jews have given pause to some Jews, the vast majority of whom have voted Democratic in presidential elections.  The fact that partisan politics by Obama's allies -- and perhaps his own campaign -- submarined an event in defense of both U.S. and Israeli interests will not go unnoticed. Many will ask: "Is bumping Palin off the stage more important than standing up to Ahmadinejad?" It seems so.

On a broader level, Obama's claim to fame is his ability -- how can we forget -- to organize his community. His dismal failure here, indeed his role in wrecking a community protest, doesn't speak well of his ability to bring people together for a common purpose.

And finally, to the extent this implicates Joe Biden, it adds fuel to the fire of burning discontent as to his selection as VP. This is not his only faux pas with Jewish organizations, it should be noted. Just last month he got into a row with AIPAC which had to be quickly patched up.

Bluntly put, this is a mess. The group's organizers, the liberal Jewish groups who thought it more important to "dis" Palin than Ahmadinejad, and the Obama camp, all look amateurish and misguided. The others have a lifetime to live this down -- Obama has less than fifty days before Election Day.

So the question remains: How's he going to fix it?