Coleman, Fleischer address GOP Jewish Coalition

The Colorado Statesman

A heavily advertised town hall meeting at the J.W. Marriott in Cherry Creek drew a crowd in excess of 200 on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Touted as an issues discussion for a “Pro-Israel Community at the Crossroads — Critical Issues and Choices Facing the U.S. and Israel in 2012,” the event proved an unabashed organizing event for Romney’s Jewish supporters. If you didn’t get the hint from the ‘OBAMA…OY VEY!’ buttons at the registration table, it didn’t take long to figure out once the program got underway. Local powerbroker Larry Mizel of Richmond Homes welcomed the panelists: Norm Coleman, former U. S. Senator from Minnesota as well as former Democrat who lost his Senate seat in 2008 to Al Franken in the nation’s closest race, Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush and now a CNN commentator, as well as moderator Matt Brooks, executive director of the national Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, a member of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy advisory committee, makes the point that a strong economy is an important factor in securing the women’s vote in this year’s presidential race. At far left is Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, and moderator Matt Brooks, executive director of the national Republican Jewish Coalition.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

In attendance were Republican political maven Dick Wadhams and Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty, ominously introduced as the ‘former’ Speaker. Denver was the first stop in a national tour scheduled for the RJC panel, which will hit several more swing states during the next week — including Nevada, Ohio and Gulf Coast Florida. Following effusive thanks to Mizel for having arranged and, presumably, underwritten the Cherry Creek town hall, Brooks threw a series of softball questions at Coleman and Fleischer. They quickly rejected Ehud Barak’s observation that President Obama was the ‘best friend’ Israel has ever had in the White House as a comment made to win political advantage. It wasn’t clear whether this was an advantage sought with the American administration or within internal Israeli politics, but his assessment was clearly labeled an outlier.

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, left, and CNN contributor Ari Fleischer, right, flank businessman and philanthropist Larry Mizel at the Colorado Jewish Republican Coalition discussion in Denver on Oct. 28. The well attended forum was part of a national tour that sought to examine critical issues and choices facing the U.S. and Israel in 2012.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Fleischer made some telling observations about Obama’s desire to be viewed as a neutral party in the resolution of Arab-Israeli disputes. Rather than solidifying the fundamental basis of the historic Israeli-American alliance, he was seen as preferring to maintain a visible separation between Jerusalem and Washington. Even Obama’s recent observation that Egypt may no longer be an ally, following the country’s Arab Spring uprising, was viewed as a signal to Morsi that he need not live up to Egyptian obligations under existing peace treaties. The President’s failure to visit Israel during his first term, a 2008 campaign trip notwithstanding, was also seen as a clear signal to the Arab world of American ambivalence towards Israel.

Ari Fleischer, CNN contributor and former press secretary to President George W. Bush, chats with 15-year-old Hannah Kark at a meeting of the Colorado Jewish Republican Coalition in Denver on Oct. 28. Fleischer was joined by former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman in the discussion about the 2012 presidential race.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

And, of course, there was substantial concern expressed about Iran’s nuclear program and the potential existential threat it holds for Israel. Once again Fleischer took the lead and effectively criticized the President for failing to encourage the ‘Green Revolution’ that followed the apparent theft of the Iranian elections by its ruling mullahs.

Local realtor Edie Marks, left, and Arapahoe County Republican Chair Joy Hoffman, right, attend the discussion of the 2012 elections and the role of American Jews in the political process.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Once again, Obama’s desire not to appear to be making choices for others — not to be improperly influencing their political processes, even when they appear transparently corrupt — may have missed a genuine opportunity to precipitate the regime change wanted by the Iranians for themselves — not to mention the ancillary benefits that would have ensued for the entire region. The panel also thrashed Obama for his mishandling of the Libyan attack in Benghazi and the attempted mediation in Syria.

Hannah Kark of Denver poses with former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota. The 15-year-old student asked the panel how they suggested responding to some criticism she hears at school that Mitt Romney appears to be anti-women.
Photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

Coleman, who serves on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy advisory team, pointed out that the Washington Post, hardly a conservative news source, weighed in on Kofi Annan’s effort to engineer a solution to the civil war in Syria as, “…the worst political disaster in U. N. history.” He went on to observe that, “Obama’s tendency to stand back when there is an opportunity to influence outcomes allows extremists to fill the vacuum he leaves when Americans aren’t at the table.” Fleischer jumped in and observed that you can’t achieve peace without providing leadership.

“Leading from behind is called following,” he noted, “It creates another kind of vacuum.” The Des Moines Register’s decision to endorse Romney for President, its first Republican pick in 40 years, was cited as evidence of a growing groundswell of support.

Edie Marks, the über-realtor to Denver’s 1%, kicked off the question period by asking when the press would start telling the truth, presumably about Israel and Obama?

Fleischer gave a surprising speech about the need for Republicans to speak about their commitment to social justice — to finding jobs for the poor — to a compassionate conservatism that provides more real help and less lip service. Then he answered the original question and explained that Republicans will never have the press in their corner. “Quit complaining. You need to outwork, outsmart and elect more Republicans. Then they will have to report the truth,” he concluded. That led to a discussion of buyer’s remorse among 2008 Obama supporters.

Coleman asked how many in the room had voted for the President in the last election. The only hand that went up belonged to Craig Silverman, the former Denver prosecutor and sometime radio yakker. I felt some sympathy when he said he had a hard time believing he was the only former fan of hope and change in the room. After a few more desultory questions regarding Obamacare, Somali immigrants, polls and the mainstream media, Brooks closed with a pep talk about the significance of the Jewish vote. McCain received 25% in 2008. If Romney can capture 30% this year, it could make the difference in Colorado, Nevada, Ohio and Florida.

Whenever the Arab-Israeli conflict crashes onto the front page of the paper, I recall the Yom Kippur War of 1973. At the time I remained in the active Naval reserves, following my Viet Nam service. One morning I received a telegram (remember them?) ordering me to report to Buckley for a return to active duty. I was less than thrilled by this invitation. I had only moved to Colorado the year before, and I now had two small children. Fortunately, the Israeli army swiftly thrashed its Arab attackers and the orders were cancelled. A few months later, while I was vacationing in the San Luis Valley, my favorite Colorado getaway, a friend pointed out to me that the entire state of Israel would fit comfortably within the confines of the valley. Gazing out across this peaceful, Alpine flatland I could not help marveling that so small a place could prove the source of both so much trouble and the object of such ferocious envy.

If necessary, I would have worn my uniform again in order to defend Israel against its invaders. As Americans we bear a moral responsibility to defend our allies who have committed to democratic self-governance. Israel meets that test.