Clinton advisers: Best not to mention Israel except at fundraisers
posted at 6:01 pm on October 18, 2016 by John Sexton
The WikiLeaks release of John Podesta’s emails has revealed plenty of cringe-worthy exchanges but this may be the worst one so far.
In an email chain that took place in May 2015, Clinton’s top aides were discussing how to rework Hillary’s standard speech/talking points prior to her big campaign kickoff speech in New York, which would take place about a month later. After some prompting by Huma Abedin and Robby Mook, the person who actually wrote the new draft, Mandy Grunwald, sent it around for comments.
John Podesta is first to respond and offers a list of three suggested changes. Then a short time later Jake Sullivan, one of Clinton’s foreign police advisers, offers this response, “Would add a sentence on standing up for our allies and our values, including Israel and other fellow democracies, and confronting terrorists and dictators with strength and cunning.”
Grunwald replies to Sullivan saying, “I though this was largely for her TP with public events not fundraisers. Do we need Israel etc for that?” Sullivan replies to her question about an hour later, “We def need the etc. I think good to have Israel too.”
At this point Joel Benenson, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign weighs in, “Why would we call out Israel in public events now? The only voters elevating FP at all are Republican primary voters. To me we deal with this in stride when an if we are asked about FP.”
Sullivan replies, “She was Secretary of State.”
Then Robby Mook makes this stunning statement, “I’m w Joel. We shouldn’t have Israel at public events. Especially dem activists.”
Sullivan backs down, “I won’t fall on sword over Israel but we need more than climate in that paragraph.”
Finally, Hillary’s director of speechwriting, Dan Schwerin, suggests a compromise:
What about this as a base, and then she can drop in Israel when she’s with donors:
• Fourth and finally, we have to protect our country from the global threats that we see, from terrorists to dictators to diseases – and the ones that are still over the horizon. We have to assert confident American leadership to shape global events rather than be shaped by them. That includes taking on global warming and those who continue to deny that it exists. And it means always standing up for our allies and our values, especially our fellow democracies.
Just add “…like Israel” to the end of that final sentence and that’s the version reserved for fundraisers.
It’s pretty striking that all but one of Hillary’s top advisers felt it was best not to mention Israel on the stump, especially not in front of “dem activists.” That might be a reference to so-called BDS activists who seek to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel. Whatever the case, it says something about Democrats that they have turned this into a subject it is best not to mention.
While Hillary’s advisers don’t want to risk agitating the activists in public, it’s a different story at private fundraisers where they plan to “drop in Israel.” Not one but three of her advisers seem to take it for granted that this is how things should be done. But why bother? If you’re not going to mention it in public, why add it in private? While the reason for this isn’t made explicit, you have to suspect the calculation here is that there will be some Jewish donors at those Clinton fundraisers.
This is going to be hard to explain as an off-hand comment given that most of Clinton’s top staffers were participants in this discussion (and her campaign manager was the one suggesting they avoid mentioning Israel in public). It will be interesting to see how the Clinton camp tries to explain this away.