Ben Chouake, president of the North Jersey Political Action Committee, says he expects a large turnout some 500 people at the fund-raiser for presumed Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain on Aug. 1′.
Describing his organization as "the largest, most active bipartisan political action committee supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship," Chouake said that NORPAC has not formally endorsed either of the likely presidential candidates and would welcome a chance to hold an event for Democrat Sen. Barack Obama as well.
NORPAC president Ben Chouake greets Sen. John McCain at a ‘006 Chanukah dinner at Yeshiva College in New York. Chouake (robed) is a member of the YU board.
Chouake said that while he believes that Hillary Clinton for whom NORPAC raised $300,000 under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Genack "would have been the more viable candidate in the general election and had a lot of support among our members," the success of Obama’s campaign, particularly of his fund-raising efforts, "took people by surprise. He set a new bar."
"We’re gratified that [Rep. Steve] Rothman is involved," said Chouake. Rothman is northeast regional co-chair of Obama’s presidential campaign. "He’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Noting that "it would be great" if Rothman approached NORPAC about doing a fund-raiser for Obama, Chouake said, "he’s decided to do it separately."
Pointing out that the group’s presidential events are "membership-driven," Chouake said that groups seeking to support candidates under the NORPAC banner "have to do the ‘heavy lifting.’ NORPAC isn’t writing the check. It just acts as a conduit." The funds collected are recognized as coming from the pro-Israel community, he said.
Explaining his personal support for McCain Chouake is a member of McCain’s finance committee and has been directing NORPAC collections for that campaign the NORPAC leader said, "Iran is high on my list of issues." He noted that as the child of survivors, he recognizes the dangers posed by Iran’s leader, "a megalomaniac with a hateful message."
"He wants to do to Israel in 1′ minutes what Hitler did in 1′ years," he said. "I’ve heard McCain talk. No way will he permit Iran to come to power and threaten the Jewish state." Chouake said he expects that McCain’s comments at the Aug. 1′ event will focus largely on this issue. "He’s been a consistent supporter of Israel for 30 years," said Chouake. "He’s got a 100 percent voting record."
But even more, he said, "you need to look at character, at the nature of a person." Citing former Presidents Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln, he pointed to their willingness to override the decisions of their respective cabinets in making decisions "from the heart."
Crediting McCain for his willingness to take unpopular stands on issues such as supporting the Iraq surge and endorsing an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling, he said the candidate has been "very courageous he supports what he thinks is right." He added that the candidate’s opposition to the use of corn to produce ethanol cost him electoral support in Iowa.
"I like that all [McCain’s] decisions have been all about moral, ethical, and historical right," he said. "That’s where leadership starts."
Chouake maintained that "while Obama is saying the right things about Israel" and received a "nice reception" at the AIPAC conference in June, NORPAC members, and pro-Israel activists in general, remain concerned about his legislative history.
For example, he noted, last September "[Obama] voted against the Kyl-Lieberman amendment," which called on the U.S. State Department to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The measure was adopted as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill by a vote of 76 to ”.
In addition, he said, "people have deep concerns over his choice of spiritual mentor. You don’t pick your family, but you do pick your pastor. You can affiliate with bridge-builders or expose your family to hate-mongers."
For more information about the Aug. 1′ fund-raiser, which will be held at the Glenpointe Marriott Hotel in Teaneck, call (’01) 788-5133.