|The Garrett campaign mailed voters in the fifth district a card that has infuriated his opponent.|
Rep. Scott Garrett’s re-election campaign has painted Democratic challenger Rabbi Dennis Shulman as a terrorist appeaser who would open dialogue with Hamas – and that has drawn Shulman’s ire.
Republican incumbent Garrett has been fighting off Shulman’s challenge for New Jersey’s fifth congressional district since the blind rabbi from Demarest announced his candidacy last year. Polls show the conservative Garrett with a narrowing single-digit lead over the political newcomer, who has campaigned on a much more liberal platform.
|Rep. Scott Garrett|
Jeff Hauser, Shulman’s campaign manager, said his office began receiving outraged phone calls last week about the Garrett campaign’s new ads. A postcard mailed to voters with a picture of Shulman against a backdrop of gun-wielding terrorists reads, “Should we be talking with terrorists? Dennis Shulman thinks so.” The other side of the card pictures Shulman and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (in separate photos) and claims that Shulman “favors reaching out to rogue regimes like Iran” and “supports negotiations with the terrorist organization Hamas.” A new television spot from the Garrett campaign, meanwhile, calls Shulman “too extreme for New Jersey.”
“This mail piece is reprehensible,” Hauser told The Jewish Standard during a telephone call last Friday. “Everybody needs to speak out [against] linking a rabbi to Hamas.”
Hauser refuted the Garrett campaign’s claims, citing his candidate’s pro-Israel credentials. Hauser also cited Shulman’s three trips to Israel and the fact that his wife, Pamela Tropper, comes from a family of Holocaust survivors,
“Dennis Shulman’s wife lost huge chunks of her family in the Holocaust and Scott Garrett has the audacity to question Dennis’ love of Israel?” Hauser said.
Responding to Hauser’s allegations that the ad went too far, Garrett’s campaign manager, Amanda Gasperino, acknowledged Shulman’s patriotism but kept up the attack.
|Rabbi Dennis Shulman|
“Both Dennis Shulman and Scott Garrett love America and want to ensure security for Israel, but Garrett and 5th District voters reject Shulman’s position, articulated in The Forward on September 19, 2007, of support for negotiating with known terrorist organizations,” Gasperino wrote in an e-mail to the Standard.
That Forward article said that Shulman wants to diplomatically engage Hamas and Iran.
“I guess I’m all for thinking and communications and talking and trying to work these things out,” Shulman reportedly told The Forward.
“This is a critical policy difference between Shulman and Garrett and calls into question Shulman’s judgment on the issues facing 5th District voters,” Gasperino wrote. “These stances put him squarely outside the mainstream of New Jersey voters.”
Hauser was quick to point out that Shulman supports diplomacy in the Middle East but does not support direct negotiations with Hamas.
“Dennis thinks the U.S. should be helping the elected government of Israel,” he said. “Dennis thinks the U.S. should be supportive of the State of Israel’s foreign policy. Scott Garrett believes in both second-guessing Israel’s foreign policy and defunding foreign aid.”
Shulman has been endorsed by the new left-wing Israel lobby J Street. The PAC favors negotiations in the Middle East, both with the Palestinians and Iran.
“It’s very clear that in accepting and touting his endorsement from J Street PAC, Mr. Shulman is aligning himself with their ideology,” Gasperino wrote.
The National Jewish Democratic Council weighed in on the controversy in a statement on Monday that likened Garrett’s campaigning to fear-mongering.
“There is no other reason for this type of messaging except to try to exploit Jewish fears about the security of Israel,” Ira N. Forman, NJDC’s executive director, said in the statement. “It is simply not a credible argument to Jewish voters that Shulman, who has a strong policy and deep passion for Israel, would advocate negotiating with Hamas terrorists.”
The Garrett/Shulman contest is not the only one beset by accusations of extremism. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has been the target of several e-mail-based rumors accusing the Democratic nominee of being a secret Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement Monday condemning a recent e-mail sent to Jewish voters in Pennsylvania that suggested voting for Obama would be a “tragic mistake.” The e-mail reportedly originated within the Republican Federal Committee of PA – Victory 2008.
“Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008,” the e-mail read. “Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this year!”
In a statement from Poland, where he is touring Holocaust sights with Israel Defense Force officials, Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director and a Bergen County resident, called the apparent analogy to the rise of Nazism “odious, false, and repugnant.”
“Ugly, divisive personal attacks against a candidate for any political office should never be acceptable,” Foxman said in the statement.
Later that day, one of the signers of the Republican e-mail, Sandra Schultz Newman, a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge and a member of Sen. John McCain’s Election Day legal task force, issued a statement that “some of the language [in the e-mail] was inappropriate and intemperate…. I apologize to anyone who was offended by this misguided e-mail.”