Menu
Home

Politics

Elections

Dem delegates, leaders struggle to explain floor fight over God, Jerusalem platform change

 

Democrats are still struggling to come to terms with the brief, but raucous, floor fight that erupted Wednesday at their convention over the restoration of references to God and Jerusalem as Israel's capital to the official platform. 

Delegates who opposed the move were grumbling about being steamrolled by party leaders. And those party leaders were giving conflicting stories about what actually happened. 

Immediately after the vote late Wednesday afternoon, platform committee head and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland told Fox News the move was merely a "clarification" and not an "error."

But President Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter contradicted that in an interview Thursday morning with Fox News, as she explained how Obama personally intervened to restore those references. 

"They were a mistake and he said we've got to fix it," she said. "President Obama didn't agree with the platform. He sought to change it."

Meanwhile, delegates who objected called the process unfair. 

Rashida Tlaib, a member of the Michigan delegation and the state's House of Representatives, told Fox News that delegates had been "shammed" because it was clear the party did not have the votes to change back the language. Tlaib called it "irresponsible" and "wrong." 

"It failed twice, and for whatever reason it still failed but was still pushed through," Tlaib said, referring to the three votes that were called during the brief but chaotic procedural move. 

The visual from the floor Wednesday afternoon -- of delegates shouting down the convention chairman as he called the vote to restore those references -- is sure to prove ready fodder for Republicans looking to cast Democrats as hostile to religion and/or Israel. 

Republicans also used the scene to mock claims that the party is "unified." 

"After yesterday's convention floor fight over Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the mention of God in the platform, it's pretty hard to call this 'a unified party,'" the Romney campaign said in an email Thursday. 

A large and loud group of delegates shouted "no" Wednesday as the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, called for the vote. After he concluded the vote on the third try, many booed at his decision. 

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., told Fox News that he pushed to restore the Jerusalem language. 

"I wanted a change (back). I talked to several people close to the president," Levin said, without saying whether he spoke to the president. "The '08 platform stated (the policy) correctly ... that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel." 

The battle marked the biggest platform fight so far in either party's convention, and signaled Democrats were worried the prior language could have been politically damaging in a tight election year. 

In the section referencing God, the change effectively restored language that had been in the 2008 platform. It now says: "We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential." 

The initial 2012 platform language said this: "We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth -- the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us." 

The change came after both Mitt Romney and GOP running mate Paul Ryan criticized the omission. In an interview with Fox News, Romney said the omission signaled the "party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don't recognize." 

"(That) this party purposely removed God from their platform suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people," Romney said. "I see it as being as out of touch and detached." 

Democrats also restored a section, previously left out, that states Jerusalem "is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." 

That is what officials say is Obama's personal stance, though the administration's stance is for the status to be worked out between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

Romney told Fox News earlier that not including the capital language in the initial platform was an example of "Israel being thrown under the bus by the president." 

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the changes were made "to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008." 

"Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths," she said. 

She noted administrations of both parties have said the status of Jerusalem should be negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians.