Recap of Saturday, September 13

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, September 13, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean (search) caused a political storm this week when he suggested that Israel should get out of the West Bank and said that the United States should not take sides between Israel and the Palestinians.

Dean defended his remarks despite a drubbing by his rival, Joe Lieberman, and by several Jewish groups. Among those voicing his displeasure is Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, which claims some 50,000 members nationwide.

Welcome to the show, Mr. Rosen.

Just how much damage has Dean done himself a, among Jewish Democrats, do you think?

JACK ROSEN, AMERICAN JEWISH CONGRESS: Well, I think his statements have had a real impact. It's clear Governor Dean didn't bother to differentiate between terrorists, murderers, and innocent civilians that are being attacked by Hamas.

I also think he failed to understand the…America's role in, in the peacemaking process. America should, in fact, defend Israel against terrorists, and not be even-handed in that. That is, after all, America's policy for Americans as well as for Israelis.

KONDRACKE: Well, as you alluded to, Dean also said on Wednesday in an interview, "There's a war going on, and in the Middle East (search), and members of Hamas (search) are soldiers in that war, and therefore they're going to be casualties if the war, if they keep making war, so I'd prefer to strongly speak out against violence," et cetera, et cetera.

I mean, does the idea that Hamas members are soldiers in a war, is that going to substantially force Jewish Democrats who might have been in favor of Dean to some other candidate?

ROSEN: Well, first of all, the idea of suggesting that Hamas terrorists are soldiers is, is not only misleading, but if it certainly is a misunderstanding of the history and to, to give them the status of a soldier that's part of a military, again, is not acceptable.

Look, I think Governor Dean has been supportive of Israel. He, he seems not to have an understanding of this subject to the extent he should. I think he's made some errors. I hope he can correct it in the future.

What's most troubling, I think, in his statements this week is the question of what prompted Governor Dean, in the midst of these suicide attacks, at a time when Israeli Jews are getting killed and some American citizens have been killed, to suddenly decide to use the term "even- handedness," and, as you suggested, call Hamas murderers soldiers, and let the Palestinians off the hook?

What is it that the Palestinians have done? What have the Palestinian leadership done to dismantle terrorists in, in recent weeks and months, to suggest that there ought to be a change in U.S. policy? I don't understand what…where Governor Dean was coming from.

KONDRACKE: Well, the key question is, do you think that this is based in ignorance of the situation there, or do you think that he's one of these Jimmy Carter-style, you know, even- handed, you know, they're both wrong, and you know, that kind of comes from that kind of place?

ROSEN: I think it's just a, a lack of understanding of the subject and hasn't thought through it very much. He has been supportive of Israel in the past.

I might add though, one would have expected that there would have been a spontaneous reaction from Democrats, you know, speaking out against the Dean statements. And there seems to be some hesitancy. And I think that will have an impact on the Jewish community, and on Jewish voters.

I think the fact that the Democrats are not speaking up shows that they're, you know, allowing this to stand, and I think the present, other presidential candidates should clearly come out and speak up on the subject and make their voices heard.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Let me ask about a different presidential candidate, President Bush. Doesn't this offer an opportunity for him to pick up even more Jewish support?

ROSEN: I believe it does. You know, he's earned the Jewish support because of his policies on Israel, and I think that Jewish vote, to some extent, will be up for grabs as long as terrorism is a key issue, and certainly terrorism against Israelis. And I think it affords the Republicans and President Bush an opportunity to pick up more of that Jewish vote.

BARNES: Well, what percentage do you think he could get in 2004?

ROSEN: I'm not an expert on percentages. But I think he can significantly increase the percentage...

KONDRACKE: Let me ask you about...

ROSEN: ... he's gotten last time.

KONDRACKE: ... let me ask you about Joe Lieberman's problems. I've heard it said that, that some members of the organized Jewish community think that this is not now the time for a Jewish president. Do you feel that way? And do you…or is that widespread? And why?

ROSEN: There's been some concern on that. Or, I mean, I think the…America has grown up, and I think we're ready for Jewish presidents and black American president and Latino presidents, and even women as, as presidents. So I don't think that's a major factor.

I can understand why some have expressed that concern. But Joe Lieberman has been very tough, you know, against the Palestinians, against terrorism. I certainly, you know, would think that he would, he would follow the same kind of tough foreign policy as President Bush has.

BARNES: Thank you, Jack.

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