Trail Dust: Bush the First Jewish Pres.?

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," May 22, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: President Bush (search) is going for the Jewish vote is the topic of this week's trail dust.

The president received no less than 21 standing ovations from the powerful Jewish lobbying group APAC in an address earlier this week, a group that's been more aligned with Democrats in past years. But team Bush hopes that the war on terror and spreading democracy through the Middle East will take long-time Jewish Democrats into the Republican corner, especially in battleground states.

Here's a sample of Bush's hawkish speech.


PRESIDENT BUSH: The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. Israel is a democracy and a friend and has every right to defend itself from terror.


FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Well, there, you heard President Bush. I think we all have a very firm idea of where he stands. He's repeated it. He's followed through by backing Sharon. He's pro-Israel, he's pro-security fence, he's pro-political reform among the Palestinians that would see Yasser Arafat (search), who will never agree to peace with Israel, to see, to see Arafat out.

Now, then there's John Kerry. Now, Mort, maybe you know, but I certainly haven't the slightest idea what Kerry would do as president about Israel. Do you have the foggiest idea?

KONDRACKE: I will, I will get to that point in a second...

BARNES: All right, OK. I don't. I mean, for instance, a few months ago he said he might like to have former president Jimmy Carter (search) and ex-secretary of state James Baker (search) sent to the Middle East as his personal envoys. They are both virulently anti-Israel.

Well, then he explained that, well, his speechwriters had just put that in there, and he didn't, you know, it was the old, the speechwriters did it, I didn't excuse. That is pathetic.

KONDRACKE: Well, the administration did criticize the, the Israeli destruction of the Rafah refugee camp and, and the killing of a lot of Palestinians this week. So at least they're, they're retaining some leaning toward, toward the Arab world.

But, you're fundamentally right, and the fact is that there is a poll conducted among Jewish voters which indicates that whereas president got something like 24 percent of the Jewish vote in 2000, he might get 31 percent this time, which could help him among, in key states like Florida.

I heard on the radio today one that, there was one Jewish voter who said that, that George Bush is our first Jewish president. That's because of his support for Israel ... in the way that Bill Clinton was deemed, you know ... the first, the first black president. Now, so if that kind of word gets around...


KONDRACKE: ... that'll help Bush considerably.

BARNES: He'll get more than 31 percent.

KONDRACKE: Now ... to answer your question about Kerry, indeed, his record has been all over the map, not only on the points that you said ... but he called the security fence an impediment to peace ... and now he's ... that the United Nations ... should be a big factor in...


KONDRACKE: ... in, foreign policy, and the U.N .... has been historically ...anti-Israel.

BARNES: Yes, so you don't know where he is either. All right.

On to the battleground polls. We begin in Michigan. President Bush regains the lead there, currently up 4 points over John Kerry. Gore won that state by 5 points in 2000. Bush has retaken the lead in Oregon as well. He has a 5-point lead over Kerry there. Gore won that state too in 2000 by less than 7,000 votes. There's a new poll in Florida, there usually is a new poll in Florida, after all, President Bush has only a 1- point lead there. And in Pennsylvania, a poll taken by a Democratic firm has Kerry leading Bush by 7 points.

KONDRACKE: So President Bush picks up Michigan and Oregon this week and barely holds onto Florida. So Kerry picked, and Kerry picks up Pennsylvania. So the electoral scoreboard is 293 for Bush and Kerry 245. Close.

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