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The Office of the Presidency Must Be Protected: AJCongress, Refuting Connecticut Editor, Maintains That Clinton's Problems Raise Issues of Jewish Concern.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Jewish Congress today responded to criticism by Jonathan Tobin, Editor of the Connecticut Jewish Ledger in West Hartford, that AJCongress' call for the U.S. Congress and the American people to get back to the nation's business and not to be distracted by President Clinton's troubles, was misguided and not a Jewish issue. In their response, AJCongress President Jack Rosen and Executive Director Phil Baum declared, "It is difficult to believe that an editor of a Jewish newspaper does not realize that any issue vitally affecting the United States affects American Jewry."

Noting their disappointment with Clinton's actions, "which derogate from the moral leadership of the Presidency, and which narrow the opportunities Clinton has to advance his agenda," Rosen and Baum declared that more important than President Clinton's fate was repairing the damage done to the Office of the Presidency.

Responding to Tobin, Rosen and Baum enumerated a series of issues of critical importance to the Jewish community in which Clinton's distraction is apparent.

They include:

-- The stalled Middle East peace process, including most recently,

another failed mission by Dennis Ross to produce a redeployment

agreement;

-- Saddam Hussein's abrogation of his agreement with U.N. Secretary

General Kofi Annan to permit weapons inspections. "Clearly," Rosen and

Baum said, "Saddam has been emboldened by Clinton's weakness; he

literally has a free hand now to proceed with his weapons of mass

destruction programs";

-- Russia's economic crisis, including the possibility that Jews may be

made scapegoats, and the appointment of Yevgeny Primakov, "a friend to

Iraq and Syria among other Middle Eastern tyrannies, as Prime

Minister";

-- The "specter" of the election in November of a Congress which would

undo social programs favored by most Jews in accordance with Jewish

values, and in addition attempt to break down the wall of separation

of church and state to bring about a "Christian nation."

They noted as well that when the President did take forceful action, bombing terrorist targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, his motivations were impugned.

But Rosen and Baum reiterated that their greatest concern, which escaped Tobin's "misguided umbrage," was to protect the Presidency.

"The problems confronting all Americans -- and given AJCongress' mission, the Jewish community -- are of urgent importance. They cannot wait while what are clearly collateral issues are sorted out," the Jewish leaders said.

They added, "The Presidency and what it represents to the governance of this country must be protected and its powers preserved. No matter what the personal frailties of any particular incumbent, we have what we have, and so we must proceed with the business of the United States."

The full text of the statement is as follows:

In his vehement and widely disseminated attack on AJCongress for its

expressed concern that President Clinton's Monica Lewinsky troubles are

distracting him from the nation's agenda, Jonathan Tobin wonders what

makes this a "Jewish issue?" It is difficult to believe that an editor of

a Jewish newspaper does not realize that any issue vitally affecting the

United States affects American Jewry.

Surely, we are disappointed by President Clinton's actions which

derogate from the moral leadership of the Presidency, and which narrow the

opportunities he has to advance his agenda. For now, at least, his bully

pulpit is seriously compromised. How this damage can be repaired remains

to be seen.

Whatever the personal fate of President Clinton, however, it is

imperative that the Office continue to receive the respect that is

indispensable for any President to fulfill his duties, international as

well as domestic. These include the ability to address problems which

confront all Americans, and given the AJCongress mission, are of

undeniable Jewish concern.

Israel and the Palestinians continue to haggle over the next step in

the peace process, without creative involvement from the President.

Latest reports indicate that Ambassador Dennis Ross once again returned to

Washington empty- handed, although agreement on a second Israeli

redeployment had previously been reported to be imminent.

To the dismay of Israel, not to mention much of America, Saddam Hussein

blatantly abrogates the agreement to permit weapons inspections he signed

with Secretary General Kofi Annan mere months ago, without much response

from the President. Clearly, Saddam has been emboldened by Clinton's

weakness; he literally has a free hand now to proceed with his weapons of

mass destruction programs.

When the President does act -- as in his attack on terrorist targets

in Afghanistan and Sudan -- his motives are impugned by American

legislators even as the President performs his constitutional duties as

Commander-in-Chief.

Russia's economic crisis brings with it the inevitable threat that

Jews will be made the scapegoat, but in his recent visit to Russia, the

President never raised the issue with Boris Yeltsin. All he could offer

Yeltsin was advice to continue with reforms. The immediate result was the

appointment of Yevgeny Primakov - a friend to Iraq and Syria among other

Middle Eastern tyrannies -- as Prime Minister.

Clinton's distraction and weakness raises the specter of the election

in November of a Congress much like the one that tried to impose "The

Contract With the American Family" after the 1994 elections. It took some

time then to learn how to rally Americans against a legislative agenda

that threatened to vitiate the kind of society favored by an overwhelming

percentage of American Jews, a society based on Jewish concepts of concern

for the disadvantaged.

It is useful to remember that the "Contract," if successful, would

also have done much to further the concept of a "Christian nation" and to

break down the wall of separation of church and state that is so vital to

Jewish interests.

All of these issues have enormous impact on America's Jews. Our

urging of Congress to take its mind off Kenneth Starr's report and to

concentrate on these matters is consistent with these concerns.

Essentially our concern is less with the President than with the

Presidency. And the Office of the Presidency has been decidedly weakened

by the President's actions and the events that have followed. Whatever

the personal fate of the President, it is imperative that the Office

continue to receive the respect that is indispensable for any President to

fulfill his obligations, international as well as domestic.

The problems confronting all Americans -- and given AJCongress'

mission, the Jewish community -- are of urgent importance. They cannot

wait while what are clearly collateral issues are sorted out.

The Presidency and what it represents to the governance of this

country must be protected and its powers preserved. No matter what the

personal frailties of any particular incumbent, we have what we have, and

so we must proceed with the business of the United States.

We will not permit Mr. Tobin's misguided umbrage to deter us from

continuing to insist that this task be carried out forthrightly and

without pause.
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Date:Sep 24, 1998
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