May 22nd, 2008
05:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama looks to shore up Jewish support


Watch a clip of Sen. Obama's remarks in Boca Raton Thursday.

(CNN) - As Barack Obama courted Jewish voters in Florida Thursday, John McCain looked to resurrect the controversy over the Illinois senator’s former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright - who drew scrutiny earlier this year for comments he made in praise of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

The presumptive Republican nominee was responding to fallout over his decision to reject Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement, because of remarks that seemed to suggest Adolf Hitler had been carrying out God’s will because his actions drove many Jews to return to Israel.

“I have said I do not believe Senator Obama shares Reverend Wright's extreme views,” said McCain in his statement rejecting Hagee’s backing. “But let me also be clear, Reverend Hagee was not and is not my pastor or spiritual advisor, and I did not attend his church for twenty years. I have denounced statements he made immediately upon learning of them, as I do again today.”

Obama immediately fired back, telling reporters McCain was unfairly implying Wright’s controversial remarks were somehow attributable to him.

“If you're in national politics, everybody you can find one or two people who have said offensive things, or done offensive things,” said Obama. “You know, John McCain is having to deal with… Hagee. Who said stuff that is mind-boggling.

“I don't attribute those statements to John McCain. Nobody thinks that McCain believes that stuff. And for McCain to then suggest that every single statement that was made by somebody is somehow attributable to me, is just wrong…. It's just not accurate.”

Obama visited a Boca Raton synagogue Thursday in a bid to shore up his support among Jewish voters, a crucial Democratic voting bloc. He stressed his support for Israel after a week of controversy over whether or not he would agree to unconditional negotiations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel.

Obama said again that he disagreed with former President Jimmy Carter’s decision to meet with Hamas and would only sit down with the group if they renounced terror and recognized Israel’s right to exist.

“I want to just repeat this because I know that there’s a lot of rumor mongering going around. People have been getting e-mails non-stop,” Obama told the crowd. “That’s why I reject the attempts by some of my opponents in this campaign to distort my position…. As president, I will do everything in my power to help Israel protect itself from these and other threats.”

The Republican National Committee, looking to attract new support from this traditionally Democratic constituency, released a memo after Obama's synagogue visit that said his positions signaled that he was “anything but a friend” of Israel, including remarks about Palestinian suffering and his willingness to consider dialogue with nations hostile to the United States and Israel.

soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Independent

    McCain is always sticking his nose in, or should I say he has his swift boaters making derogatory targets. I listened to the speech and I liked it. From what I saw ofthe crowd, he got a warm recpetion, and I believe he was listened to and heard. I do hope everyone keeps in mind that McCain 2 big boosters, Hagee and parsley or full of hatred for the Jewish and Islam faiths. While he may not have attended their churches, he certainly sought their support and took their money. The straight talk express is realyy crooked.

    May 22, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  2. KE

    Obama says America has enpowered Iran and the terrorists group and so on and I thought he was giving too much credit to them and no positive respect to the American troops and the Iraq troops I thought it was offesive and the story distorted.

    Hillray or McCain 2008

    May 22, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  3. All American

    Obama is betting the American people have a short memory. In his book on hope Obama speaks about his church supporting Louis Farraklan against the jews. and he was questioned about this in one of the debates he had early in the year. Yes it is an attributable aganist Obama. he had to share these feeling to write about the subject. so he can't say he didn't know. The values you have from your family and church are the same values you will take to the white house. The Jewish people should be very nervious about Obama.

    He has also stated in the debates that he would meet with Hamas and Iran without conditions. He said " You have to talk to your enemies as well as your friends to have peace". Now he has a different story.

    You cannot compare Obama's church to Rev. Hagee. McCain was not a member of that church nor did he aknowledge Hagee's support. It took Obama twenty years and an election for him to do something. Personley I think Wright will follow Obama into the white house. He did not leave the church and it's teachings he just made a speech.

    May 22, 2008 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  4. pghgrl

    Did Obama sleep during the 20 years of attending Wright's church?
    I do not believe a person goes to a church for 20 years, has the preacher as his spiritual advisor and then he (Obama) wants us to believe he doesn't believe the same things Wright has preached? His educated voters should Wake Up!!!!

    May 22, 2008 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  5. susan s

    This is just sooooo hilarious. The man who claims to be the man of all the people who believes in CHANGE, is the same man who is now pandering for the jewish vote. The man that claims to be an outsider and not part of the old washington politics is doing exactly what EVERYONE WILL DO TO WIN A PRESIDENTIAL RACE. So please stop raising yourself above the group. You my man are NO better than any other candidate. Will you go to Little Italy next and than go to pander for the spanish vote.??????
    You and your staff better realize you may be able to engage your youth vote, but you can never convince seasoned citizens who have heard this story played before.
    Just getting Bush out of the white house will be the most significant CHANGE of all.
    We need a president who has the ability to lead the country in a very troubling world and you are not that man. Hillary Clinton is far superior to making the CHANGES that will restore our country to the great nation it once was before Bush distroyed us all.

    May 22, 2008 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  6. dd L.B,CA

    Another good speech & you could tell Barack connected with the Jewish people. Obama for Pres. Change We Can Bellieve In.

    May 22, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  7. City

    Obama does not deserve one Jewish vote when he's attends and supports his church – one that recently gave an award to Louis Farrakhan in the name of Jeremiah Wright, and reprints in their church bulletin a senior Hamas official's raging anti-semitism. I find Obama's choice of church repugnant not to mention all the support he's had for Wright all these years. It took him 20 years to finally renounce him – well, that's 20 years to late.

    If he can't figure out what's going on in his church for 20 years, and can't denounce avowed racism until he's politically forced to do so, he is completely unfit for the Presidency.

    May 22, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  8. sam

    +why not scrap all primary votes and have all delegates votes for all candidates , who ran for for nomination , and see who wins? I am sure , they have to decide who is going win large or swing states , and do not care about policy or what country need ? Just care about , democract get elected . This voting turning people off-

    May 22, 2008 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  9. David Shine

    Obama is just, intelligent and thoughtful. I, as a Jew will definitely vote for him. Better that someone who wants to obliterate Iran just to pander. How dumb do you think we are??

    May 22, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  10. Cope

    HOw do yo know he brought it up? Wee you there? This is politics and he is speaking to a Jewish audience about somthing particualry important; of course it needs to be discussed, anytime your opponent is making it an issue..duh!

    Find an issue to dislike heim for not for something every poltician does on the campaign trial. Get real mcd.

    May 22, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. Shirley-Ohio


    May 22, 2008 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  12. Sunny

    Barack Obama wants to be jewish now!!

    May 22, 2008 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  13. PhD in NJ

    Obama will have real trouble with Jewish voters, particularly those who remember the Holocaust or listen to the "wisdom" of Obama supporters like Wright, Farrakhan and Jackson. Those Obama supporters who are so quick to write off constituencies (Hillary supporters, poor, less educated folk, Jews, etc.) don't help. At some point, Obama and his supporters will wake up to the fact that the prize is not the nomination, but the general election. Obamabots are going down the path of ticking off so many potential voters that McCain will be able to just welcome them in.

    May 22, 2008 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |





    GO HILLARY!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2008 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  15. Dmitriy

    Well, he did denounce him right away. But Hillary wouldn't even have this problem.

    May 22, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |

    I don't see how Jews can support Obama with his ties to Islamic H.O.P.E. This man has more stories than Grimm's Fairytales and just as scary!

    May 22, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  17. martin

    i saw his visit to boca raton.even with a republican plant asking a ridiculous question,and republicans handing out 'smear' pamphlets,at his town hall meeting,he answered the man's question directly,politely,and responded gracefully, about why he disagreed with the man's feeble attempt to publicly smear him.the jewish crowd gave him a standing ovation,after booing the man down, during his long winded 'question'.,and listening to barack's pointed answer.this is why this man will be the next great president,that we have needed ,since JFK. hillary and mccain ,and their supporters don't understand the power behind barack's honesty,they only know the way elections have been won ,in the past.there's a change a coming...

    May 22, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  18. Joe from NC

    I'm a hillary supporter and I will cast my vote for Obama if he's the nominee. I think most of us will if he reaches out to us.

    May 22, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  19. pam Eugene OR

    Here it comes.
    I believe McCain to be some what honorable but I sure do not trust the RNC. I will not vote for McCain but he is a decent man. People need to judge the candidates on their own merit and not link them to others.
    Listen to the candidates and not the press and you will reach the right decision. No more war, health care for all and Obama for President!

    May 22, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  20. Tyrone


    Yes these people are smart. They are smart enough to know that you do not judge a book by it's colour. This is the biggest problem today with the so many voters. It is like they are children playing "follow the leader" People this is for real! Whatever you choose to do today will be with you and your children and grandchildren for at least the next four years! But do you really care about America's standing in the world after Hillary is elected Queen of all she surveys? I guess not, you are only concerned with having a woman in the White House Today!

    May 22, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  21. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Wright will follow him to Denver and until November, unless he and his wife decide to stop taking the kids to the same pews with the folks who cheered the soundbites and find another church.

    May 22, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  22. Dan, TX

    Obama does not sound like Wright any more than McCain sounds like Hagee. These men are both patriotic, moral, and ethically strong leaders. When their parties smear each other, they smear America.

    Also, this is a lose/lose for religion. We are going to make a lot of young atheists if all we do is show crazy religious 'leaders' all over the place.

    Religion is something for crazy fools? Is that the message? Wright, Hagee, the Texas polygamists? Is that what the news media believe religion is in America?

    May 22, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  23. Louisiana Ed

    McCain is a sniveling, boring, phony who cannot make a speech without 3 teleprompters in front of him at all times. Watch him the next speech you see him make . It is look straight ahead, then 45 degrees left, then 45 degrees right and squinting all the time to see what he is supposed to say next. I'll bet after he ends a speech he has no idea what he read. He is pathetic really!!!!!

    May 22, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  24. GoawayObama

    Someone should tell Obama that the presidential race is not some cut down contest. He should try actually obeying his own rule of not allowing this campaign to degenerate in to the muck we always see.

    May 22, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  25. Will

    How is this political pandering?
    Both national security policies to defend Israel and Saudi Arabia where made by Democratic Presidents. It's the GOP that talks tuff and tries to take credit for policies that were either rejected by or fought against by the Republican party; back in 1945 and 1948. If You look closer at theses histories, it is the GOP that has high jacked the Democratic agenda for political gain. Look at W speaking to the Israel government last week, and selling McCain and explaining Obama as a threat to there national security. With Saudi's being in our pocket, that has changed since W took office. Why else $135 barrel oil, and the Saudi's refusal to pump more oil for the

    May 22, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
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