CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama personally intervened to order Democrats to change language in their party platform to add a mention of God and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, campaign officials said Wednesday.
Scrambling to end the furor, Democrats abruptly changed the platform early Wednesday evening to reinstate language from the 2008 platform that said “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.” Mitt Romney and other Republicans had seized on the omission to criticize the Democrats.
Democrats also restored 2008 language on Jerusalem, declaring the city “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.”
Campaign officials said Obama’s reaction on the omission of God from the platform was to wonder why it was removed in the first place.
The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about private discussions.
The platform changes did not sit well with some Democratic delegates gathered in Charlotte, N.C., for the party’s three-day convention. Many in the audience booed after the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, ruled that the amendments had been approved despite the fact that a large group of delegates had objected. He called for a vote three times before ruling.
The revisions came as Obama struggles to win support from white working-class voters, many of whom have strong religious beliefs, and as Republicans try to woo Jewish voters and contributors away from the Democratic Party. Republicans claimed the platform omissions suggested Obama was weak in his defense of Israel and out of touch with mainstream Americans.
Democrats had approved a platform on Tuesday that made no mention of God or Jerusalem. Instead, it expressed “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.” Republicans quickly pounced.
GOP officials argued that not taking a position on Jerusalem’s status in the party platform raised questions about Obama’s support for the Mideast ally. Romney said omitting God “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people.”
“I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that American’s don’t recognize,” Romney said.
The Democratic Party’s decision to restore the mention of Jerusalem reflected what advisers said was the president’s personal view, if not the policy of his administration. The administration has long said determining Jerusalem’s status was an issue that should be decided by Israelis and Palestinians in peace talks, but has been careful not to state that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
Romney’s campaign quickly sought to capitalize on the slight, but important difference.
“Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” said Andrea Saul, Romney’s spokeswoman. “President Obama has repeatedly refused to say the same himself. Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”
The White House wouldn’t say whether the change in the Democratic platform language reflected a change in administration policy.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the reinstated party language reflected “the policy of both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades.”