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Democrats scramble to restore Jerusalem plank to platform
Same-sex marriage also backed by party
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The White House scrambled Wednesday to alter the Democratic Party platform after they adopted a version that left out references to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and made no mention of God.
Delegates voted by voice to approve the changes ordered by President Obama over the objections — including many outright boos — of delegates on the floor.
The reversal was made just a day after Democrats adopted the platform by voice vote without any reference to Jerusalem, which Israel says is its capital, though Palestinians object and argue they have a claim to the city.
Delegates didn't see the full platform until hours before the Tuesday vote, and the omission has drawn criticism at a time when President Obama's at-times cool relations with Israel are a subject of Republican attacks.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney even issued a statement Tuesday when the original Democratic text was released, saying it was "unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama's shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
And omitting God, Mr. Romney said, "suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people."
Mr. Obama's aides moved quickly to contain the damage, and vouch for the president's strong support for Israel.
"The president's position has been completely consistent since 2008," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One, traveling with Mr. Obama to the convention.
At that time, Mr. Obama said Jerusalem would be the capital, though his administration repeatedly has waived a law enacted by Congress directing that the U.S. Embassy be moved to the city.
Israel has designated Jerusalem its official capital, but most countries, including the United States, have not officially recognized the claim pending a final resolution of the city's status in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Like other nations, the U.S. keeps its embassy and diplomatic personnel based in Tel Aviv.
In drafting the platform, Democrats initially dropped a reference to God, which appeared in the 2008 platform in a plank saying government should help people "to make the most of their God-given potential."
The Republican platform this year repeatedly refers to God and "god-given" rights, and even includes a defense of the phrase "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Having to amend its platform is the latest controversy for the Obama re-election drive.
Democrats already have become the first party to embrace same-sex marriages in their platform.
The party's social agenda, especially the same-sex marriage issue, doesn't play well in the South and Midwest.
Since Mr. Obama's high-profile election-year conversion to supporting gay marriage in May, he has been reticent about whether he wants the issue highlighted in the platform.
The president has sprinkled mentions of his newfound support when speaking to college students and more sympathetic audiences, but the White House has tried to deflect questions about whether Mr. Obama thinks the gay-marriage plank should have been included in the official party platform and if its addition might hurt Democratic candidates in more conservative swing states.
"The president's position on this view has been well-chronicled, shall we say," White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said in late July, referring questions to the Democratic National Committee.
A DNC representative subsequently declined to comment.
Republicans added an explicit ban on gay marriage and same-sex civil unions to their platform last week in Tampa, Fla., so the contrast between the two parties is stark.
On immigration, Democrats in 2008 vowed to do more to tackle border security.
This year, the party took a victory lap in its platform, proclaiming that "the Southwest border is more secure than at any time in the past 20 years."
The platform also praises Mr. Obama for changing deportation priorities away from rank-and-file illegal immigrants to focus instead on those with long criminal records.
It contains a watered-down call to action on global warming. Whereas the 2008 document labeled climate change "the epochal, man-made threat to the planet" and vowed "never again" would the U.S. "sit on the sidelines," this year's version contains no bold promises — possibly a reflection on the constraints of holding the White House but failing to make progress.
On gun control, the Democrats' platform dropped language that recognized regional differences on the issue and instead called for "an honest, open national conversation." The party pledged to pursue legislation such as an assault weapons ban and extending background checks to all sellers at gun shows.
"I'm a strong supporter of the assault-weapons ban," Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, told The Washington Times. "I think it's horrible how we ship guns down to Mexico in exchange for drugs — it's extremely detrimental to both countries."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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