MIAMI BEACH (Jul. 13)
Jewish political leaders received prominent roles with high visibility thrusts of Sen. George McGovern’s successful campaign to be the Democratic Party’s candidate against Richard M. Nixon in the Presidential election Nov. 7.
Senator and former Governor of Connecticut, Abraham Ribicoff, nominated his “old and good friend” McGovern at the party’s convention last night. Ribicoff, long a stalwart for liberalism, is regarded generally as a leading proponent for social legislation by the Senate, particularly on education and welfare. Of the 18 speeches putting six candidates into nomination before the 3016 delegates, Ribicoff alone referred to Israel. The New Englander said McGovern’s “leadership in ending the tragedy of Vietnam has not reduced his determination to protect the real interests of the United States in Europe and the survival of Israel in the Middle East.”
Surprisingly, the three speakers nominating Sen. Henry M. Jackson did not mention Israel or the Middle East but observers attached no significance to this in view of Jackson’s outstanding record of support for Israel. No one mentioned Soviet Jewry, skyjacking or genocide.
Before the balloting began on the third night of the convention, Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel delivered a slashing 30-minute attack on the Nixon administration’s record. That Mandel was selected for this role was construed by some as a bid to attract attention to direct opposition to the President by a leading Jewish politician. Both Ribicoff and Mandel have been mentioned in gossip at the beach front hotels as among possible choices by McGovern to be his Vice President running mate.
After McGovern had triumphed on the first ballot, Ribicoff and Mandel were announced as members of the party’s official delegation that will formally inform McGovern of his nomination. Mandel is one of three Jewish governors, all of them Democrats. The others are Milton Schapp of Pennsylvania and Frank Licht of Rhode Island. Licht was chairman of his state’s delegation which cast all of its 32 votes for McGovern. Previously, it also upheld the seating of the full California delegation committed to McGovern in the floor fight Monday night on its credentials. Mandel also personally headed the Maryland delegation but it failed to deliver a majority for McGovern, giving him 13 votes and 38 to Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace.
Pennsylvania’s delegation gave Sen. Jackson 86 1/2 votes and McGovern 81. Maryland and Pennsylvania have large Jewish communities. California, whose Jewish population is about one million, half of them in Los Angeles, started the McGovern triumph by casting all of its 271 votes for McGovern. New York, which gave McGovern 263 of its 274 delegates, has more than two and a half million Jews. Massachusetts and New Jersey, both with large Jewish communities, went for McGovern, too, the Bay State giving him all of its 102 votes and New Jersey a big majority, 89.
Robert Abrams, Bronx Borough President who joined in speaking on behalf of a Jackson-sponsored amendment to the platform’s plank on support of Israel against possible Soviet pressures, identified himself in announcing New York’s big vote for McGovern. These two actions also increased Jewish visibility in McGovern’s camp. An indication of concern by the Democratic National Committee over possible defection to President Nixon of normally Democratic-supporting Jewish voters appeared with the announcement that it has called a meeting of Jewish delegates to the Democratic Convention to a seminar this afternoon. Sen. Ribicoff, Rep. Sidney Yates of Chicago, and Howard Metzenbaum, of Cleveland, who had campaigned as a Democratic candidate for Senator from Ohio, were to address the seminar. The announcement said more than 300 Jewish delegates are attending the convention.
According to the announcement, the meeting was planned to “quell the wide-spread effort to use the question of American-Israeli relations to cause polarization among Jewish voters.” A purpose also “is to fully elucidate the position of the Democratic nominee on issues of direct concern to Jewish voters.” “Issues ranging from the Nixon administration’s Middle East policy to crises facing American Jews on the domestic front will be discussed,” the announcement said.
Jews and Blacks worked closely both in the McGovern campaign and particularly in the party’s administrative machinery which set up the platform. After Ribicoff had nominated McGovern, two Blacks seconded it. They were Mrs. Valerie Kushner of Virginia, whose husband is missing in action in Vietnam, and the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia Representative in Congress who was a leading sponsor of the Congressional Black Caucus statement strongly supporting Israel after the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Ind. last March had adopted a resolution that would dismember Israel. Mrs. Patricia Roberts Harris, a Washington lawyer who is a former ambassador and is on the boards of several major business corporations, was chairman of the committee on credentials which handles the all-important fights involving principally the California and Illinois delegations. The presiding officer for most of the convention’s sessions on the platform was a young Black lawyer and state legislator from Los Angeles, Mrs. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. The chairman of the Platform Drafting Subcommittee was Kenneth Gibson, Mayor of Newark, N.J., who also shared in running the convention from the podium during the platform discussion.
Jewish officials prominent in the party’s administrative machinery at the convention included Harvard professor Richard Neustadt, chairman of the 150-member Platform Committee who led the defense of the platform during the all-night discussion. He was the chief architect of the platform. Also on the podium during the long debate was the Platform Committee’s executive director, Philip F. Zeidman, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and now practices law in Washington. The general counsel of the party’s legal staff is David Ginsburg, a Washington, D.C. lawyer.