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Reporter’s Notebook: From the RNC

Hadassah Lieberman poses with attendees of a fashion show and fund-raiser organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition.  (Judy Davidson)

Hadassah Lieberman poses with attendees of a fashion show and fund-raiser organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Judy Davidson)

MINNEAPOLIS (JTA) – Like her husband, Hadassah Lieberman is backing John McCain for president. On Monday afternoon, she was the featured speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Women’s Committee fund-raiser and fashion show.

But, Lieberman insisted to JTA, that doesn’t mean she’s become a Republican.

A global ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Lieberman said she came to Monday’s event at the Minneapolis Neiman Marcus store because the RJC women’s committee was raising money for the organization. Because of Hurricane Gustav, proceeds from the fund-raiser will go to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund, but women’s committee chair Linda Law said she would match the total raised Monday and donate it to the breast cancer organization.

Lieberman told reporters after the event that she had been a registered independent until she married her husband, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and she was advised to become a Democrat. When Joe was defeated in the Democratic primary in 2006, and then won as an independent, she returned to political independence — and has no plans to change.

As for the presidential race, she said, “I love John… I hope he wins,” but she said she wasn’t “officially” endorsing anyone. When asked about the presumptive Republican nominee’s opposition to reproductive rights, she acknowledged that there were “differences” between some of her views and McCain’s.

In her speech to the 200-person crowd at the RJC event, which was pegged to the Republican convention, Lieberman alluded to the support her husband received from Republican Jews in his 2006 Senate win. “When [Joe] decided to run as an independent, a lot of you were out there, and we did not forget that,” she said.

Lieberman lost in the Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont but then beat Lamont in the general election.

 

Among the other luminaries in attendance Monday afternoon were Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Florida state Rep. Adam Hasner, former Massachusetts Lt. Gov Kerry Healey, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Texas state Sen. Florence Shapiro, radio talk show host Dennis Prager and NBC newswoman Norah O’Donnell.

***

Paula Waterfield wears three items around her neck: A Star of David for her religion, a flag for her country and a silver star for her son James, who is on his sixth tour of duty in Iraq.

Waterfield is a member of the pro-war organization Families United for our Troops and Their Mission, which was in Minneapolis for a Support Our Troops rally on Monday to coincide the Republican National Convention. On Sunday afternoon, the Nebraska City, Neb., resident and other members of the organization were invited guests to the premiere of the movie “An American Carol” – directed by “Airplane!” director David Zucker, who just happened to be a Sunday school classmate of Waterfield’s when they both were growing up in a suburb of Milwaukee.

Waterfield said she doesn’t often talk to her son, 41, about being Jewish in the military – although she said he does wonder if wearing a Star of David around his neck is a good idea – but did say that James does get to attend religious services on holidays “once in a while.”

The chair of Families United, Merrilee Carlson, also was in Denver last week outside the Democratic National Convention and said she had been “underwhelmed by the strength of the anti-war protesters,” feeling that the “wind has been pulled out of their sails” by the success of the surge in Iraq.

Waterfield said she frequently gets to speak to her son. Asked if she had a message for him, she said simply: “I love you.”

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When Zucker was first told there was a Republican Jewish Coalition, he replied, “That’s like Indians for Custer!” But it turned out that the RJC was how Zucker, co-creator of the classic comedy “Airplane!” met Myrna Sokoloff, his co-writer for his latest film, “An American Carol.”

Both Sokoloff and Zucker were “9/11 Republicans.” Larry Greenfield of the RJC’s Los Angeles chapter introduced Zucker to Sokoloff because the filmmaker wanted to write a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, whom he had previously supported, telling her he now supported President Bush.

“We never wrote the letter,” recalled Sokoloff, who had been a campaign operative for Democrats, including Boxer, in the 1980s and 1990s, has a masters degree in Jewish education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and was an aspiring screenwriter herself.

But they teamed up to make an anti-Kerry ad in 2004 and partnered to make “An American Carol,” a spin on the classic “A Christmas Carol,” in which a documentary filmmaker with a remarkable resemblance to Michael Moore is taught to love America. Kevin Farley, brother of the late Chris Farley, plays “Michael Malone,” and Leslie Nielsen, Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight are among the stars who appear in the film.

The movie was previewed in Minneapolis on the Sunday before the Republican National Convention. After the film received a standing ovation, Zucker pointed out to the crowd that the producer of his movie, Stephen McEveety, also produced Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ.”

Zucker joked that since McEveety had been so successful with a film that consisted mostly of “Jews beating up God,” he was urging Zucker to insert scenes of “Jews beating up the pope or Gandhi.”

As for the film, there is some of the slapstick and classic sight gags that Zucker’s films are known for – at an anti-war protest, the back of one protester’s sign reads “See Other Side.” And there are a few uproarious scenes, particularly a training film early in the movie showing the right and wrong ways to carry out a suicide bombing: Ahmad finds his target, while Ahman doesn’t have the proper directions and blows up before he gets there.

But as the film goes along, the humor seems to give way to the political message, which gets very heavy-handed at times. And the filmmakers seem to really hate Michael Moore – the character is even called unprintable names by his niece. It will open nationally on Oct. 3.

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