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13 posts from September 5, 2012

September 05, 2012

PolitiFact gives Wasserman Schultz a Pants on Fire

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz found herself on the defensive about comments she made to Jewish supporters on the eve of her party’s convention in Charlotte, N.C. The topic: comments she said were made by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren about Republicans and Israel.

The debate about what the South Florida congresswoman said began Monday, after Michael Barone at the conservative Washington Examiner wrote about her comments in front of a group of Jewish Democrats. Here is the exact quote from the Examiner, including a typo and an incomplete phrase in quotes at the end:

"National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke ans was warmly received as she extolled Obamacare (Democrats are using the term) and said she has heard Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren say, in her words, ‘what the Republicans is dangerous for Israel.’"

On Tuesday morning, the Examiner’s Philip Klein gave a more detailed explanation of her comments, which occurred at a training session for Jewish Democrats. "As she was wrapping up her remarks, she claimed that, ‘We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,’" Klein wrote.

The Examiner also wrote that Wasserman Schultz said Republicans were "undermining Israel’s security by suggesting that the United States and Israel don’t have anything other than a unique and close and special relationship. It undermines Israel’s security to its neighbors in the Arab world and to its enemies. And we need to make sure that the fact that there has never been and will never be daylight between the two parties or the support for Israel that we have in the United States, that that is conveyed to Jewish Americans across this country. That’s our responsibility. It’s the responsibility we’re asking all of you to take on."

On Tuesday afternoon, the ambassador reacted to the Examiner report. "I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel," the statement from Oren read. "Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle."

Wasserman Schultz then went on Fox News Tuesday evening. Fox News repeated her quote about Oren and she responded:

"I didn’t say he said that," she said. Read more about her claim that earned her a Pants on Fire from PolitiFact.

Court records in Hialeah voter-fraud case show more voters got help with absentee ballots

Ramon Del Pino can’t say for sure whom he voted for last month. And the blind man from Hialeah also can’t identify the two women who came to his home to help him vote.

When interviewed July 31 by police detectives investigating absentee-ballot fraud, Del Pino said he told the women that he wanted to vote for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, but “he allowed the two females to choose the remaining candidates for him.”

Del Pino is among more than a dozen people interviewed by police investigating ballot-broker Deisy Cabrera, who is facing a felony vote fraud charge and two misdemeanor counts of illegal ballot possession. Prosecutors on Wednesday released police reports from interviews with Del Pino and 16 other voters whose ballots Cabrera, a so-called boletera, is accused of collecting before the Aug. 14 primary election.

The most serious charge Cabrera faces is a felony count for allegedly forging the signature of 81-year-old Zulema Gomez, who lies unresponsive from a brain tumor in a Miami Springs nursing home. Cabrera has pleaded not guilty.

At least three other voters told police that Cabrera either suggested candidates or filled out portions of the ballots for them, the newly released records show.

And some voters said they were guided to Cabrera by local politicians.

Eloisa Abreu told police that Cabrera came to help her vote after she called the office of state Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, asking for assistance with her ballot, the records show. Abreu said she voted for her favored candidates in better-known races, but she followed Cabrera’s advice on judicial candidates.

More here.

Where's Bill Nelson? And where's Florida at Democrats' convention?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bill who? Nelson where?

The embattled senior senator from the nation’s biggest battleground state has almost no profile at the Democratic National Convention.

Bill Nelson neither asked for nor was offered a speaking role. He held no big public events. He didn’t appear at the Florida delegation breakfast.

But he did stop by and visit delegates on the floor, grant a handful of news-media interviews, attend a fundraiser and then hustle out of Charlotte N.C. after less than a day on the ground.

It’s vintage Nelson: low key and averse to overt partisanship — the essence of a political convention. Nelson, who has shied away from President Barack Obama while backing much of his agenda, didn’t have a speaking role in the 2000 convention, when he first successfully ran for Senate, in 2004 or in 2008.

“The campaign’s in Florida, not in Charlotte,” Nelson explained. “I start in Panama City and start working back from the Panhandle out east on Thursday. That’s where the campaign is.”

Nelson just isn’t the type of speaker a convention would feature anyway, according to those who know him.

“His style is more tailored to small groups, speaking with voters one-on-one,” said David Beattie, a pollster who works for Nelson.

“I don’t know all of the inner workings of how a convention is put together,” Beattie said, “but it all depends on who fits their messaging, what’s right for the hall.”

By that standard: Florida isn’t right for the Democratic National Convention.

More here

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/05/2986450/sen-bill-nelson-prefers-campaign.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

U.S. supports Florida's eight-day early voting timetable

The state of Florida scored an important legal victory on Wednesday when the U.S. Department of Justice endorsed a timetable of eight 12-hour days of early voting. The federal action all but ends a long-running legal battle that threatened to disrupt the November election. A panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C., now is expected to approve the timetable for use in the upcoming presidential election.

Attorney General Eric Holder filed papers with the U.S. District Court in Washington, stating that the government "does not oppose judicial preclearance" of the new early voting schedule in five counties that are under federal civil rights jurisdiction: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.

Gov. Rick Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, called the government's action "the most significant sign to date that Florida's new voting laws are fair and can be implemented statewide."

Democrats and voter advocacy groups criticized the Legislature for last year's decision to shorten the early voting schedule from 14 days to eight, calling it a scheme to suppress turnout. Statistics show black voters especially like the convenience of early voting.

The three-judge panel itself suggested the 96 hour timetable, provided the five counties open early voting centers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anything less than that, the judges said in an Aug. 16 ruling, threatened to disenfranchise black voters in Florida.  

-- Steve Bousquet

Miami-Dade commissioners to consider absentee-ballot protections, including paying for postage

In the wake of absentee-ballot fraud investigations that roiled last month’s local elections, Miami-Dade commissioners will take up three measures Thursday intended to tighten the rules for voting by mail.

Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, whose former aide has been tangled up in the fraud probe, is sponsoring a resolution directing the county administration to provide pre-paid postage envelopes for absentee voters to return their ballots.

Pre-paid postage has long been suggested as a fix to prevent campaigns and other outsiders from handling absentee ballots. Based on voter turnout in the last presidential election, the postage would cost no more than $170,000, according to the county. The practice would begin with absentee ballots mailed within the United States from Miami-Dade voters for the upcoming, Nov. 6 general election.

“At that point, you’ve now eliminated an excuse for somebody to knock on your door and offer you a stamp and offer to take [your ballot] to a mailbox,” said Bovo, whose measure is co-sponsored by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

City councils in Miami Lakes and Hialeah, which are in Bovo’s district, have recently passed similar measures requesting the county provide pre-paid postage return envelopes for absentee ballots.

The two other county proposals are mostly symbolic, urging state lawmakers to take action regarding absentee ballots when they convene for next year’s legislative session.

One of those resolutions, from Commission Chairman Joe Martinez and also backed by Bovo, asks lawmakers to keep secret the names and contact information of voters who request absentee ballots. That data is currently made available in the lead-up to elections to candidates and political committees — but not to reporters or other members of the public — to target their advertising to those voters.

Reporters and the public can obtain the information after the election.

The other resolution, put forth by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and supported by Martinez and Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Barbara Jordan, requests that lawmakers reinstate a previous requirement that voters give a reason, such as travel or an illness, for voting absentee. More here.

Damage control: Obama gets DNC to change course, recognize Israel-capital Jerusalem; Arab-American delegates vote no

In damage control over Israel, the Democratic Party abruptly reversed course Wednesday and reinstated language that asserts Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. The party also reinstated language affirming the God-given potential of Americans.

The changes were made by a voice vote as the convention opened at 5 p.m. and were done at the direct request of President Obama, said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“The president intervened out of a personal opinion that Jerusalem should be recognized as the state of Israel, recognizing that this was in the 2008 platform,” Wasserman Schultz said.

“We already had a 100 percent pro-Israel platform,” she said, “but the president wanted to make sure there was even more clarity in it.”

But the changes didn’t come easy. Few knew they were happening. None of the rank-and-file Democrats had a clue about Obama’s involvement.

Some delegates, many of whom held "Arab American Democrats" signs on the convention floor, loudly opposed the changes as they yelled “no.”

Those delegates said they opposed the language about Jerusalem specifically. And they didn’t like the last-minute procedural move that caught them off-guard.

“Obviously, it makes me feel a little frustrated that this is not being truly discussed in a fair just way,” said Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim-American woman elected to the Michigan state Legislature.

The last-minute decision followed a day of Democrats defending the policy — and marred an otherwise triumphant convention opener where they showcased minorities.

In drafting the platform, the committee left out language that asserts Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and will remain it — a position that had been in the party’s 2008 document.

The language was stripped this year by a vote of the platform committee, Tlaib said, who’s on the rules committee for the convention. She said the reversal was made because of “pushback from the Jewish community.”

Early Wednesday, before the language changed, Republicans pounced. Democrats went on defense as they realized they’d caused problems with a key constituency: Jewish voters.

“No one has been stronger on Israel than President Obama,” Schultz, the Broward County lawmaker who is Jewish told a gaggle of reporters Wednesday morning.

Explaining the foreign-policy nuances of the party’s posture and goals wasn’t how Wasserman Schultz had planned to spend the morning after First Lady Michelle Obama gave a much-heralded speech at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

But the issue of Israel and Jewish voters – a key Democratic interest group in swing-state Florida – dominated the discussion. Just days before, at his party’s convention in Tampa, Republican Mitt Romney had accused Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus.”

The Jerusalem omission was a sign, Republicans said, that Romney was right.

Wasserman Schultz, who represents one of the most-Jewish districts in Congress, had to grapple with another flap: The accusation from a conservative newspaper columnist that she had quoted U.S. ambassador to Israel Michael Oren saying that Republicans were dangerous to Israel.

She disputed the account in the Examiner newspaper, and warned not to put "love of party before love of Israel." Support for Israel is one area where both parties have traditionally been in solidarity, she said.

"They ripped one line out of what I said and left the rest so it appeared as though I was saying something that I wasn't," she said. "In fact, that line is the opposite of what I always say, and I will say it again: It is dangerous to turn Israel into a political football, as the Republicans are trying to do. It is dangerous for Israel."

Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats say Republicans are having it both ways when it comes to party platforms.

After all, the Republican platform didn’t explicitly call for the reversal of Obama-era changes concerning another foreign-policy touchstone for Florida voters: Cuba. Obama loosened travel restrictions, but Republicans never called for reversing them.

What’s more, Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, repeatedly voted against the Cuban embargo in his early years in Congress. Wasserman Schultz, a Cuba hardliner, helped muster enough Democratic votes to kill one anti-embargo measure supported by Ryan.

“Paul Ryan has had no purifying vote on Cuba,” Wasserman Schultz said. “He’s squishy when it comes to Cuba.”

Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, the House foreign-relations chairwoman, said Ryan had come to support the embargo. And, she said, it wasn’t fair to hold Romney accountable to a party platform that few people read.

Romney had promised to take a hardline stance on Cuba and, like many Republican and Democratic candidates before, said he’ll support recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a touchy subject with Palestinians and the Arab world.

The United States has maintained that Jerusalem’s status as Israel's capital is a matter of negotiation; the U.S. embassy remains in Tel Aviv.

When the Democratic party-plank omitted references to Jerusalem, a Romney campaign spokesman said the Democratic Party was signaling "a radical shift in its orientation, away from Israel."

The Republican Jewish Coalition announced Wednesday it would run a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer to "send a special message to President Obama and the Democratic Party during the Democratic National Convention."

"Does the document accurately mirror Barack Obama’s views?" asked former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Romney's liaison to the Jewish community. "Given that his top aides have said that the platform reflects his policies, and given that his official White House spokesman has also refused to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, that is now an urgent question to which the American people deserve an immediate and unequivocal response."

Democrats worked to mend fences with their Jewish voters -- although the first night of the convention also featured a speech about Israel from former Florida congressman Robert Wexler, the Obama campaign's liaison to the Jewish community and one of the people who helped craft the platform.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a strained relationship since Obama took office with a tough stance against Israel's building of settlements in the West Bank.

Wexler argued Wednesday that the Democratic platform addresses Israel's chief security concerns, particularly the threat of a nuclear Iran. It has been the policy of every administration since 1967 that Jerusalem's status should be determined in final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Wexler said. He also said that Republicans, too, had changed their platform on Israel, too.

"It's a totally false issue," Wexler said. "The language that is in the Democratic platform this year is 100 percent pro-Israel language."

But Democrats had a change of heart at day's end, making it even more "pro-Israel."

The issue dogged top Democrats, who don't want to see their lead narrow among Jewish voters.

Jewish voters traditionally vote heavily for Democratic presidential candidates, but Republicans have been pushing hard for their support, particularly in Florida. Obama received about 74 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and polls suggest support is just as strong this year.

One reason for the strong support: Most Jewish voters don’t see Israel as their top concern and tend to be among the most-socially liberal constituencies.

"I am confident that because of words and deeds from President Obama and Democrats across this country, that we have a stellar record on Israel," said Wasserman Schultz. "Jewish voters know that, and I'm proud to support this president, and I'm proud that Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel has never had a greater friend than President Obama."

Lesley Clark and David Lightman of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed to this report.

Obama kicks of Florida bus tour

From a press release:


On Saturday, September 8, President Obama will kick-off his two-day Florida bus tour with grassroots events in Seminole—near St. Petersburg, FL—and Kissimmee, Florida. While on the tour, the President will discuss the choice in this election between moving forward with his plan for continuing to build an economy that’s mean to last, from the middle out, or going back to the same failed top-down economic policies that crashed our economy and punished the middle class. Details on the Presidents stops in Melbourne and West Palm Beach on Sunday, September 9 are forthcoming.

The President will lay out what’s at stake for middle-class families in this election and his plan to continue to restore middle-class security by paying down our debt in a balanced way that ensures everyone pays their fair share and still invests in the things we need to create jobs and grow our economy over the long term, like education, energy, innovation, and infrastructure.

Scott signs death warrant for Miami man convicted of eight murders

Gov. Rick Scott signed the death warrant for John Errol Ferguson, who was convicted of eight murders in two separate incidents, according to a press release from the Governor's Office.

The victims in the first incident were Henry Clayton, Randolph Holmes, Michael Miller, Charles Stinson, Livingston Stocker and Gilbert Williams. The victims in the second incident were Brian Glenfeldt and Belinda Worley.

The first slayings were drug-related. In the second instance, Ferguson raped Worley, a teenager, before he killed her.

Ferguson was convicted of the brutal slayings in 1978, but he appealed his death sentence several times. He asked for clemency in 1987, but was denied, according to news reports.

His execution date is set for Tuesday, October 16, 2012, at 6 p.m.

Here is the warrant.


With Crist ready to take DNC stage, RPOF keeps bashing him

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to speak at Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Thursday, and the Republican Party of Florida is determined to remind everyone of his conservative record.

Crist's speaking slot at the DNC further fuels rumors the former governor may try to unseat Gov. Rick Scott 2014--this time as a Democrat.

Here's the statement RPOF released today.

Democrats are gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina this week to show their support for President Obama and tout his so-called "achievements" -- especially ObamaCare. But one of the Convention's featured speakers, Charlie Crist, has a long history of bashing the President's signature piece of legislation, Obamacare. In March 2010, while running for U.S. Senate, Crist released a radio ad criticizing "the backroom deals, the secret promises" liberals used to force a "government takeover of healthcare." He even went so far as to call Obama, Reid and Pelosi a "three ring circus."

"With his recent endorsement of Obama and speaking gig at the Democratic National Convention, Crist is trying once again to shed his political skin simply to further his own personal ambitions. But his words speak for themselves. That's why it's no surprise Florida Democratic leaders are so cool to a potential Crist run for Governor," said RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry. "The RPOF isn't going to let Crist, or the people of Florida and the nation, forget about all the things he has said and done so easily."

Here's the transcript from a Crist ad that ran during the 2010 U.S. Senate race.

"The backroom deals, the secret promises, Washington liberals forcing government takeover of health care. Obama, Reid, Pelosi. It's a three ring circus. Who pays? All of us. But in Florida, one leader already enacted common sense conservative solutions, Charlie Crist. As Governor, Crist passed Cover Florida. Now Floridians can take charge of their own health care through market based strategies. Thousands already enrolled and climbing. Charlie Crist helped create the Florida discount drug card. Over 130,000 have already saved nearly 6 million on prescriptions. Most important: no tax dollars were used. In fact, no Governor has reduced our taxes more than Charlie Crist. He's endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and Crist earns an A+ rating from the NRA. The proven, tested, Republican candidate for Senate, Charlie Crist. I'm Charlie Crist, and I approved this message."


Miami-Dade County's Twitter account praises Michelle Obama's DNC speech, later removes tweet citing 'tech error'

PhotoHere's a social-media lesson for Miami-Dade County: Your Twitter followers actually read your tweets.

That much was evident Tuesday night, when First Lady Michelle Obama delivered her speech to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Sometime around 11:05 p.m., the @MiamiDadeCounty Twitter account tweeted, "Michelle Obama 2016!"

The tweet was conspicuous, coming from a government account that usually tweets public-service announcements such as "Miami-Dade County is no longer under Tropical Storm Warning" and "All Miami-Dade Transit services are operational."

At least three Miami Herald reporters retweeted the county's tweet. Several other followers also picked up on it, suggesting the county had apparently endorsed the first lady.

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