Clinton plays up her security credentials

Points to support of former NATO commander Clark - who could be a liability with Jewish voters.

wesley clark 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
wesley clark 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
During the ABC debate held here last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton singled out one of her supporters from the stage, and it was neither of her top local boosters, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell nor Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Instead, the New York senator pointed to a retired four-star general who once served as the supreme commander of NATO. "General Wesley Clark is here in the audience with me, as one of my major supporters," she said, as the camera focused on him acknowledging her words. His support, and that of other military figures, has been key as Clinton has tried to make the case that she would be the best commander-in-chief - no small task for a female candidate. She has cultivated deep ties with the military during her service on the US Senate's Armed Forces Committee, ties on which she has called throughout her campaign and particularly in recent weeks when she has tried to argue that her rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, doesn't have the national security credentials for the job. Clark has been at the top of the pack of Clinton's military cadre, appearing with her at major foreign policy addresses and surfacing in rumors as a possible running mate. Yet Clark could pose a potential liability among Jewish voters, just as the Jewish Rendell poses a benefit. At least, that's something the Obama campaign is quietly suggesting, mentioning Clark's name as Obama himself comes under attack for ties to people who don't sit well with certain segments of the Jewish community. Obama has come under sustained scrutiny for his affiliation with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who has made harsh anti-Israel statements, and endorsers such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is largely perceived as unfriendly to Israel. Clinton's supporters have received significantly less attention. Yet Clark made some Jews uncomfortable back in January 2007 in comments to liberal blogger Arianna Huffington. In the interview, he referred to the concept of bombing Iran before exhausting diplomatic options as "outrageous," and then reportedly answered that what made him sure the United States was moving towards such an attack was that, "You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided, but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office-seekers." Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman spoke to Clark about his comments, particularly the offense taken at the phrase "New York money people." He later told The Forward newspaper, "He is a friend of Israel and is not an anti-Semite... but some of the things he said are very, very unfortunate." When asked about the possibility that he represented a liability with Jewish voters because of his controversial comments, Clark became visibly agitated. "I haven't made any comments that have caused any problem," he said and referred to his biological father's background. "My father was Jewish. Do you know that? Do you know that? My father was Jewish, okay?" he said. "I was in Israel in September. I've got a lot of friends there. I'm very well-respected in the Jewish community, and in the Israeli Jewish community. Thank you."