Rep. Waxman has endorsed Jane Harman for her re-election, and wrote the letter of support for use in her campaign. The letter was prompted by a speech given by Ms. Winograd entitled "A Call for One State." A copy of that speech is attached.
The letter was originally distributed in November 2009, though Mr. Waxman chose to leave it undated so that the Harman campaign would have the option to use it again at a later date.
The letter was sent both electronically and by mail, and was sent primarily to friends and supporters in the Jewish community. The recipient list was developed by the Harman campaign.
Unlike the substantial Jewish population in Waxman's affluent 30th Congressional District whom he relies on for financial support, the Jewish population in Harman's 36th Congressional District is significantly smaller. Issues concerning Israel don't regularly affect the day to day lives of the majority of its residents who care mostly about jobs, healthcare and housing. 18.3% of the under 65 population of the 36th CD have no health insurance. Over 7,500 home foreclosures took place in 2009 and another 25,000 foreclosures are anticipated over the next four years.
Though Harman stresses Israel as more relevant to her reelection, Winograd bases her election on a platform of policies on issues most relevant to her constituents, which she outlines on her website.
That Waxman and Harman stress Harman's devotion to Israel as the primary catalyst for Harman's reelection is illuminating, and underscores to what great extent their legislative focus is defined more by the welfare of Israel and Israelis than by the welfare of America and Americans.
One Jewish resident of the 36th, Frances W. Wells, was so incensed by Waxman's Israel-based assault on Winograd, that she confronted him in person at his recent Women's Club speaking engagement in Pacific Palisades.
In that exchange, Wells, who is in her 90s, and who vividly recalls the era of World War II and the pivotal events in the formation of Israel, asked Waxman, a self-described progressive, why he supported blue-dog conservative Harman over Winograd with whom he should share more common ground. Here's their exchange summed up by Wells:
Wells: You're supporting Jane Harman instead of Marcy Winograd?
Waxman: Jane's on important committees.
Wells: Yes, but she never votes the way I want her to.
Waxman: Marcy's for a one-state solution for Israel.
Waxman then walked away, leaving Wells even further incensed.
Another resident of the 36th, Lillian Laskin, an affiliated Jew [belonging to a synagogue] who lives in the community of Mar Vista, was similarly angered by the Waxman/Harman letter. In an interview Laskin told me, "Harman had Waxman send this letter because she's desperate Winograd will give her a strong challenge." Laskin went on to say, "I'm a constituent in the 36th and Israel is a separate issue that shouldn't be the driving factor in determining our leadership in the district. We need leadership that focuses on the needs of the people - like jobs."
With his hyperbolic letter, Henry Waxman has stepped into a firestorm of controversy that includes criticism from Harman's constituents, his own constituents, the blogosphere, and prominent members of the Jewish community. Although Waxman doesn't face a strong challenge this November, many of his constituents believe this ideologically based letter goes way too far; dwelling too much on Israel and too little on America.
Prominent Jewish writer, Richard Silverstein, makes an eloquent case against Waxman's Israel-baiting of Winograd in this powerful piece today.
Yesterday, a post on Daily Kos by TomP, titled Winograd Nails Henry Waxman and Jane Harman, ignited a firestorm of comments against Waxman and Harman. The ire over this letter has been palpable.
To top it off, Marcy Winograd, Harman's popular progressive opponent - not one to mince words or shrink from debate - quickly fired back her own open letter in response to Waxman/Harman: