Villaraigosa Defends Democratic Platform Debacle on 'God' and 'Jerusalem'

Saturday, 08 Sep 2012 07:42 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the controversy over whether two-thirds of delegates approved a change in language in the Democratic platform requested by President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention was “much ado about nothing,” according to the Los Angeles Times, bit others in the party were fuming.

The mayor, who served as convention chairman, said he simply followed procedure when Democrats realized they had left the words “God” and “Jerusalem” out of the party platform and took a voice vote to rectify it. The vote was to approve language invoking God and affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Villaraigosa called for a voice vote three times before declaring the amendments approved. Despite a loud chorus of “No!” and some boos that appeared to be at least as loud as those shouting “Yes,” Villaraigosa declared the motion to have passed by the required two-thirds vote.

“It was a lot of ado about nothing,” the mayor told the Times. Villaraigosa told the paper that when reporters told him after the vote that they did not clearly hear two-thirds support, he said, “That’s nice to know. I was the chairman and I did, and that was the prerogative of the chair.”

“Not one person objected. It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern. I can tell you this — the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly,’” Villaraigosa told the Times. “The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.”

But Arab-American and Muslim party officials were fuming over how the issue was handled, according to NBC News.

“I’m concerned that Arab-Americans will feel they got punched in the solar plexus,” James Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute who serves on the Democratic Party’s platform committee, told NBC News. “This was ham-fisted and a blunder ... They stepped all over the convention the way this was done.”

One delegate, Majid Al-Bahadli from Seattle, Wash., told NBC News, “I’m from Iraq and lived under a dictatorship. I feel like I’m back in the Middle East.” Delegates had no heads-up of the motion and had no opportunity to debate it, he told NBC. The proposed new language just suddenly flashed on a monitor.

“I said, ‘What? What is it?’ We had already adopted the platform. You can’t just go back and change it,” Al-Bahadli told NBC News. He said he loudly shouted, “No!” because “I believe Jerusalem is for everybody. It’s a holy place -- for Jews, for Christians and for Muslims.”

After being blasted by Republicans, embarrassed Democrats reinstated language into their party platform that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well as the words "God-given" that had been removed.

The platform released on Monday at the convention dropped a clause included in the 2008 platform that read: "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel." That platform went on to say, however, that "[t]he parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths."

The party said it did an about-face to "reflect the President's personal view.”

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