ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama asked for last-minute party platform changes that invoked God and formally recognized an undivided Jersusalem as the capital of Israel that caused a brief uproar on the floor of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.
“I offered the amendment at the request of the President,’’ former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the platform drafting committee chairman, said today. “The President looked at the platform.
“The platform as written conformed totally with official United States State Department policy because no administration in the past has ever officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but the President felt otherwise, so he asked that that amendment be offered. I was happy to do it,’’ he said.
He spoke with reporters just hours after Ohio’s delegates put Mr. Obama over the top in the count for the Democratic nomination and was not so subtly told by Mississippi, which stepped out of the voting order to give Ohio that honor, that the election was essentially now all up to the Buckeyes.
Democrats presented the platform amendment as a “clarification,’’ but it took three voice votes in a half empty arena before the convention’s chairman determined that it had passed. Mr. Strickland said he had expected Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to recognize it as accepted immediately.
The changes reinserted a previously removed reference to “God-given potential.’’ It also added a provision saying Jerusalem should remain the capital of Israel as “an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
Mr. Strickland declined to express a personal opinion as to whether the Jerusalem amendment could undermine peace negotiations in the Middle East.
“I do have a personal opinion, but I’m not going to share that,’’ he said. “That could be a little inappropriate.’’
When former President Clinton took to the stage Wednesday night, Mr. Strickland had already returned to his Charlotte hotel and watched the speech on TV. He said the campaign did not ask him to leave the convention in the immediate wake of a rare moment of public dissension in what has otherwise been a carefully choreographed event at Time Warner Cable Arena.
“Not at all,’’ he said. “I went out and ate with some friends. I was exhausted. I can get by with about five hours of sleep a night consistently…, but I can’t get by on two or three nights of two or three hours of sleep.’’
Republicans had blasted the original move not to include references to God and Jerusalem in the platform that the convention had routinely approved on Tuesday, and the situation turned around rather quickly.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who spoke to the Ohio delegation today, told reporters that there was too much focus on the name of God in the platform.
“I think God is too big for us to manipulate,’’ he said. “It’s not the name of God. It’s the will of God. The will of God is to take care of those whose backs are up against the wall. The will of God is Medicaid. It is Medicare. It is equal justice for all people…
“What matters to me is: I was hungry. Did you feed me? I was sick. Did you take care of me? If I was naked, would you clothe me…?’’ he said. “God’s name may be God, Allah, or Yaweh. That’s not the point. The point is doing the will of God.’’