WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton has pulled out of an appearance at a New York rally next week to protest Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, her aides say because she doesn’t want to be seen alongside Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in a “partisan” event.
Several American Jewish groups plan a major rally outside the United Nations on Sept. 22. Clinton had previously accepted the invitation to join, but her aides objected when they learned the Alaska governor will be part of the rally. Palin is also expected to meet with several foreign ministers during the U.N.’s opening General Assembly session.
“Her attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines said Wednesday. “Sen. Clinton will therefore not be attending.”
A spokeswoman for John McCain’s presidential campaign said despite the perceived slight, Palin still plans to attend.
“Governor Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics. She hopes that all parties can rally together in opposition to this grave threat,” said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.
The rally is being hosted by several Jewish groups, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Coalition to Stop Iran Now, United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Both McCain and Barack Obama have made strong appeals to Jewish voters, particularly in critical states like Florida. Obama has emphasized to Jewish audiences his commitment to Israel’s security, and has worked to dispel doubts created by false rumors that he is Muslim.
Clinton, a New York senator and former Democratic presidential candidate, has generally been supported by American Jews. But Micah Halperin, a Middle East expert and syndicated columnist, said it is “problematic” that Clinton decided to back out.
Halperin, who is Jewish and called Clinton “a far better candidate” for Democrats than Obama, suggested that her actions could backfire on the Democratic ticket.
“Jews traditionally vote Democratic, and if a major Democratic leader does not join in the fight against Iran, where are those voters going to go?” he asked. “It’s problematic from the very point of view that says you have a national poltical leader who fundamentally is choosing not to stand up against Ahmadenijad.
“It changes my view of (Clinton’s) wisdom, of her ability to take a situation, analyze it and come out on the right side, and that is deeply troubling to almost every voter in America, not just Jewish voters,” Halperin said, adding that Clinton’s move “is the kind of thing” that could tip voters toward McCain.
FOX News contributor and National Public Radio correspondent Juan Williams said Clinton, whose presidential aspirations are far from over, wants to campaign for Obama but does not want to challenge Palin because it would hurt her standing with white, working-class women.
“I think the big bump that McCain has gotten since the convention has been with white, working-class women, the older women especially who were the core of Hillary Clinton support,” Williams said.
He added that Bill and Hillary Clinton are glad to support Obama, but don’t want to take on Palin because “it would be shooting down” the ticket.
“A lot of people think that it just invites comparisons between Palin and Obama on the experience issue and that doesn’t benefit Obama,” Williams said.
While Palin is in New York, she is scheduled to meet several foreign ministers. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the decision to send the Alaska governor to the U.N. was “an excellent idea” by the McCain campaign. He said Palin can now use the opportunity to enhance her foreign policy credentials and add to her debate preparation against Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden. That debate is scheduled for Oct. 2 in St. Louis.
“Now in the debate with Senator Biden, Governor Palin will be able to say, ‘Well I was discussing with foreig nminister X just a few weeks ago,’ and then go from there,” Bolton said. “She doesn’t really have to go beyond where Senator McCain has already traveled, but it’s a good way to say, as they do in diplomatic circles, ‘to exchange views.’ I just think she ought to be herself and listen attentively and it will go fine.”
FOX News’ Shushannah Walshe and Mosheh Oinounou and The Associated Press contributed to this report.