WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany are fighting this week over whether they are “pro-Israel” and about allegations of defamation in media advertisements.
The Landry campaign teamed up Tuesday with George Birnbaum, a former chief of staff of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Birnbaum argued that Boustany’s efforts to “impose” peace in the Middle East hurt the security of Israel.
Prior to the teleconference with Birnbaum, the Boustany campaign wrote letters to television stations in Louisiana asking them to remove allegedly defamatory and false advertisements by Landry claiming that Boustany supports “80 percent” of “Obamacare” and that also cite “death panels” as part of the health-care changes.
Boustany, R-Lafayette, countered that he has voted against President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at every opportunity, that he helped lead the Republican response against it, and that he has voted multiple times for a full repeal of the law.
The exchanges earlier this week show the race heating up in Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District, which pits two Republican incumbents against each other in the Nov. 6 open primary election. The race also includes Democrat Ron Richard, of Lake Charles, and two others, who are not actively fundraising, Bryan Barrilleaux, R-Lake Charles, and Jim Stark, Libertarian-Lake Charles.
Birnbaum is an Atlanta native who serves as a conservative international political consultant. Birnbaum said he was not being paid for speaking out in favor of Landry, R-New Iberia.
Birnbaum mentioned a 2009 letter by Boustany and 85 other members of Congress — but only a few Republicans — that backed Obama’s pro-peace talks for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and for the United States to intervene more and push for such a peace.
“It’s dead wrong because you can’t impose peace,” Birnbaum said. “You have to make peace.”
While a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians is the ultimate answer, Birnbaum said, it is not possible until Palestinian mothers no longer praise their children to become suicide bombers.
Landry has said he staunchly stands with Israel and that he will defer to Israel on whether a two-state solution is the right answer.
Later in the day, Boustany called Birnbaum a “paid political hack,” who has never spoken with him.
“What’s wrong with pushing for peace?” said Boustany, who is the grandchild of immigrants from Lebanon. He said millions of Christians in the Middle East are at risk every day because of the lack of peace.
“Israel is the most-important ally to the U.S. in the Middle East,” Boustany said. “That’s been my opinion the whole time. In fact, I’ve traveled there three times.”
Boustany said he is endorsed by Melvin Dow, the past national president and a current board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is the more-hawkish, pro-Israel lobby.
Louisiana’s pro-Israel political action committee, Louisiana for American Security, is backing both Boustany and Landry with equal $2,500 donations. The donations letter says the support for strengthening the bonds between the United States and Israel is “deeply appreciated.”
Earlier this week Boustany’s campaign mailed a letter to television stations in Lafayette and Lake Charles, arguing that Landry’s ads are false, defamatory and malicious.
The “80 percent” backing of “Obamacare” dates back to an interview Boustany did with MSNBC before the Affordable Care Act was voted on. At the time, Boustany said Republicans and Democrats agreed with close to 80 percent of what was on the table, but not any specific legislation.
Boustany said he is unequivocally against Obama’s health-care law and that he was only talking about agreeing on broader issues, such as more preventative care and cheaper health-care costs.
Andrew Shenkar, general manager of KATC-TV in Lafayette, said Tuesday that the station is not pulling any ads because federal law prohibits the “censorship” or altering of political ads. A federal court would have to order them to take the ads down, Shenkar said.
Brent Littlefield, Landry’s campaign consultant, said Boustany has falsely attacked Landry with allegations that he backs tax increases and that he does not fully support the oil-and-gas industry.