In a rare display of just how quickly a tightly scripted national political convention can unwind, Democrats on Wednesday struggled to complete a voice vote amending their party platform to include language referring to Jerusalem and God.
It took three attempts from Democratic National Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa before the platform was amended, and a loud chorus of delegates yelling "no" met each attempt to pass the changes by voice vote.
Observers were dubious -- at best -- as to whether the affirmative votes outweighed those in the negative, much less reached the two-thirds vote required. Regardless, the chairman ruled in favor of the amendments.
The change was proposed by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland immediately after the convention was gaveled into order on Wednesday.
"I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we've expressed in our party's platform," Strickland, who chaired the party's platform committee, read. "In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and our party's platform should as well."
With the language read before the delegates, Villaraigosa asked if there was any further discussion. His question was met with silence.
The Los Angeles mayor moved then to the voice vote.
"All those delegates in favor say aye," Villaraigosa said. A loud chorus of "ayes" ensued.
"All those delegates opposed say no," he continued. Loud "nos" came from some of the delegates.
Villaraigosa initially began moving forward in the proceedings, but stopped himself to re-take the voice vote.
"Let me do that again," he said. "All of those delegates in favor say aye."
Again a loud chorus of "ayes" reverberated in the convention hall.
"All those delegates opposed say no," he said to a wave of "nos."
At this point, Villaraigosa appeared confused. A woman emerged on stage, and the podium microphone captured her saying "they're going to do what they're going to do."
Trying for a third time, Villaraigosa said "I'll do that one more time."
With similar-sounding amounts of "yeas" and "nos" coming from the crowd, Villaraigosa declared, "In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted, the motion is adopted and the platform has been amended as shown on the screen."
Fred Hoffman, a delegate from Dearborn, Michigan, said the vote went too quickly and the amendments were not explained well enough before the convention moved to a vote.
"I think a lot of people viewed them as clean-up amendments -- things they just forgot as they were putting stuff together -- and they said, 'OK, we need to put these back in,'" Hoffman said.
Jamana Judeh, a second Michigan delegate, said she was happy yesterday when she heard that the Jerusalem issue had been taken out of the platform.
"Everybody feels good, that finally, maybe, the party is acknowledging us," Judeh said, referring to the 55-member Arab American delegation at the convention.
While Judeh was not on the floor for the vote at the time, she said she would have yelled "no" if she were present.
"I would have yelled and screamed and said no. That's wrong. There's absolutely no reason for it," she said.
Kalimah Salahuddin, a 36-year-old delegate from Pacifica, California, said she voted against it because she felt like it needed further discussion.
"I was actually pretty surprised. I thought I was going to be the only one in saying no in California," she said.
She, like many, said it was too difficult to tell if there really was a two-thirds vote.
"I just don't know if it was two-thirds people or two-thirds louder" on the third vote, she said.
The flap, according to Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Paul Begala, was "embarrassing, stupid" and "an unforced error by my party." Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary in the George W. Bush administration who also is a CNN contributor, said the issue reflected a split among Democrats over support for Israel.
Jim Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, wrote in a statement that he was "disappointed in the irregularities of the procedure."
"This effort hurts the president and it hurts chances for a lasting peace," Zogby continued. "I am, however, proud that so many delegates delivered a resounding no."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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