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November 02, 1984 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-11-02

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Friday, November 2, 1984




Marshall J. Breger: A sophisticated bureaucratic player.

the Watergate era? Or just
the fact that political cam-
paign headquarters are tern-
porary entities, too tran-
sitory to be listed on an office
building directory.
Never mind. Democratic
campaign headquarters is
fairly informal. You don't
need the kind of visitor's
badge that the Republicans
hand out to carefully screen-
ed guests, and there's only a
receptionist inside to prevent
you from barging in.
David Ifshin, a thin, dark-
complexioned man with dark
hair and a close cropped dark
beard, is a lawyer with im-
pressive credentials and con-
tacts that go back to
Syracuse, Stanford, Yale,
Israel, Morris Amitay and
Scoop Jackson. He talks
quickly, in flat bursts of
thought that run the sound of
his words together.
At 36, he is the chief legal

officer for the campaign,
heading a staff of nine
lawyers and a corps of
volunteer workers. Born in
Silver Spring, where he still
lives, Ifshin is married to the
former Gail Grossman, who
works for the Council of
Economic Advisors and is
reading for a PhD at the
University of Maryland. He
was graduated from
Syracuse University in 1970
with a bachelor's degree in
English literature and the in-
tention of becoming a pro-
fessor of English, but decid-
ed to work in Israel for a year.
He landed in Kibbutz Gesher.
"It was one of the most im-
portant experiences of my
life," he said. "It was very
important from a number of
perspectives, both as a Jew
and an American. Living
abroad, particularly during
Watergate, was a profound
impression. I was able to

define over a year what its
significance was to me
"When I was young I had
a naive view of the world. Life
is a lot more complicated and
the world is a much more
dangerous place than you im-
agine. When you live in a
country like Israel, where
danger is imminent — not
just at the border, but right
inside — it's easier to
"Watergate, seen from out-
side the country was incredi-
ble. I stopped caring whether
Nixon was guilty or not. The
process alone became very
important. I guess you know
that there's a generation of
Watergate-inspired lawyers.
I'm not sure I'm one of those,
but it certainly had an impact
on me. I made a decision to
go to law school."
Ifshin came back to the
States and enrolled at Stan-

ford, where he met and im-
pressed Morris Amitay, the
former head of the American
Israel Public Affairs Commit-
tee. He received his law
degree in 1977, went to work
for the Washington firm of
Steptoe and Johnson, and
taught law at Yale in his
spare time, commuting one
day a week to New Haven.
Amitay, who was head of
AIPAC at the time, asked
Ifshin to be part of his infor-
mal advisory group, and from
there it was a short step to
big time politics.
"Mondale had indicated
that he did not want to have
a Jewish liaison, per se, - said
Ifshin. "He didn't want simp-
ly to have a Jewish Desk —
put a guy at a desk
somewhere — so he asked me
to join him on his senior staff.
"I might add that we don't
have a strategy that is
developed uniquely for the

Jewish constituency. One of
the great reluctances that we
have is somehow to separate
out the Jews in the campaign
so that over here can be this
little Jewish operation."
Ifshin's credentials are im-
pressive. In college, he was
president of the United
States National Student
Association (which was
revealed to have been CIA-
supported), political director
of the National Welfare
Rights Organization in
1971-72, on the national staff
of the Democratic National
Committee in 1972, counsel
for the campaigns of
Senators Frank Lautenberg,
Howard Metzenbaum, Chris
Dodd and Carl Levin, and
member of the law firm of
Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg
and Tunny.
In some quarters, however,
he has a reputation for im-
petuousness. For example,
Ifshin was allegedly responsi-
ble for overlooking the finan-
cial ghosts in Geraldine
Ferraro's past, an accusation
which he denies. He does ad-
mit to some involvement
with the flub that allowed the
anti-anti-Semitism plank to
fall between the cracks of the
Democratic platform (he says
it was such an obvious plank
that everyone thought it had
been included), and with the
formation of political action
committees that Walter
Mondale disbanded when
their legality was questioned
early in the campaign. (Ifshin
says they were legal, but not
worth the fight to keep them.)
Ifshin's political coordina-
tor, Dick Cohen, is a season-
ed public relations profes-
sional, and unlikely to com-
mit such gaffes. A short,
tough, 61-year-old New
Yorker who went to DeWitt
Clinton High School with
playwright Paddy Chayefsky
and photographer Richard
Avedon, attended CCNY,
and worked as public rela-
tions director for the Joint
Distribution Committee,
associate executive director
for the American Jewish Con-
gress, and PR counsel for a
number of Jewish organiza-
tions, he functions as the
Mondale/Ferraro campaign's
PR link with the Jewish
I prepare material, adver-
tisements, briefing notes and
statements for the candidate
on issues of concern to the
Jewish community," explain-
ed Cohen. "I contribute to
that great body of material
from which Mondale's speech



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