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Hobnobbing in Tinseltown

When Al Gore was nominated for the presidency at the Democratic National Convention in Tinseltown, Usher’s great, great grandson, Ryan Karben, was among the invited celebrants. Then a Rockland County legislator, Ryan was re-elected to his second term in 1999

at Karenna's party

On the job

party time

Ryan at work

with a whopping 97% of the vote.  He attended the convention, however, not as a delegate but as a family friend of the Gores.  [Ryan served for a time as Majority Leader in the Rockland County Legislature; he has been in private practice since 2006.]

Just say 'Hi'
His friendship with Karenna Gore Schiff dated back to the summer of 1998, when they  were summer associates at the prestigious Manhattan law firm, Simpson Bartlett Thatcher. That autumn, they ran into each other at school (Columbia Law), "and it was natural to say, ‘Hi,’" Ryan said. He was an associate at that law firm when Karenna hit the campaign trail with her father. 

Warm and genuine
And so it came to pass that Ryan appeared on the guest list of the Gore family. "The vice president is a warm and genuine man, and a pleasure to talk to," Ryan said. "My wife [Lauren Bekritsky Karben] and I visited with him on a few occasions at events over the years, and in the course of campaigning." 

'Goes on all the time'
The convention was nonstop "hobnobbing, eating and socializing," Ryan said, "a whirl of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, receptions, events, fund-raising efforts and parties." The photo was taken at Karenna’s party after her speech at the convention, the speech she gave two days before the famous kiss of August 19, 2000. ("That kind of kissing goes on around the house all the time," Karenna told an MSNBC reporter.)

Gore: Simply a dad
In her speech, Karenna revealed her father to be the kind of man who, while tired after his own long, hard day at work, would rise to the occasion for one of his children. Such was the challenge of getting materials for Karenna’s elementary school dinosaur diorama assignment.  "My dad was the one who took me down to the store to get the emergency [supplies] because he was simply being a dad."

Orthodox constituents
Back in Rockland County, Ryan’s constituency had included a large Jewish population, many of whom are Orthodox.  With only weeks to go in the senatorial campaign, how did he see his district? "It could go either way," Ryan said. While the Rockland County assemblyman had always been a Democrat, the local state senator and congressman were Republicans.

Ryan's swing district
We have more registered Democrats than Republicans, Ryan said, "but this is a swing district," where the big issues are the environment and the high cost of living. "An intelligent tax cut" would be supported in his district, where there is a high concentration of families rearing children. "They’re focused on education, the mortgage and paying off their student loans," he said.

Not warmed up

Yes, he knows Hillary. "The first lady is a very intelligent, poised woman," said Ryan, but "up here, there are a lot of people who haven’t warmed up to her."

A proposal and a kiss
The first inkling of Mrs. Clinton’s off-target gut responses on matters of Jewish concern was her proposal for a Palestinian state (quickly withdrawn). A second clue was the kiss she planted on the cheek of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s wife, "after Suha Arafat made inflammatory remarks about Israel," a New York Daily News story of July 15, 2000, reminded readers.

Belief and disbelief
When the bizarre allegation surfaced that Hillary Clinton had uttered an anti-Semitic slur [f---ing Jew bastard], Ryan Karben was sought out for comment by The New York Post. A long paragraph with three quotes from Ryan was lifted word for word from The Post’s July 18, 2000 news story, by the conservative National Review Online for its continuing web feature, "Hillary Watch:"

"…yesterday, one of Mrs. Clinton’s key backers in the Jewish community told The Post the campaign had bungled its response [to the alleged slur] and was in danger of seeing its support plummet.

'They risk a meltdown,' said Rockland County legislator Ryan Karben, a Democrat and Orthodox Jew. 'There’s great uneasiness at the grass-roots about this,' added Karben, who has advised the campaign on Jewish issues.

'People are disturbed by it. People don’t believe it, but they don’t disbelieve it either.' "

Ryan said he had no formal advisory arrangement with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, but he was glad to offer advice when asked. He said he believed that Mrs. Clinton, as a senator from the State of New York, would serve well "the largest Jewish constituency in America."

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Carl Karbenovich Click photo for the story of Ryan's great grandfather,  Carl Karben. His clues led to learning about our family's life in Russia.

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