GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans
December 7th, 2011
06:11 PM ET
7 years ago

GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans

(CNN) – All but one of the Republican presidential candidates made their case to Jewish voters Wednesday, voicing their support for Israel and criticizing Iran while uniformly hitting President Barack Obama's strategy of appeasement on the world stage.

Speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., the candidates stressed the importance of the United States standing with Israel, something they charged Obama has failed to do in his first years in office.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he will zero out all foreign aid from the United States if elected president, appeared to fully reverse course on the issue during his remarks.

"Strategic defensive aid in all forms will increase to Israel," Perry said, after calling Israel America's strongest ally in the Middle East.

"Israel shares a commitment to our core principles of personal freedom," Perry said. "And yet, President Obama systematically undermines that relationship with Israel, specifically on the question of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian people."

Perry also suggested recent comments he deemed anti-Israel were the result of the current administration's attitudes.

"This torrent of hostility towards Israel doesn't seem to be coordinated, it doesn't," Perry said. "It seems from my perspective to be a natural expression of this administration's attitude towards Israel."

The long-serving governor referenced recent comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in which he said Israel needed to "just get back to the damn table" and negotiate with the Palestinians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's questioning aspects of Israeli democracy and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman's statement blaming anti-Semitism among Muslims on the failures of Israelis.

The Panetta and Gutman comments in particular were used in lines of attack throughout the speeches Wednesday.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Panetta's comments "utterly outrageous."

"Can you imagine if our next door neighbor were firing missiles at us what we'd say 'Oh, could we come to the table?'" Gingrich said. "How about saying to Hamas, give up violence and come to the table. How about saying to the PLA [Palestine Liberation Army], recognize Israel and come to the table. This one sided continuing pressure that says it's always Israel's fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop."

Gingrich also said he would ask former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton to serve as his secretary of state, only after disparaging current Secretary of State Clinton.

"The fact that Secretary [Hillary] Clinton could talk about discrimination against women in Israel and then meet with Saudis?" he said.

But one of the greatest threats facing Israel and the United States, the candidates agreed, is Iran. They called for tougher sanctions, including on their central bank and stressed the importance of Iran not becoming a nuclear capable country.

"We have to stop them," former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said of Iran. "The United States will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, period."

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota equated current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, to Adolf Hitler.

"Today a mad man is speaking once again and it seems the world isn't really listening, though Iran's president has made his intentions for Israel abundantly clear," Bachmann said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Ahmadinejad should be "excluded form diplomatic society."

"A nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world," Romney said. "Our friends must never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. Our enemies should never doubt our resolve."

Six candidates in total addressed the gathering attempting to court the Jewish vote ahead of the next presidential election. Jewish voters supported the Democratic nominees for president by large margins during the last two election cycles, backing then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain by a 78% to 21% margin in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry over then-President George W. Bush by a 74% to 25% margin in 2004, according to CNN exit polling.

And the day's events were also not without the infusion of 2012 presidential politics. Gingrich preemptively challenged Obama to seven three hour-long Lincoln-Douglas style debates if he becomes the GOP nominee. If the president has not accepted his proposal by the Republican convention, he said he will use the White House as his scheduler.

"Wherever the president goes, I will show up four hours later," Gingrich said. "I doubt if they can take the pressure for more than two or three weeks. But if they would rather have me chase him all the way to Election Day and have the country watch a man afraid to defend his own record, I think that will work equally well."

Santorum suggested no one take the advice of Vice President Joe Biden, who he served with in the Senate, especially on issues of world politics. When attempting to determine a world view, Santorum said one should find out "what Joe Biden thinks and take the opposite opinion."

"You will be right 100% of the time, not 99, 100% of the time," he added.

Jon Huntsman, who served as the president's U.S. ambassador to China, said Americans are no longer listening to Obama.

"Nobody's paying attention. It doesn't matter if he puts a small pro-growth proposal on the table, people have tuned out and now they're looking to 2012," Huntsman said at the event.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only candidate not invited to the gathering because of his views on Israel that the organization calls "extreme."

Paul, who is making his third bid for the White House, said his views were portrayed "unfairly" as anti-Israel and that he intends to explain his positions further on his website.

"It's a private organization, too. So me being very much aware of what private organizations can do, I don't have much recourse," Paul said on CNN's "Newsroom" Wednesday. "But I think in public opinion, people will ask questions, why isn't he included? He doesn't say everything like everybody else but maybe we need a full discussion."

Filed under: 2012 • Republicans
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Joan

    Interesting how so much of 'bigotry' wears the cloak of 'religion'!!

    December 7, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  2. whateverman

    Dr. Paul is right. We need to stop treating Israel like our child. If we really loved Israel so much we would let them stand on their own feet. I don't want my kids living at home forever!! Same goes with Israel. They can take care of themselves (by way of a few hundred nukes).

    December 7, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  3. T'sah from Virginia


    The Republicans way of appeasing to the JEWS is making it seem as if President Obama hates them!!!

    Obama 2012

    December 7, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  4. kristigibs

    Too bad Ron Paul wasn't invited...I think his ideas on foreign policy would benefit Israel a lot more than putting sanctions on Iran and effectively instigating more animosity in the region. The only thing I can figure is that they don't want to lose American taxpayer's dollars...In every other way, Paul's plan benefits them enormously.

    December 7, 2011 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  5. Debbie

    I support the belief that God gave land to the Jews. I do not support that God gave land to the State of Israel. They are a government as is Vatican City. If Israel wants to formally and officially ask the US for help then as an ally I feel we should support them. But without a formal and official request we do not need to have our sons and daughters die on behalf of Israel. Let Israel stand on her own two feet. And we do not need to be giving any monetary aid to Isreal. She is not a third world country. America has shown support of the Jewish population in WWII so our loyalty should not ever be questioned.

    December 7, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    ""Israel shares a commitment to our core principles of personal freedom," "

    ORLY? Is that why they do things like refuse to let Palestinians living in Israel vote?

    December 7, 2011 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  7. TJ

    Well I will not have anything to do with this debate until Ron Paul is invited.

    December 7, 2011 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. Barry Goldman

    Did any of the candidates speak about Israel sovereignty? I have my doubts.

    December 7, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    If you put a Republican in the White House we will be engaged in a full shooting conflict in the Gulf region within a year. Just listen to what they are saying. They are ready to attack Iran right now.

    December 7, 2011 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  10. diridi

    Does it mean Israel plays good drama as usual????nonsense. These sect consist of only negligible minority...

    December 7, 2011 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  11. None of the above

    Sounds like none of the candidates are in favor of Israel sovereignty. I suppose she is alright with being the US's de facto 51st state.

    December 7, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  12. Slightly Left of Center

    1) Jews account for little over 2% of the total U.S. population.
    2) Not all Jews are Republican.
    3) Not all Jews are Israeli, yet politicians tend to use them interchangeably.
    4) They don't own the rights on the "commitment to our core principles of personal freedom,"

    Now before anyone gets bent out of shape, these are not anti-Jewish, nor anti-Israeli comments. I am very fond of my Jewish and Israeli friends and co-workers. I wish them no harm, I admire their faith, and I hope to someday visit their county of which they are so passionate.

    So perhaps these candidates could put as much effort into listening to the rest of us voting Americans.

    December 7, 2011 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  13. GunnyCoop

    Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only candidate not invited to the gathering because of his views on Israel that the organization calls "extreme."

    You really shouldn't dismiss the ideals of the next President. He may very well not invite anyone to his parties.

    December 7, 2011 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  14. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    I would not vote for any of these people that are running in the GOP. I have family that has lived in Israel for decades. They worked very hard against Bibi in 2008. I will work just as hard if not harder in this election as I did in 2007/09 to re-elect our current President.


    December 7, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  15. Voice of Reason

    "GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans..."

    Yes – by proudly advertising how 'Christian' they are... The hypocrisy knows no bounds. it would be refreshing for once to hear from a candidate who doesnt let his or her faith enter into politics. Who makes decisions because it is the right thing to do – and (most importantly) isnt trying to pander to every religion at once (except muslims – apparently no one wants their votes).

    It makes me sick to my stomach to read articles like this.

    December 7, 2011 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  16. RDriftwood

    Would you say that Israel's influence on the US political system is;
    A. Too much,
    B. Too little,
    C. About right?

    December 7, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  17. Squigman

    I've promised myself this, if nothing else. I'll never vote for a candidate that spouts off about religion, every time he, or she talks to the electorate. This I promise, if only to myself.

    December 7, 2011 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  18. David898

    Appeasement? Was it appeasement to approve the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden? Was it appeasement to approve shooting the Somali pirates who held an American sea captain hostage? Was it appeasement to approve the capture or killing of the second-rank leader under Bin Laden? Was it appeasement to help organize the overthrow of Khadaffi? Was it appeasement to continue the wars? Do the GOP contenders think we should nuke the whole world?

    December 7, 2011 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  19. Ron

    This has got to be the biggest con job of the century. This President has done nothing but the people of Israel. These fake candidates are willing to lie to people that depend upon the United States as a partner. I'm sorry the President of the United States went to bat for the Israel Government in United Nation's recent meeting. Are the Republicans that desperate to lie and mislead people of the middle east? If they are willing to lie and distort what will they do and say to the American people about the middle east including Israel. At some point they will stop lying. Appeasement that appears to be the Republican party's new mantra.

    December 7, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. judith

    Pander, pander, pander. Romney and Perry know how to blow the dog whistle and appeal to the very worst instincts in the right-wing. Obama has been very effective in terms of foreign policy–much more so than Bush and Cheney ever dreamt of being. Perry is an ignorant good old boy, trying to rescue his miserable campaign and reaching out to his fundamentalist base. What a dreadful couple of wannabees.

    December 7, 2011 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  21. Jerry

    I used to like republicans...they enacted the clean air act, environmental protection agency. they used to believe in balanced budgets,(not just tax cuts), were libertarian...kept their nose out of our private business. Now...they a bunch of right wing crazies..not voting for them again until they change

    December 7, 2011 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. Joshua

    Ron Paul should be happy for not being invited. His views on Israel are listed as "extreme." The fact that he doesn't want to provide Israel with a blank check and promise to send our soldiers to die for something that has nothing to do with us shouldn't be considered extreme. Israel is fully capable of defending itself. I understand they're an ally, but I don't understand why we're so tangled with their affairs. Not to mention Ron Paul stated that he'd end all foreign aid, which includes money sent to regimes that Israel doesn't like. We're allies with Israel, but I want someone as president who won't kiss up to them like we're required to do everything for them.

    December 7, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  23. maximusvad

    There are many 1% of the Hebrew faith that love the GOP.

    December 7, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. Jilli

    What planet are these clowns living on?

    They've provided plenty of examples why none of them should ever get near the oval office – unless they're taking a tour. Downright scary!!

    December 7, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  25. CaliMafia

    What a bunch of simplistic morons. Perry, Bachmann, et al, just don't have a clue.

    December 7, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
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