The Republican presidential primary candidates flocked to Iowa this past weekend to win over Ames Straw Poll voters during a debate Thursday and at the Iowa State Fair. In the process, they further distanced themselves and the GOP from most American Jews by working to outdo each other with increasingly extreme right-wing positions.
One day before his arrival in Iowa, Texas Governor Rick Perry shifted the Republican field even further to the right by officially announcing his candidacy. In his announcement speech in South Carolina on Saturday, he wrongfully politicized support for Israel by saying that “our president has insulted our friends and he’s encouraged our enemies, thumbing his nose at traditional allies like Israel”—despite the appreciation Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed to President Barack Obama for his support earlier in the week. Perry’s political jabs failed fact checks from both The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler and The New York Times’ Paul Krugman. JTA’s Ron Kampeas also wrote, “Perry has nonplussed longtime Jewish supporters by claiming that he has been ‘called’ to the presidency and by hosting a prayer rally this month that appealed to Jesus to save America.”
During Thursday’s debate, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX)—the second place finisher in the Ames Straw Poll—defended the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons:
Just think of the agitation and the worrying of a country that might get a nuclear weapon some day. And just think of how many nuclear weapons surround Iran. The Chinese are there. The Indians are there. The Pakistanis are there. The Israelis are there. The United States is there. All these countries - China has nuclear weapons. Why wouldn’t it be natural that they might want a weapon? There’d be - internationally, they’d be given more respect. Why should we write people off? There was - you know, in the ‘50s, we at least talked to them. At least our leaders and Reagan talked to the Soviets. What’s so terribly bad about this? ... Stay out of their internal business.
During the same debate, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stated proudly that “we should not have increased the debt ceiling. In the last two months, I was leading on the issue of not increasing the debt ceiling”—despite the fact that the Israeli economy was put at risk by the games Republicans played with the debt ceiling. Bachmann, who also won the Iowa Republican Party’s much-touted Ames Straw Poll, holds highly extremist positions that are out of step with most American Jews. In addition to her radical views against a woman’s right to choose—even when the mother’s life is at risk—and our essential social safety net, her views on Israel have drawn scrutiny from journalist Jeffrey Goldberg.
On Thursday during his soapbox address at the Iowa State Fair, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told his audience that “corporations are people.” This statement demonstrates that Romney’s interests align with corporations rather than the American public—including American Jews.
Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) astutely observed that the Republican primary field is “a collection of candidates for president who are busy trying to out-right wing each other.” By pandering to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, the candidates demonstrated their inability to represent the mainstream of the American Jewish community and that GOP does not reflect the values of most American Jews.
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