The Israel Primary:
The main foreign-policy event of the campaign week was a
forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, during which six of the GOP
candidates attacked the administration's policies toward Israel. Congressman Ron Paul, who favors cutting U.S. aid
to Israel -- as well as every other country -- was not
Current front-runner and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich led the charge, accusing
the White House of "one-sided, continuing pressure that says it's always
the Israelis' fault no matter how bad the other side" and promised to move the
U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem -- a controversial
move approved by Congress 15 years ago but resisted by the last three
administrations -- on the first day of his presidency. Gingrich also vowed to
appoint former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton as his secretary
Gingrich's main rival, former governor Mitt Romney, devoted much of his remarks to Iran, saying "regime
change is what's going to be necessary" and promising to indict President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the crime of incitement to genocide. Romney and
Gingrich both called
on the White House to fire Howard
Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium who set off a firestorm of
controversy with a speech that suggested a distinction between anti-Jewish
sentiment in the Middle East and other forms of anti-Semitism.
Former Utah Governor Jon
Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China under the Obama
administration, said Gutman's comments reflected a deeper strain of anti-Israel
sentiment within the administration. "These aren't speeches that are cooked up
at the local level and at the embassy.... They go high up within the State
Department," he said.
Texas Governor Rick
Perry, attempting to assuage
Israeli concerns about his pledge to drastically reduce foreign aid,
promised that "strategic, defensive aid" to Israel would actually increase
under his administration.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele
her personal connections to Israel, particularly her time volunteering on a
kibbutz in 1974. She also said she does "not see presently that there is a road
to statehood" for the Palestinians.
Former Senator Rick
Santorum compared U.S. policies toward Islamic extremists to actions taken
by Britain before World War II. "For every thug and hooligan, for every radical
Islamist, he has had nothing but appeasement," he said. Romney also accused the
administration of appeasement with regard to Iran.
Obama: Ask Bin Laden:
Asked by a reporter to respond to the "appeasement" charge
at a press conference on Thursday, a visibly testy President Barack Obama replied,
"Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have
been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left
out there, ask them about that."
Obama also defended his administration's record on Iran,
saying it has "systematically imposed the toughest sanctions" on
Tehran and that the country is more isolated than ever.
Gay rights becomes a
The Obama administration announced a new initiative this
week to use foreign aid and international diplomacy to promote
gay rights abroad, for the first time identifying LGBT issues as a major
U.S. foreign-policy goal. Santorum and Perry, two of the more socially
conservative candidates in the race, were quick
"Obviously the administration is promoting their
particular agenda in this country, and now they feel it's their obligation to
promote those values not just in the military, not just in our society, but now
around the world with taxpayer dollars," Santorum told reporters in Iowa.
"This administration's war on traditional American
values must stop. Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not
in America's interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers' money," Perry
said in a statement to supporters.
Perry's comments seemed to be part of his slumping campaigns
attempts to reach out to socially conservative voters, and followed a TV
ad in which the candidate lamented "there's something wrong in this country
when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate
Christmas or pray in school."
Huntsman, widely viewed as the moderate in the race despite
a very conservative governing record, has distinguished himself from most of
the candidates in the field by openly supporting the notion that human activity
is causing climate change. "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust
scientists on global warming. Call me crazy," he tweeted in
August. But the candidate seemed to backtrack
on that position in a speech to the Heritage Foundation this week, in which
he argued that there "questions about the validity" of climate science and
that there's "not enough information right now to be able to formulate
policies" on global warming.
Huntsman joins Gingrich, Romney, and Paul in the group of candidates
who once allowed for the human factor in climate change but have changed their
tune when running for president.
What to watch for:
for two debates in Iowa this week, the first on Saturday night in Des
Moines on ABC, the second on Thursday in Sioux City on Fox News. With Gingrich
still leading the polls, expect other candidates to go on the attack.
On Monday, Gingrich and Huntsman will go head-to-head in a Lincoln-Douglas
style debate on foreign policy and national security at New Hampshire's St.
Anselm College. Gingrich, who has been openly critical of the format and
moderating of previous debates (particularly when he was shunted to the side,
before becoming a front-runner), has repeatedly expressed his desire for Lincoln-Douglas
debates and has said he will challenge Obama to seven of them if he wins
the nomination. Gingrich may be hoping that giving Huntsman a prominent
platform may help him take moderate votes away from Romney in New Hampshire,
where the former Massachusetts governor is still leading. Romney has declined
Gingrich's invitation for a one-on-one Lincoln-Douglas debate.
The latest from FP:
Despite the hype surrounding this week's Jewish coalition
event, pollwatcher Scott Clement
says Israel won't
actually matter all that much in next year's election.
Michael Cohen wonders
why Obama is trying so hard to avoid
the label "apologist-in-chief."
On Passport, Joshua Keating looks at an FP cover
story by Gingrich from 2003 and the candidates' ambitious plans for their "first
day in office."
Alex Wong/Getty Images