By Matt Welch | Reason.com | Dec. 1, 2011
On Wednesday, Dec. 7, the Republican Jewish Coalition will host a presidential-candidates forum featuring Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Not invited is the GOP candidate currently polling around third in New Hampshire and second in Iowa: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). The explanation:
Paul was not invited to attend the RJC's candidates forum because the organization - as it has stated numerous times in the past - "rejects his misguided and extreme views," said [RJC Executive Director Matt] Brooks.
"He's just so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organization," Brooks said. Inviting Paul to attend would be "like inviting Barack Obama to speak."
Link via the Twitter feed of an approving Jamie Kirchick.
Brooks gave a more detailed critique of Ron Paul back in May:
"As Americans who are committed to a strong and vigorous foreign policy, we are deeply concerned about the prospective presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul. While Rep. Paul plans to run as a Republican, his views and past record place him far outside of the Republican mainstream. His candidacy, as we've seen in his past presidential campaigns, will appeal to a very narrow constituency in the U.S. electorate. Throughout his public service, Paul has espoused a dangerous isolationist vision for the U.S. and our role in the world. He has been a virulent and harsh critic of Israel during his tenure in Congress*. Most recently Paul gave an interview in which he voiced his objection to the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Brooks added, "We certainly respect Congressman Paul's right to run, but we strongly reject his misguided and extreme views, which are not representative of the Republican Party."
Weird punctuation in the original.
So what are these "extreme views"? Over at The Huffington Post, Dovid Efune, the director of The Algemeiner Journal and Gershon Jacobson Foundation, offers an explanation:
Paul's positions on Israel have been almost uniformly derided. Whilst claiming to be non-interventionist on the issue, he has routinely adopted Arab talking points on Israel, even comparing Gaza to 'a concentration camp.' His Isolationist mantra may appeal to fiscal conservatives, but in the real world its implementation would create a global power vacuum that would likely be filled by supporters of Israel's enemies.
Anti Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman has a perhaps unintentionally interesting take about Paul, U.S. politics, and Israel:
with the exception of Ron Paul, there is not much difference between the parties
And no orthodoxy-definition would be complete without David Frum:
Of the 8 candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination, 7 declared themselves intense supporters of the State of Israel, the sole exception being crank no-hoper Ron Paul.
I'm no expert on Ron Paul's Israel views, and I reserve the right to be outraged later by what I don't know now, but what I find interesting here is the namecalling-to-content ratio. Here, let's count it out:
Name-calling: 1) "misguided and extreme," 2) "so far outside of the mainstream," 3) "like...Barack Obama," 4) "will appeal to a very narrow constituency," 5) "dangerous isolationist vision," 6) "uniformly derided," 7) "claim[s] to be non-interventionist," 8) "Isolationist," 9) "differen[t]," 10) "crank."
Content: 1) "virulent and harsh critic of Israel," 2) "voiced his objection to the...killing of Osama Bin Laden," 3) "routinely adopted Arab talking points," 4) "compar[ed] Gaza to 'a concentration camp," 5) "would create a global power vacuum that would likely be filled by supporters of Israel's enemies."
Looking at the five content items, 1) is supported only by 4); 2) intentionally left out the phrase "legal method of," 3) is a general and largely contentless insult, 4) is a discrete piece of hyperbole that rubs my literalist heart the wrong way, too (though the full quote contains two qualifiers: "Palestinians are virtually in like a concentration camp"); and 5) is the Transitive Property run amok, though it does at least hint at the real-world question/critique of what, exactly, replaces hegemonic American responsibility for world affairs, and which bad actors are more likely to do badder things.
Does this, plus Paul's principled rejection of all foreign aid, his relentless espousal of the "blowback" theory of terrorism, and his negligence in allowing to appear under his name during the first Clinton administration some newsletter conspiracy theorizing about (among other things) the 1993 World Trade Center bombing being a "setup by the Israeli Mossad" enough to disqualify him for the grownups' table on foreign policy?
Well, I'm neither Republican nor Jewish nor a member of a Coalition, so the immediate event is not my call (though I do believe that dissonance is more illuminating than seven-part harmony). That said, this seems to me more of an attempt to draw boundaries around acceptable policy discourse than any active concern that President Dr. Ron Paul would be actively anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. The fact that he is a political outlier on an effectively bipartisan U.S. foreign policy that has become increasingly expensive and unpopular strikes me as a count in favor, not against. And nothing Paul said at last month's largely grotesque American Enterprise Institute foreign policy debate struck me as more objectionable than Mitt Romney's grovel that his first overseas trip as president would be to Israel.
Some other bullet-pointed observations and gratuitous commenter bait:
* The New York Sun editorial board, not known for its unfriendliness toward Israel, defended Paul both from charges of anti-Semitism and foreign policy insanity last year.
* Here's how quickly Paul's anti-interventionist rhetoric can be turned into charges of "anti-Semitic arguments," courtesy of Ben Stein. (Slightly less inflammatory accusations from David Horowitz circa March 2007. UPDATE: And, thanks to commenter Ken E., a considerably more inflammatory accusation from the Horo show this February: "Ron Paul Is A Vicious Anti-Semite and Anti-American and Conservatives Need To Wash Their Hands of Him.")
* Some Republicans tried to bar Paul from all debates back in May 2007 on grounds that his overall foreign policy views were "just so off the wall and out of whack."
* Here's Paul himself talking to then-Reasoner David Weigel in May 2007, in response to charges of old newsletter "anti-Semitism."