Ignorance is not bliss, at least not if you're part of the 70 percent of Republicans who can’t bring yourself to develop a mad crush on Mitt Romney. It is an almost daily occurrence that one of the other candidates demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of a critical issue. This is a big problem for the GOP.
During Tuesday night’s debate, Michele Bachmann criticized President Obama’s foreign policy, saying, “the biggest problem with this administration in foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty put [sic] daylight between the United States and Israel.” Really? I suppose the Gentlewoman from Minnesota would be loathe to criticize GOP icon Ronald Reagan, but his decision to sell AWACS to Saudi Arabia in 1981 certainly “put daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. Of course, Reagan’s Chief of Staff at the time, James Baker, never met an Arab oil baron or potentate he did not love. Later, during his tenure as Secretary of State in the George H.W. Bush administration, Baker spent his time putting as much daylight between the U.S. and Israel as he could.
I suppose it is expecting too much from a candidate who continually touts her commitment to Israel to think she might know anything about the 1956 Suez Crisis. Then, too, a United States President, Dwight Eisenhower put plenty of daylight between the U.S. and Israel, as well as between the U.S. and Great Britain and France.
This basic ignorance of recent history astounds, but everything about the conservative Republican embrace of Israel astounds. It is ironic that these champions of Israel spend so much time denouncing socialism and championing American exceptionalism in distinction to European, bureaucratic lethargy. They seem not to recall that the modern state of Israel was founded by European socialists. The biblical warrant for support of Israel cited by American fundamentalists, “I will bless those that bless you, and him who curses you I will curse” (Gn 12:3), was not what motivated Herzl or Weizmann or Ben-Gurion. Ask yourself a question: If asked to give a one paragraph biographical sketch of Herzl or Weizmann or Ben-Gurion, how many GOP candidates do you think could deliver? I am not a fan of “gotcha” questions, but if they are going to denounce President Obama for his policy towards Israel, they might want to know something about Zionism, no?
Poor Herman Cain misapplied his anti-government mantra the other night in an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN. Morgan asked him about abortion and Cain dutifully explained that he was pro-life, that he believed life begins at conception, and that he was opposed to any exceptions including rape and incest. Had he stopped there, Cain would have been fine. But, as the video clip indicates, Cain got confused and must have thought he was talking about union-busting corporations, not pregnant women, saying that it was not up to politicians to tell a family what to do.
There is one candidate on the debate stage whose name is not Mitt Romney who is actually very intelligent. I have been indicating all summer and autumn that people have been discounting Newt Gingrich’s candidacy too quickly. Does anyone doubt that Gingrich is familiar with the events in Suez in 1956? Or with the decision to sell AWACS to Saudi Arabia in 1981? Can you imagine Gingrich flubbing an answer to a simple question about abortion as Cain did? Can you imagine Gingrich having the obvious mental lapses that Gov. Rick Perry displays in every debate?
As Cain stumbles in the polls – and he will after his response on abortion – where will his support go? So far, Bachmann was the champion of the anti-Romney brigade, but then she passed the baton to Perry. When Perry stumbled, his support fled to Cain. Now that Cain has stumbled, will conservative Republicans finally accept Romney? I doubt it. My prediction: If Romney and Perry do to each other what Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt did to each other in Iowa in 2004 and run such a negative campaign that they both look bad, look for Gingrich to move up in the polls.