Every Jewish lawmaker in Congress (OK, that’s only three) and a multitude of other members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives turned out Thursday afternoon for the Republican Jewish Coalition’s “Salute to Pro-Israel Lawmakers” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (see video).
Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.), locked in a tough re-election fight with Al Franken, spoke to the hundreds gathered, as did House Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) that featured lots of talk about how Barack Obama, and Democrats generally, would be unreliable in protecting Israel.
“If you care about the United States of America, if you care about Israel, this election is absolutely critical,” said Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) in a sample of the kind of talking points the GOP will likely use in the next two months.
“We can have a friend of Israel and a pillar of American strength, or have somebody who believes in moral equivalency … [that] there is no difference between the Israelis and Palestinians, said an excited Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), practically screaming into the microphone.
And then there was Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (Kent.), who basically said that the Democratic Party isn’t “pro-Israel.”
“There’s an important and fundamental difference between the two parties in Washington, and I know you’re not going to be fooled by Democrats claiming that just because they’re for foreign assistance to Israel that they’re pro-Israel,” said McConnell. “Israel’s security and U.S. security are inextricably intertwined and they involve … having an assertive, aggressive pro-active approach to danger.”
Of course, AIPAC might disagree about the importance of foreign assistance. The lobbying group calls foreign aid “vital” and a “cornerstone” to U.S. foreign policy in a memo on its Web site. And when McConnell’s fellow Republicans in the House voted against the foreign aid bill in 2007 because they objected to an amendment that provided funding for women’s overseas health groups that provide abortions, Republicans felt it was important enough to sign a letter to the pro-Israel lobbying group affirming their backing, despite their vote on that bill, for aid to the Jewish state.
Among the other members of Congress who attended Thursday afternoon were Sens. Jim Bunning (Ky.), George Voinovich (Ohio), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), John Kyl (Ariz.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), and Reps. Adam Putnam (Fla.), Chris Shays (Conn.) and Chris Smith (N.J.).