The legions of Israel-loving Obama-bashers who had been expecting to cheer wildly as the U.S. President’s policies got torn apart piece by piece must have been sorely disappointed with Saturday night’s Republican Debate in South Carolina.
Not only were the moderators from CBS and National Journal inordinately preoccupied with the situation in Pakistan - which is, let’s face it, unfathomable to most humans - but the only direct question in the debate concerning Israel was the one that landed Texas Governor Rick Perry in hot water again, after he implied that Israel would have to justify its need for foreign aid as if it was just another run-of-the-mill country, and not the apple of the Republican eye.
To be sure, the evening was replete with policy statements and world views that most Israelis and many American Jewish voters would enthusiastically applaud, including statements by two of the more prominent debaters – Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich – that they would support American military action against nuclear-seeking Iran.
And, as is often the case when the Republicans try to outdo each other, even the most dedicated Jewish doomsayers would likely be taken aback by Michelle Bachman’s assertion that Pakistan, Iran and God knows who else are planning a “world-wide nuclear war” against Israel, or by Gingrich’s Crusade-like revelation that the Arab Spring is actually an anti-Christian onslaught.
Nonetheless those who had eagerly anticipated a public mauling of U.S. President Barack Obama over what they view as his infuriating attitude towards Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were, but for a few hardly-noticeable exceptions, left wanting. Others who had been geared up to hear a Republican chorus – excluding Ron Paul – extolling the party’s credo of life, liberty and the pursuit of Israel’s happiness - were also feeling disappointed.
Many of these people – trust me on this – are probably convinced that the moderators’ insistence on an anything-but-Israel debate is a liberal left-wing conspiracy directed by the White House itself.
Be that as it may, the debate on foreign policy was one of the most disjointed and unfocussed of all the debates held so far, interspersed as it was by those surrealistic interludes in which the fringe candidates with the least chances of winning – most notably former governor Jon Huntsman but also Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and yes, Michelle Bachman – were more restrained and rational than the recognized leaders of the pack, refraining, for example, from declaring war on Pakistan and open season on China.
To cap it all, the inexplicable decision by CBS to arbitrarily cut off the debate in the middle and to send viewers to overloaded Internet sites was as good an indication as any of the low priority of foreign policy in this election campaign, to the extent that if Herman Cain does lose his current frontrunner status, as people expect, it won’t be because he seemed so absolutely clueless in last night’s discussions.
As for those who still feel they are owed their pound of flesh from Obama because of his Israel policies, they will probably have to wait for next summer’s debates between the president and whoever will then be the Republican nominee.
Follow the author on Twitter @ChemiShalev
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