My meeting with Newt; other impressions from the RJC candidates’ forum and last debate


Covering the Republican Jewish Coalition’s candidates’ forum a couple weeks back, I had the (brief) opportunity to meet Newt Gingrich (pictured above with his wife Callista, South Dakota Senator Dan Lederman, and yours truly). I also got to meet Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Since the gathering was off-the-record, I can’t divulge what was discussed. Let’s just say it was wild and crazy (just kidding).

A few thoughts on last Thursday’s debate, though. Bachmann, it seems to me, is dead serious about stopping Iran from attaining nuclear capability. And I agree with her that Ron Paul’s dismissal of the idea that Iran is even a threat is “dangerous.” Until now, I would not even have been too concerned about what Ron Paul thinks; as a hard-core libertarian, his views have always been pretty far outside the mainstream. He serves an arguably valuable function as a critic of the mainstream on subjects like foreign aid (actually, I believe he has a point about this, but only in regard to aid to countries that are not solid U.S. allies).

Ron Paul has been gaining ground in the polls. While I doubt he has any serious chance at the nomination, his isolationist philosophy, if ever actually implemented, would be extraordinarily dangerous and possibly destructive to the U.S. and her allies like Israel. While on balance I do think it is dangerously simplistic in its dismissal of the necessary and symbiotic relationship that exists, for instance, between Israel and the U.S., at this point I am not sure it would be much worse than the vision of some Democrats, which is that the U.S. should revert to a pre-9/11 mindset and play defense regarding terrorist threats, essentially abandoning pre-emption.

Only lunatics desire military engagement and only naves fail to realize that such engagement, as well as counter-terrorism, in the words of Dick Cheney, “is a dirty, mean, nasty business.”


What the Ron Pauls and left-wing pacifists fail to be honest about, however, is that in an age of global terrorism, the alternative to pre-emption–to dismantling terrorist infrastructure in hostile nations, to hunting down terrorists, and to preventing terror-supporting states from attaining nuclear weapons–is another September 11 or far, far worse.

Here is the exchange, from last Thursday night’s candidates’ debate, between Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann:

BACHMANN: [The] biggest mistake Obama has made in foreign policy is with Iraq. He was given victory on a platter and he is choosing intentionally to lose the peace. Iran is going to have the dominant influence in Iraq, and will thus dominate from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean through Syria. I have never heard a more dangerous statement from anyone than I just heard from Ron Paul. Iran will take a nuclear weapon and would use it to wipe Israel off the map and look no further than the Iranian constitution which has the mission to extend jihad across the world and set up a global Caliphate. We would be fools and naves to ignore Iran’s ambitions.

RON PAUL: I want to see less nuclear weapons. I don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. To say that all Muslims are the same is dangerous talk. They don’t come to kill us because we are free and prosperous.  Why aren’t they killing people in Switzerland. They only want to come and do us harm because we are bombing them.  We are begging and pleading to get a drone back but why did we have a drone up there anyway? We have hundreds of bases and all these drones and things and we are totally bankrupt. How are you going to rebuild a military when we have no money? How are you going to take care of people? This wild goal to have yet another war is us overreacting and we only need to go to war with a declaration of war.

BACHMANN: Can I just respond to that? The problem would be the greatest underreaction in world history if we have an avowed madman who wants to use nukes to wipe a nation off the Earth and we have an IAEA report that says Iran is just months away from getting a nuke. This is an IAEA report.

RON PAUL: There is no evidence that Iran is enriching things.

BACHMANN: You are wrong and Americans are at risk.

The most important thing Bachmann said in the above exchange is, “The problem would be the greatest underreaction in world history.”

Are we prepared to gamble on it?

Contacted over the weekend, my source in Iraq, former Parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi, said he agrees with Bachmann. When I read him the above exchange he said, “[There is a] difference between the politicians running. Some have understanding for the future. Churchill had an understanding for the future and was unwilling to make deals with fascists … Bachmann is right. The other man is not right. Americans talk about rights. That’s why we [both Americans and Iraqis who fought for democracy] gave up our children, our security, our money. Reality is, there are bad people, extremists–it was always the case in history. Believing in dreams is beautiful but it doesn’t change reality. Obama is not right [to withdraw troops from Iraq at this juncture and characterize it as ‘victory’]. Is the President able to say the war is really finished? No terrorism or extremism [in Iraq?] We can’t leave millions of human beings [at the mercy of extremists] just because we want to play politics. That is why we lost millions in World War II.”

Alusi believes it is imperative for the free world to mount a military operation to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capability.

“If we don’t make a military operation, it will be the biggest disaster for the middle east and the international community.”

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