With the right eager to drive a wedge between President Obama and Jewish voters, yesterday’s comments from Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, followed soon after by comments by Israeli President Shimon Peres, are music to the campaign’s ears.
I suspect this exchange, between Ehud Barak and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, will be put to great use by the Obama campaign in the fall.
BLITZER: You’ve studied U.S.-Israeli relations over many years. How would you describe the relationship today?
BARAK: I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, administrations of both sides of the political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israel, and I believe that reflects the profound feelings among the American people. But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.
BLITZER: More than any other president? LBJ, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush?
BARAK: Yeah, in terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of thoughts in a very open way even when there are differences, which are not simple sometimes, I found their support for our defense very stable.
That’s clearly not the impression Republicans would prefer voters to have.
On a related note, Media Matters highlighted another key talking point being pushed by the right this week: Obama deserves to be condemned for not having visited Israel during his first term.
The argument, however, is burdened by a fairly significant flaw.
During an appearance on Fox News’ Special Report, Fox contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised Romney’s recent visit to Israel while noting that “President Obama has not been in Israel as president of the United States.” Fox’s Sean Hannity similarly said that it is an “alarming fact that after nearly four years in office, President Obama has yet to visit our closest ally in the Middle East in what is now a very troubling time.”
Beth Myers, a top Romney aide, also told reporters recently that it’s “pretty amazing” Obama hasn’t visited Israel.
The attack at least has the benefit of being partially accurate – Obama visited Israel as a candidate, but has not been back during his first term. If Republicans choose to find that outrageous, their complaints are grounded in fact.
The problem, however, is the selective nature of their disgust. George W. Bush didn’t visit Israel at any point during his first term, and neither did Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush didn’t travel to Israel during their respective terms in office at all.
Did the right find this “alarming,” too? I looked to see if Kristol, Hannity, or Myers ever criticized modern Republican presidents for their failure to visit Israel at this point in their terms and couldn’t find anything.