Jed Lewison wrote yesterday that Rick Santorum is “so desperate for gravitas,” he chose to deliver “a foreign policy speech at a jelly bean store” so voters might connect the former senator to Ronald Reagan. I thought Jed was kidding.
He wasn’t. This is actually part of Santorum’s new strategy to get people to take him seriously.
Mr. Santorum spoke before a crowd of 300 people at the Jelly Belly Candy Company [in Fairfield, California], a most unlikely setting for what was billed as “a major foreign policy speech.” But there was a connection. President Reagan loved Jelly Belly jelly beans and had a jar of them in the Oval Office. There are numerous mosaics made of jelly beans of the former president in the Jelly Belly headquarters.
“We need someone who is not going to be the Etch A Sketch candidate,” Mr. Santorum said, referring to a Romney aide who talked about resetting the campaign, like shaking an Etch A Sketch. “Ronald Reagan didn’t say one thing in front of one group and something else in front of another.”
First, Santorum has an odd sense of scheduling. The Maryland and Wisconsin primaries are Tuesday, and yet, he’s delivering a “major” speech in California, which won’t hold its primary until June – 10 weeks away. Second, if Santorum is looking to improve his faltering stature, perhaps the Jelly Belly Candy Company isn’t the place to audition for the role of leader of the free world.
But what about the speech itself? Most of it was filled with vague platitudes, but one line jumped out at me: “This president has alienated ally after ally, particularly the state of Israel.”
As a substantive matter, that’s pretty foolish – by any fair assessment, President Obama has strengthened key international alliances and improved the nation’s global standing. But given the larger context, I’d remind Santorum of a recent president who pushed for an Israeli settlement freeze, urged Israeli inaction in Lebanon, and said Israeli efforts in the West Bank and Gaza “damage the self-respect and world opinion of the Israeli people.’”
The president? Ronald Reagan. In fact, a Haaretz piece recently ran this headline: “If Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he’d be impeached.”
Maybe someone should send Santorum a copy.