Posted on March 07, 2012 in Countdown
Countdown Vol. 10, No. 38
Yaay, Super Tuesday just happened, so we finally know who the GOP nominee for President is! Oh, wait, what? We don’t? So, apparently Romney won big, but not nearly big enough to seal the deal. Santorum won North Dakota, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. And if Gingrich weren’t around to peel off the conservative “not Romney” vote, Santorum would’ve taken Ohio (where he lost by only 1 percentage point to Romney) and Alaska. And he certainly would’ve taken Gingrich’s own win in Georgia. As you can imagine, Santorum’s campaign is not happy with Gingrich spoiling their game, so now they’re telling Gingrich to “move aside.” While it does make sense for Gingrich and Paul to butt out at this point, we kind of want them to stay for the crazy materials the former provides and the common sense on Iran the latter provides. On a side note, Dennis Kucinich’s seat this primary was “Kaptured” buy fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Another important thing we think you should know is that we’re really sorry for that last line. We know you expect and deserve better quality humor than that terribly cheesy pun and promise to act accordingly from now on.
Obama Speaks at AIPAC
This year’s AIPAC conference (the largest ever) kicked off with a foreign policy roundtable which included the always-pleasant Liz Cheney. To huge audience applause, Cheney told AIPAC that “No president has done more to undermine and delegitimize Israel than President Obama.” But President Obama had the antidote, reviewing his record with Israel which included the reasonable (funding Israel’s rocket defense program and intervening to protect Israeli diplomats in Cairo), the disappointing (opposing the Goldstone report), and the sigh/frown/headshake-inducing (supporting Israel in the flotilla incident). “So there should not be a shred of doubt by now,” the President said, “when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” More often than you should, Mr. President, but, yes you do. On Iran, Obama was firm, but reasonable: he reiterated that his policy was to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and that no option was off the table in that pursuit. However, he also noted that “there is too much loose talk of war” and that such talk “benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program.” He also said that, for the security of the world, “now is not the time for bluster.” Judging by how the rest of the AIPAC conference went, “no time for bluster” was a futile plea. Read more on the President’s speech here.
GOP Candidates Weigh In
Well, they’re campaigning, so you kind of already know how their speeches went. Rick Santorum (the only candidate there in person) told AIPAC that Obama had “turned his back on the people of Israel,” and attacked the Joint Chiefs of Staff for calling Iran rational. “These are essentially irrational actors. We need to put that ultimatum in place,” he said, noting we should be prepared to tear down Iran’s nuclear facilities. Romney, too, went after the administration for cautioning Israel about the consequences of attacking Iran, saying “Israel does not need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.” Asked what stood out for him about Israel and its people, Romney demonstrated that he’s better able to describe what he likes about Israel than he did Michigan (with the height of trees and all). Increasingly irrelevant and in desperation mode, Gingrich went all out at AIPAC, spewing Islamophobia and suggesting that the time to bomb Iran was not if/when this or that happened, but now. “The red line is now,” he said. Ron Paul gave the best speech of the night. Ok, we’re kidding; Ron Paul was not invited. Obama hit back at the candidates in his first press conference in 4 months, berating the “casualness” of their rhetoric on war with Iran. Read more on the GOP candidates’ speeches here.
& You Gotta Love Congress
More than half of Congress was at the AIPAC conference, and some gave speeches. Mitch McConnell opened his speech with an awkward joke which he horrifyingly claimed represented the view of “most Jewish Kentuckyans” and it went like this: “there’s only once race that’s better than the Jews, and that’s the Kentucky Derby” [reluctant audience laughter]. From there, McConnell spent most of his speech describing how Congress was and will continue outperforming the Obama administration in pressuring Iran. Joe Lieberman had a simple message to Iran (heard by all those who could stay awake long enough through his speech to hear it): “Either you peacefully negotiate an end to your illicit nuclear activities or they will be ended for you by military attack.” Nancy Pelosi’s speech emphasized that Israel and the US are BFFs: “Israel and America are friends and partners, now and forever.” Cantor gave a worse speech, claiming Arab countries only respond to strength, that “our enemies” hate freedom, and then suggested that we [as in the US] “do unto Israel as Israel keeps doing unto us.” Wait, Cantor wants us to take their money, embarrass their leaders, and disregard their interests? Go Cantor!
The best part of the AIPAC conference is the contradictions uttered by speakers that seem to be completely missed on everyone there. For starters, President Obama cautioned that if Iran got nuclear weapons, then “the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world's most volatile regions.” Yes, introducing nukes to the region will cause others to want them too, so nuclear armed Israel must stop Iran from initiating this race (go figure). Then, in literally one sentence, Senator Joe Lieberman referred to the “two terrorist intifadas” and “the Arab World’s historic democratic uprisings.” Lieberman’s lesson to Arabs: if your oppressor is Mubarak or Assad, then your uprising is historic and democratic. But if your oppressor is the Israeli occupation, then your uprising is terrorist (Got it!). And as for dealing with Iran, Bibi Netanyahu said “we leave all options on the table, and containment is definitely not an option.” That’s kind of like how Israel wants to negotiate with the Palestinians without preconditions, except for the conditions that Jerusalem, settlements, and refugees are non-negotiable (why won’t they negotiate?).
No AIPAC edition of Countdown would be complete without Jon Stewart’s brilliant take on The Daily Show on how criticizing Israel is taboo in American political discourse, while perfectly fine in Israeli politics. “Apparently in Israel,” he said, “you are allowed to criticize Israel and still hold public office." Watch it here.