Posted on December 13, 2011 in Arab American Institute

This election season has been quite contentious, and a lot has been said about the issues we care about. So who are the presidential candidates? What have they said about the Middle East? What are their views on racial and religious profiling? Do they have advisors that we should be mindful of? You can view their profiles to learn all that and more on AAI’s website by clicking here. Be sure to check our website regularly as the campaign progresses to remain updated on what the candidates are saying about our issues. It is crucial that we remain informed and vigilant so we can be an effective force in the upcoming election.

Mitt Romney
Newt Gingrich
Michele Bachmann
Herman Cain
Ron Paul
Rick Perry
Rick Santorum

Mitt Romney








On the Campaign Trail

“Well, first of all, of course, we're not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That's never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law. No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That's in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion.”

“Just before Bibi Netanyahu came to the United States, he threw Israel under the bus, tried to negotiate for Israel. The right course -- if you disagree with an ally, you talk about it privately. But in public, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your allies. The right course for us is not to try and negotiate for Israel. The right course is to stand behind our friends, to listen to them, and to let the entire world know that we will stay with them and that we will support them and defend them.”

"God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America is not destined to be one of several equally balanced global powers. America must lead the world, or someone else will."

“If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your President -- you have that President today”

Said he would veto the DREAM Act: "The question is if I were elected and Congress were to pass the Dream Act, would I veto it and the answer is yes"

Official Campaign Statements

“He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations is unacceptable. The United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas”

[Assad is a] vicious dictator, a killer, and a proxy for Iran… [Romney would] pursue a strategy of isolating and pressuring the regime to increase likelihood of a peaceful transition to a legitimate government.”

[On Iran], In his first 100 days, make clear that the military option is on the table by ordering the regular presence of an aircraft carrier task force in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. He will also begin talks with Israel to increase military coordination and assistance and enhance intelligence sharing.”

“Yet in three years, he has not found it in his interest to visit Israel, our ally, our friend, the sole Middle East nation that fully shares our values, the nation in President Truman's words, that is an “embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”

“No, over the past three years, President Obama has instead chastened Israel. In his inaugural address to the United Nations, the President chastised Israel, but said little about the thousands of Hamas rockets raining into its skies. He’s publicly proposed that Israel adopt indefensible borders. He’s insulted its Prime Minister. And he’s been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran.”

“These actions have emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table. President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.”

“As President, my policies will be very different. I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”

Key Advisors

Walid Phares:

He is a senior fellow and the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.  According to the Center for American Progress, he is “former militiaman and foreign affairs spokesman for the mostly Christian Lebanese Front, which was responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Muslims during the September 1982 Lebanese Civil War” - Center for American Progress

"Mr. Phares was aware of the crimes of Samir Geagea and he was still close to him." - Mother Jones

Mary Beth Long:

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld. She was part of a media training program by the Israel Project:

Meghan O’Sullivan:

Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and his Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan during the last two years of this tenure.

Eliot Cohen:

Was a member of the short-lived Committee for the Liberation of Iraq that agitated for an invasion in 2002 and early 2003. - Think Progress

Robert Kagan:

A founder of the Project For A New American Century (PNAC) and the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), argued for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein beginning in the mid 1990s. - Think Progress



Newt Gingrich







On the Campaign Trail

  • Compared Park 51 to allowing Nazis to paint a Swastika next to the holocaust museum - The Economist
  • Islamophobia

“I just want to comment for a second. The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed -- when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, "You're my enemy. I lied." Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, if you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. We did this -- we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.”

“[People] don’t understand that "Cordoba House" is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex. Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to"symbolize interfaith cooperation" when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.” --

"Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.” -- NewsOK

  • On Palestinians: "Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists," he said. "It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, 'Enough lying about the Middle East.'" -- New York Times

• Address to the Republican Jewish Coalition:

“There are nine specific policy proposals I would like to leave with you tonight. First, as a demonstration of this new resolve, the United States should move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Israel has every right as a sovereign, free nation to choose its own capitol and we should respect that choice. As President, on my first day in office, I will issue an executive order directing the US Embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem as provided for in the legislation I introduced in congress in 1995. Second, the United States must refuse to participate in any talks involving terrorist organizations, and cut off all direct and indirect aid to terrorists and their front groups. This must include the Palestinian Authority as long as it includes Hamas and continues to produce propaganda lionizing suicide bombers and promoting the destruction of Israel. Three… the United States should explicitly reject the concept of a right of return for Palestinian refugees. The so called right of return is a historically impossible demand that would be a demographic disaster and mean the end of the Jewish state of Israel. We are for a right to prosperity, a right to freedom, a right to the rule of law, a right to private property, but we must be totally opposed to a right of return. Fourth, The United Nations camps system must be replaced by a system of earned income and property rights to restore dignity and hope to every Palestinian.”

"I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at a time," Gingrich said in an interview with Steven I. Weiss. "Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places. And for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940's, and I think it’s tragic."

"I mean, we have an armed truce with a Palestinian Authority that’s relatively weak. And on its flank is a Hamas authority which may become relatively weak because it can’t deliver anything. But both of which represent an enormous desire to destroy Israel," he said. "Frankly, given their school system and the hatred they teach in their schools, often with money that comes from us through the United Nations, I mean I think there's a lot to think about in terms of how fundamentally you want to change the terms of debate in the region."

"I see myself as in many ways being pretty close to Bibi Netanyahu in thinking about the dangers of the world. I believe in a tough-minded realism. I believe that if somebody is firing rockets at you, they are probably not engaged in the peace process. I believe if somebody goes around and says you don’t have a right to exist, they’re probably not prepared to negotiate for peace," he said. "I think if someone says they wanna wipe you out, you should believe them. So I see a much more tougher-minded, and much more honest approach to the Middle East in a Gingrich administration."        

On African-Americans: “the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps”

Official Campaign Statements

On Israel/Palestine:

  • The 1967 borders are “indefensible/suicidal” for Israel
  • The US Should move its embassy to Jerusalem; an executive order on my first day in office
  • Cut all direct & indirect aid to PA as long as it includes Hamas and incites against Israel
  • The US should reject the Palestinian right of return
  • Prevent Iran from acquiring nukes, and work on regime change
  • Suspend all US aid to the UN if General Assembly recognizes Palestine

Key Advisors

David Wurmser:

Middle East adviser, member of Vice President Cheney’s inner circle who supported Ahmed Chalabi.

James Woosley:

Former CIA director; spoke at a panel hosted by the founder of Judicial Watch focused on President Obama’s “political jihad promoting Islam around the world;” wrote a positive review of Robert Spencer’s book “Stealth Jihad.”



Michele Bachmann:







On the Campaign Trail

Official Campaign Statements

“Instead, we have a President who devalues the special relationship with our most trusted ally, Britain, even as he bows to kings, bends to dictators, bumbles with reset buttons, and babies radical Islamists. We have a President who tells our true friend, Israel, that it must surrender its right to defensible borders to appease forces that have never recognized that nation’s right to exist.”

Address to Republican Jewish Coalition Forum:

“It seems as if lately, our president has forgotten the importance of Israel to America and thinks of our relationship only in terms of what we do for Israel. The president is more concerned about Israel building homes on its own land than the threats that Israel and America face in the region.

“The president was right to promise to veto the Palestinians‘ bid for statehood in the U.N. Security Council. But in large part it is the president’s weakness in the Middle East that has emboldened the Palestinians to attempt to achieve statehood through the U.N. rather than at the legitimate negotiation table with Israel. Our policy has confused engagement with appeasement and has inspired Israel’s enemies.

“Instead, Obama improperly calls for Israel to retreat to indefensible 1949 armistice lines with swaps, and to then still face further demands to divide Jerusalem and allow a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to overrun the entire State of Israel. The Obama administration has also unconditionally given the Palestinians unprecedented amounts of U.S. foreign aid, and opposed Congressional efforts to condition aid on the real steps that would bring about peace.

“The so-called Palestinian ‘right of return,’ would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs who never lived in Israel, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state.

“A Bachmann administration will recognize that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, a vibrant democracy and America’s staunch ally. My administration will fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, and will be the first administration to finally implement the laws passed by Congress requiring the State Department to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. My administration will also recognize Israel’s 1980 annexation of the Golan Heights and any settlements, which Israel, as a sovereign state, chooses to annex. Simply put, my administration will accord Israel the respect to which sovereign, democratic nations are entitled.

“On the day of my inauguration as president I will announce that the U.S. Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I recognize that the security of America is intertwined with the security of Israel.

“Hitler once famously said in justification of his order to murder millions of Jews, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Ahmadinejad is counting on the same collective memory today as he marches toward a second holocaust.

“We must send him the message that – we will never forget!"

Key Advisors

Frank Gaffney:

Described by the Center for American Progress as “one of the leading lights of the islamophobia network”


Herman Cain

Campaign Suspended: December 3






On the Campaign Trail

Question: “Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?”

Cain: “No, I will not, and here is why: there is this creeping attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Islamic faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.”

Beck: “Are you saying that Muslims have to prove that, that there has to be some loyalty proof”

Cain: “yes, to the constitution of the United States of America”

Beck: “Would you do that to a catholic or would you do that to a Mormon?”

Cain: “Nope! Nope! I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. Because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith”

               Wallace: “So you’re saying any community, if they want to ban a mosque?”

               Cain: “Yes, they have the right to do that. That’s not discriminating based upon religion.”

               Doctor’s assistant to Cain: “don't worry, Mr. Cain, he's a Christian from Lebanon.”

               Cain: “Hallelujah! Thank God!"

Official Campaign Statements

ISRAEL -- “Cain’s top foreign policy priorities will be to stand united with Israel.  He will not allow the Arab Spring to lead to the fall of Israel.    The Obama administration has called upon Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, which are militarily indefensible. It has also advocated that Israel give up control of its fresh water aquifers. These ill-advised policies have emboldened Israel’s enemies by implying that the United States may not stand with Israel in its hour of need.  Mr. Cain believes the lack of clarity regarding Israel demonstrates weakness and invites conflict.”



Ron Paul







On the Campaign Trail

Ron Paul said water boarding is "immoral," "uncivilized" and "un-American."

  •  Against the PATRIOT Act:

    “I think the Patriot Act is unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty”

  • Against taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:         

    "[I]f we have solidarity with Israel, then we have hostility to the Palestinians"

  • On why Al-Qaeda attacked the US:

    “The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it. They have more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11, but we're there occupying their land. And if we think that we can do that and not have retaliation, we're kidding ourselves. We have to be honest with ourselves. What would we do if another country, say, China, did to us what we do to all those countries over there?

    "This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they're attacking us because we're free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit -- they have been explicit, and they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing -- (BOOING) --I didn't say that. I'm trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing, at the same time we had been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you're not annoyed, then there's some problem."

    On Newt Gingrich: ""You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to serve us in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that and got deferments and didn't even go," Paul said. "Right now he sends the young kids over there and the young people come back and the ones in the military right now, they overwhelmingly support my campaign....We get twice as much support from the active military personnel than all the other candidates put together," Paul said. "So Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he is putting other people in danger. Some people call that kind of a program a 'chickenhawk' and I think he falls into that category."

    Official Campaign Statements

    As Commander-in-Chief, Dr. Paul will lead the fight to:

    • Avoid long and expensive land wars that bankrupt our country by using constitutional means to capture or kill terrorist leaders who helped attack the U.S. and continue to plot further attacks.
    • Guarantee our intelligence community’s efforts are directed toward legitimate threats and not spying on innocent Americans through unconstitutional power grabs like the Patriot Act.
    • End the nation-building that is draining troop morale, increasing our debt, and sacrificing lives with no end in sight.
    • Follow the Constitution by asking Congress to declare war before one is waged.
    • Only send our military into conflict with a clear mission and all the tools they need to complete the job – and then bring them home.
    • Prevent the TSA from forcing Americans to either be groped or ogled just to travel on an airplane and ultimately abolish the unconstitutional agency.
    • Stop taking money from the middle class and the poor to give to rich dictators through foreign aid.


    As President, Ron Paul’s national defense policy will ensure that the greatest nation in human history is strong, secure, and respected.


Key Advisors

Bruce Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Ronald Reagan.



Rick Perry







On the Campaign Trail

  • Accused Obama of betraying Israel to appease terrorists (re settlements)

  • Former President Clinton likened Republican presidential contender Rick Perry to rightwing “militant subgroups in Israel,” and criticized an extremist religious constituency in the U.S. which thinks Israel should keep the West Bank and not make peace with the Palestinians.

  • On Foreign Funding for the UN and the Palestinian Authority:

“Absolutely. I think it's time for this country to have a very real debate about foreign aid. Clearly there are places. As a matter of fact, I think it's time for us to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations. When you think about -- when you think about the Palestinian Authority circumventing those Oslo Accords and going to New York to try to create the conflict and to have themselves approved as a state without going through the proper channels is a travesty. And I think it's time not only to have that entire debate about all of our foreign aid, but in particular the U.N. Why are we funding that organization?”

Official Campaign Statements

“Perry believes in American exceptionalism and rejects the notion our president should apologize for our country. He believes allies and adversaries alike must know that America seeks peace from a position of strength. We must strengthen our diplomatic relationships, and stand firm with our allies against our common enemies. While advancing our interests abroad, Perry believes it is equally important to defend our interests at home by securing our border.”


On Jerusalem:

“I am for Jerusalem being united under Israeli rule … and as the president of the United States, [Perry’s position would be] if you want to work for the State Department, you will be working in Jerusalem.”

On Settlements:

In response to another question about settlements, Mr. Perry called for direct negotiations, but added that “at the end of the day, those are about the sovereign nation of Israel making the decisions about those lands.” Then, asked specifically whether Israel should be allowed to continue building on them, he said, “I think so.”

On Obama’s Middle East Policy:

“we would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama Policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous”

“it was wrong for this Administration to suggest the 1967 borders should be the starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. When you consider this suggestion was made on the eve of the Israeli Prime Minister’s visit, we see in this American Administration a willingness to isolate a close ally and to do so in a manner that is insulting and naïve.”

On the PLO and the UN Bid:

“The Palestinians must know their gambit comes with consequences in particular that America will have to reconsider the $4 billion in assistance we have provided to the Palestinians over the last 17 years… We should close the PLO office in Washington if the U.N. grants the standing of a Palestinian state.”

Address to Republican Jewish Coalition Forum:

“And yet President Obama has systematically undermined America's relationship with Israel, specifically on the question of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian People.”


Rick Santorum







On the Campaign Trail

“the folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes. If you look at -- I mean, obviously, it was -- obviously, Muslims would be -- would be someone you'd look at, absolutely. Those are the folks who are -- the radical Muslims are the people that are committing these crimes, as we've -- by and large, as well as younger males.”

"We are not being attacked and we were not attacked because of our actions. We were attacked, as Newt talked about, because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for. And we stand for American exceptionalism, we stand for freedom and opportunity for everybody around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that."                         

Official Campaign Statements

“Rick believes our nation’s leaders must be honest with the American people and call this war what it is, a War with Radical Islam.”


Key Advisors

Lucas Draisey, Iowa Field Director: posted on Facebook that U.S. should not have avoided civilian casualties, but should have “parking lotted the place, and rebuilt it, ala Japan.”

Nick Ryan and Jill Latham, advisors: They were involved with the “American Future Fund” which was responsible for bigoted advertisements related to Park 51.