Friday, May 22, 2015
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to Israel I go
It seems that for every Republican presidential candidate it is a prerequisite to visit Israel. They've all gone over in recent months, including Ben Carson, who apparently made quite an ass of himself, showing a blissful ignorance of the region, including the time span of Islam, charting it back to the Old Testament.
Now, we have Scott Walker fresh from his "listening tour" of the Holy Lands, excluding the Palestinian territories. He even managed to book a date with Bibi Netanyahu, pledging his unequivocal support of his government.
Like all the other candidates, Walker believes that the President is letting Israel down, and that we need to reaffirm our relationship with the country. I guess he didn't take time to read of the current infighting in the Knesset, where Bibi just barely was able to cobble a coalition of religious right wing parties and the Likud together. It is not Obama who is openly critical of Netanyahu, it is his own country, and for good reason.
Back in March, Bibi drove a wedge in the politics of the nation by urging religious conservatives to come out to vote as the liberal parties were bringing Israeli Arabs to the polls in bus loads. He later apologized for this inflammatory rhetoric but the damage was done. It took Bibi all the way up to the 11th hour and 59th minute to get the 61 seats in the Knesset he needed, which few believe will hold together.
Yet, Walker, like all the GOP candidates, tells us every chance he gets that it is Obama who is inflaming tensions in the region. The Republicans have made the President into a straw man for everything that is wrong in the world, and continue to present the notion that the biggest single threat to the United States is ISIS, refusing to acknowledge the chain of events that lead to this radical new terrorist group.
Scott Walker has gone a step further than his rivals, vowing pre-emptive strikes if elected President to prevent these existential threats. He missed the sad irony in giving this inflammatory speech in Oklahoma City, where the Alfred P. Murrah Building was bombed by homegrown religious extremists 20 years ago. Instead, he revives the Bush Doctrine, no doubt as a result of the support he has garnered from hard line factions in the GOP. Walker has zero foreign policy experience, much less tact.
The trip to Israel was designed to give him some kind of "street cred" among Republican faithful. This was also true for Carson and Christie and Huckabee, who have all made the pilgrimage. Christie cut quite a profile on his 2012 visit. Being governors and neurosurgeons doesn't make you privy to White House or Congressional foreign policy briefings. These guys garner no more of what is going on in the world than we do scanning the headlines. Yet, to a man they think that having made this trip they are eminently qualified to lead the nation on the global stage.
What we get is the kind of bellicose rhetoric you would hear from any religious conservative spouting off on facebook or some other chat group, hoping to get "likes" from an all too gullible audience. We went through this before with George W. Bush, and we all saw where that got us. I would hope voters, even conservative voters, would be more circumspect today.