Matthew Dowd on ABC’s “This Week” roundtable made the following comment regarding a former United Nations ambassador and three governors’ appearances at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) meeting in Las Vegas: “I just think it’s ridiculous that these candidates for president are trumping out to Las Vegas to go kiss the ring of a billionaire casino owner and they think that’s somehow going help them get elected president.”
This is distasteful in the extreme, and it is highly unfortunately that no one on the panel chose to challenge him.
Let’s start with the selected outrage. Is he put off when Democrats make speeches in front of labor leaders or GOP candidates go to Christian conservative groups seeking backing? Did he think it was “ridiculous” when Rand Paul went to cozy up to prospective donors in Silicon Valley? Mitt Romney held a gathering of his big donors, and I heard no outrage when several potential 2016 candidates ran. It is odd to single out the RJC if the issue is merely money.
Second, where did he get the idea that this was merely about money? I don’t deny that a pol going before a group with rich potential donors has a pecuniary motive and might one day benefit from their largess, but for now no one is asking for money and none of these guys has announced he is running. Dowd seems to have unique insight that money, not exposure or political support or even foreign policy speech practice, was the real motive here.
And, finally, in saying that these candidates lack a real agenda, Dowd ignores what the candidates actually said at the RJC gathering. Each plainly has a message he is developing; every one has an agenda and a governing philosophy (unlike some senators who’ve done essentially nothing in a couple years in national office). Former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, hardly prone to “kissing the ring” of anyone, laid out a detailed foreign policy agenda. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talked about their accomplishments and their middle-class agenda. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie set out in broad strokes his criticisms of the Obama administration.
But here is the thing: No GOP candidate is going to get nominated if he is not a sincere and knowledgeable supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. It’s not because of Sheldon Adelson or even “the Jews.” It is because the overwhelming number of conservatives, especially religious Christians who are an important group in the GOP primary process, won’t tolerate a repeat of the Obama presidency. These voters understand the common values and common enemies the United States and Israel share, and their devotion to the health and well-being of the Jewish state is a matter of their Christian faith.
Dowd’s comments frankly sound a lot like Rand Paul, who has sneered at pro-Israel conservatives. It is for this and many other reasons that his candidacy is so problematic. But now that we know Dowd finds even indirect appeals for money so distasteful, we can look forward to a condemnation of each and every confab from pols of both parties. Or was there something distasteful about the RJC itself that caused this outburst? Maybe he’ll share in the weeks ahead.