This morning, it was Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney’s turn to give speeches at AIPAC.
Santorum’s 10-minute address was delivered in person. He might have had a prepared speech, or his brief remarks might have been off the cuff. Either way, it was heartfelt but platitudinous. He criticized the president for saying we “have Israel’s back” when, Santorum said, we have “turned our back” on Israel. It suffered from a lack of detail and in comparison to Romney’s speech, which followed. Why Santorum does not engage knowledgeable speechwriters is perhaps a function of his ego, but he should get over it.
Romney’s remarks, delivered via video, were carefully prepared and interesting in a number of respects.
He cited his personal relationship with Bibi Netanyahu: “Israel’s current prime minister is not just a friend; he’s an old friend. We worked together over 30 years ago at the Boston Consulting Group. He is a leader whose intellect and courage I admire – and whose family’s sacrifice I profoundly respect. In a Romney administration, there will be no gap between our nations or between our leaders.”
He went after Obama’s comment on the “1967 borders”:
I have seen Israel by land and by air. I have seen its narrow waist, and its vulnerability to positions on the Golan Heights. I have spent time with families in Sderot who have been terrorized by rocket barrages from Gaza. I have walked the streets of Jerusalem, seen schools pocked by rifle rounds fired from the foreboding hills that nearly surround it. I would never call for a return to the ’67 lines because I understand that, in Israel, geography is security.
And on Iran he seized on the gap between Obama and Netanyahu, echoing Howard Kohr’s Monday remarks: “We may not know when Iran will secure sufficient fissile material to threaten the world, but the IAEA warns that that the hour is fast approaching. . . . In a Romney administration, the world will know that the bond between Israel and America is unbreakable — and that our opposition to a nuclear Iran is absolute. We must not allow Iran to have the bomb or the capacity to make a bomb.” He has been following the arguments, it seems.
Romney also made a point about sanctions that is too often ignored: “Of course, the administration’s naive outreach to Iran gave the ayatollahs exactly what they wanted most. It gave them time. Whatever sanctions they may now belatedly impose, Iran has already gained three invaluable years.” And he sounded dubious at best about the prospects for a diplomatic solution. “There are some in this administration who argue that Iran’s leaders are ‘rational,’ and that we can do business with them. The President speaks of common interests,” Romney said. “Let me be clear: we do not have common interests with a terrorist regime. Their interest is in the destruction of Israel and the domination of the Middle East. It is profoundly irrational to suggest that the ayatollahs think the way we do or share our values. They do not.” He pledged to engage American military might if needed.
And finally he made a more general and devastating argument: Obama is systematically undermining our national security. He said, “Of course, American strength abroad depends upon our strength at home. My economic plans will buttress our capacity to project power. And as President, I will repair and strengthen our military. President Obama wants to shrink our Navy, our Air Force, and our contingent of fighting men and women. I will expand them. A military in retreat invites adventurism by the world’s worst actors, just as we are seeing today. A strong and superior military is the best ally peace has ever known. I do not seek military superiority solely for the purpose of winning wars. I seek it to prevent wars.”
Romney used his time wisely and effectively. If he is to be the GOP nominee, we and Israel can be assured of a national security vision akin to Reagan’s. It will be one to be proud of, and one on which Israel can rely..