UPDATEII: The brouhaha continues. See below.
UPDATE: What’s the deal with Ron Paul and the RJC? See below.
When seven of the top Republican presidential candidates gather next week at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, they will “unequivocally put to bed the political smears” regarding aid to Israel that have been promulgated by the Democratic National Committee and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla), according to RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks.
In an interview earlier today, Brooks gave me a preview of what to expect at the RJC’s 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday of next week at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The event will feature remarks and speeches by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Amb. Jon Huntsman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). (Note that Texas Rep. Ron Paul, no good friend of Israel, will not be in the house.)
Each of the candidates, Brooks said, will make an effort to “put to bed the political smears by the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Shultz that the leading Republicans want to cut aid to Israel.”
The issue has become a point of concern among pro-Israel forces, most of whom were shocked when Perry declared during a debate earlier this month that foreign aid should “start at zero” for all countries — including Israel (Romney and Gingrich supported zeroing out all foreign aid, but Israel wasn’t specifically mentioned).
Democrats, including the National Jewish Democratic Council, quickly seized on the comments, attempting to paint the Republican candidates as out of touch and potentially harmful to the Jewish state.
Brooks stated that he is certain that each of the Republican candidates will assure the crowd that they would never abandon Israel – and that as commander in chief they would do all they can to bolster it.
And it’s the perfect forum for the candidates to set the record straight on this topic, as the Reagan building will be jam packed with Jewish Republicans, communal leaders and pro-Israel stalwarts.
The RJC has held its candidates forum in each presidential election cycle since 1988. This one, however, is particularly noteworthy as it comes just 30 days before the critical Iowa Caucus.
Brooks anticipates that the candidates will use the podium to crystalize and explain their foreign policy views on a range of subjects, such as Iran.
“You’ll see a lot of the candidates use this an opportunity to clearly articulate their vision for Israel and the challenges in the Middle East, as well as how they plan to lead the country forward out of these challenging economic times,” Brooks said.
In addition, the RJC announced earlier this week that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will provide a keynote address in the afternoon.
“You’ll hear an impassioned argument for why we need change,” said Brooks.
UPDATE: After taking some heat across the interwebs and elsewhere, the RJC clarified its stance on Ron Paul earlier today.
Paul was not invited to attend the RJC’s candidates forum because the organization – as it has stated numerous times in the past – “rejects his misguided and extreme views,” said Brooks.
“He’s just so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organization,” Brooks said. Inviting Paul to attend would be “like inviting Barack Obama to speak.”
UPDATEII: As they’re known to do, Ron Paul backers have bombed this blog with comments (read: lunacy).
If you want to get a picture of why the RJC is right to exclude Paul, just peruse through some of the bizarre rants in the comments section below. Many verge on being anti- Semitic, while most express overt hostility to the state of Israel.