New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last week. In the few words reported by the Weekly Standard magazine, he said just about everything one needs to know about Israel; about America and Israel; and about American political leadership:
"America should stand by its friends and its democratic allies, even, and sometimes especially, when it's unpopular to do so."
"… It may not be fashionable in some of the chancelleries, the foreign ministries, and salons around the world to talk about why America stands with Israel — but that's no excuse not to be saying (it), and saying it loudly."
"I admire Israel for the enemies it has made."
"Americans and Israelis believe — we know deep in our bones — that if the Islamic Republic of Iran acquired a nuclear weapons capability, it will be an existential threat to Israel, to America, and to world civilization itself."
"… A threat to Israel is a threat to America. A threat to the Israeli way of life is a threat to the American way of life. Not only for here in America, but for all the nations that emulate our democracy or are trying to emulate our democracy around the world."
"… Stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability must be a top priority of the United States of America. Any president, Republican or Democrat, who allows such a thing to occur on his watch would be acting in a way that is profoundly against the national security interests of the United States and the security interests of our friends in Israel."
In a few words, a New Jersey governor, generally identified only with state and national issues, made the case for Israel, why America should support Israel, and why Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons at least as clearly and eloquently as — and perhaps more so than — any major political figure in America today.
1) America should stand by its friends and democratic allies, especially when it is unpopular to do so. This is a challenge to the Democratic president, Barack Obama, and to Republican Congressman Ron Paul and his supporters.
Since becoming president, Obama has visited Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Afghanistan, just to name the Muslim countries of the 30 he has visited. The president has not visited Israel, America's greatest ally in the Middle East, not to mention the only country in that part of the world that shares America's values. Meanwhile, Ron Paul regards standing by allies as a waste of money and certainly a waste of lives, if military intervention is ever called for.
2) It is indeed not fashionable in the chancelleries, foreign ministries, and salons around the world to talk about why America stands with Israel. That is why this comment alone singles Christie out as a potential national and world leader: He believes it is necessary to say what is right despite what the U.S. State Department, Le Monde, The New York Times and the United Nations think. The first rule of American leadership is to not give a damn what any of those think about you. Wanting to be highly regarded by any of those institutions has led too many Republicans astray.
3) For those who have trouble distinguishing good guys from bad guys — for example, most universities and the left generally — Christie offers a Cliffs Notes summary: Just look at who one's — in this case Israel's — enemies are. Any country that Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hate must be one morally great place.
4) Christie makes the reason to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons as clear as can be: That country poses an existential threat first to Israel and secondarily to America and the West.
The greatest mistake — ultimately a suicidal one — that good non-Jews make is to dismiss Jew-hatred (known by the euphemism of "anti-Semitism") as the Jews' problem. Had the Western world not dismissed Adolf Hitler and Nazism as primarily a Jewish problem, 50 million non-Jews would not have been killed between 1939 and 1945. Jew-haters, like the above mentioned Islamist successors to the Nazis, hate all that is and all who are decent and good. We turn our attention from Iran's nuclear ambitions at our great peril. Chris Christie knows this. Ron Paul does not. Does Barack Obama?
Even if Chris Christie could be recruited at this late date, I do not believe that I know enough about him to yearn that he be the Republican presidential nominee. But aside from reinforcing already positive feelings about him, these few remarks on Israel and the world should be a lesson to the candidates who are in the race.
And the lesson is this: Say what you believe. Americans are willing to vote for people they differ with on some issues — even important ones. But they have to believe that you believe what you say and that what you say comes from a set of deeply held beliefs.