In The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam quotes US president Lyndon Baines Johnson on his desired qualities in an assistant: “I want loyalty! I want him to kiss my a– in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses.”
Nearly every “major party” presidential candidate this year and in past election cycles seems to have taken that advice to heart, but in an odd way. They come off less as applicants for the presidency of the United States than for the position of personal aide to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The second Republican presidential primary debate looked a lot like Macy’s window at high noon:
Jeb Bush: “[T]he first thing that we need to do is to establish our commitment to Israel …”
Carly Fiorina: “On day one in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend to Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.”
Marco Rubio: “If I’m honored with the opportunity to be president, I hope that our Air Force One will fly, first and foremost, to our allies; in Israel …”
Mike Huckabee: “At the end of my presidency I would like to believe that the world would be a safe place, and there wouldn’t be the threats. Not only to the US, but to Israel …”
Ted Cruz: “If I’m elected president our friends and allies across the globe will know that we stand with them. the bust of Winston Churchill will be back in the Oval Office, and the American embassy in Israel will be in Jerusalem.”
If you expect to hear anything much different from the Democratic candidates, you’re engaged in wishful thinking. Immediate and unqualified obedience to Benjamin Netanyahu has replaced Social Security as the third rail in American presidential politics — don’t step on it or you’ll die.
The question for me is not “pro-Israel” versus “anti-Israel.”
Nor is it, as conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted foot-in-mouth, about courting the “f—ing Jews,” who are no longer the swing voting bloc they used to be, if for no other reason than that American Jews tend on average to be a little less “pro-Israel” than major party presidential candidates.
What it’s about is whether or not American voters should continue to give a foreign power’s well-financed lobby significant control over US foreign policy decisions and presidential choices.
In future debates, presidential candidates of all parties should be asked whether or not Israel is one of the 50 states — and if not, why they think it deserves large welfare checks drawn on the treasury of, and veto power over the actions of, the US government.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida.
This article is reprinted with permission from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.