Medicaid Expansion: Red States Choose Politics Over Saving Lives


The Affordable Care Act mandated that people earnings over 133% of the poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four) must sign up for health insurance and provided financial subsidies in order to make that insurance more affordable. To require families earning below that level to purchase insurance would probably have required the cost of insurance to be completely subsidized. In order to provide free health insurance to those too poor to afford private insurance, the Affordable Care Act proposed increasing Medicaid’s income cut to from the Federal poverty line to 138% thereof.

However, in June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Government could not require states to expand Medicaid eligibility. The Affordable Care Act requires the Federal Government to cover all of the cost of Medicaid expansion through 2017. Starting then the Federal Government covers 95% of the cost and the states cover 5% until 2020, when the states are asked to cover 10% of the cost. In the meantime, there is no cost to the states, yet many states with Republican governors and/or legislatures have refused to expand medicaid.

This leaves eight million Americans in Health insurance limbo. They are “too poor” to qualify for health insurance market place subsidies, and they are “too rich” to qualify for Medicaid. This leaves them without any affordable options for health insurance.

Even worse, a new study found that in states with no expanded medicaid, those who earn 138% of the poverty line or less suffer more often with high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, stroke and emphysema.

Since this costs the states nothing to provide this coverage over the next 3 years, the only possible reason to refuse this grant is political. The Red States are worried that people will appreciate the benefits of this coverage, reward the Democrats that provided it, and demand that the coverage be continued past 2017 when the states will be asked to make a small contribution to the cost.

This is a very cynical view of politics. Politicians should be looking out for the interest of the country, not of themselves nor their party. Instead these “leaders” who rejected medicaid expansion are putting the lives of their citizens at risk to score political points.

A group of researchers from the Harvard Medical School published a peer-reviewed study in Health Affairs concluding:

Nationwide, 47,950,687 people were uninsured in 2012; the number of uninsured is expected to decrease by about 16 million after implementation of the ACA, leaving 32,202,633 uninsured. Nearly 8 million of these remaining uninsured would have gotten coverage had their state opted in. States opting in to Medicaid expansion will experience a decrease of 48.9 percent in their uninsured population versus an 18.1 percent decrease in opt-out states…
We estimate the number of deaths attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in opt-out states at between 7,115 and 17,104. Medicaid expansion in opt-out states would have resulted in 712,037 fewer persons screening positive for depression and 240,700 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures. Medicaid expansion in these states would have resulted in 422,553 more diabetics receiving medication for their illness, 195,492 more mammograms among women age 50-64 years and 443,677 more pap smears among women age 21-64. Expansion would have resulted in an additional 658,888 women in need of mammograms gaining insurance, as well as 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears.

Do not despair though, not all Republicans value obstructionism over life. Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) explained why he expanded Medicaid to include 300,000 Ohioans:

When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer.

Cartoon courtesy of Mike Stanfill.

Ten Israel Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer

— by David A. Harris

We are thrilled that Mitt Romney will be following the lead set by President Obama and visiting Israel as a presidential candidate. Romney’s visit to Israel will provide him with the perfect opportunity to clarify a number of broad and unclear foreign policy statements that he’s made on the campaign trail. Our hope is that Romney will be inspired by his surroundings and give the thorough and detailed answers to the questions on which many have been seeking answers.

  1. Governor Romney, when you say that you will “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, to what are you referring? Are you planning to reverse the unprecedented amount of military assistance that has come from this Administration? Are you planning to stop voting with Israel 100% of the time in the United Nations Security Council? Are you planning on driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israeli militaries, which are cooperating closer than ever before?
  2. Governor Romney, what is your Iran policy? Several media outlets — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — have noted that when it comes to a specific Iran policy, the steps you mention are not much different from those of the current Administration. What will you actually do differently? Sound bites like “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon… If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not” are unacceptable answers.
  3. Governor Romney, if Russia is indeed the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe,” what do you make of the growing closeness between Israel and Russia — particularly vis-à-vis stopping Iran? Perhaps you could provide your answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  4. Governor Romney, in addition to your campaign forming a “strategic partnership” with Ron Paul, one of the U.S.-Israel relationship’s staunchest opponents on the Hill to win your nomination, your campaign advisors include:
    • Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sonunu as an attack dog;
    • “Special Adviser” Vin Weber who lobbied for companies that did business with Iran;
    • “Special Adviser” Norm Coleman who dog whistled about the U.S. embassy while belittling Jewish voters; and
    • Surrogate John Bolton who passed off a false story authored by an “anti-Israel warrior” and former Yasser Arafat adviser as fact.

    How will these individuals shape your Israel policies? Are these individuals with checkered pasts on Israel part of your “do the opposite” plan?

  5. Governor Romney, are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice’s much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?
  6. Governor Romney, do you intend to start all foreign aid at zero, including to Israel? You went on record as agreeing with Texas Governor Rick Perry during the primary debates, without clarifying whether or not this promise included any memorandums of understanding in regards to Israel. Furthermore, you failed to clarify your stance during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition. You may want to make your position clearer when meeting with Israeli citizens who have benefitted from President Obama’s unprecedented foreign aid record.
  7. Governor Romney, does your admiration for President Ronald Reagan extend to his mixed Israel record? As a reminder, Reagan — who never visited Israel throughout his lifetime — sold weaponry to Israel’s enemies while refusing sales to the Jewish state, supported anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, condemned Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and suspended key cooperation agreements between the United States and Israel. Are these the actions that inspire your “do the opposite” plan?
  8. Governor Romney, with so many of President George W. Bush‘s advisors — including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman — on your staff, how similar will your foreign policies be? After serving in an Administration that allowed Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to collapse, revoked hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees, endorsed participation by Hamas in Palestinian elections, and refused to sell bunker-busting bombs for potential use to halt the Iranian nuclear efforts, isn’t it fair to wonder whether these advisors will push you in a similar direction as their previous boss?
  9. Governor Romney, do you still believe that politics ends at the water’s edge? You strongly criticized members of the Democratic Party during President George W. Bush’s time in office, arguing that “we need to not have people running their own separate foreign policies.” During your travels overseas, will you keep your own words in mind, as well as the pledge you made this week in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, and refrain from criticizing a sitting president’s foreign policies?
  10. Governor Romney, you repeatedly have failed to offer any of your own original ideas for how you would conduct foreign policy in your own administration. Rather than offer criticisms of President Obama — what would you do?

Bolton & RJC Pushed False Story from “Veteran Anti-Israel Warrior”

The National Jewish Democratic Council today demanded that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and their conservative allies apologize for pushing a debunked story from Mark Perry-a former unofficial advisor to Yasir Arafat (Jewish Ideas Daily) and someone who widely-respected Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari refers to as a “veteran anti-Israel warrior”-regarding America’s supposed role in the Israeli-Azeri strategic relationship. (The Times of Israel)

National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is pathetic that in their zeal to score political points, John Bolton, the Republican Jewish Coalition and their allies in the conservative blogosphere would go so far as to amplify this ridiculous, debunked story by standing with Mark Perry-a former Arafat Advisor and a ‘veteran anti-Israel warrior,’ to coin vaunted Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari’s phrase. They should be ashamed of themselves for pushing this dangerous and offensive smear of the Obama Administration, for purely partisan purposes-damn the cost. Now that it has been debunked both in Washington and by Israeli military sources, those advancing this false story should apologize-especially the RJC, which issued a press release touting Perry’s words as holy writ. Not that we think they will, but the time has come once and for all to put Israel’s and America’s security above partisan politics. Enough is enough.

Background on Perry’s false report follows the jump.
This is not the first time that the Republican Jewish Coalition has circulated false stories that have made it into the right wing’s smear arsenal. Notable examples include:

  • RJC was busted by the Associated Press for deliberately and dramatically misrepresenting joint U.S.-Israel missile defense assistance spending under the Obama Administration. (AP)
  • RJC contradicted the Israeli government’s reported statements regarding a postponed missile defense exercise in January 2012. (The Atlantic, RJC, Jerusalem Post, NJDC)
  • RJC labeled the directly sourced and approved words of Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren as “BS” via Twitter in May 2010. (NJDC) They continued to contradict Oren’s words well into 2011. (Politico)
  • In April 2010, RJC pushed a story that was debunked by the Israeli embassy regarding the status of visas for Israeli nuclear scientists. NJDC)

RJC did not issue retractions after the stories were debunked.

Israeli Analysts Debunk Azerbaijan Myth

Last week, a noted “veteran anti-Israel warrior” and former unofficial advisor to Yasir Arafat perpetuated a myth regarding Israel’s strategic relationship with Azerbaijan. Over the weekend, Israel’s Ynet reported that the White House flatly denied any role in the story and threatened to prosecute the source:

A top White House official denied Saturday that the US Administration was responsible for leaking information, alleging that Israel has secured access to airfields in Azerbaijan ahead of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, to the press….

The sources said that the White House had ‘no interest’ in leaks of this kind, adding that the administration would ‘gladly prosecute’ the people behind it – if they knew who they were….

Jerusalem and Washington, he added, are making ‘tremendous efforts’ on Iran and are working more closely than ever.

Israeli military analysts also debunked the substance of the story. According to the Times of Israel:

Israeli military and intelligence analysts on Sunday categorically dismissed the notion that Israel is considering using airbases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities….

… Israeli analysts lined up Sunday to deride the idea as everything illogical, baseless, and impossible.

‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ said Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former officer in the research division of the IDF’s Military Intelligence branch. ‘Azerbaijan has no interest in picking a fight with its neighbor Iran,’ he added. ‘It’s a relatively new country and I don’t see how it could possibly be in their interest to grant any assistance to Israel in an attack on Iran.’

Kam added: ‘If the Azeri were really to help Israel carry out attack on Iran, they would pick a huge fight with Iran, and if Iran decided to strike Azerbaijan, nobody would come to their help. In my eyes this scenario seems absolutely impossible.’…

Unfortunately, lamented Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s chief political analyst and Times of Israel columnist, nobody made the effort to check whether the theories put forward by Perry’s article held water.

‘No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale,’ Yaari wrote on Sunday in The Times of Israel. ‘Elementary, Mr. Perry: How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Does it make any sense? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey on their secret mission via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry – there is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan!’

Yaari also dismissed the idea that Israeli jets could use Azeri airfields on their way back to Israel after a strike. ‘How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over that significant part of this country, the Nakhichevan region, an exclave and autonomous republic of Azerbaijan that is totally separated from the main Azeri territory by its archenemy, Armenia?’

Shlomo Brom, a former chief of the IDF’s strategic planning division, agrees that the theory put forward by Perry’s article doesn’t seem logical.

‘This is utterly baseless. Azerbaijan is a small country that borders on Iran. It just doesn’t make sense they would help Israel attack them. It would be suicidal,’ Brom told The Times of Israel.

Brom added: ‘It is known that Mark Perry is not a huge fan of Israel. What probably happened is that he took a kernel of truth – that Israel and Azerbaijan have good bilateral cooperation, just like Israel has many other strategic alliances in the world, for example with India – and turned it into something that is it not, which is military cooperation on a strike on Iran.’

In his full piece picking apart the story, Yaari noted:

The truth is that Perry’s piece did not deserve the attention. The veteran anti-Israel warrior has simply taken advantage of the negligent naivety of Foreign Policy’s editors in order to plant one more of his cloak-and-dagger patchwork stories aimed at undermining the state he intensely detests….

The fact that Azerbaijan maintains close relations with Israel – including big arms and oil deals – does not justify flights of fantasy. Serious debate requires down-to-earth discussion based on facts and then a grain of common sense. The discourse about the way to tackle Iran’s nuclear challenge is far too fateful to allow it to be hijacked by the likes of ‘author and historian’ Mark Perry.

In addition, Nargiz Gurbanova, a counselor at the Azeri embassy, wrote in a letter to Foreign Policy:

I was most surprised to read a very provocative and unsubstantiated article by Mark Perry in your publication…

The author arrives at wide ranging allegations based on unnamed sources and rather convoluted commentary. Clearly upset about Azerbaijan’s friendly relations with Israel, Perry, for some reason, equates a historic friendship between the Azerbaijani and Jewish people into preparing for a war against Iran.

This unreasonable accusation makes no sense in terms of geography-Azerbaijan doesn’t border Israel and contradicts the clearly stated policy of Azerbaijan not to allow use of its territory against any neighbor….

Perry’s article is an interesting piece of fiction. Whether it was driven by a special political agenda or vivid imagination, your publication seems as an odd choice for such speculative writing.

  • Click here to read Yaari’s full piece.
  • Click here to read The Times of Israel’s roundup of experts.

Israeli Analysts Debunk Azerbaijan Myth

— David Streter

Last week, a noted “anti-Israel warrior” perpetuated a myth regarding Israel’s strategic relationship with Azerbaijan. Over the weekend, Israel’s Ynet reported that the White House flatly denied any role in the story and threatened to prosecute the source:

A top White House official denied Saturday that the US Administration was responsible for leaking information, alleging that Israel has secured access to airfields in Azerbaijan ahead of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, to the press….

The sources said that the White House had ‘no interest’ in leaks of this kind, adding that the administration would ‘gladly prosecute’ the people behind it — if they knew who they were….

Jerusalem and Washington, he added, are making ‘tremendous efforts’ on Iran and are working more closely than ever.

Israeli military analysts also debunked the substance of the story. According to The Times of Israel:

Israeli military and intelligence analysts on Sunday categorically dismissed the notion that Israel is considering using airbases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities….

… Israeli analysts lined up Sunday to deride the idea as everything illogical, baseless, and impossible.

‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ said Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former officer in the research division of the IDF’s Military Intelligence branch. ‘Azerbaijan has no interest in picking a fight with its neighbor Iran,’ he added. ‘It’s a relatively new country and I don’t see how it could possibly be in their interest to grant any assistance to Israel in an attack on Iran.’

Kam added: ‘If the Azeri were really to help Israel carry out attack on Iran, they would pick a huge fight with Iran, and if Iran decided to strike Azerbaijan, nobody would come to their help. In my eyes this scenario seems absolutely impossible.’…

Unfortunately, lamented Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s chief political analyst and Times of Israel columnist, nobody made the effort to check whether the theories put forward by Perry’s article held water.

‘No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale,’ Yaari wrote on Sunday in The Times of Israel. ‘Elementary, Mr. Perry: How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Does it make any sense? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey on their secret mission via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry — there is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan!’

Yaari also dismissed the idea that Israeli jets could use Azeri airfields on their way back to Israel after a strike. ‘How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over that significant part of this country, the Nakhichevan region, an exclave and autonomous republic of Azerbaijan that is totally separated from the main Azeri territory by its archenemy, Armenia?’

Shlomo Brom, a former chief of the IDF’s strategic planning division, agrees that the theory put forward by Perry’s article doesn’t seem logical.

‘This is utterly baseless. Azerbaijan is a small country that borders on Iran. It just doesn’t make sense they would help Israel attack them. It would be suicidal,’ Brom told The Times of Israel.

Brom added: ‘It is known that Mark Perry is not a huge fan of Israel. What probably happened is that he took a kernel of truth — that Israel and Azerbaijan have good bilateral cooperation, just like Israel has many other strategic alliances in the world, for example with India — and turned it into something that is it not, which is military cooperation on a strike on Iran.’

In his full piece picking apart the story, Yaari noted:

The truth is that Perry’s piece did not deserve the attention. The veteran anti-Israel warrior has simply taken advantage of the negligent naivety of Foreign Policy’s editors in order to plant one more of his cloak-and-dagger patchwork stories aimed at undermining the state he intensely detests….

The fact that Azerbaijan maintains close relations with Israel — including big arms and oil deals — does not justify flights of fantasy. Serious debate requires down-to-earth discussion based on facts and then a grain of common sense. The discourse about the way to tackle Iran’s nuclear challenge is far too fateful to allow it to be hijacked by the likes of ‘author and historian’ Mark Perry.

  • Click here to read Yaari’s full piece.
  • Click here to read The Times of Israel’s roundup of experts.

The Deja Vu Primary

Slate’s David Weigel draws some interesting parallels between this Republican primary and the last one:

“I’m thinking of a Republican primary. It starts with a candidate (John McCain/Mitt Romney) who ran once before, came in second place, and won over the party’s elite class without winning over its base. Other candidates, understandably unwilling to accept this, line up: An under-funded social conservative (Mike Huckabee/Rick Santorum), an elder statesman who’s walked to the altar three times (Rudy Giuliani/Newt Gingrich), a libertarian who wants to bring back the gold standard (Ron Paul/Ron Paul). The conservative base is displeased. In the year before the primary, it pines for a perfect candidate. At the end of summer, on (September 5/August 13), it gets him: (Fred Thompson/Rick Perry). The dream candidate immediately rises to the top of national polls, but collapses after lazy, distaff debate performances… The Republican base looks at the wreckage and shudders. It can never allow this to happen ever again.”

However despite the parallels Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is now singing a different tune about Mitt Romney’s leadership at Bain Capital:

“These attacks on, quote, Bain Capital is really kind of anathema to everything that we believe in.”
— McCain on CBS News, January 12, 2012, about attacks on Mitt Romney’s track record in business.

“As head of his investment company he presided over the acquisition of companies that laid off thousands of workers.”
— McCain in the New York Times, January 28, 2008, taking a different view.

Republican Jewish Coalition Candidate Forum: Rick Perry

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidate 2012 Forum in Washington, DC.

Thank you Cheryl. It is an honor to be with you today and to share my thoughts on faith, foreign policy and the free State of Israel.

It is great to see so many friends with the Republican Jewish Coalition…including two vital supporters, Dr. Jeffrey Feingold and Kirk Blalock.
As we gather today, I am struck by the coincidence that two of the American citizens being unlawfully detained abroad today are Jewish: Alan Gross in Cuba, and Warren Weinstein by al Qaida in Pakistan.
In both cases their offense was spreading political and economic freedom to better the lives of less advantaged people around the globe.
Their selfless commitment to this work is a testament to the great value America’s Jewish community has brought to our nation, and our government should be working aggressively to achieve their speedy release.

More after the jump.
The repressive Castro regime should not be rewarded with increased tourism while Mr. Gross languishes in prison, and Pakistani authorities should clearly understand the significance of rescuing Mr. Weinstein from terrorist elements within their borders if they value the foreign aid they seem to take for granted.

We have an Administration in Washington today whose foreign policy is an incoherent mess. They embolden our adversaries while isolating our allies.

There is no greater example of President Obama’s failed foreign policy than how he has undermined our historic friendship with Israel.

Israel is the oldest democracy and our strongest ally in the Middle East. Our relationship is founded on three basic principles: prosperity, security and freedom.

With a robust economy, Israel is a strong trading partner, importing our goods and supplying us with both high-tech innovations and specialized natural resources.

I am proud a Texas company, Noble Energy, is supplying a large percentage of the natural gas Israel depends upon today. Israel’s security is critical to America’s security.

We must not forget it was Israel that took out the nuclear capabilities of Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007. In both instances, their actions made the free world safer.

And Israel shares a commitment to our core principles of personal freedom. And yet President Obama has systematically undermined America’s relationship with Israel, specifically on the question of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian People.

I want to be clear I support the goal of a Palestinian state, but it should be the Palestinians who meet certain pre-conditions.
And those pre-conditions must include statehood that is directly negotiated between Israeli and the Palestinian leaders; second, a Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; and third, Palestinian leaders must renounce the terrorist activities of Hamas.

Instead, the Administration has insisted on previously unheard-of preconditions for Israel, such as an immediate stop to all settlement activity. President Obama has suggested the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations.  And he has instituted the practice of “indirect talks”, subverting the Oslo Accords.

Yet his administration seemed blindsided when this fall the Palestinians declared a new state with East Jerusalem free of any Jewish settlements as its capital, based on the 1967 borders, established through the United Nations without Israel’s involvement.

But in effect all the Palestinians were doing was taking President Obama up on the concessions he had already made. The threat posed by Iran makes our friendship with Israel all the more critical.
As the International Atomic Energy Agency report last month confirmed, Iran is marching unimpeded toward nuclear weapons.

We also know Iran has chemical and biological weapons programs, and that they are accelerating their ballistic missile capabilities so that they can deliver these weapons. The Islamic Republic has made no mystery of their intent to use these weapons against Israel, and eventually the United States.

As this threat gathers, our President has pursued a failed policy of outreach to Tehran.
This administration was silent during the Green Revolution in 2009. And they have avoided tougher sanctions that would cripple Iran’s economy. I have repeatedly called for the sanction of Iran’s central bank. Recently, the U.S. Senate vote unanimously to sanction Iran’s Central Bank. So now President Obama is isolated even from his own party on the Iranian question.

And here is why. Democrats know what we know: current sanctions may have caused “significant discussion” in Tehran as Vice President Biden recently said, but they have not actually stopped progress towards a nuclear weapon.

This increasingly leaves us with only two options: a military strike or a nuclear Iran.

Many seem to think that Israel can step in and dispense with the Iranian treat with through targeted strikes as they did in Iraq and Syria, taking the pressure off the United States.

But Iran is a much greater challenge, and Israel
would face terrible reprisals from Tehran and its terrorist proxies.  So the military option is not one that Israel would take eagerly or lightly, but only after long deliberation and in the face of overwhelming evidence that Iran is on the verge of an operational nuclear weapon.

What Israel’s military needs from the United States is our ongoing security support through hardware and guaranteed supply chains. But Israel also needs our vocal, unerring moral support in the face of what will be inevitable international condemnation if she is forced to strike.
Here’s what Israel does not need.

Israel does not need our President demanding gratitude for being the best friend Israel has ever had while his Secretary of Defense rails that Israel has to “get back to the damn table” with the Palestinians, and his Secretary of State questions the viability of Israel’s democracy, even as his Ambassador to Belgium blames anti-Semitism among Muslims on Israel’s failure to accommodate the Palestinians all of which happened in the last week alone.

This torrent of hostility towards Israel does not seem to have been coordinated, but rather is the natural expression of this administration’s attitude towards Israel.

I want you to know American-Israeli policy is not a box to be checked as part of my campaign. It is both a deeply personal issue for me, and is also a cornerstone of my larger global strategy.

I feel a special connection to Israel, dating back nearly 20 years when I first visited the Holy Land.

I have been to the Western Wall, that most sacred of symbols where Jewish pilgrims gather to pray today, and that has withstood the assaults on the Jewish People since the times of the early Romans.
I walked in the footsteps of the heroes of Massada, a fortress of defiance symbolizing their loyalty to freedom more than life itself.  

I took a group of Texas business leaders on a tour of Sderot in Gaza. We walked onto a playground built under a rocket protection shelter, a clarifying moment for each one of us as we recognized the constant threat of attack even the children of Israel live under.

And I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a meal with a former Soviet Dissident who spent nine years in a gulag, including 400 days in punishment cells – Natan Sharansky – that great champion of democracy who now calls Israel home and is a living link to the atrocities of brutal regimes.

When you visit Israel, you gain an understanding of a nation that has survived for more than 60 years despite living in a constant state of siege, but something else becomes evident about the Jewish People in Israel and around the world: a resolve to live free, and a willingness to go to any length to preserve your history, your heritage and your faith that is unsurpassed by any people on earth.

Today six million Jews live in Israel, the largest population of Jews in the world.

Whether you are old enough to remember the 1940s or not, you know the significance of that number. When we speak of the unspeakable, it is often said, “never again.”

In making this vow, we honor those who suffered the most inhumane treatment, those, like us, who were made in the Image of God.

And in making this vow, we recognize that peace and freedom are fragile enterprises that can only be preserved with determined vigilance.

It is in the spirit of those words… “never again”… that we must do everything in our power to make the world safe for freedom and democracy.

We must have faith we are in the right, and we must fight with the might of a super-power.
That is why I utterly reject President Obama’s political strategy to hold our military budget hostage unless Congress gives in to his proposed tax and spending increases.

We have already sacrificed too many of our Defense capabilities to misguided austerity that will not balance our budget, and will weaken our ability to defend ourselves and our allies.

We must demand action in Congress to block these cuts that threaten to “hollow out” our forces and prevent President Obama from using the capabilities our war fighters need as political pawns in a budgetary fight.

The men and women of our military are the greatest ambassadors for freedom the world has ever known.
In the last two decades they have repelled the forces of oppression from places like Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, no country has done more to liberate millions of oppressed people, many of them Muslim, since the end of the Cold War.

Our freedom agenda applies to all, regardless of faith, because I believe every human being was created to live free, and worship freely.
And because there are numerous countries that oppress freedom, that deny basic human rights, I am adamant that any discussion of foreign aid should start at zero.

But let me be clear. Israel is our strategic ally. America long ago ended traditional foreign aid to Israel. Strategic defense aid to Israel will increase under a Perry administration. And the money we decide to grant foreign nations should always advance American interests.

Our nation was founded on the principle of religious liberty. Like Israel, many of America’s earliest ancestors sought a safe haven from religious persecution. They came to a New World to leave behind the injustices of the Old World. They came here to live in freedom, and for many to live out their faith.

America is rooted in Judeo-Christian Values. Our laws emanate from the ancient law of the Torah.
They come to us as principles handed down from our ancestors, who fought, bled, and died to defend them. But the law is more than that. It is, as Jeremiah wrote, “a law written on our hearts.” Faith and freedom are the fiber of our union.

My favorite founding father was also a life-long champion of religious freedom…James Madison.
He wrote in the First Amendment to the Constitution that

“the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”

My faith will guide me as president.

And what I mean by that is not just faith in God’s plan for us as a nation he has blessed, time and again.

But it is also faith in the ability of our people, with his help, to accomplish the impossible, the miraculous, as they have done before and will do again.

As I travel across the country, I see the plight we are in. People without the dignity of a job, uncertain where to turn for help.

And I have turned my thoughts recently toward Nehemiah. I think of his return to Jerusalem, of finding the city walls laid to waste, the defenses crumbling, and the people dismayed. They had almost given up hope.

So he gathered the people together, and he told them what he would do. “Then said I unto them, ‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins, and how its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem together, that we will no longer be in disgrace.'”

Nehemiah did not do this work by himself. He did it prayerfully and seriously, because he understood the desperate need.  And when their enemies came, he urged the people on, to keep building, with a brick in one hand and a sword in the other, until the city could stand tall again.
Bringing America back starts with faith: Faith in the Almighty, who created us, faith in our friends and allies, in a time of trouble, and faith in each other, to not give up hope.

We must keep the law written on our hearts. We must put our mind to the things above. And we must set ourselves to the work that must be done.

Come. Let us rebuild together.

Thank you and God bless you.

GOP Frontrunners Refuse to Walk Back Pledge to Zero Out Foreign Aid


Republican Frontrunners Failed to Affirm Israel’s Foreign Aid

— David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today sharply criticized Republican frontrunners former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s failure to unequivocally state their views on American aid to Israel after previously stating that they would start all American foreign aid at zero. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is truly shocking that after the serious concern that their pledges to zero out all foreign aid raised among Israel’s supporters, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney failed to explain how their pledge would impact aid to Israel. Gingrich and Romney had the opportunity in front of that rarest of audiences-a group that was 100 percent Republican and Jewish-to affirm their support for American aid to Israel and to commit to the existing agreements that President Barack Obama has implemented and exceeded. But they remained utterly silent on this crucial point. On this central test of support for Israel, Gingrich and Romney failed, leaving more unanswered questions about their dedication to fully supporting a key element of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

If Romney and Gingrich will not commit to support aid to Israel in front of such a friendly audience that overwhelmingly supports the policy, how can they be trusted do the same in front of Tea Party members who believe that no money should be used for foreign assistance? How can they not affirm to honor existing agreements with Israel that bolster its security amidst the serious threats the Jewish state faces? On this cornerstone issue for the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, Romney and Gingrich have demonstrated a lack of leadership and shown that they cannot be trusted to protect one of the major policies supported by the breadth of the Jewish community. Yet again, these GOP frontrunners demonstrate that they have a long way to go before they can cross the wide chasm separating them from mainstream American Jewish community.

During the nationally-televised Republican debate on November 12, 2011, Romney and Gingrich both expressed support for Texas Governor Rick Perry’s irresponsible plan to start all foreign aid at zero. Perry, when asked for clarification, specifically stated that Israel’s aid would start at zero. He doubled down on this position at the Family Leader’s Iowa Forum on November 20, 2011.

Gingrich and Romney have yet to clarify how starting foreign aid at zero would affect aid to Israel-including the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on U.S.-Israel Aid that Obama has implemented and exceeded. Their comments and subsequent silence evoked widespread concern among pro-Israel leaders. Sources: JTA, The Hill, Haaretz.

Today’s appearance in front of a Jewish Republican audience was the perfect venue for Gingrich and Romney to commit to American aid to Israel, and they disappointed. Gingrich’s and Romney’s failure demonstrates that these candidates have a long distance to go before they can cross the wide chasm separating today’s Republican Party from the vast majority of American Jews.  

Dems Denounce Perry/Romney Call to “Zero Out” Aid to Israel

— by Jason Attermann

This weekend, leading Republican presidential candidates Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called for zeroing out the foreign aid budget, which includes vital aid to Israel that maintains its Qualitative Military Edge.

Reactions from the NJDC, White House, DNC, Wexler, Levine and Bloomfield follow the jump.
National Jewish Democratic Council

On Monday, the National Jewish Democratic Council organized a petition to send a clear message to the Republican Party that zeroing out aid to Israel is not acceptable.

White House

The White House objected the proposal, citing instances in which President Barack Obama’s support to Israel-including record-breaking assistance above and beyond the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding — played a crucial role in defending the Jewish state. When asked about Perry’s and Romney’s policy to start aid at zero, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said:

Well, I can certainly say that is not an approach that this administration has taken.  There are a number of countries where the United States directly benefits from having a role in those countries, and that we can certainly help-that the provision of civilian assistance is critical to the success of promoting American interests and serving American interests in countries around the world.

The first one that comes to mind is obviously Afghanistan. But the other example that’s been talked about is Israel, and that certainly one of the things that the President has done is strengthened our ties with that country, and provided significant assistance in the form of the Iron Dome project and others that are critical to Israel’s security.

So these are the kinds of-it’s the President’s view that this is an appropriate use of government resources, particularly when we’re in the time when the federal government has to tighten-we have to tighten our belts, and we need to scrub the budget, go line by line to look for opportunities where we can reduce the budget and cut the budget. But we can’t do it at the expense of ensuring that our interests are well represented and well promoted all around the world….

I can say that it’s an approach that’s entirely different than the one that President Obama has pursued.

Democratic National Committee

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) rebuked the candidates:

I’m aghast that the leading Republican contenders for President tonight, including Mitt Romney, pledged to zero out the foreign aid budget including the traditional and vital support the U.S. has provided the Jewish state of Israel for its security. I cannot think of a more irresponsible, risky or deplorable position towards our most important friend and ally. That Mitt Romney and these candidates would sacrifice the security of the state of Israel for an applause line at a debate and to appeal to the far right wing Tea Party faction of the Republican base, shows that not a single one of them has what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief.

Robert Wexler

Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya reported on former Representative Robert Wexler’s (D-FL) press conference, in which he called the candidates’ position “troubling.”

‘Romney was torn between two constituencies. He had an opportunity to appease the Tea Party constituency. On the other hand, he knew those who support Israel would feel differently – and he made his choice,’ Wexler explained.

For almost half an hour, Wexler lashed out at the Republican presidential hopefuls’ approach. ‘What is the most troubling in the position the Republican candidates took with such enthusiasm, is the fact they ignored the memorandum of understanding with Israel in 2007 that America agreed to provide $30 billion of military assistance to Israel in 10 years, and now we are in the third year of it,’ he said.

‘They either ignore it or intend to violate it. This memorandum of understanding is sacrosanct – and they have no intention to implement it or strengthen it as President Obama did. Ideas to minimize it, relocate it, zero it out are unfortunately designed to put the foreign aid on shakier ground, and it’s unacceptable. It particularly sends disturbing and dangerous message to nations like Iran. If you zero out the foreign aid to other countries, the aid to Israel is unsustainable,’ he added.

He further warned of the dire consequences America and Israel would face if Israel’s foreign aid was cut as proposed.

Mel Levine

Former Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) questioned Romney’s agreement with Perry’s suggestion to zero out foreign aid, asking, “Is this his idea of how the U.S. should increase needed support for Israel?”

Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama’s record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama’s foreign policy conveniently ignores the president’s leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran….

And, ironically, in terms of inventing his own facts, the core policies Romney advocates have already been accomplished by President Obama. (Perhaps the former Governor has not been paying attention.) For example, Romney argues that current sanctions against Iran are weak and specifically states that ‘if there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin’s support for tougher sanctions against Tehran … President Obama foreclosed it.’ But he fails to recognize that President Obama succeeded, where others had failed, in obtaining both Russian and Chinese support for international sanctions against Iran, sanctions as a result of the president’s leadership are the strongest that have been obtained by any U.S. president.

Douglas Bloomfield

In writing about this topic, The Jewish Week’s Douglas Bloomfield made an interesting observation about the backpedaling statements issued by the Romney and Perry campaigns:

[M]ost revealing, neither candidate pledged to maintain the current level of U.S. aid to Israel under the agreement signed during the Bush Administration and extending beyond the end of the term of the president to be elected next year.

Perry: Israel Aid Starts at Zero

— by David Streeter

During last night’s Republican foreign policy debate held in South Carolina, a number of the candidates perpetuated myths about President Barack Obama and his support for Israel. In perhaps an even more dangerous precedent, two leading contenders — Texas Governor Rick Perry and field-leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — agreed that foreign aid should “start at zero” for all countries, including Israel. In saying this, these candidates ignore the current 10-year aid agreement between the U.S. and Israel; they disregard the critical relationship with our strategic ally; and they demonstrate their inability to steward the U.S.-Israel relationship. Read on for more on this significant turn of events.

         

More after the jump.
During the debate, a number of the candidates attacked America’s foreign aid to certain countries. Specifically, Perry said that he would start all foreign aid at zero-and Romney agreed.

On the campaign trail, many of the candidates have perpetuated the myth that America’s foreign aid commitments meaningfully contribute to America’s budget crisis. They have done so in order to justify spending cuts, despite the fact that foreign aid comprises less than 1% of the budget.

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and Related Programs, has argued that the “security imperatives” of preserving a robust foreign aid program are essential to America’s national security interests. Representative Steve Rothman<?a> (D-NJ) also warned:

Cutting foreign aid will not right our struggling economy, but will ultimately cost us more in U.S. lives and taxpayer dollars. It will surely cause direct and substantial harm to America’s national security.

Further, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition — a foreign policy organization that includes the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-strongly opposed cuts to America’s foreign assistance programs because of their potential to negatively impact American interests abroad.

Remarkably, Perry said that aid to Israel would also “start at zero.” He ultimately said that Israel is a “special ally” and that Israel would receive “substantial” funding. However his proposal to fundamentally alter the approach of American aid to Israel — and Romney’s apparent agreement with this new approach — poses major risks for Israel’s security as well as the U.S.-Israel relationship. (Romney staff later claimed that despite saying “start everything at zero,” Romney was somehow only referring to aid to Pakistan.)

Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro and Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) both recently praised financial assistance to Israel because of the dividends it pays for U.S. interests.

Perry’s and Romney’s new approach to foreign aid to Israel — in addition to Perry’s outrageous remarks on the eve of Obama’s overwhelmingly pro-Israel speech to the UN, and the politicization of the U.S.-Israel relationship repeatedly displayed by Romney and the other GOP candidates — clearly demonstrates that they are not ready to steward the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Conversely, President Obama has in FY2012 made the largest ever security funding request for Israel in U.S. history, totaling $3 billion — in keeping with the 2007 memorandum of understanding. Above and beyond this unprecedented foreign aid request, Obama has made additional funding requests exceeding the memorandum of understanding, to save Israeli lives — including $205 million for the Iron Dome system last year.