Last week, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), currently the only Jewish Republican legislator, floated the idea of separating Israel’s aid from the rest of the foreign aid budget, so that the forthcoming Republican majority could more easily squash any Obama administration aid bill that funds countries which “do not share U.S. interests,” according to JTA.
Though various political players might, right now, wish to suck up to the man who is, after all, likely about to become the powerful House Majority Whip, Cantor’s idea was apparently so bad that pre-emptive sucking-up was put on hold: Instead, the “pro-Israel” community immediately worried that opposing foreign aid would buttress American isolationism, which they see as countervailing Israel’s interests; soon, none other than AIPAC itself came out against Cantor’s proposal (“A robust foreign aid budget is a strong signal of U.S. leadership around the globe”). Even as he was careful to praise Cantor’s pro-Israel bona fides, the National Jewish Democratic Council’s David A. Harris pounced on Cantor’s “disturbing policy.” As James Besser cogently explained, “The last thing those leaders want is to open up any discussion of whether Israel’s $3 billion in aid still makes sense. They like things the way they are: Automatic, buried in a bigger appropriation even if Israel’s is the biggest chunk, a political given.”
Now, the damage control has begun: The Republican Jewish Coalition says Cantor’s proposal was a “trial balloon.” “After conferring with top-level staff at the Whip’s office, our best information is that the press hyped Cantor’s somewhat off-the-cuff comments into something more than intended, i.e. a trial balloon.”
That is one explanation. Maybe there is another, though? Maybe Eric Cantor is a haircut whose idea of governing is reflexively opposing whatever the president’s foreign policy priorities are, and he was (and remains) too stupid to realize that the implications of his reckless politicking would be to backfire against an issue—being pro-Israel—that he subscribes to genuinely but in much the same way that a five-year-old genuinely subscribes to the belief that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles deserve to triumph over Shredder?
I mean, I don’t actually think that’s true. Am just floating a trial balloon.
(I am also interested to see how JTA, which has just been accused of journalistic malfeasance, or perhaps of “somewhat” malfeasance, will respond.)