What's really behind harsh GOP responses to Obama's Middle East speech
How much of the Republican candidates' harsh reaction to President Obama's policy speech on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was campaign strategy?
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is trying to recover from a terrible campaign rollout week, called Obama’s speech a “disaster.”Skip to next paragraph
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“I understand he has already in effect offered concessions to the Palestinians, in advance of anything the Israelis do, in a way that could be a significant security threat to the Israelis,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters following him in Iowa.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who is best known for his strongly conservative views on social issues but has also given speeches devoted to foreign policy, also reacted harshly: “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
One potential candidate who soft-pedaled his reaction was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who, having just finished two years as US ambassador to China, is the only likely contender with major foreign policy experience. He did not release a formal statement, but speaking to reporters in Hanover, N.H., he offered this comment in response to a question: “If we respect and recognize Israel as the ally that it is, we probably ought to listen to what they think is best.”
If Mr. Huntsman runs, as expected, he will have to overcome reservations about his service in the Obama administration. But in a campaign expected to be dominated by the economy, not foreign policy, Huntsman may simply get credit for having significant foreign policy experience that his GOP rivals lack, without too much attention to the details.
One Republican pondering a presidential campaign – but who has taken few steps toward actually running – is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose forte is budget matters, not foreign policy. He did not release a statement on Obama’s speech, but did comment in an interview with talk radio host Michael Smerconish.
"What is going on in the Arab world these days has little or nothing to do with Israel or Palestine, it has to do with tyrannical regimes which have really stifled prospects for their people who are now restless for a better life,” Mr. Daniels said. “I don't think right now it pays very much of a dividend to try to cut the Gordian knot of Israel and Palestine."