mccainaipac.jpgFor all John McCain’s bungling of religious outreach, particularly with his own party’s social conservative base, no one can accuse him of taking the Jewish vote for granted. He embraces every opportunity to reiterate his firm support for Israel, his hawkish positions on Iran and Hamas, and the reasons he feels Barack Obama is soft on that whole bucket of issues.
Of course, such postures don’t appeal solely to Jewish voters, but also to evangelical Christians. Indeed, given McCain’s seeming indifference to old line Christian Right leaders, the McCain campaign may be betting that terrorism/foreign policy concerns have overtaken culture war issues like abortion and gay marriage in the minds of millions of values voters.
Given Mike Huckabee’s strong showing in the primaries, and the crucial role that less religious Republican moderates played in McCain’s primary victory, God-o-Meter has its doubts about that assumption.
But check out the AP’s portrait of McCain speaking today before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and think about Obama’s challenge in appealing to Jews and evangelicals with his more dovish stance on the Middle East:

….McCain has criticized Obama for saying in a debate last year that he would meet leaders of Iran and other U.S. foes without preconditions. The Arizona senator argues Obama is naive and inexperienced to think that such a meeting would yield progress.
“It’s hard to see what such a summit with President (Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another,” McCain told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
He criticized Obama for seeming to suggest that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear program because the U.S. refuses to engage in presidential-level talks. McCain said the Clinton administration in particular tried to engage Iran for two years, even lifting some sanctions, to no avail.
“Even so, we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before,” McCain said as dozens in the audience laughed.
….McCain called for financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which he said aids in terrorism and weapons proliferation, and he criticized Obama for opposing a measure to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization responsible for killing U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Obama campaign has issued an extraordinarily detailed 3,834-word rubuttal. Here’s the top of it:

“John McCain stubbornly insists on continuing a dangerous and failed foreign policy that has clearly made the United States and Israel less secure. Here are the results of the policies that John McCain has supported, and would continue. During the Bush Administration, Iran has dramatically expanded its nuclear program, going from zero centrifuges to more than 3000 centrifuges. During the Bush Administration, Iran has expanded its influence throughout a vitally important region, plying Hamas and Hezbollah with money and arms. During the Bush Administration, Hamas took over Gaza. Most importantly, the war in Iraq that John McCain supported and promises to continue indefinitely has done more to dramatically strengthen and embolden Iran than anything in a generation.
“Confronted with that reality, John McCain promises four more years of the same policies that have strengthened Iran, making the United States and Israel less safe. He promises to continue a war in Iraq that has emboldened Iran and strengthened its hand. He promises sanctions that the Bush Administration has been unable to persuade the Security Council to deliver. He promises a divestment campaign, even though he refused to sign on to Barack Obama’s bipartisan divestment bill, refused to get his colleagues to lift an anonymous hold on the bill, and willfully ignores the fact that trade and investment between Iran and Iraq continue to expand. He stubbornly refuses to engage in aggressive diplomacy, ruling it out unconditionally as a tool of American power.
“Instead of recognizing reality, John McCain continues to run on a platform of doubling down on George Bush’s failed policies, while carrying on his divisive brand of politics. The United States and Israel cannot afford four more years of an unwillingness to change course,” said Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan.


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