Bwog correspondent Armin Rosen decided to spend part of his spring break hobnobbing with the stars at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference in Washington DC. His second dispatch follows.
After hearing Dick Cheney drone through a half-hour long exposition on the danger that a premature American pullout from Iraq poses to Israel, I realized that my disgust from the previous night was probably misdirected. A conference with 6,000 attendees and Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney on its schedule obviously isn’t that concerned with pleasing everyone, so a bombastic John Hagee can be understood as a means to a greater end: if he can share the stage with the top Democrats in Congress then there’s no reason for anybody in Congress not to show up.
And show up they did. After another day’s discussion on the immediacy of Israel’s existential threats and the two countries’ mutual values and interests, over half of the House and most of the Senate made their way to the Washington Convention Center, whereupon they endeavored to score easy points with thousands of more or less like-minded people. Completely anonymous lawmakers like the one in this picture probably didn’t, as they are part of the amorphous mass of the House of Representatives.
But these guys sure did, because they’re running for president:
If had to call the race based on their post-AIPAC gala buzz I’d say that a certain junior senator from Illinois is looking like a pretty comfortable bet in ’08 (OK, I’m like 8,000th on the bandwagon, but give me a break). Obama, mobbed as he was by scores of well-wishers impatient for handshakes, pictures and answers to the pressing political questions of the day, vacated his post-gala reception after about five minutes—but this electrifying in-and-out was brilliant in its brevity.
On the Republican side, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback talked about the urgent situation in Darfur and defended the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman—but not before guaranteeing victory in November ’08.
As I wrote yesterday, the methods by which AIPAC brands and packages America’s alliance with Israel are at times highly troubling. But this shouldn’t detract from what was one of the conference’s many encouraging aspects: that Israel supporters are a powerful and diverse enough group that several major presidential candidates from both parties (whose stances on Israel are virtually identical) found it worthwhile to campaign specifically to them. So while Cheney’s speech was outrageous on too many levels to address, it is itself evidence of AIPAC’s success in uniting some of the most outspoken ideologues from every end of the political and cultural spectrum. And the fact that politicians as completely opposite of each other as Brownback and Obama thought they could win votes here is an indication of just how frighteningly well AIPAC is doing its job.