Friday, January 8, 2010

Can Rand Paul Connect With People of Faith?

Joe Arnold has linked up an interesting post from a Bill Johnson supporter who makes the case that Dr. Rand Paul's libertarian views must be rejected by Christian voters.

In fairness to Paul, the post neglects to note that unlike many libertarians, Paul opposes abortion.

Arnold's take is that the talk about Paul hiring Mike Saltsman (formerly of the Huckabee campaign) was intended to reach fundamentalist Christians.

Christians, of course, are not the only "values voters." A comment from a Paul supporter to this blog raises the question of whether Paul will be able to appeal to Jewish voters. "Nobody" writes:

If you want to see the reality of what is truly happening, go open your eyes and follow theAIPAC and the ADL which both organizations have been instrumental in controlling our media and information we receive to protect Israel as they massacre and admit to brutalizing millions of people in gestapo-like tactics that once were used against them by Hitler.

[AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby; ADL is the Anti-Defamation League, dedicated to fighting defamation of Jews.]

To be sure, a candidate cannot be held accountable for the views of follower -- though if the anti-Semitism of the commenter called "Nobody" is more than just a fluke, then Paul must disavow it.

What may give Jewish voters more pause about Paul is the sincerity and depth of his support of Israel. When I asked the campaign last Fall about U.S. support of Israel, I was told "Israel is a friend of America, he [Paul] supports all allies with the United States." It is hard to know if the shallowness of that response reflects a lack of enthusiasm or a lack of reflection. It is not exactly a pledge to go to the mat for Israel. That may appeal to some Paul supporters, but may make it difficult to reach out to voters who care about Israel -- that includes Christian as well as Jewish voters.

The dilemma for Paul is that if he shows too much enthusiasm for supporting Israel, he will alienate some of the libertarian voters -- like "Nobody"-- who see Jewish conspiracies everywhere. If Paul does not show enough supporters for Israel, he risks alienating not only Jewish and Christian voters but anyone who recognizes that Israel is one of our closest allies, an important source of intelligence and the only democracy in the region.

For Paul, the issue of support for Israel dovetails into the issue of how to keep America safe in the age of terrorism without losing our civil liberties.

Trey Grayson, in contrast, has visited Israel twice and has written about it extensively. In fact, Grayson traveled with AIPAC. He is unequivocal about his support for Israel. Unlike Paul, Treyson does not have to finesse the issue.

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