On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) pledged his ardent support for Israel in a speech to Jewish leaders in New York. That's business as usual for a presidential candidate, says William Saletan in Slate, but Perry made a "stupid and dangerous" blunder when he added: "I also, as a Christian, have a clear directive to support Israel." That's new, and it's a "gift to Islamic extremists," Saletan argues. "By framing U.S. foreign policy in terms of a religious alliance between Christians and Jews, Perry is validating the propaganda of Islamic extremists. He's jeopardizing peace, Israel, and the United States." Is Saletan right?
People are making too much of the remark: "I wouldn’t put too much stock" in Perry's "as a Christian" remark, says Marc Tracy in Tablet. He was responding to a leading question from an audience member, and, while he clearly believes that his faith directs him to support Israel, the broader thrust of his comments was a relatively uncontroversial reiteration of the broader moral and strategic reasons the U.S. considers Israel an important friend.
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Perry's comment is "odd and alarming": "Saletan's alarm may be just a bit over-stated," says Doug Mataconis in Outside the Beltway. After all, Perry isn't president yet, and if he is elected, he'll be surrounded by a host of advisers warning him how "insane" it is to turn "American policy in the most volatile part of the world into some kind of religious crusade." Let's hope Perry is just making "a fairly naked play for Jewish support."
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Perry wasn't courting Jewish voters: Actually, Perry's "explicit religious appeal is the sort of comment that could displease Jewish voters," says Rachel Weiner in The Washington Post. But you don't win the GOP nomination with Jewish votes — you win with evangelical Christians, "many of whom support Zionism for their own religious reasons" that Jewish backers of Israel probably wouldn't appreciate. Perry's "outspoken defense of Israel will only endear him more to those voters."
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