On Sunday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the “Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala” in New York hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. You may remember Rabbi Shmuley from radio, TV, his many provocative books, or our Save Jersey interview with him during his 2012 congressional run. The gala was attended by 700 people, of which five tickets were kindly given by Rabbi Shmuley to the Hudson County Republican Club who invited me to attend.
The event was watched by the Republican political world because of the presence of Governors Christie and Perry, and co-host (former Gingrich backer and casino billionaire) Sheldon Adelson.
Governor Christie’s speech, in which he criticized the current American leadership for failed policies at home and abroad, tied domestic policies which have led to uncertainty with similarly resulting foreign policy. That Christie’s address at a primarily Jewish forum more accustomed to hearing about Israel, Islamic extremism, and making the world a better place, included domestic issues was as unusual as it was important.
This blogger knows many Jews who, while strong on Israel and taking a firm stand against Islamic extremism, are “progressive” on domestic issues and fail to see the linkage between failed socio-economic policies at home and a weak American abroad.
Unfortunately the isolationist strain in American politics has once again reared its head. According to the Star Ledger, State Senator Michael Doherty has taken issue with Christie’s speech. Responding to Christie’s statements that that current administration has diminished American standing in the world, State Senator Doherty has asked “where is the money… going to come from?”
Considering Christie didn’t outline any particular foreign policy proposals, it’s a bit hard to fathom to what exactly Doherty is responding.
However, if we assume that Sen. Doherty believes (as all Republicans should) that we must address our national debt by cutting spending, than his critique appears to make sense. Many nations around the world, friend and foe, benefit from our foreign aid largess, but State Senator Doherty should also remember that foreign aid accounts for, at most, 1% of the federal budget.
We live in a nation tired of the war against radical Islam and its two major fronts (Iraq and Afghanistan), and there is a palpable desire by many on the Left and the right to retreat behind the familiar fortifications of “fortress America.”
On the Left, activists and leaders engage in dehumanizing typifications of American action around the globe.
On the Right, later-day isolationists use the banner of fiscal conservatism and the low hanging-budgetary-fruit called “foreign aid” to rhetorically bludgeon those who know American credibility to be diminished when the Commander-in-Chief flip-flops on foreign policy.
They do so while conveniently and publicly failing to address the 900 pound fiscal gorilla: 60% of the federal budget is earmarked to prop up our many massive entitlement programs.
To review: 1% versus 60%.
Though he spoke as only as presenter at Sunday’s event and therefore for a much shorter amount of time, Texas Governor Rick Perry successfully highlighted the traditional strength and ongoing importance of the U.S. relationship with Israel. Neo-isolationist fantasies aside, two of the mainstream GOP presidential hopefuls – Christie and Perry – compelling argued for policies that promote American economic growth at home while also protecting our national interests abroad, aims which are not at all incompatible.
What both Christie and Perry understand, and what isolationists won’t tell you, is that a policy of global U.S. retreat stymies the international flow of goods and services, limits trade, and would lower the standard of living and materially hurt most Americans.
Governors Christie and Perry weren’t the only speakers to recognize the interconnected world in which we live. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from whom Brandies University recently rescinded its offer of an honorary degree, spoke of the problem of honor killings. Honor killings, she explained, are not only an internal Islamic issue localized in majority Muslim’s countries but a regular occurrence, and a serious human rights issue, in the West where pocket communities of Islamic extremists have been allowed to grow.
The program featured many other speakers, presenters, and award recipients all of which were great speakers and have done amazing things deserving of mention in this post but for limitations of time. The important development emerging from the event, both for participants as well as those who have read about it in the media, is the advancement of respect for our shared reality, one in which we all occupy a connected world where freedom can’t thrive, in America or anywhere else, unless this country takes a stand for its values.