Kasich, Trump and Cruz at AIPAC

posted at 11:01 pm on March 21, 2016 by John Sexton

All three of the remaining GOP candidates for president spoke at AIPAC today. First up, John Kasich who spent the first several minutes of his 20 minute speech talking about his personal admiration for Natan Sharansky. He mentioned his call to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in reaction to the recent missile tests Iran has carried out. He also promised to work to defeat ISIS. Kasich got a standing ovation when he expressed concern over the rising number of attacks against Jewish students on college campuses. He got another one when he criticized the Palestinian “culture of death.” Kasich was actually pounding the lectern at one point and seemed quite worked up (for him). The crowd responded enthusiastically. The remainder of the speech was not as emotional and at times Kasich seemed to be rushing through it and stumbling a bit over his words.

The big news about Donald Trump’s speech to AIPAC was that he had a prepared text and, for the most part, read it from a teleprompter. That’s something Trump has not done on many occasions. The result was a speech that seemed for fact based than Trump’s usual effort. There were details in this speech that were not about polling. Trump still relied on some of his verbal tics, adding “Believe me” to the end of his statements at least a dozen times. There was an amusing moment where Trump assured the audience he knew more about the Iran deal than anyone. It’s not clear the audience was buying that, but a large portion of the crowd give him a standing ovation when he interjected a bit of humor saying, “With President Obama in his final year…yeah!” (11:00) Trump scored another big ovation when he promised that, as president, he would move the American embassy to “the eternal capital of the Jewish people: Jerusalem.” Overall, an unusual speech for Trump on a topic in which he is not an expert, to a crowd that had some serious doubters. Despite all that, Trump seemed to hit some of the right notes based on the reaction of the AIPAC crowd.

Finally, Ted Cruz seemed comfortable in this environment. He opened by recounting the Purim story from the book of Esther and then went on to suggest the threat of a Persian King was still present in the form of Iran. Cruz had a good laugh line early on when he mentioned that Lindsey Graham had hosted an event for him adding, “it should allay any doubts anyone might have that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can still do miracles.” Cruz got in a good shot against Hillary Clinton a few minutes later when recapitulating Netanyahu’s statement that Israel uses missiles to protect civilians while Palestinian militants use civilians to protect their missiles. Then Cruz added:

I would note that Hillary Clinton in 2014 explained this as follows, “Hamas puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas. Part of it is because Gaza is pretty small and it’s densely populated.” Well, Madam Secretary, with all respect, the reason the missiles are in schools is not because Gaza is small. The reason the missiles are in schools is because Hamas are terrorist monsters using children as human shields.

This brought a standing ovation from many in the crowd. Cruz went on to promise he would tear up the Iran deal on his first day in office. He also promised to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He added, “I recognize for years a whole lot of presidential candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, have said that. Indeed, I recognize some candidates have said that standing here today. Here’s the difference: I will do it.”

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