Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may have the potential to harness youth support, frustrated Democrats, libertarians and harsh fiscal conservatives if he runs for President in 2016. But already there are well-heeled forces working to preemptively quash a potential Paul Presidency.
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) gathered over the weekend to give potential establishment GOP contenders for President in 2016 the opportunity to woo big-money donors with strong ties to Israel.
The host, and the most notable donor present, was billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Paul is wildly unpopular with members of the Israel lobby because he believes America’s many domestic problems should take precedence over the neoconservative foreign policy that has kept the Nation ensnarled in Mideast conflicts for decades.
A TIME piece describing the scene at the RJC gathering recounts speech after speech deriding Paul’s foreign policy stance.
From the magazine:
Speaker after speaker, from former Florida governor Jeb Bush to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, laid into Paul’s more isolationist views on foreign policy. They never mentioned the lawmaker by name, but the message came across loud and clear.
At a private dinner for VIP donors in an Adelson-owned aircraft hangar holding one of his pair of Boeing 747s, Bush was asked about the growing isolationist wing of the Republican Party and replied there was no such thing — effectively casting Paul out of the fold, according to attendees.
John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., bemoaned “a rising tide of neoisolationism within the Republican Party,” and blasted those, like Paul, who oppose throwing the book at admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as “unfit to serve.”
“America must be engaged in the world, and we should help the people who share our values,” Ohio Governor John Kasich told guests at a Saturday lunch.
Last summer, Paul greatly upset the pro-Israel lobby when he called for an end to all U.S. foreign aid, including the $3 billion American taxpayers provide for Israel each year. The Senator argued that the U.S.’s flawed aid system also provides money to countries which are enemies of Israel.
“I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel and enemies of the United States, and I’d like to see their aid ended much quicker,” Paul said at the time. “With regard to Israel, it could be gradual phenomenon. It doesn’t mean we disengage from Israel.”
In a 2011 report, the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies said that U.S. aid currently provides for about one quarter of Israel’s total defense budget. The aid has cost the U.S. more than $110 billion since Israel became a nation in 1948.
And as the U.S.’s debts continue to spiral out of control — by 2024, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that interest alone on the Nation’s debt will reach $1 trillion — Israel’s economy is booming.
NBC News reported last year:
The country made its first intervention in the foreign currency market in almost two years Tuesday, buying $100 million to peg back the growing strength of its shekel.
A Bloomberg survey this week said the shekel was the strongest of 31 major currencies tracked over the last six months.
Last week, Israel passed another milestone, a potential gamechanger for its economy. Gas began to flow from gas fields off the coast. By 2015 Israel is expected to be fully energy independent, and may be a net exporter.
Considering all of this, it’s pretty likely that many average Americans would agree with Paul’s assertion that it’s time to start drawing down foreign aid — even to Israel.
Adelson, who stands to benefit from the booming Israeli economy due in part to American aid, is not among them.
And if Paul, or any GOP candidate with positions that threaten the U.S.’s lopsided financial relationship with Israel, begins to get Presidential traction, Adelson and his supporters are prepared to attack financially.
Again from TIME:
On the margins of the conference, where attendees heard from four potential 2016 candidates who advocated for a strong American foreign policy and support for Israel, five donors huddled with a reporter pledged to reach into their deep pockets to ensure Paul doesn’t win the GOP nomination.
Several prominent GOP donors at the conference suggested that Adelson, who spent more than $100 million backing Newt Gingrich and Romney in 2012, is likely to spend vast sums against Paul if he appears to be well positioned in the Republican primaries. Adelson’s spending is largely motivated by his strong concern for Israel, and Paul’s positions may well put a target on his back.
Paul may be able to fight through the fat-cat attacks in 2016 if Americans continue to embrace his small government and personal liberty message, but he’ll need strong grass-roots support to make it through the primaries.