Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday criticized comments US Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made earlier this month in a speech that critics have said was unnecessarily confrontational toward a Middle Eastern Christian group.
"We have a responsibility to stand by people who are being persecuted," Santorum told Business Insider in a wide-ranging interview in New York. "This shouldn't be an ideological test — well, you have to agree with us on all of these things, or else we won't be with you. No, we're going to be with you if you are a religious minority that's being persecuted by a radical Muslim majority. Period."
Santorum called Cruz's comments "off" because, he said, Cruz tied his defense of the group's work with persecuted Christians to the expectation they agreed with him on every other issue.
"To go in and to say something like, 'If you don't stand with Israel, I don't stand with you' — I find it hard to suggest that we're not going to stand with people who are being religiously persecuted and slaughtered because they don't share the same point of view we do with respect to Israel being the best friend of Christians in the world," Santorum said.
Santorum stressed his support for Israel but said he would not let that prevent him from supporting a group on a separate issue if it didn't entirely share his view.
"I don't accept that," he said. "I'm going to stand with them whether they see Israel as their best friend or not. And I think a lot of Israelis will stand with them even if they don't see Israel as their best friend. ... We need to stand with them irrespective of their viewpoints on the state of Israel. And this is being said by someone — you won't find anybody who's stronger on the state of Israel than I am."
I think Santorum has nailed it.
My thoughts on this I left as a comment in my earlier post:
First... I'm Facebook friends with people involved with the organization that hosted the event. No, we're not bosom buddies by any stretch but I've read enough of what they do and what they find to be inspiring, motivational and important to trust them and their instincts. The conference was held to bring attention to the plight of Catholics, Coptic, Orthodox and other Christians in the Middle East and the horrendous persecution they are experiencing. They worked hard for unity among those in attendance and had largely achieved it... until Senator Cruz' remarks.
He does indeed have the right to say whatever he'd like and in a different forum, his words may not have had the effect they had here. What he did wrong in my view was take away from the purpose of the event... and he did so in my view for political reasons, his own presidential run and his apparent need to solidify evangelicals by leveraging their unqualified and unquestioning support for Israel. This, too me, substantiates the self-aggrandizement charge, particularly when I believe what he did was so unnecessary.
I am a huge supporter of Israel and think that they are an oasis of hope in an arid land where hope is largely nonexistent. I simply think Mr. Cruz failed to focus on the purpose for his invite, which was to bring attention to what it is Christians in the area face, day in and day out. I'm no anti-semite simply because I find Cruz' to have blundered here.
The fact is that only a few people were booing or having a problem with where Cruz was headed, something I think he should've noticed and simply deflected so that he could stay on point. Instead, he decided to take his speech in what I think was an unnecessary direction.
There are a number of respected outlets covering this and going into more detail, some of whom I agree with in part, some of whom I agree with more fully.
Michael J. L. La Civita makes excellent points.
Ross Douthat does as well.
The folks hosting the event had their own take on things that I found interesting.
The bottom line for me is pretty simple. Cruz needed to stay focused on the purpose for the gathering. Instead, he veered off track for what seems now to be clearly partisan reasons.
And let's face it, though I do believe Israel is an ally of all freedom loving peoples, to suggest that there is no greater ally for Christians than Israel is to ignore the fact that Israel, for nationalist's reasons, would not take in any Christian refugees attempting to escape the slaughter that was/is taking place in the region and to ignore the fact that there are Palestinian Christians in Gaza and in the WestBank who would naturally have a problem with the assertion.
My bottom line is this.
Should it come down to Cruz and some liberal Obama/Clinton/Reid/Pelosi clone in the general election next year, Cruz would have my vote. But I'm also looking for the kind of leadership that knows when to choose its battles, when to go on the offense, and when to look at larger pictures before focusing on smaller ones.
Cruz failed this one particular test in my view.
My hope is that Cruz has taken something away from all this and learned from it.
There's seems to perhaps be some hope for this when he recently apologized for broad-brushing conservatives who had criticized his earlier comments:
It was a mistake to suggest that critics of my remarks at IDC had not spoken out previously concerning the persecution of Christians; many of them have done so, often quite eloquently. It was not my intent to impugn anyone’s integrity, and I apologize to any columnists who took offense. The systematic murder of Christians in the Middle East is a horrible atrocity, and all of us should be united against it. Likewise we should speak with one voice against the persecution of Jews, usually being carried out by the very same jihadist radicals.
In the end, the in-fighting amongst the allied must stop and the recognition of who the enemy truly is must begin.
Sooner rather than later.