New Orleans, LA–The issue of the U.S. making commitments to use troops and tax dollars to defend other countries–one on which conservatives and Republicans have had disagreements among themselves for decades–resurfaced in a very big way Friday during the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here.
During his address to the 2000-plus GOP activists gathered at the Hilton Hotel, presidential hopeful Herman Cain declared that he would say as President to any country “that messed with Israel, you will mess with the United States.” The former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive officer was met with loud applause–and some very audible booing as well. As supporters of Cain’s statement on Israel continued to cheer and many stood up, those who opposed his remarks continued to boo. The split within the standing-room-only ballroom lasted several minutes.
Many people HUMAN EVENTS spoke to blamed the booing on some of the backers of the next presidential candidate to address the SRLC: Texas Rep. Ron Paul. While careful not to voice criticism of Paul himself, several party officials told us that on the issue of assisting foreign countries, his supporters at the state and local level have “gotten out of hand” and let their opposition be known to other Republicans.
“The U.S. should support Israel,” Louisiana GOP National Committeewoman Ruth Ulrich told us, “I wish [the Paul supporters] would understand we need allies in the world.”
The Paul campaign had a different view. As Paul campaign operative Jesse Benton told HUMAN EVENTS, “Conservatives are becoming increasingly convinced that we need a pro-American foreign policy where we are good friends and trading partners with Israel, stay out of their internal affairs and allow them to defend themselves with their own elite military. Mr. Cain is behind the curve here and had a clear disconnect with the activists at the Republican Leadership Conference.”
When HUMAN EVENTS asked Cain what he thought about the booing after his remarks on Israel, he simply grinned and said: “Booing? I only heard cheering out there.”
Greeted by a prolonged ovation and chants of “Ron Paul! Ron Paul!,” the Texas lawmaker never mentioned Israel in his remarks. But he did hit on his familiar theme of no entangling allliances for the U.S., citing admonitions from Sen. Robert Taft (R.-Oh.) and Ronald Reagan and quoting from Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara’s apology for the way the war was run.
“And Paul’s supporters always make a scene, cheer him, and then leave after Ron Paul himself is finished speaking,” said one Louisiana GOP official who requested anonymity, “They do it every time.”
After Paul’s address, the next 2012 hopeful to address the SRLC was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) Cheered throughout her remarks, Bachmann at one point said: “I announce here today I stand with Israel.” There was more applause, but no booing.