Current and former Republican governors with their eyes on the 2016 presidential nomination sought casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s cash at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting this weekend in — where else? — Las Vegas.
None of the speakers, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, or embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is Jewish. But some made efforts to boast (awkwardly, the Times notes) their loyalty to the Jews.
In Christie’s case, this effort quickly turned sour, at least in Republican “pro-Israel” eyes. Like any non-Jewish politician addressing a Jewish audience, Christie fondly recalled a trip to Israel. But he made the fatal error of uttering a word that will, for this particular Jewish audience, immediately and without further thought or adjudication turn the speaker into an enemy.
Within hours, Christie had been forced by his host to apologize — ordinarily no mean feat, as long-time observers of the Bridgegate governor’s modus operandi know.
According to POLITICO’s Ken Vogel, Christie made a pilgrimage on bended knee to Adelson himself:
Not long after his speech, Christie met with Adelson privately in the casino mogul’s office in the Venetian hotel and casino, which hosted the RJC meeting.
The source told POLITICO that Christie “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not meant to be a statement of policy.”
Instead, the source said, Christie made clear “that he misspoke when he referred to the ‘occupied territories.’ And he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”
Note here that Christie, aside from his use of the forbidden (but true) word “occupied,” expressed no sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Here’s the full context: “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.” Got that? Using the word “occupied” overshadows that what Christie took away from the experience was the conclusion that Israel is the only party facing risk and danger.
Scott Walker is no doubt doing a little happy dance right now. With all the attention on Christie’s faux pas, no one is paying attention to his lame pander that he likes to light a menorah during the Christmas holiday season.