The U.S. mainstream media vigorously and rightly criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for violating custom and probably the law by speaking to the Republican Convention. The New York Times went even farther and examined Pompeo’s motivation— pointing out, in a headline: “Pompeo Delivers R.N.C. Speech from Israel With Eye Toward 2024.”
The Times contended that Pompeo was aiming at “white evangelical voters.” Nowhere did it, or the rest of the American media, suggest that he might also be trying to win support from the right-wing of the pro-Israel lobby, which includes mega campaign donors like the billionaire gambling magnate, Sheldon Adelson.
The Times report, by Lara Jakes, included one jaw-dropping quotation. Mark Dubowitz heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C., group that part of the Israel lobby set up to instigate the U.S. against Iran. Dubowitz, a Canadian, has no known expertise on American elections. But the Times report has Dubowitz saying: “. . . Pompeo is like any other ambitious politician.” And:
He has the future in mind, and certainly wrapping up the evangelical vote for 2024 is absolutely critical to the success of any Republican candidate. I can’t imagine it’s not in the back of his mind.
Connecting Pompeo’s speech to evangelical Christians is not wrong — he is one himself. But recent American political history suggests there’s more to the story. Republican candidates for the presidency go through what even Politico has dubbed the “Adelson primary,” to win the billionaire’s backing, by going to Las Vegas and convincing Adelson they will be strong on Israel. During the 2012 campaign for the Republican nomination, Sheldon Adelson kept former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s bid alive, donating $20 million at a critical point in March that year. In 2016 Marco Rubio initially won the Adelson primary but Adelson later became Donald Trump’s number one donor, and Trump is believed to have torn up the Iran deal to please Adelson, moved the embassy, and appointed the hardline John Bolton as national security adviser. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has received at least $1.5 million from Adelson– no wonder Dubowitz wants to talk about Christian evangelicals!
Mike Pompeo’s stiff Jerusalem speech was another reminder that he has, to put it charitably, limited charisma — and $20 million could help him stand out in a crowded Republican primary field in 2024.
If Pompeo had spoken from, say, Exxon’s world headquarters, reporters surely would have followed the oil money.
The Washington Post also missed this part of the story. The paper noted:
Pompeo’s speech was taped in Jerusalem apparently in part to highlight the successful foreign policy narrative of normalized relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, a recognition popular with President Trump’s base of evangelical voters.
On closer inspection, this sentence is amusing. On a list of what “Trump’s base of evangelical voters” care about, “normalized relations” between the UAE and Israel barely registers. But pro-Israel mega donors like Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus (cofounder of Home Depot), and the neoconservative financier Paul Singer, are doubtless ecstatic — and they will remember when Mike Pompeo enters the 2024 race.