The US Presidential race is now in full swing, with republican candidate Mitt Romney selecting Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate. The choice comes with mixed reactions from the Jewish community.
Jewish GOP supporters have praised Romney’s decision to run with Ryan, who many believe has the ability to adroitly and creatively slash a federal budget they believe is out of control. Ryan is the current chair of the House Budget Committee. "Paul Ryan has challenged both party leaderships in Washington to face up to growing fiscal problems that threaten to blight our nation’s future," Matt Brooks, the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition said of the VP pick.
Republican Arizona Political Operative Joshua Offenhartz told Jspace, “We all know that jobs and the economy is the number one issue to voters, and Paul Ryan understands the need for pro-growth economic policies and that massive debt is a drag on job creation. He brings energy and ideas of how to reform spending and bring about a balanced budget. I wholeheartedly support Governor Romney's choice in VP and look forward to voting Romney/Ryan in November."
Comparatively, Jewish democrats fear Ryan will cut spending in areas crucial for the elderly Jewish community, mainly Medicare and Medicaid. “Ryan's signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class and the poor—yet Romney today proudly hitched his horse to Ryan's dangerous plan,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said.
According to JTA, in 2011, “JFNA was blunt in its criticism of plans that originated with Ryan to transition parts of Medicare, the medical program for the elderly, into a voucher program, and to convey Medicaid funds in block grants to the states, which reduces federal controls over how the money is spent.” Ryan, and his fiscal beliefs, could end up costing the GOP Florida in the election, a crucial swing state and home to a sizable elderly population.
Ryan is also very ideological and strongly opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, two areas that democratic Jews have been very proactive in fighting for. He has at times pledged to get rid of Planned Parenthood. In an article written by the congressman in 2009, he stated, “I support the rights of the unborn child. Personally, I believe that life begins at conception, and it is for that reason that I feel we need to protect that life as we would protect other children.”
The Wisconsin Congressman does not come from a particularly Jewish district, and as such has had minimal involvement in Middle Eastern or Israel diplomacy and discussion. Nonetheless, he has been part of pro-Israel legislation and holds a very pro-Israel stance, one of the few areas that will garner some bi-partisan support. While he has advocated for cutting spending on foreign assistance, he has stated that assistance to Israel should remain the same.
“America has no better friend in the Middle East than the nation of Israel. Not only is Israel the region’s only fully functioning democracy, with a government based on popular consent and the rule of law, but it is also a valuable ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism. Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel. Americans also have a strong interest in Israel achieving a lasting peace with its neighbors – including the Palestinians,” Ryan said.
“While I do not have a role in the diplomatic discussions over the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America should not pressure Israel to agree to a peace deal that is unlikely to result in peace and security. Real peace will require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples.”
Ryan visited Israel in 2005 with a delegation of newly elected Republican Congressman, organized by the American Israel Education Foundation.
Rob Lattin is Jspace News' Foreign Affairs Correspondent. In addition to covering foreign affairs for Jspace, Rob is a blogger on Israeli and Middle Eastern foreign policy for the Foreign Policy Association, as well as a freelance writer. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.