Thursday night, Bob Schaffer addressed the Jewish Republicans, with a version of his stump speech tailored for small audiences. It was a masterly performance, with Schaffer covering almost the full range of national issues, from national security, to energy, to the environment, while mentioning his disappointment with the national party leaderhship in the past, and his willingness to fight within the party for the ideas we all care about.
When the race started, it looked as though Iraq, and the declining Republican brand were going to be the major issues in the fall. Now, with greater success in Iraq, and declining enthusiasm for Democrats, pocketbook issues are more important.
And among pocketbook issues, energy looms the largest. Schaffer made the point that our current energy prices are a combination of increased worldwide demand, and a deliberate policy by liberals, environmentalists, and socialists (er, is there a difference there?) to limit domestic energy production on the basis of aesthetics rather than economics.
So let's see: we turn our food into energy, which is an inefficient use of everything involved in the process: corn, fertilizer, natural gas (which is what you make fertilizer from), energy itself. We prevent drilling in Alaska, offshore, in-state. (Cuba apparently is less environmentally sensitive.) We streamline the nuclear plant licensing process at just the time when materials and design costs are double plant costs. We limit our exposure to the world natural gas market by preventing LNG terminals.
And then we're surprised when the cost of energy, relative to everything else, rises.
As for budget issues, he struck at the silliness of pay-as-you-go rules, which are a mask for preventing tax cuts. He made a pitch for dynamic scoring, which takes into account expected growth spurred by cuts. It indicates a solid grasp of how Washington works, but also a solid grasp of how economics works, something sorely lacking in most elected officials.
In foreign policy, Schaffer clearly is on top of threatening developments in our relationship with China. He mentioned their eyes on a blue-water navy, their ASAT capability, their neo-colonialism in Africa, their missile bases opposite Taiwan, and their computer virus library, a precursor to technological warfare in the event of a crisis.
I particularly liked his comment that in the Cold War, "I like to think they won, too." Meaning not the communist dictators, of course, but the people of eastern Europe. One much say the same about the Axis powers in WWII, and the people of every country whose overlords we have decisively defeated in conflict.
His encapsulation of Israel's relationship to the US is common-sense and clear-headed: the US's interest are best defended when Israel has the political and military ability to defend itself. One might add that this is also to Israel's advantage. After all, it's not much of an ally who's a constant liability. And it's a much stronger formulation than President Bush's echo of the Serbian-Russian alliance: We and the Americans, 307 million strong.
The good news is that Bob's out-raising Udall in in-state funds, The bad news is that very few Senate races are decided by in-state funds any more, and Udall's getting the DC PAC, DSCC, and union money. So when you get a chance, help Bob out. This is one of the few races where the Republicans actually have a chance to improve the brand this fall.