When I pulled into the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C., this past Thursday to check in for the weekend, a delightful Brazilian girl named Fabiana asked what brings me to town. “I’m here for the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual conference,” I replied, and she began to cry.
Oh, my, I thought, what have I done?
“I just broke up with my fiancée after four years,” she said. “And that was the reason why — no faith and no freedom!” That was the most clever line I heard over the next several days, but several others came close.
The event was absolutely fabulous and very edifying, for me doubly so. On top of the regular scheduling, an Orthodox Jewish Sabbath service was conducted in one of the meeting rooms, with festive kosher meals catered by a company which trucked all the supplies up from Lawrence, New York. All this was organized by the head of Jewish Outreach for the Coalition, Bush-Cheney campaign veteran Jeff Ballabon, in conjunction with David Millstein and his dynamic organization, Young Jewish Conservatives.
The meals were staggered to allow the Jewish group full participation in the regular conference sessions. In addition to hearing all the regular speakers, we were treated to separate presentations delivered to us over dinner from an array of interesting Jewish personalities. My Spectator colleague, John Fund, joined me in enjoying both parts of the experience.
Rather than go on to describe the general atmosphere of the gathering, let me share some vignettes I found both fascinating and edifying.
SENATOR RAND PAUL spoke about the doubts he has struggled with in his own faith over his years practicing medicine. Seeing the lives of the young and the innocent taken from the world challenges his sense of Divine order.
He decided that he cannot accept a form of ministry that addresses only the spirituality within the individual without engaging in the battle to elevate society and culture. In fact, he left a particular denomination that disappointed him in this regard.
He shared a powerful story from his father’s memoir. His father, Congressman Ron Paul, is also a physician. In his book he tells of walking into one room in the hospital where an abortion had been performed. The aborted baby was still breathing his last gasps on the table untended. In the next room, he encountered a difficult childbirth where a team of doctors were laboring feverishly to save a struggling newborn. How confused have we become as a society?
PROFESSOR DANIEL PIPES, always in the alarmist camp about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, told the Jewish group that he thought things were quiet between Israel and the Palestinians, and that there were no great storms on the immediate horizon.
Most in the audience were shocked by that assessment. They had a strong expectation that if reelected, President Obama would very aggressively assert himself into the situation, likely to the detriment of Israel.
In a session to the general audience, Pipes argued that the United States was mistaken in its policy of denial about Moslem terror. Such instances as the Fort Hood massacre are ascribed to disgruntled employees, troubled marriages, and a bad reaction to the acne drug, Accutane. He got a good laugh when he asserted that perhaps Major Hassan suffered from Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
IT SEEMED TO ME that legendary CBS Radio newsman Dan Raviv had been running that network’s Tel Aviv bureau throughout my entire childhood. When he turned up at our dinner Friday night, I was amazed how young he looked. To my surprise, he told me that he had only run the Israel bureau from 1978 to 1980. All the other times we had heard his reports came when the network dispatched him from London back to Israel to report on a crisis.
In recent years, Raviv has emerged as an expert on Israeli intelligence. For whatever reason, long-time Mossad agents found him particularly trustworthy and afforded him an intimate glance into their innermost operations. His first book on the subject is Every Spy a Prince and he has a new one on the way.
I asked him if his sources confirm that all 26 individuals in the pictures publicized by the government of the United Arab Emirates were actually Mossad agents who had collaborated in the assassination of a top Hamas official in a Dubai hotel. He said that most were and in fact he is using those photos in his new book, because they afford a rare display of active practitioners of espionage.
Officials assured him that most of the people in those shots actually look different from the photographs in real life. They use subtle disguises by changing hair colors and altering the shapes of their jaws to thwart the facial recognition software.
THE SPEECH MITT ROMNEY delivered by video hookup from his bus tour in Western Pennsylvania was solidly conservative, stressing themes of faith and family while promising to roll back Obamacare and overreaching regulation to free the economic engines of the country.
The question-and-answer session that followed did not consist of folks raising hands and voices. Instead people handed slips of paper to Ralph Reed and he chose the three he liked best. Jews in attendance were pleasantly surprised when the third inquired how Romney would differ from Obama’s policies toward Israel.
Romney began: “Well, the first thing I would do is take whatever he is doing and do the exact opposite!” This drew thunderous applause.
Then he added this pithy line: “Sometimes I think Obama is more afraid of Israel attacking Iran than of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.” The crowd responded even more loudly to that one.
OKAY, LET ME grab the last word for myself. After hearing all the speakers promise to make Obama into a one-term President, I said this line to Callista Gingrich.
“Obama is a one-term President… but it is not a term I would use in front of a lady!”