The RJC played an especially important role in 2008, the election in which Palin burst onto the national stage — a very unpromising year for the GOP. Barack Obama out-raised John McCain in an election in which many of the party’s usual donors stayed on the sidelines. Yet RJC members continued to fundraise for McCain-Palin, like the last guy to hold the pass, outnumbered and outgunned.
Most Republican presidential aspirants consider the RJC a group whose support is very much worth having. Which is why virtually every major and long-shot Republican candidate except Palin has addressed an RJC meeting: Romney often, Newt Gingrich often, Tim Pawlenty often. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is stopping by the group’s April Las Vegas meeting … just in case.
Obviously the RJC has no monopoly on Israel visitation rights. Mike Huckabee for example has organized his own trips. But Huckabee has been to Israel more than 15 times, he knows the country and its leadership intimately, and hardly requires any introduction from anybody.
But with somebody like Palin making a first visit — dealing with important geopolitical sensitivities — and trying to make a positive impression on American friends of Israel — the design of a trip carries special significance.
Over the months since November 2008, the RJC had repeatedly offered to organize an Israel tour for Palin. They have repeatedly invited Palin to speak at their meetings. As a member of the RJC board, I know that Palin’s team engaged in extended conversations about these invitations. Yet they were abruptly shelved. The RJC organization learned that its invitation would not be accepted the same way everybody else did: by reading the newspaper.
Why? We cannot know for certain. But we do know this: Some members of the RJC board — including me, and one or two others — have publicly said critical things about Palin.
The seeming result: Palin decided the RJC was dead to her.
Which is of course her prerogative.
Frum's pretty bent out of shape here. Then again, if Palin really is avoiding the RJC because of criticism (and she's pretty thin skinned when it comes to the right) then Frum just pretty much buried his cause under a couple tons of rubble.
So how long will it take to have David Frum expelled from the Happy Conservative Club for daring to go after Palin? Might get pretty interesting, because Frum is damned right about the RJC being a heavy hitter in GOP contender circles. Few people are going to go after Frum on this...but few people are going to go after Palin, either.