LOS ANGELES – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Friday decried the “Arab Spring” that has toppled three dictators and given rise to pro-democracy protests across the Middle East for promoting the “rise of radical elements” across the region.
In a speech to about 400 Republicans gathered for the state party’s fall convention here, the three-term Minnesota congresswoman blamed President Obama for “the hostilities of the Arab spring” and expressed regret that “we saw (Egyptian) President (Hosni) Mubarak fall while President Obama sat on his hands.”
She got her biggest applause line of the evening when she accused Obama of asking Israel to return to its “indefensible” pre-1967 borders. Obama in May said a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians should be based on the borders -- with land swaps --before the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a position that angered some in Israel and Israel's conservative supporters in the U.S.
Popular uprisings have forced the ouster this year of longtime strongmen who ruled Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, but some conservatives are worried that the movement has cost the U.S. key allies in the region and is in danger of being hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists hostile to American interests.
Republicans suddenly see an opportunity to make inroads among Jewish voters, long a core Democratic constituency: Earlier this week, voters in a New York City congressional district that includes one of the heaviest concentrations of Jews in the country gave an upset victory in a special congressional election to a Republican candidate who made an issue of Obama’s Israel policy.
Speaking for 40 minutes without notes in the same red dress she had worn for an earlier taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bachmann also repeated her view that there should be more domestic exploration for oil and gas.
“This is one of the most perfect places in the planet to drill. Drill! Why not?” she said, referring to the nation’s energy reserves. “We’ve got it. Let’s access it responsibly.”
Bachmann refused, however, to answer reporters’ questions on her way out of the building about whether she was advocating for drilling off the coast of California.
Offshore drilling is a divisive issue in California, though a July survey showed support for it growing among state residents. Bachmann sparked a furor last month by proposing oil and gas exploration in Florida’s Everglades.
Bachmann’s appearance here appeared to win over some skeptics. Her audience, at first tepid compared to the raucous supporters who have greeted the tea party heroine at campaign events, gradually warmed to the congresswoman’s speech.
“Actually, I had a bit of reservation to be totally honest because I only knew her from a tea party perspective” Kevin Moon, a treasurer of the Santa Cruz GOP Central Committee, said after the speech. But Moon said he came away impressed. “I thought she was very earnest and sincere and I think that’s kind of what’s lacking in Washington.”