Every Republican in Congress has an AIPAC babysitter

Representative Thomas Massie discusses AIPAC’s influence on Congress. [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

US Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, one of the few Republicans who has been openly critical of AIPAC, has said that every Republican in Congress has an AIPAC babysitter.

The congressman was speaking with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson for an episode of his podcast earlier this month, when he made the statement about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has been coming under increasing scrutiny for its influence over US elections.

“Everybody but me has an AIPAC person. It’s like your babysitter, your AIPAC babysitter, who’s always talking to you for AIPAC,” Massie said on the right-wing news host’s show. He added that these “babysitters” tend to be from the representative’s district, but they’re firmly part of AIPAC. 

“When they come to DC, you have to go to lunch with them, and they’ve got your cell number and you have conversations with them,” he said, adding that it’s like having a buddy system from another country, and he’s one of the few lawmakers that hasn’t taken part in it.

In the case of Massie, who won his last congressional race in May by over 75 percent, it is a testament to his popularity in his district, but also what he believes is AIPAC’s delay in getting involved in his races, spending around $400,000 in the latest contest. He told Carlson that the lobby group continues to run ads against him, which he assumes is because they’re worried he’ll run for a statewide position, such as senator or governor.

Though it might seem unusual for AIPAC to put so much effort into individual candidates, Massie sees it as an investment to ensure no one in Congress votes against their agenda, complete and unconditional support for Israel. 

“They don’t want one horse out of the barn. If one person starts speaking the truth, they’re afraid it might be contagious,” he said. “It starts raising questions, and I think that’s why they get mad.”

In the interview, he questioned why the lobby group or their representatives aren’t required to register as foreign agents, which would be the case for those advocating on behalf of all other countries. 

“There’s this foreign interest group called AIPAC that’s got the ear of this current speaker, and demanded 16 votes in April on Israel or the Middle East. We haven’t had 16 votes in April on the United States in Congress,” he said, after discussing why he found some of the recent bills problematic, including one on the definition of antisemitism related to criticism of Israel.

He sees this as inconsistent with the US government’s positions on criticism of other countries. Moreover, he said he doesn’t consider himself a critic of Israel, except for with the current situation in Gaza. “Other than right now,” he said. “They’ve killed one percent of the civilian population of Gaza. That’s concerning to me.” (At the time of the interview, the deaths in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes stood at around 1.5 percent of the enclave’s population.)

This concern runs counter to the positions of most of his Republican colleagues, many of whom connect their support of Israel to their Christian (primarily evangelical protestant) faith and that of their constituents. Even many centrist supporters of Israel have raised concerns over right-wing evangelical support for Israel, which ultimately aims for the destruction of Jews in Israel for the second coming of Christ.

Much of AIPAC’s lobbying, he told Carlson, is done through evangelical churches, leading many in his state of Kentucky to believe that support of Israel’s military is part of a grassroots movement. He sees the lobby group as representing a corporate faction, referring to US weapons manufacturers, which he suggested could make AIPAC more extreme than Israel itself when it comes to advocating for wars.

“They do it through evangelical churches,” he said. “People think it’s a grassroots movement in Kentucky. It’s actually a top-down movement from AIPAC, so that people who aren’t even Jewish will feel like they’ve got to support Israel no matter what.” 

Massie, who describes himself as a libertarian-leaning Republican, said he doesn’t vote for any wars or foreign aid. “I vote my conscience, which they won’t tolerate,” he said.

“Don’t be offended when I don’t vote for your foreign aid. I don’t vote for wars anywhere, so don’t be offended by that. I’m for free speech, even if it’s abhorrent.” 

He emphasised that he sees AIPAC‘s tactics as short-sighted, which he believes has exposed a weakness in the US political system.

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