What Will Obama Say at AIPAC? Reading the Cuban Tea Leaves

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Barack Obama has a much-anticipated speech tomorrow before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The big questions in my mind are what kind of rhetoric he will use—i.e., how hard he will pander—and whether he will announce any new wrinkles in his position on Israel/Palestine.

One possible indicator is a speech Obama gave in Miami a couple weeks ago before the Cuban American National Foundation, which is the rough analogue of AIPAC in the Cuban exile community. The speech included the usual nods to the concept of diplomacy and a proposal to relax current rules limiting family travel to Cuba. But, as Michael Moynihan of Reason convincingly argues, “the real news is that Obama is merely interested in tinkering with America’s Cuba policy, not substantially changing it.” Here’s the money graph of the address, in which Obama flip-flopped on his previous support for ending the embargo:

I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: If you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba—through strong, smart and principled diplomacy.

So, especially after some high-profile stories about Obama’s putative troubles with Jewish voters, what kind of red meat is the candidate going to throw to the AIPAC crowd? My top three guesses (in order of likelihood):

1) Saber-rattling toward Iran.

2) Gratuitous Palestinian bashing.

3) A swipe at Jimmy Carter.

I’ll be tuning in tomorrow, hoping Obama proves me wrong.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest