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Newt Gingrich, addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition candidates' forum Wednesday, threw out several red meat appeals targeted to his conservative, pro-Israel audience. Gingrich supplied his proposals in characteristically sweeping remarks that sometimes seemed to veer all over the place.
Gingrich also vowed that within two hours of his inauguration, he'd order that the U.S. embassy in Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That proposal won rousing applause from the RJC crowd.
If he would accept it, "I will ask John Bolton to be Secretary of State," Gingrich said, to more thunderous applause. Bolton, a Republican arms-control hawk, frequently advocates that the United States or Israel launch a preemptive military strike on Iran. When George W. Bush nominated Bolton as envoy to the United Nations, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee didn't permit his nomination to advance to the full Senate, in part because of his reputation for running roughshod over officials and staff who didn't share his views.
Gingrich said he would mandate Secretary of State Bolton to institute a battle against an attitude of "appeasement" at the State Department and to promote a more "aggressive" approach to U.S. statecraft. Gingrich also said that he would shake up the intelligence community to carry out covert operations--without reference to the Obama White House's own fairly extensive covert operations, such as the mission that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May.
As for Bolton's interest in the job? He's still keeping his options open.
"Mr. Bolton has not endorsed any candidate for the Republican presidential nomination," Bolton's assistant told Yahoo News' Zachary Roth by email Thursday. "He has spoken to a number of those running, and he would be happy to discuss national security issues with anyone in the race."
Gingrich's critique of a State Department and intelligence community prone to "appeasement" resonated with the positions that some influential neoconservatives took during Bush's first term. At the same time, Gingrich's remarks didn't account for the close coordination of American military and intelligence operations that have taken numerous terror suspects off the battlefield in recent years, as commanders have discreetly put it.
Following Gingrich's remarks, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann addressed the forum, which earlier warmly received presumed frontrunner Mitt Romney.
Both Romney and Gingrich "have a natural constituency" in the RJC ranks, board member and GOP strategist Ari Fleischer said earlier Wednesday. "Romney already has a lot of supporters here, because—like the rest of the country--most people previously thought Newt was out."
Yahoo News' Zachary Roth contributed to this report.
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