As current House majority whip (and acting leader) Roy Blunt runs to permanently replace Tom DeLay as House majority leader, Republican congressman Eric Cantor is poised to go for the House majority-whip slot, having secured over 100 votes as of Sunday night, according to a source close to the Virginia congressman. It’s a practical move–aiming for the whip, not the leader slot. Enough hats are already in the leader ring, and more seasoned ones at that. Plus, it was Majority Whip Roy Blunt who tapped Cantor as his chief deputy whip in December 2002, making his “meteoric rise to leadership” possible, as The Almanac of American Politics describes it—so Cantor’s surely not jumping at the chance to challenge Blunt for leader. But, still, Cantor ought to reconsider. You see, we all have a vested interest in Cantor as majority leader. Here’s the campaign slogan: Eric Cantor for Majority Leader–because Iran will hate it.
If you don’t think Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cares much about United States House of Representatives leadership elections…well, you may be right. But he would care if Eric Cantor were elected majority leader. Congressman Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House (I could stop there–that’s enough already to make the anti-Semite madman seethe), has taken a clear hard-line stand on Iran.
In the wake of comments by Ahmadinejad that Israel should be “wiped off the map” and that the Holocaust is a “myth,” in mid-December Cantor said: “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements are becoming more outrageous by the day. Not only has he called for the complete annihilation of Israel, but now he scoffs at the murder of millions of Jews by calling the Holocaust a ‘myth.’”
In his statement, Cantor continued, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Iran is being run by thugs bent on destroying Israel. Mr. Ahmadinejad should understand that America stands side by side with its only democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel, and that it will do all that is necessary to defend Israel.”
And in a letter earlier that month to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cantor wrote:
Under the leadership of President Bush and yourself, you have engaged the international community to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear technology. I want to express my appreciation for your strong efforts. I too find it deeply troubling that Iran continues to defy the international community by refusing to abandon their nuclear program.
A nuclear-capable Iran would be a major step back for security in the Middle East. As you know, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently advocated for the complete annihilation of Israel. His radical statements are reprehensible and cause for great concern. I share the belief that we have a duty to protect our interests and allies in the region from nuclear attack or nuclear terrorism.
Furthermore, I believe the failure of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] to disarm Iran has created a situation in which Israel might be justifiably forced to act in its own self-defense by preemptively attacking Iran.
With the democracy President Bush and you have worked so hard to promote finally becoming a reality in the Middle East, we cannot afford the destabilizing effect Iranian nuclear weapons will have.
Currently chief deputy whip, the 43-year-old Cantor was among the first dark horses buzzed about for possible ascension to majority leader. While he’s setting his sights on the whip post, though, he ought to be encouraged to go for the top slot. As Iran elevates its anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric, we could use a national leader who sees Iran for what it is and isn’t shy about saying it.
And, frankly, Eric Cantor should be majority leader simply because it will tick off Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That’s the kind of diplomacy that we could afford to try for once with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It sure beats the please-pretty-please-be-honest-and-cooperate-with-us IAEA approach. You might win Noble Peace Prizes that way, but not wars.