Hundreds of people were killed in Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Saturday. It’s a terrible, terrible situation, as the White House was forced to remind Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel after her thoughts went first to partisan advantage.
When asked about the situation in a Fox News appearance on Saturday, McDaniel said, “I think this is a great opportunity for our candidates to contrast where Republicans have stood with Israel time and time again, and Joe Biden has been weak.” People are dead, more are being held hostage, and Israel is retaliating against noncombatants in Gaza—but it’s a great opportunity for Republicans.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates responded in a statement:
“At least nine Americans have lost their lives in these brutal terrorist attacks against the State of Israel. Hundreds of additional innocent people are dead. While apparently some individuals like Ronna McDaniel consider this loss of life and pain a ‘great opportunity,’ most Americans see it as a horrific tragedy. As the administration provides assistance to the Israeli Defense Force, this is a moment in which all Americans, regardless of political views, should stand shoulder to shoulder with one of our closest allies. No one can ever welcome this kind of hideous behavior or try to divide our country when we need to be united. Like President Biden said in his call with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu the morning of these horrific terrorist attacks, the United States’ support for Israel as it defends itself is ‘rock solid and unwavering.’”
After McDaniel made her comments, The New York Times reported that more than 700 people have been killed in Israel and at least 560 Palestinians have been killed, and the tragedy is sure to get worse. There’s already a debate about where the blame lies beyond Hamas’ initial attack on Saturday. Haaretz, one of Israel’s top newspapers, pointed a finger at Netanyahu and his policies. But the immediate instinct to go straight for a partisan strategy in which deaths are a “great opportunity” if you think you can pin them (through several degrees of separation) on your political opponent—that’s abhorrent, and a classic Republican response.