A view of the KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue in 2013. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

80% of Reform rabbis are Democrats. That’s higher than any other clergy.


The vast majority of Reform and Conservative rabbis affiliate as Democrats, according to a new study.

The study, published Sunday by Yale University, found that more than 80 percent of Reform rabbis, and about 70 percent of Conservative rabbis, affiliate as Democrats. Both were among the top five most Democratic clergy of the Jewish and Christian denominations in the United States, with Reform rabbis topping the list.

Among Orthodox rabbis, nearly 40 percent identify as Democrats and a quarter as Republicans.

By contrast, Evangelical pastors are almost all Republicans, as are most Baptists. The Black Protestant African Methodist Episcopal clergy, as well as Unitarians, are heavily Democratic. Catholic priests are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

The study’s findings reflect existing data on the politics of American Jews. Solid majorities of American Jews consistently vote for Democrats — 70 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in the November presidential race — with polls showing that Orthodox Jews are more likely to vote Republican. Reform Jews have been on the front lines of protests against President Donald Trump.

Orthodox Jews make up about 10 percent of the American Jewish population, various studies show. One-third, or 35 percent, of all U.S. Jews identify with the Reform movement, 18 percent identify with Conservative Judaism, 6 percent with other movements and 30 percent with no denomination, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Yale study also shows that rabbis’ political views track with congregants’ views on policy. For example, 40 percent of Orthodox rabbis are Democrats, and some 40 percent of Orthodox congregants are pro-choice, while about 30 percent of congregants believe gays and lesbians should be legally allowed to marry. Likewise, large majorities of Conservative and Reform rabbis are Democrats, and large majorities of their congregants are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told JTA earlier this year that Reform rabbis’ generally liberal politics are a reflection of their Jewish values.

“The idea of Jewish spiritual community being about feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, caring for the stranger — these are fundamental core pieces,” Jacobs said in January. “If we don’t talk about those things in our religious communities, we’re irrelevant.”

Orthodox Jews also cite Jewish values in explaining their support for Republicans, noting a preference for the GOP on Israel and conservative support for school choice programs and religious exemptions for various government mandates.

In total, the data cover 186,000 clergy, including approximately 2,700 rabbis. The data were collected via denominational websites cross-referenced with voter registration records. Some denominations and religions — including Mormons and Muslims — are not included due to lack of reliable clergy lists.

The data also show that the Reform rabbinate is the second-most female of any denominational clergy. Forty-five percent of Reform rabbis are women, as opposed to an average of 16 percent across the denominations surveyed. About a quarter of Conservative rabbis are women; nearly all the Orthodox clergy are men.

An analysis of the data by The New York Times found that rabbis on average lived in the most affluent neighborhoods of any clergy. The median household income of Conservative rabbis’ neighborhoods is nearly $100,000 on average, compared to a national median household income of $53,000. The Times article noted that average neighborhood income does not necessarily reflect pastors’ salaries.

Eric Bauman on Nov. 1, 2014. Photo from Wikipedia

Shabbat vote at issue in contested election of observant Jew as California’s top Democrat


Morris “Fritz” Friedman needed help to vote in the election for chair of the California Democratic Party, which took place on May 20, a Saturday.

As an Orthodox Jew, Friedman was forbidden from picking up a pen during Shabbat. So he asked a convention volunteer, Sean Kiernan, to fill out his ballot and sign it for him, casting it for Eric Bauman.

Bauman has since declared victory by a narrow margin of 62 delegates among some 3,000. But now, Friedman’s vote is at the center of an effort to unseat Bauman, himself an observant Jew from Los Angeles.

In contesting the election over alleged voting irregularities, the campaign for Kimberly Ellis, Bauman’s opponent, pointed to Friedman’s ballot as an example of double voting. Ellis is refusing to concede despite calls from Democratic leaders, including the speaker of the State Assembly, to back down.

“We believe deeply that not only did we not lose by 62 votes, but that we won this election outright and pretty handily,” Ellis said in a June 7 interview with the podcast “Working Life.”

In a June 5 “ballot review” on the campaign website, Ellis alleges that the signature of an employee of the Kaufman Legal Group, the law firm representing Bauman, appeared on multiple ballots. Kaufman Legal Group later identified the employee as Kiernan, who aided Friedman with his vote.

Some pro-Israel Democrats seized on Ellis’ challenge of Friedman’s vote as the latest transgression of a campaign with a shaky record on Jews and Israel.

“In challenging mismatched signatures, Kimberly Ellis is effectively targeting Orthodox Jewish delegates,” a group called Democrats for Israel Los Angeles said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The group also pointed to a vocal Ellis supporter who posted a cartoon on Facebook last month featuring an Israeli flag with the Jewish Star of David replaced by a swastika.

But Bauman said the double voting accusation is more likely an example of unscrupulous electioneering by the Ellis campaign than animus toward Jews.

“They’re casting about, and they have no real evidence that anything is actually wrong,” he said.

“I don’t think the singling out of a couple of Orthodox Jewish men was, per se, anti-Semitic,” he said. “I think it was just that they were grasping for straws.”

Paul Kujawsky, like Friedman, is an Orthodox Jew and served as a delegate to the May 20 convention. He believes he and Friedman were the only two Orthodox Jews to vote in the election for party chair. He said that having a helper sign the ballot on his behalf is a well-established practice that he’s used many times when votes occur on Saturdays.

“It’s pretty clear that [the Ellis campaign] knew it was not an issue of double voting but claimed it was, anyway,” Kujawsky said. “So it’s not about anti-Semitism, but it is about integrity.”

Neither Ellis nor her campaign responded to repeated requests for comment.

The party has referred the matter to its Compliance Review Commission, a body that adjudicates internal disputes. But Ellis’ campaign hopes to put the election in the hands of an independent third party, fearing the California Democratic Party itself is unduly influenced by Bauman, according to its June 5 statement.

Bauman, a former union organizer, has headed the Los Angeles County Democratic Party since 2000 and served as vice chair of the state party since 2009. LA Weekly has called him a “powerful boss” and a “kingmaker,” while the Los Angeles Times named him a “consummate party insider.”

A self-identified Zionist, Bauman is a member of two Los Angeles-area synagogues, the Orthodox Shaarey Zedek in Valley Village and Adat Ari El in North Hollywood, a Conservative synagogue where he wraps tefillin on weekday mornings. He keeps a kosher home in North Hollywood with his husband.

Culturally and politically, Bauman and Ellis are about as different as two California Democrats can get.

Ellis headed Emerge California, a nonprofit that aims to increase the number of women in elected office in California, from 2010 until this year, when she quit to focus on her run for party chair.

An African-American woman from the Bay Area, she attracted liberals disaffected with the party establishment, including many who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primaries, by pledging repeatedly to “redefine what it meant to be a Democrat.”

But before Ellis announced her run in August 2015, Bauman’s ascendance often was treated as a foregone conclusion. When friends wanted to draft her into the race, Ellis said in the June 7 “Working Life” interview, she told them, “That’s a preposterous idea and I’m not interested.”

Now, she claims to have won the election.

“Based on the information contained here, the actual vote count is in question,” her campaign said in a June 5 statement outlining the allegations. “It is believed that the wrong individual is serving as chair.”

Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, right, presents U.S. President Donald Trump with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal on May 20. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Increasing Democrat disapproval for Saudi arms sale


After the Trump administration signed a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, Senate Democrats are expressing growing concern over the arms agreement before today’s expected vote of disapproval. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced S.J. Resolution 42 back in April to provide limitations on the transfer of air-ground munitions from US to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking from the Senate Subway on Wednesday, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told Jewish Insider, that he will be joining Murphy and Paul in disapproval of the agreement.  Referring to the ongoing Saudi military campaign in Yemen, Van Hollen noted, “I believe that the sale of those weapons will simply prolong humanitarian crisis rather than resolve it.”

Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-MD) also announced that he will be backing the S.J. Resolution 42. “I have not been able to get satisfactory explanations from our administration in how they are monitoring the human rights issues in regards to the Saudis as well as their long term plans in arming the Middle East. This is part of a long range of arm sale,” Cardin told Jewish Insider.

Despite not directly impacting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, J Street has come out strongly against the weapons agreement. “Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a bombing campaign in Yemen that has cost thousands of civilian lives. And it’s not simply a matter of collateral damage: UN experts say some of the worst civilian death tolls have occurred during strikes with no legitimate military target,” J Street emphasized in a statement.

For different reasons, AIPAC has also urged caution regarding the Trump administration’s deal. Calling on Members of Congress to scrutinize the deal, AIPAC says the “sale could dwarf Israel’s defense spending over the same period, including the $38 billion in pledged US security assistance.” The pro-Israel lobby expressed concern that the agreement could hurt Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

On the Republican side, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), one of the party’s most passionate advocates for human rights in the Middle East, explained that he would not be joining with Paul and Murphy on the resolution of disapproval. The Arizona lawmaker told Jewish Insider, “It’s important for our National Security as we see the Iranians killing Americans and an Iranian (campaign) in Yemen killing innocent men, women and children. I believe the best way to bring about progress is to continue the pressure that I have been exerting upon them for years.”

While explaining that he would back the Saudi Arabian Arms deal, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) stressed, “I hope it will be carefully monitored.” Noting the massive civilian casualties in Yemen, Rubio added, “If they (Saudi Arabia) continue to use it in that manner, we’re going to have a big problem with it. I have a huge problem with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. But, the pragmatism of the region is one of the considerations.”

However, for many Democrats realpolitik is not a convincing enough reason to support a massive arms deal to Saudi Arabia. “Selling the Saudis precision-guided munitions that are going to be used to target civilians makes us complicit in this humanitarian and national security disaster. Saudi Arabia needs to see that there will be consequences if they ignore U.S. demands and target civilian infrastructure,” Murphy explained.

Republican Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have all co-signed the resolution among others. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) noted that he is “inclined to support” the resolution. While it appears that Murphy and Paul’s resolution will likely be defeated given the overwhelming Republican backing, the growing support among influential Democrats for limiting arms sales to a major US ally signals a changing policy towards Saudi Arabia and an increasing willingness of Senate Democrats to invoke human rights concerns in critical foreign policy decisions.

FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on May 3. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

James Comey, fired by Trump and reviled by Democrats, had admirers among Jewish security officials


“You make us better,” James Comey told the Anti-Defamation League in his final public speech as FBI director.

Judging from the applause in the conference room at the venerable Mayflower Hotel here, the feeling was mutual.

Mired in investigations of the scandals of 2016 (Hillary Clinton’s relationship with her email server) and 2017 (Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia), not a lot of love ended up being lost between the FBI director and either party.

Democrats called for Comey’s firing last year when a week and a half before the election he reopened the Clinton case because of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner in an unrelated case.

President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised the FBI director as a candidate, fired Comey on Tuesday, ostensibly because Comey treated Clinton unfairly last July — he excoriated her for her email habits in a news conference, but recommended against legal action.

The firing was drawing attention for its timing: Comey is delving into ties between the Trump campaign and transition officials who may have had ties to Russia.

Among the folks whose business it is to keep Jews safe – like those gathered Monday in the Mayflower for the ADL’s leadership summit – admiration for Comey was fairly unequivocal. To a degree greater than most of his predecessors, he made the Jewish story central to the FBI mission.

Comey required all FBI staffers to undergo a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Good people helped to murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all,” he told a museum dinner in 2015. “That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.”

Comey, already known as a persuasive speaker, was especially adept at understanding what moved Jewish Americans. In his ADL speech this week, he recalled meeting a man who was not far from the scene when a gunman opened fire last June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“My name is Menachem Green and I’m Jewish,” Comey quoted the man as saying, pronouncing Menachem impeccably, and went on to say that Green was pleased to tell him that he ran toward the shooting alongside a police officer he learned was a Muslim.

“We were Jew and Muslim and Christian and white and black and Latino running to help people we didn’t know,” Comey recalled Green saying.

Comey also noted the “Muslim activists who raised over $100,000 to repair Jewish headstones in St. Louis and Philadelphia – that makes us better.”

The now former FBI chief also embraced one of the ADL’s signature issues, improving reporting of hate crimes by local authorities.

“We must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country so we can stop it,” he said.

Just a week earlier, Comey was due to receive a recognition award from the Secure Community Network, the security affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, said Comey was to be recognized for his work with the community in tracking down the perpetrator of dozens of bomb hoaxes on JCCs and other Jewish institutions.

“Director Comey put in extraordinary resources and showed tremendous commitment to the American Jewish community,” Goldenberg said, noting that the FBI had deployed agents to Jewish communities across the states.

Comey could not personally accept the recognition, and SCN delivered it to a surrogate, because Comey was on the Hill testifying to the Senate about how he handled the email and Russia scandals.

In his testimony, he noted one of the FBI triumphs of recent months as a defense of the agency – helping to solve the JCC bomb threats.

“Children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at Jewish institutions, especially the Jewish community centers — the entire FBI surged in response to that threat,” Comey said in his opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

“Working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards, using our vital international presence and using our partnerships especially with the Israeli national police, we made that case and the Israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped the terrifying plague against the Jewish community centers,” Comey said.

Comey may be gone, but the shock among Democrats – and some congressional Republicans — at his departure means his memory is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

“We must have a special prosecutor,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, said in a statement delivered at a briefing for reporters late Tuesday. Schumer said he told Trump in a phone call that firing Comey was a “very big mistake.”

Trump fired back on Twitter, recalling that Schumer had said recently that he did not have confidence in Comey.

“Then acts so indignant,” Trump said, calling the New York lawmaker “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is also probing the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, said there was no contradiction between being appalled at Comey’s handling of the Clinton case and at his firing.

Schiff noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation because he had met with a Russian diplomat during the transition, had signed off on the firing.

“The decision by a president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” he said.

Dating 101: Fingers Crossed


I have been quietly dating a lovely man for a few months. He is a wonderful father, grandfather, and son. He is kind, smart, funny, generous, gentle, and respectful. He treats me with a tenderness I have never experienced in a relationship before. He extends the same respect to my son, which I appreciate and admire very much. We have a wonderful time together and I feel nervous, but content.

We don’t have a lot of things in common, and are politically on opposite sides of just about everything, but he allows me to have my opinion. He also allows me to spend a lot of time trying to change his opinion. He is open to change and growth and knowledge. I adore this man am quite certain that if I can get out of my own way, we will be important to each other in a lot of different ways.

I have had a series of complicated and difficult relationships, and while my relationship with George is complicated in some ways and difficult in others, it is also easy, calm, nurturing, and fun. We laugh at many things, including each other, and I feel blessed to have stumbled upon this man. He is unlike anyone I thought I would ever date, but has all the qualities I was looking for in a man.

It is new, exciting, comfortable, and connected. I don’t know where we will end up, but being on this road with him has brought me happiness. I have been writing about my dates and relationships for years, always being clear that I only date Jews and Democrats. I am now dating a man who is not a Democrat or a Jew, and I am counting my blessings.

Time will tell what we become to each other, but we are both happy and hopeful. It is strange to be dating a man who is not Jewish, but I am working through it. It is frustrating to date a man who is not a Democrat, but he is working through it. It is unusual to be dating a man who takes such good care of me, so I am crossing my fingers and keeping the faith.

Steve Bannon walking into the Oval Office after arriving back at the White House on Feb. 24. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Steve Bannon’s 25-year-old protege has a liberal bubbe


Julia Hahn, the onetime Breitbart firebrand who is now a special assistant to President Donald Trump and reports to Trump’s influential consigliere Stephen Bannon, is elusive.

Not in her opinions: She became known at Breitbart for policing any signs of moderation among leading Republicans. Her targets included House Speaker Paul Ryan (a “double agent” and “migration enthusiast”), and Marco Rubio, the Florida senator defeated by Trump in last year’s primaries (“one of the most ardent and successful champions of the donor-class’s open borders trade and immigration agenda”).

[Related: The Jewish education of Stephen Miller]

But she was hard to track down, and did not cooperate with profiles like this one in the New Yorker that were inevitable for an increasingly influential 25-year-old. Information came from classmates at L.A. prep school Harvard-Westlake and the University of Chicago, who described a kind friend they presumed was liberal, in part because she’s a Jewish woman from California.

Thursday’s Washington Post scored a breakthrough interview with a somewhat closer source: Hahn’s Jewish grandmother, Lynn Honickman, a contributor to Jewish and Israeli causes — and the Democratic Party.

Honickman, like anyone’s bubbe whose confidence you gain sitting next to her at the seder, is loving — but also a little blunt.

“She really is the type to listen to other arguments, to learn from the people around her,” Honickman told the Post. “I think she took advantage of something she saw and is doing the best she knows how.”

But does she really buy into an ideology so alien to her grandmother’s?

“What she feels in this particular moment, could be different three days from now,” Honickman said.

You can almost see the barely perceptible shrug and the slightly cocked eyebrow.

President Donald Trump. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

‘He’s not all bad’: A Democrat defends Trump


Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, I’ve been trying to decipher the indecipherable psyche of The Trump Voter.

I want to understand how a person of conscience could have voted for him and how such a person would defend the actions of his office. 

So I did a little research project by calling my Uncle Rich, a 76-year-old cardiologist and Trump supporter. As far as I know, he’s sane, rational and verifiably humane since he’s spent the last 47 years saving people’s lives.

Uncle Rich and I have been arguing about politics since I was 15. Last week, he emailed me an article about Trump doubling down against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations under the subject line: “He’s not all bad.” I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and invited him to argue with me a little more — if not for the sake of heaven, then at least for the sake of my column.

First, I asked why on earth he’s a Republican.

“I am a registered Democrat and have been since I was 21,” he declared.

“I have voted both ways. I’m a great believer that America comes first and the parties come second. So, I’m open-minded to any candidate — Republican, Democrat, Black, white, Jewish, woman, etc.”

I asked him to describe his paramount political values, but he said they change with each election cycle. In 2016, his top concerns were: terrorism, the economy and health care.

“In the beginning, I was a little bit ambivalent about [Trump],” he admitted. “But as time went on, I began to see that he was serious. And he was willing to step out of an unbelievably successful business and into a job that I don’t know if I envy. I began to say, ‘Wow.’

“I felt this was a man who really recognized the problem of terrorism. I liked that he was vigorous and emphatic on the necessity of vetting people, particularly from certain areas. You know, profiling is a term I think gets a bum rap.”

This is only one area where Uncle Rich and I part ways. To me, profiling is a form of legalized discrimination that contributes in no small part to the mass incarceration of people of color and the poor.

“I profile in medicine,” he said. “If I see a person of a certain background, I’ll order certain tests based on their background. To say there aren’t certain groups of people who are more likely to be terrorists, that’s foolish. We need to be exquisitely careful in order to avoid a situation of tremendous, tremendous terror …

“As far as [economics], the man is a financial success.”

Never mind his bankruptcies? Or his record of failing to pay employees what he owed them?

“I’m a businessman myself. When I started in medicine, we were told not to be businessmen. We were told, ‘You’re a doctor, and you’ll work for oranges and grapefruits,’ which I would have. We were discouraged from negotiating with a hospital, for example. ‘Just take the job.’ [Trump] is a negotiator, and I became a negotiator.”

If Trump was such a negotiating wizard, I asked, what about his signature failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare?

“Health care is an extremely complicated issue. At the end of the day, I think Republicans and Democrats want the same things: quality care, access and preventative medicine. Obamacare had great ideas — who could argue with what I just said? The problem is cost. This is a business problem.”

I argue it’s also a moral problem. Part of the reason the legislation failed is because its underlining interests were providing tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating vital health care services for the nation’s most vulnerable: the old and the poor.

“I don’t think Mr. Trump wants a program where someone who is 64 can afford health care and someone who is 65 can’t. What makes America great is that we have the ability to create a system with some equality. Certainly, you’re going to have concierge medicine the way you can have a Mercedes or you can have a Chevy — but a Chevy is a good car!”

Then why don’t more rich people drive Chevys?

Still, I countered, the Great Negotiator failed to unify his party and pass his first major piece of legislation.

“You want to feel good about the fact that you were right? Come on! He’s been in office for three months. If you tell me three years from now that he’s failed in all his legislation, I’ll say, ‘You know, you’re right, I made a mistake.’ But not three months in.”

Well, what about Trump’s Russia ties? Should he get a pass on that, too?

“I’m not bothered yet because I come from a school of medicine where you have to deal with results. If we find out that Trump did things undercover with the Russians, then I’m gonna be upset about it. But I’m not gonna get caught up in the rumor mill. This stuff is still unsettled.”

It’s clear that where I see moral and legal transgression, my uncle sees a man who hasn’t yet hit his stride. Surely, though, he wouldn’t defend the terrible things Trump has said maligning women, immigrants and Muslims.

“He’s sometimes quick to speak,” Uncle Rich allowed. “He’s a hand-to-mouth guy, and sometimes what he says doesn’t go completely to his brain.

“What I was thinking when that was going on was: If we lived in a dictatorship, I would have been much more worried about Donald Trump than I am in the system we are in, which is a checks-and-balances system. Because a man who sometimes speaks like that may try to act like that.” 

Finally, Uncle Rich, we agree.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Like kryptonite to campaign finance reform


When Hillary Clinton lost the Electoral College, most post-mortems faulted Democrats for failing to empathize with the anger and abandonment that non-coastal Americans were feeling. But last week, when Donald Trump sucked up to the (previously dishonest, subsequently gem-like) New York Times, “>ethics lawyer charged with telling Trump when there’s a conflict of interest, or the appearance of one, between carrying out his oath of office and jacking up his family’s wealth. When might that be? Don’t hold your breath.

McGahn’s “>ensured that the Court’s rulings for Citizens United and against the McCain-Feingold reforms would gut the regulation of money in politics, thereby paving the way for super PACs and for bogus “social welfare” nonprofits like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. When a Washington lawyer “>commented, “He was consequential like a sledgehammer was consequential. He did his best to undermine the law.” Since his tenure at the F.E.C., according to “>lead story in Sunday’s New York Times – “World of Potential Conflict for a Developer President: Many Trump Partners Have Ties to Foreign Governments as Work Spans the Globe” – you know how thick Trump’s business ties are to the governments of the Philippines, Brazil, India, Turkey, Ireland and Scotland, to name a few. If a U.S. foreign policy decision appears to favor a Trump commercial project, it’s McGhan’s job to blow the whistle on the president. If you think that’s going to happen, I’ve got a golf course with a nice view of a wind farm that I’d like to sell you.

Eight out of 10 Americans martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Why are some of Donald Trump’s ‘worst’ tweets sent on Jewish holidays?


After the shooting death of Dwyane Wade’s cousin in August, Donald Trump tweeted, “Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

The previous month, he posted to Twitter a six-pointed star containing the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” stamped on an image of Hillary Clinton and hundred-dollar bills.

A few weeks before that, the Republican presidential nominee responded to the Orlando nightclub massacre with a tweet saying, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

These tweets have more in common than just being ill-advised. They were also all blasted into the public discourse on Jewish holidays: Shabbat, Shabbat and Shavuot, respectively. And they suggest to at least one friend of Trump’s family that when the Republican candidate’s Orthodox Jewish daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are off observing the holy days, Trump loses two of his most important filters.

In her profile of Ivanka Trump published Wednesday in the Huffington Post Highline magazine, Hannah Seligson credits the theory to an anonymous friend of the would-be first daughter and her husband. (Seligson’s list also includes the example of a Shabbat tweet of an image of Donald Trump as a train, a meme “tangentially” associated with the white supremacist alt-right movement.)

According to Seligson, the friend’s observation was that “some of Donald’s worst tweets of the campaign” came on Jewish holidays when Ivanka Trump and Kushner were “off the grid.” The couple observes the rabbinic laws that proscribe work or the use of electronic devices, among other things, on Shabbat, Shavuot and other holidays.

“It could be a big problem if the people who make our president not crazy aren’t available one day a week,” the friend told Seligson.

Of course, Trump has sparked outrage on days with no special Jewish significance. This summer alone, he has said gun rights supporters could take action if Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is elected; called President Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS”; suggested the mother of a Muslim-American soldier killed in action was not  “allowed” to speak at the Democratic National Convention, and accused a “Mexican” federal judge of being biased by his background.

Amid public outcry, Trump went on to tweet about all these subjects, in some cases repeatedly. But the controversies didn’t start on Twitter.

If the theory about Jewish holidays is true, then, Ivanka Trump and her husband are most effective at reining in Donald Trump specifically before he gets himself into Twitter trouble. Ivanka Trump “is extremely scared of her father, like everyone else,” an anonymous Trump adviser tells Seligson. “She knows you can’t push him. She knows once he goes off on these things, he won’t back down.”

Kushner, a real estate tycoon in his own right, is “deferential” to Donald Trump too, according to Seligson.

Trump is a prolific tweeter, lobbing thousands of insults at at least 258 different targets on the social network, according to The New York Times’s politics blog, The Upshot.

And tweets he made before the campaign — before, one supposes, Ivanka Trump and Kushner would have started weighing in — have since come back to haunt him.

As Clinton pointed out in her July foreign policy speech cum Trump takedown, her rival tweeted in 2012 that the Chinese invented global warming.

In April 2013, Trump criticized Jon Stewart in a tweet, referring to “The Daily Show”  host by his given name, Jonathan Leibowitz. Many observers took that as an anti-Semitic put-down.

And on Wednesday night, Trump was on the defensive during a candidates forum over a tweet he posted in May 2013, suggesting that military rape is the inevitable consequence of putting “men & women together.”

For what’s its worth, all three tweets went out on a weekday.

Trump, Clinton campaigns redouble on tough Iran posture after report of exemptions


The Trump and Clinton campaigns issued tough-on-Iran statements in the wake of a report that alleges that negotiators allowed Iran secret loopholes in the nuclear agreement.

The Institute for Science and International Affairs, a think tank founded by a former United Nations nuclear weapons inspector, David Albright, said in a report released this week that Iran complied with most of the sanctions relief for the nuclear rollback deal when it was implemented in January, but it said, citing anonymous sources, that there were a number of exemptions.

The Obama administration strongly denied the thrust of the report, saying the deal was being implemented according to the letter. Parties to the deal were Iran, the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia.

The campaign of Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, pounced on Thursday, taking a shot at Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, who as secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s first term helped set the stage for the deal.

“The deeply flawed nuclear deal Hillary Clinton secretly spearheaded with Iran looks worse and worse by the day,” said a statement by the campaign attributed to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now advising Trump.

“It’s now clear President Obama gave away the store to secure a weak agreement that is full of loopholes, never ultimately blocks Iran from nuclear weapons, emboldens our enemies and funds terrorism,” he said.

Republicans have strongly opposed the deal. A number of candidates during the GOP presidential primaries pledged to trash it, but Trump, while decrying it as a giveaway, has said he would first consult with his national security advisers should he be elected president.

Clinton has in subtle ways sought to differentiate herself from the deal’s outcome, praising the deal, but suggesting she would be more vigilant in keeping Iran on track.

In a statement sent to JTA, Clinton’s campaign did not address the report co-written by Albright directly, but called for reauthorization of sanctions and sounded a tough note about how she would oversee its implementation.

“Hillary Clinton supports a clean reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act and believes Congress should get this done in short order when they return from recess,” said her spokesman, Jesse Lehrich. “And as president, she will also continue to enforce, and strengthen as necessary, sanctions on Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile activity.”

The Obama administration says it does not need a reauthorization of sanctions first passed in the 1990s and enhanced over the years, in order to force compliance, but would not oppose a reauthorization. Many – but not all – of the sanctions have been waived as part of the deal.

Democrats in Congress favor a “clean” reauthorization that they say would allow any future president to quickly “snap back” sanctions, while Republicans want to add new provisions to address Iranian misbehavior not addressed by the deal, including backing for terrorism and activities in other countries.

Democrats and Clinton oppose the Republican proposals, saying they are stealth maneuvers to undercut the deal.

“She has always made clear that while the historic deal passed last year represents a crucial step forward toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, we must proceed with a ‘distrust and verify’ approach,” Lehrich said of Clinton. “Maintaining the infrastructure to immediately snap back sanctions if Iran violates the terms of the deal is essential. Congress should put partisanship aside and send the president a clean ISA reauthorization bill for his signature.”

Citing a single anonymous “knowledgeable” government source, the report — first covered in the general media by Reuters – said the joint commission administering the deal allowed Iran to keep more than the prescribed amount of low enriched uranium. The joint commission comprises representatives of Iran, the six major powers and the European Union.

Under the deal, Iran is allowed to keep up to 300 kilograms of low enriched uranium, an amount too small to be turned into material sufficient to make a bomb. The report did not say how much uranium more than the 300 kilograms Iran was allegedly allowed to keep.

The report said also that the joint commission allowed Iran to continue to operate 19 “hot cells,” protected enrichment devices, that were larger than the six cubic meters prescribed by the deal. The deal allows Iran to keep the smaller hot cells to continue plutonium enrichment for medical purposes. The report said the larger hot cells “can be misused for secret, mostly small-scale plutonium separation.” It also noted that Iran under the deal was permitted to maintain the larger hot cells with the approval of the joint commission.

The report also noted that the joint commission allowed Iran to export a larger amount of heavy water than agreed under the deal, although this was previously reported. The report cited a “senior knowledgeable official” as saying that the exemptions were granted because Iran was not yet in full compliance by implementation day, Jan. 16 of this year.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it was “troubled” by Albright’s report. “If the report is accurate, this unwarranted leniency sets a dangerous precedent concerning adherence to the agreement,” it said in a statement. “No further concessions should be granted to Iran, and complete transparency related to the deal’s implementation must be provided.”

The Obama administration, in its responses, said that there were no shortcuts. The major powers “didn’t allow Iran any shortcuts implementing @TheIranDeal, and Iran’s commitments have not changed,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, said in a tweet.

John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, speaking Thursday to reporters, said that the parameters of the deal had not changed, but that the joint commission was empowered to “address implementation issues when they arise.” He noted that the workings of the joint commission were confidential.

Clinton: Trump has helped mainstream racism and anti-Semitism


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday attacked Donald Trump for turning a blind eye on his white nationalist and anti-Semitic supporters and for spreading some of their messages on social media.

“This is someone who retweets white supremacists online,” Clinton charged in a campaign speech in Nevada. “His campaign famously posted an anti-Semitic image – a Star of David imposed over a sea of dollar bills – that first appeared on a white supremacist website.”

Clinton also brought up Trump’s tepid rejection of David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and late condemnation under mounting pressure, to make a point that he’s been too slow in condemning anti-Semitism in order to appeal to the alt-right (Alternative Right) movement.

“From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia,” Clinton said. “He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties… Of course, there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”

“He says he wants to ‘Make America great again,’ but his real message remains ‘Make America hate again,'” she added.

Trump preempted the speech by “>compared Trump’s campaign to George Wallace’s run for president in the 1960′s as a similar example of “racism being inserted into the public conversation in a presidential election.”

“I’m not saying that Donald Trump is a racist or anti-Semite but the racists and anti-Semites have come out of the woodwork during this political season to support him,” Greenblatt told CNN in June.

Trump released a laconic statement in May, saying, “Anti-Semitism has no place our society, which needs to be united, not divided.” He followed up with an unequivocal rejection of bigotry and hate in recent campaign appearances.

Clinton camp: No plans for Israel trip


Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is not planning to travel to Israel during the campaign, ABC News  “Don’t get any hopes up for a photo-op of Hillary Clinton at the Western Wall in Jerusalem,” ABC reported, based on conversations with the Clinton campaign.

“To date our assessment has been that it just does not ever make sense to do that given the amount of experience she has on an international stage and in international security,” Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri told ABC News. “So, if we had more time, it might be something that we would do. But at this point they haven’t found it to be worth how much time we would lose here.”

Instead, the campaign is exploring the idea of sending vice presidential candidate or former President Bill Clinton on Hillary’s behalf.

In her AIPAC speech in March, the Democratic nominee  The Clinton campaign did not respond to several requests for confirmation.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has so far said that he has no plan to travel to Israel before November. “I don’t know. I don’t know,” Trump told reporters last month when asked if he’s planning to travel to Israel after canceling a planned trip last December. “I haven’t set my schedule yet. It could happen.”

A recent  Netanyahu is  President Barack Obama — in 2008 — and Mitt Romney in 2012, traveled to Israel during the presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton’s rise reminds of voices from the past


My freethinking French grandmother, having raised herself during the first world war while her parents were away serving the nation, believed wholeheartedly in the value of financial and professional independence for a woman. When she met my grandfather in the early 1930s in Paris, she was the rare, beautiful, young girl whose ambition transcended a good marriage and a solid family. She had what she believed was a great career for a woman — that of a secretary in a business office. For this, she had turned down many a proposal from local men, and she would have kept turning them down because she loved her job so much. If she married my grandfather, stopped working and followed him to Iran, she once said, it was to go on an adventure even greater than what she was already living. 

She had her adventure, bore and raised great children, but she paid for it with her — very precious — independence.  

My tall and dulcet-voiced great aunt, the prettiest of her parents’ 10 children and the smartest kid in her school, grew up dreaming of attending college. Aware of the impossibility of such an exploit in a family where marriage and motherhood were the priority, she tailored her ambition to completing high school. She got her diploma, and even worked for a few months as a schoolteacher. Then she succumbed to the general consternation that, at 18 years of age, she was quickly becoming unmarriageable, and agreed to marry one of her suitors. 

She narrowly escaped spinsterhood, bore and raised fine, successful children, but she paid for it with her life’s dream.  

I could go on, tell a thousand tales of able and ambitious women who would have liked to have had it all, realized or decided that it wasn’t possible, and chose marriage and family. You could say they were creatures of their own time and place, victims of societal mandates. Or you could say they were fulfilling their first and most important role. I do believe they were lucky to have children; lucky, too, to be able to raise them. I know there are millions of women with crushing jobs or vaunted careers who would gladly trade places with at-home mothers and wives. I know there are mothers who teach their daughters to avoid working as much as possible, because “work makes you old and makes your husband take a mistress.”

But I also know that regret, that perpetual sense of loss, that view of themselves as something less — less than women with higher education, financial independence, greater ambition; less than what they could have been had they not had to choose — has scarred so many women of my mother and grandmother’s generations. I know it because I saw it all around me as I was growing up, see it even now, especially now — now that the rules have changed and women are able to do, or at least want, it all. I see it in women who describe themselves as “just a housewife,” and who say, guilelessly, “I haven’t amounted to much” when taking stock of their lives. I see it in the awe and admiration they hold for powerful, professional women, in the deference they show these women.

And I know the longing, too — of young girls who are not allowed to go to school at all, who are given away in marriage when they should be playing with dolls, who become mothers when they should be starting middle school. 

“I was 15 years old when I had my first child,” an Iranian woman once told me. “Twenty years later, when I sent my youngest to kindergarten, I was already too old.”

I believe it was their regret, the sorrow I perceived in the women around me when I was a child, that later drove me to write. I remember looking at them when they gathered in someone’s kitchen or family room to talk about their husbands and children — looking at them and thinking about how sad they must be to have given up one dream for another, how strong they had to be to carry that sadness around for a lifetime. 

How strange, I thought, to be trapped and imprisoned in an existence you willingly chose; to be caged by the people you love most; to have a will that’s stanched by the yard walls around your home, a voice that carries no farther than the room you sit in. 

I think it was their voicelessness that drove me to tell these women’s stories; that has compelled me to say what I believe to be true despite some societal disapprobation; that has prompted me to denounce bias and injustice where I found them. 

It’s that voicelessness that makes me understand and appreciate the significance of what happened in this country last week: Hillary Clinton speaking at the Democratic convention to accept her nomination as the party’s candidate. Hillary, who was introduced by her daughter, Chelsea, praised earlier by her husband, Bill. Hillary who had the ambition, the gumption, the skill and confidence to be both a mother and a lawyer, a senator, a serious contender for the presidency. 

It’s not only that she’s a woman or a Democrat. To me, Hillary Clinton is a revelation because she has both the brain and the heart of a warrior. You can say a lot of things about her, and you’d probably be right about many of them, but you can’t say she isn’t the smartest person in a room full of smart people. You can’t say she hasn’t worked a lifetime to get to where she is, that she woke up one day and decided she wanted to be president, or that she draws her popularity from being just as ignorant and ill-informed as the people who vote for her. 

That quality so many people dislike her for, the so-called character flaw that was identified as “too much ambition” when her husband was president, was renamed “opportunism” when she ran for the Senate, and is now called “dishonesty.” That trait, I believe, is best defined as “having the guts and the goods to die without too many regrets.” 

I don’t care what your politics are or whom you’re going to vote for this November. For those of us who still hear the silence of so many women in our own lives, Hillary’s words, her presence on that stage, salved a wound that has, for too long, remained open.


Gina Nahai’s most recent novel is “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.”

In speech of her life, Clinton promises a ‘clear-eyed’ vision


Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Thursday Americans faced challenges at home and abroad that demand steady leadership and a collective spirit, and attacked Republican Donald Trump for sowing fear and divisiveness.

In the biggest speech of her more than 25-year-old career in the public eye, Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination for the Nov. 8 election with a promise to make the United States a country that worked for everyone.

“We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid,” she said.

She presented a sharply more upbeat view of the country than the dark vision Trump offered at last week's Republican convention, and even turned one of Republican hero Ronald Reagan's signature phrases against the real estate developer.

“He's taken the Republican Party a long way, from 'Morning in America' to 'Midnight in America,'” Clinton said. “He wants to divide us – from the rest of the world, and from each other. He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise.”

The speech was Clinton's turn in the spotlight after three days of electrifying appearances by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama, and Clinton acknowledged that some people still do not know her well.

“I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me. So let me tell you. The family I'm from, well no one had their name on big buildings,” Clinton said in a reference to Trump. She said her family were builders of a better life and a better future for their children, using whatever tools they had and “whatever God gave them.”

As she prepared to deliver her speech, people familiar with the matter said the FBI is investigating a cyber attack against another Democratic Party group, which may be related to an earlier hack against the Democratic National Committee.

The previously unreported incident at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, and its potential ties to Russian hackers, are likely to heighten accusations, so far unproven, that Moscow is trying to meddle in the U.S. election to help Trump.

Clinton said it would be her “primary mission” to create more opportunities and more good jobs with rising wages, and to confront stark choices in battling determined enemies and “threats and turbulence” around the world and at home.

“America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying,” said Clinton, a former secretary of state. “No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance – looking for steady leadership.”

Clinton, who is vying to be the first woman elected U.S. president, called her nomination “a milestone” and said she was happy for grandmothers and little girls and “everyone in between.”

“When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone,” the 68-year-old Clinton said in a speech that capped the four-day nominating convention.

Trump, a 70-year-old reality TV show host who has never held political office, is running just ahead of Clinton in a RealClearPolitics average of recent national opinion polls. They both garner high “unpopularity” ratings.

At a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump said he was being criticized at the Democratic convention by people who had been friendly to him before.

“I think we'll stay here all night because I don't really want to go home and watch that crap,” he said.

Inside the arena, it sounded at times more like a traditional Republican convention than a Democratic one. During retired General John Allen's remarks, chants of “USA!” filled the hall and large flags were brought in to be waved. Speakers, some of whom included military and police officers, made frequent mentions of religion and patriotism.

“I certainly know that with her as our commander-in-chief, our foreign relations will not be reduced to a business transaction, I also know that our armed forces will not become an instrument of torture,” said Allen.

Trump has portrayed the country as being under siege from illegal immigrants, crime and terrorism and as losing influence in the world. He has proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and a wall along the border with Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.

Khizr Kahn, a Muslim whose son was one of 14 Muslims killed while serving in the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, drew cheers when he pulled out a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and said he wanted to show it to Trump.

“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son the best of America. If it was up to Donald Trump he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims,” he said.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio called Trump a hypocrite who talked about opposing free trade deals to protect American workers but had the products sold by his companies made overseas.

“Now I've been fighting for a trade agenda for more than 20 years that puts American workers first and I can tell you that in all those years I've never ever seen Donald Trump,” said Brown, one of the most liberal members of the Senate.

“The only thing I've seen Donald Trump do when it comes to U.S. trade policy is run his mouth and line his pockets,” Brown said.

Bernie Sanders booed for urging delegates to support Hillary Clinton


Delegates for Bernie Sanders booed the one-time presidential candidate for telling them to support the presumptive Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

In a speech to supporters Monday ahead of the Democratic National Convention, Sanders thanked them for helping create a “political revolution” and advance progressive causes. And despite the selection of a centrist vice president, and recent leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showing favoritism toward Clinton during the primary process, Sanders told supporters that electing Clinton and Kaine was the only way to defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump,” he said. “And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in. Trump is a bully and a demagogue. Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

Delegates in response booed and shouted “no.” Norman Solomon, coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial group, said that delegates may protest the convention speeches by Kaine and Clinton this week regardless of what Sanders asks.

“Change that’s worth a damn always comes from the bottom up, not from the top,” Solomon said at a news conference Monday morning. “He’s not running the show. He’s not running the social movement.”

Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, did not explicitly refer in his speech to email leaks revealed over the weekend that showed DNC staffers discussing possible ways to undermine his campaign, though he did praise the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He spent the bulk of the speech restating the main points of his campaign and lauding his supporters.

“As I think all of you know, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned yesterday as chair of the DNC,” he said to cheers. “Her resignation opens up the possibility of new leadership at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people and that will open the doors of the party to those people who want real change.”

Reality ‘Trumps’ preference for much of Republican Jewish Coalition


Joel Geiderman’s view of a potential Donald Trump presidency has shifted since March.

Two months ago, in an op-ed in these pages, Geiderman — the California chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and co-chair of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Emergency Department — wrote, “I would Dump Trump. If it came down to the choice between Hillary Clinton (another terribly flawed candidate) and him, I would either not vote at all or support a third-party conservative candidate, if that were an option.”

But last week, in an email to the Jewish Journal, Geiderman wrote that he was “encouraged but not yet convinced” by developments since March. Geiderman said Trump has “moderated his speech,” “made peace with some of the people he offended” and acted more “presidential.”

And Clinton, he said, has “moved further to the left, from offering free college for all, single-payer health care, to attacking Wall Street and banks.” 

“To be honest, for me, the balance has been tilted,” Geiderman said, and without saying outright that he plans to vote for Trump in November, he indicated he’s in a place similar to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican said early this month that he’s “just not ready” to endorse Trump, but has since met with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and wants the “party unified so that we are full strength in the fall.”

Is Geiderman’s movement in the past nine weeks representative of a shift among conservatives once-steadfast members of the #NeverTrump crowd? Or are most Republicans, regardless of who they supported in the primaries, already rallying behind their party’s presumptive nominee simply because, well, he’s not Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

“As this race materializes, and as we move through this process, and you really get people focused on a binary choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think you’ll see a lot of the folks who have heretofore been critical coming around,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, said in an interview.

After Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended his campaign on May 4 — one day after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his — the RJC released a statement congratulating Trump, but that was not so much an endorsement of him as it was a comment on the prospects of a Clinton presidency, which the RJC said would “compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel.”

In December, Trump generated controversy when he spoke at an RJC forum in Washington, D.C., comparing the many businesspeople in the room to him, specifically in regards to negotiation skills. “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room?” Trump said, evoking what critics said was a classical Jewish stereotype. “This room negotiates them, perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.” 

He also said, “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians. That’s fine.”

RJC spokesman Mark McNulty rejected criticisms that Trump’s comments were anti-Semitic. The Anti-Defamation League, which has been highly critical of some of Trump’s comments during his campaign, also did not believe his remarks to the RJC were anti-Semitic.

In February, Trump was strongly criticized by many Israel supporters when he said he would try to be “neutral” between the Israelis and Palestinians. But the presumed Republican nominee has since taken a decidedly pro-Israel tack, particularly during his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference in March, which many Jewish Republicans were pleased with.

“His speech at AIPAC was terrific,” Geiderman said. “He would probably be very good for Israel. The person I have concerns about is Mrs. Clinton.” Geiderman specifically criticized the former secretary of state’s support for President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and “her attempt to punish Israel for extending some settlements contiguous to existing settlements.”

For some, like Florida businessman and RJC board member Marc Goldman, however, support for Trump is stronger than just party default. “There’s more reasons to vote for Trump than he’s just not a Democrat. He’s not out of the government,” said Goldman, who initially supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “Anyone who’s been in business knows … whatever the product, service or what have you that you’re providing, if you’re not providing it in a way that is satisfactory to your customers, and profitable, then the inherent discipline is: You go out of business — so you’re living in reality.”

“I think he has a chance to be very good, and I think people are ready for someone who’s going to come in and break up some of that status quo,” said Dr. Richard Roberts, a prominent Republican donor in New Jersey, who also initially backed Walker. “Trump is now reaching out to experts in a lot of different areas, and that’s a big relief to know that he’s doing that.”

In mid-March, Roberts told Jewish Insider he was “dismayed” by a conference call he was invited to with top Republican donors in advance of the Florida primary. The group — which included Hewlett Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman, Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, and hedge fund manager and RJC board member Paul Singer — was coordinating an anti-Trump effort, which Roberts characterized as a “disingenuous” attempt to “deny the groundswell of grass-roots voters their overwhelming choice.”

The RJC’s May 4 statement also focused on maintaining Republican majorities in the House and Senate, which most conservatives, #NeverTrump ones included, believe is important whether or not Trump is on the top of the ticket.

“We will support the nominee of the Republican Party,” said Ronald Krongold, a Florida real estate developer who initially supported the candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Asked whether the RJC will put its focus on Senate and House races more than it did previous election cycles, he said, “I believe it will be the same as it is in any presidential year.”

Brooks declined to answer the same question, saying he doesn’t “want to telegraph to the Democrats our playbook.”

Singer, who supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, has said he will not back Trump or Clinton. Politico published a piece May 16 saying “plenty” of RJC board members, in addition to Singer, will not get involved in the presidential race and will instead focus on down-ballot races.

Geiderman, when asked whether he sees a #NeverTrump divide among Jewish Republicans, as there appears to be among conservative pundits, said, “There is no actual divide.”

In late April, at an RJC’s board meeting in Las Vegas, Geiderman said RJC members “expressed different opinions” and “engaged in thoughtful conversation.”

“But that was during the primaries,” he said. “In the end, I think most will work hard to elect the Republican candidate. It’s too important to hold onto the Supreme Court and the Senate.”

Geiderman, who is scheduled to be honored by the RJC on Sept. 25 at the Beverly Wilshire, said that after he penned his anti-Trump op-ed in March, he offered to step aside as honoree if his words would present a conflict. But he was encouraged to remain the honoree. “Republicans have a big tent and value a variety of opinions. No one retaliated against me or spoke out against me,” Geiderman said. 

“There is no party orthodoxy.”

Sanders returns to childhood home in Brooklyn


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Friday returned to the Brooklyn neighborhood he was brought up as a child, kicking off his New York weekend with campaign rally outside his childhood home on E. 26th street in Midwood.

“Thank you for coming out to my old neighborhood. I spent the first 18 years of my life in apartment 2C right here,” Sanders said standing on a stage outside 1525 East 26th street. “Right on this street, I spent thousands of hours playing punch ball.”

As Sanders gave his traditional stump speech, some local Jewish teenagers yelled, “We love you, Bernie,” as one of them waved a campaign poster with “Shabbat Shalom” scribbled on the top.

“>fired back at the Jewish senator’s critics, accusing them of distorting his comments. “As many people know, Sen. Sanders, as a young man, spent months in Israel and, in fact, has family living there now. There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” Sanders’ spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement. “The idea that Sen. Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion. Bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be easy. It would help if candidates’ positions on this issue are not distorted.”

The clarification wasn’t good enough for Assemblyman Hikind. After attempting to 

Polling shows Sanders, Clinton tied in high favorability among Jewish voters


Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have virtually the same high approval ratings among American Jews.

Gallup said in a March 24 article on its website that an aggregation of Jewish respondents to its daily polling showed Jewish voters favor Sanders, an Independent Vermont senator, at 61 percent favorable, and Clinton, a former secretary of state, at 60 percent.

Sanders’ unfavorable ratings are 30 percent and Clinton’s are 35 percent.

Among Republican presidential candidates, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich has higher favorable than unfavorable ratings among Jewish voters, 45 percent to 28 percent. Kasich is last among candidates with delegates accumulated in the primaries.

The GOP front-runner, Donald Trump, a real estate magnate, scores 72 percent unfavorable to 24 percent favorable, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 72 percent unfavorable to 20 percent favorable.

Gallup did not publish a margin of error, but said it had aggregated “a large sample of interviews” with Jewish respondents since January.

In the same article, Gallup said that among the general population, 24 percent agreed that the United States should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, 20 percent disagreed and 56 percent agreed that they “don’t know enough to have an opinion.”

That was based on polling from March 9 to 14. Gallup did not publish a margin of error, but generally its daily election polling has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

All three Republican presidential candidates have said they would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Separately, a poll by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding found that Jews and Muslims are more likely to identify as Democrats rather than Republicans.

The January poll by the institute, which assesses issues of concern to American Muslims, found that Muslims are 44 percent likely to declare as Democrats, 41 percent as Independents and just 6 percent as Republicans. Jews, the poll found, are 50 percent likely to declare as Democrats, 29 percent as Independent and 16 percent as Republicans.

Catholics are equally split among the three categories — 34 percent Democrats, 34 percent Republicans and 31 percent Independents — and Protestants identified as Republican at 47 percent, Democrat at 25 percent and Independent at 24 percent.

The poll’s margin of error was 7 points for Muslims and Jews. Its data for Catholics and Protestants appeared to be culled from other polls.

Sanders and Clinton back in L.A.: A tale of two audiences


The enthusiasm among Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ supporters appears able to weather any political storm.

The self-described socialist senator from Vermont brought his campaign to Los Angeles on March 23 following wins Tuesday in Idaho and Utah and a loss in Arizona. Sanders was greeted by thousands of supporters at the Wiltern Theatre in Koreatown, most of them young, who had lined up for hours, covering more than five blocks of sidewalk, hoping for tickets to hear him speak.

“We have a lot of momentum, and a lot of people who have been wanting this for a long time,” said Cristina Donastorg, a 25-year-old aerospace engineer standing near the front of the line. She had been waiting for nearly three hours. Donastorg said that if Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, she would vote for her rather than either Republican frontrunner Donald Trump or his main challenger, Sen. Ted Cruz, but would also be open to considering Ohio Gov. John Kasich, depending on how debates went.

Next to Donastorg was Aaron Reveles, 21, a UC Santa Barbara student. Reveles said he would vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party if Sanders loses, but said he still likes Sanders’ chances. “I feel like its gonna be neck-to-neck until the end,” Reveles said, raising his voice over the din of honking car horns of passing drivers expressing their support for Sanders.

The rally came a day after Sanders gained 43 delegates in Idaho and Utah and Clinton gained 44 in Arizona, pushing her count to 1,223 with 2,383 needed for the nomination. Sanders currently has 920 delegates, but the gap between him and Clinton is likely far larger than 303. There are also 712 superdelegates—unpledged Democratic party leaders—of whom 467 have declared support for Clinton, while only 26 have declared support for Sanders, which means Clinton may currently only be 693 delegates away from securing the nomination.

The day after Sanders’ rally, Clinton was in L.A. for multiple public appearances and fundraisers. She started with a roundtable discussion on homeland security at USC, and then spoke at a $2,700 per-person fundraiser in Santa Monica, taped an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and spoke at the Avalon Hollywood at an evening event alongside Estelle, Ben Harper and Russell Simmons.

At the USC roundtable, Clinton was joined by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti; the former Secretary of State addressed urban counter terrorism efforts and the importance of engaging Muslims in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the wake of the group’s recent bombings in Brussels that killed 31 people and wounded 300. Joining Clinton and Garcetti were Jim Featherstone, former general manager of L.A.’s Emergency Management Department and now general manager of the National Homeland Security Association; Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Joumana Silvan-Saba, a senior policy analyst for L.A.’s Human Relations Commission; and Brie Loskota, executive director for USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

“To defeat this transnational threat, we need to reinforce the alliances that have been core pillars of American power for decades,” Clinton said, likely referring to America’s anti-ISIS Arab allies, a note she mentioned in her counter terrorism speech Tuesday in Stanford. She also implicitly attacked Trump and Cruz, both of whom called for more vigorous law enforcement and national security monitoring of Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. “We need to rely on what actually works, not bluster that alienates our partners and doesn't make us any safer.”

The difference in Sanders’ and Clinton’s appeal among young Americans was evident at the two candidates’ L.A. appearances. At USC, approximately 100 students gathered outside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center to try to see Clinton as she left. And the event itself, which was limited to press and a handful of invited guests was formal, calm and largely uneventful.

The gathering for Sanders outside The Wiltern had the feel of a rally well before the actual rally even began, with vendors selling Bernie Sanders shirts, hats and pins; two women were arrested for disorderly conduct for walking around topless.

The rally also attracted some who were simply curious to hear Sanders in person. A man named Joseph, who did not want to give his last name in case his new employer isn’t a Sanders supporter, said he identifies as libertarian and had supported Republican presidential contender Rand Paul. Joseph said he graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan, school with mostly conservative students.

“At this point, I’m kind of undecided, because I’m not warming up to Trump very much, even though I’ve voted mostly Republican in the past,” Joseph said. “I’ve heard some Bernie things, but better to get it live.”

At the back of the line, with little hope of being admitted inside, Amy Phan, 30, said she was “just here for the camaraderie.” She said that earlier in the day she had been thinking about who she’d vote for if Sanders is not the nominee, as appears increasingly likely.

“I was thinking whether or not I would even wanna vote at that point, even if it were her [Clinton] and Trump,” Phan said. “I don’t wanna see Trump, obviously, but it would be so sad that I would have to give up my vote to her.”

Behind her, Carlyn Blount, also 30, was clutching her purse and a copy of George Orwell’s anti-communist dystopian novel, “Animal Farm,” which she said she was looking forward to reading for the first time.

“I’m still trying to keep optimistic. It’s still possible,” Blount said about Sanders’ chances, adding that she would vote for Clinton if she’s the nominee. “I don’t think she’s as sincere, but she’s so much less evil than Trump.”

Hillary Clinton invited to speak at Golda Meir exhibition


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has landed a possible speaking role at a local New Jersey conference, which will feature a special photographic exhibition about the life of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir after she expressed her admiration of Meir during her address at AIPAC’s annual policy conference on Monday.

Limmud FSU officials confirmed that they have invited Hillary Clinton to be an honorary speaker at its New York area conference, April 1-3, following her remarks at AIPAC.

During her speech at AIPAC, Clinton – aspiring to become the first female U.S. president – recalled, “Some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, who led the Israeli government decades ago and wonder what’s taking us so long here in America.”

The Limmud FSU photo exhibition, “Where are all the women leaders? A tribute to Golda Meir,” will celebrate Meir as history’s only woman Mideast leader and will be followed by a special panel discussing the scarcity of women political leaders and its impact.

Limmud FSU New York is a volunteer-driven and pluralistic Jewish festival of culture, creativity.

Jeffrey Goldberg recently 

Bernie Sanders trounces Hillary Clinton in overseas primary


American Democrats living abroad — including in Israel — overwhelmingly preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in a primary for expatriates.

Democrats Abroad, the official Democratic Party arm for American expats, announced Monday that Sanders, I-Vt., received 69 percent of the vote in its primary to 31 percent for Clinton, the former secretary of state and U.S. senator. As a result, Sanders picked up nine pledged delegates, while Clinton earned four delegates.

The 34,570 voters participating in the primary — conducted by fax, email and postal mail — live in more than 170 countries around the world.

Among the 412 voters from Israel, Sanders, who is Jewish, received 249 votes and Clinton 160.

The only expats who favored Clinton over Sanders were those living in the Dominican Republic (350 votes to 53), Nigeria (4-1) and Singapore (149-107). Sanders enjoyed huge margins among the expats in Japan, winning 87 percent of the vote (1,178-176), and Egypt, with 89 percent (41-5).

Despite Sanders’ popularity among expats, Clinton is widely expected to win the nomination. She currently has 1,163 pledged delegates and 467 superdelegates, whereas Sanders has 844 pledged delegates and 26 superdelegates.

Sanders: Absurd to suggest I should drop out of presidential race


Responding to reports that President Barack Obama called on Democrats to rally around Hillary Clinton as the likely nominee, Bernie Sanders said he would not drop out of the race.

Obama privately told a group of Democratic donors on March 11 that Sanders was nearing the point at which his campaign against Clinton would end, and that the party must soon come together to back Clinton, the New York Times reported Thursday.

“The bottom line is that when only half of the American people have participated in the political process … I think it is absurd for anybody to suggest that those people not have a right to cast a vote,” Sanders, who is Jewish, told MSNBC in an interview on Thursday.

Clinton has won the Illinois, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio primaries — crucial victories that bolster her claim that she is her party’s only candidate who can win diverse states that will be pivotal in the November general election.

Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-proclaimed democratic socialist, said he did not want to comment directly on Obama’s reported remarks but he pushed back on the idea that his campaign had run its course and he should throw in the towel.

The White House on Thursday said Obama did not indicate which candidate he preferred in his remarks to the donors.

Clinton, a former secretary of state in the Obama administration, has a large lead in the race for the Democratic nomination. Sanders said he will do better in upcoming contests in western states, after losing to Clinton in a number of southeastern states.

“To suggest we don’t fight this out to the end would be, I think, a very bad mistake. People want to become engaged in the political process by having vigorous primary and caucus process,” he said.

How delegates are selected


The Democratic and Republican nominees for the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election are decided in a series of state-by-state contests. The key to winning the nomination for each party is ultimately not about the popular vote, but about securing the number of delegates needed to win the nomination at each party's convention – July 18-21 in Cleveland for the Republicans and July 25-28 in Philadelphia for the Democrats.

The following is a guide to the nominating process:

Q: Is the delegate selection process the same for the Republican and Democratic parties?

A: No. The parties set their own rules. One thing that is the same is that at each party convention, a candidate needs to reach only a simple majority of the delegate votes to win the nomination.

Q: How many delegates are there?

A: The Democratic convention will be attended by about 4,763 delegates, with 2,382 delegates needed to win the nomination. The Republican convention will be attended by 2,472 delegates, with 1,237 delegates needed to win.

Q: I keep hearing about “superdelegates.” Are they different from other delegates? Do both the Republicans and Democrats have superdelegates?

A: Superdelegates, officially known as unpledged delegates, are a sort of wild card in the nominating process, but only the Democrats have them.

The category was created for the 1984 Democratic convention, and according to political scientists, they are a legacy of the 1980 convention when there was a fight for the nomination between President Jimmy Carter, who was seeking a second term in the White House, and Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Members of Congress were frustrated by their lack of influence, because delegates elected to support one candidate could not switch to support another. So Democratic members of the House of Representatives led an effort to win a role for themselves. That resulted in the creation of superdelegates. Unlike other delegates, superdelegates may change what candidate they are supporting right up to the convention.

There is no fixed number of superdelegates because the group is defined by various categories whose members change from one election cycle to another. Here is who gets to be a superdelegate: 

All Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; the Democratic governors; the Democratic president and vice president of the United States; former Democratic presidents and vice presidents; former Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate; former Democratic speakers of the House and former Democratic minority leaders. Throw in the members of the Democratic National Committee and the former chairs of the DNC and you finally have the whole pool of superdelegates.

Q: What about the other delegates? Do they get to choose which candidate to support?

A: Both the Democratic and Republican parties send delegates to their conventions based on the popular vote in the primary elections and caucuses held in each of the 50 states. But the parties have different rules on how delegates are allotted to a candidate.

The Democratic Party applies uniform rules to all states. In each state, delegates are allocated in proportion to the percentage of the primary or caucus vote in each district. But a candidate must win at least 15 percent of the vote to be allocated any delegates.

The Republican Party lets states determine their own rules, although it does dictate some things. Some states award delegates proportionate to the popular vote, although most such states have a minimum percentage that a candidate must reach to win any delegates. Some other states use the winner-take-all method, in which the candidate with the highest percentage of the popular vote is awarded all the delegates. Other states use a combination of the two methods.

States that use the proportionate method may instead use the winner-take-all method if one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the popular vote. 

In addition, the Republican Party requires that all states with nominating contests held between March 1 and March 14 use the proportional method, meaning that all the states holding votes on Super Tuesday will have to award delegates proportionally. 

Q: What happens to delegates if a candidate drops out of the race?

A: Another good question, because we have certainly seen that happen this year.

For the Democratic Party, in every state, delegates are reallocated to the remaining candidates.

For the Republican Party, it varies by state. In some states, delegates are required to stick with their original candidate at least through the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. In some other states, if a candidate drops out, his or her delegates may immediately pledge to another candidate. There is also a middle ground in which those delegates are reallocated to the remaining candidates.

Why the Republican Party is dying


Last Sunday, 2016 Republican presidential nominee front-runner Donald Trump appeared on CNN with Jake Tapper. Tapper — in the mold of many journalists of leftist persuasion — attempted to smear Trump with those who support him by asking Trump about former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Trump had repeatedly disavowed support from Duke, once in August 2015 and then again on Feb. 26. In 2000, Trump explicitly predicated his abandonment of the Reform Party on Duke joining it; he wrote, “So the Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. [Patrick] Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. [Lenora] Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.”

So when Tapper asked Trump about Duke and the KKK, Trump’s answer should have been simple: He should have said that he had already repeatedly disavowed any support from Duke and the KKK and told Tapper that he should have asked Barack Obama about support from anti-Semite Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Communist Party.

Trump didn’t.

Instead, he equivocated, and pretended ignorance. He said, “I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. … I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to take a look.”

Trump’s followers defended him — defended the indefensible — vociferously.

All of which raises the question: Why is Donald Trump winning? What is driving millions of Americans into the arms of a personally authoritarian ignoramus, a blustering bully, a policy dilettante, a parodic mashup of Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute from “The Office” and Joe Pesci’s Tommy from “Goodfellas”; a reality television star most famous for his tacky hair, tackier taste in women and tackiest taste in hotel adornments?

It certainly isn’t conservatism.

The left couldn’t be more excited about Trump’s rise — he provides them an easy club with which to beat the conservative movement. But the conservative movement opposes Trump wholesale. Fox News has made clear its disdain for Trump: In the first Republican debate, Megyn Kelly hit him with everything but the kitchen sink for his sexism and corruption. National Review ran an entire issue titled “Against Trump.” I’ve personally cut a video viewed more than a million times in just one day titled “Donald Trump Is a Liar.” This week, the hashtag #NeverTrump took over conservative Twitter, with thousands upon thousands of conservatives vowing never to pull the lever for The Donald. For months, Trump has had the highest negatives in the Republican field.

Conservatism stands for small government, individual liberty, constitutional checks and balances, strong national defense, and social institutions such as churches and synagogues promoting responsibility and virtue. Trump stands for large government (he’s in favor of heavy tariffs as well as government seizures of private property for private use, and he says he’ll maintain all unsustainable entitlement programs), executive authority (he has never spoken of the constitutional limitations of presidential power), and foreign and domestic policy based on personal predilection (he’s friendly to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin because Putin praised him; won’t take sides between democratic Israel and the terrorist Palestinian unity government out of his pathetic, egotistic desire to make a “deal”; and has never held a consistent conservative policy position in his life).

So what the hell is going on? What is driving the Donald Trump phenomenon? Why is it set to destroy the Republican Party?

Anger at ‘the Establishment’

Americans on all sides of the political aisle are angry with the way Washington, D.C., operates. That anger isn’t well defined — it’s not merely a specific anger over failure to negotiate by Republicans and Democrats, or anger over bureaucratic incompetence. It’s a generalized anger that the entire system has failed to operate properly — a feeling that they’ve been lied to about the supposedly booming economy, about the supposedly non-rigged game. A year-end CNN/ORC poll showed that fully three-quarters of Americans said they were dissatisfied “with the way the nation is being governed,” with 69 percent “at least somewhat angry with the way things are going in the U.S.”

Americans on the left believe that Washington, D.C., has climbed into bed with Wall Street and corrupted the political process to the benefit of the few; Americans on the right believe that Washington, D.C., has become a cesspool of government avarice in which those elected to stop the government from usurping power turn on their own constituencies in favor of promoting their personal political interests. In both cases, Americans have turned against the “establishment” — people whom they imagine defend the status quo in Washington, D.C., as not all that bad. If this seems vague, that’s because it is: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are widely perceived to be members of the “establishment,” but they disagree about virtually everything. Everything, that is, except for a generalized belief that it’s better to go along to get along than to stand strong against determined opposition.

On the left, this has resulted in the surprising rise of a 74-year-old socialist senator from Vermont who strongly resembles Larry David. On the right, it has resulted in Trump. Sanders will lose to Clinton on the left — the anger against the Democratic Party isn’t strong enough on the left to destroy the party wholesale for an openly socialist temper tantrum. 

On the right, however, the anger against the Republican Party is palpable. That CNN/ORC poll showed a whopping 90 percent of Republicans dissatisfied with national governance, and 82 percent angry with the way things are going in the country. Among Trump supporters, that number was 97 percent dissatisfied and 91 percent angry. Republicans look at their leadership and see people who lied to them over and over again: lied about how “mainstream” candidates such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would earn the love of the media and sweep to victory; lied about how if Republicans took over Congress in 2010, they’d stop Obamacare dead; lied about how if Republicans took over the Senate in 2014, they’d kill President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty.

If this is the best the professionals in the establishment could do, many Republicans believed, then it is time for an outsider — someone who can take an ax to the system. Poll after poll for the past year has demonstrated that Republicans prefer an outsider to a candidate with experience in Washington.

Anger at political correctness

That generalized anger at the establishment alone wouldn’t have skyrocketed Trump to the top of the polls. After all, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has spent his entire career in the Senate ticking off the Republican establishment, to the point of calling McConnell a liar on the floor of the chamber. Republican establishment types hate Cruz with the fiery passion of a thousand flaming suns; they despise Cruz so much that former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole said he’d prefer Trump to Cruz, a perspective mirrored by much of the GOP establishment.

So why not Cruz instead of Trump? Because Trump channels a second type of anger better than anyone else in the race: full-scale rage at political correctness. Political correctness is seen — correctly — by non-leftists as a way of silencing debate about vital issues. Political correctness quashes serious discussions with charges of racism, sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia, and in doing so, destroys the possibility of political honesty as well as better solutions. The Obama administration has brought political correctness back from the brink of extinction to place it in the central halls of power: The White House and its media lackeys have suggested that legitimate criticism of Obama’s policies represents bigotry, that serious concerns about radical Islam represent Islamophobia, that real worries about encroachment upon religious liberty represent homophobia, and that honest questions about individual responsibility for crime represent racism. And establishment Republicans, eager to be seen as civil, have acquiesced in the newfound reign of political correctness.

Trump entered the race vowing to bring that reign to an end. Because of his celebrity, he’s been able to say politically incorrect things many Republicans believe must be said: that Muslim refugees to the United States must be treated with more care than non-Muslim refugees thanks to the influence of radical Islam, for example, or that illegal immigration brings with it elevated levels of criminality. He’s slapped the leftist media repeatedly, something that thrills frustrated conservatives.

But Trump has gone further than fighting political correctness: He has engaged in pure boorishness. His fans have lumped that boorishness in with being politically incorrect. That’s foolishness. It’s politically incorrect — and valuable — to point out that single motherhood rates in the Black community contribute to problems of poverty and crime, and that such rates are not the result of white racism but of the problematic values of those involved. It’s simply rude and gauche to mock the disabled, as Trump has, or mock prisoners of war, as Trump has, or mock Megyn Kelly’s period, as Trump has. The list goes on and on.

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 25. Photo by Mike Stone/Reuters

The distinction between being a pig and being politically incorrect is a real one. But Trump and his supporters have obliterated the distinction — and that’s in large part thanks to the pendulum swinging wildly against political correctness.

Anger at anti-Americanism

Even the revolt against political correctness wouldn’t be enough to put Trump in position to break apart the Republican Party, however. Republicans have railed against political correctness for years — Trump isn’t anything new in that, although he’s certainly more vulgar and blunt than others. No, what truly separates Trump from the rest of the Republican crowd is that he’s a European-style nationalist.

Republicans are American exceptionalists. We believe that America is a unique place in human history, founded upon a unique philosophy of government and liberty. That’s why we’re special and why we have succeeded. In his own way, Trump believes in American exceptionalism much like Barack Obama does — as a term to describe parochial patriotism. Obama infamously remarked in 2009, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Obama meant that dismissively — American exceptionalism is just something we do because we’re American, not because we’re actually special. But Trump means it proudly. His nationalism is a reaction to Obama’s anti-nationalism. It says: “Barack Obama may think America isn’t worthy of special protection because we’re not special. Well, we’re America, damn it, even if we don’t know what makes us special.” According to Trump, we ought to operate off of the assumption that Americans deserve better lives not because they live out better principles or represent a better system, but because they’re here.

This sort of nationalism resembles far more the right-wing parties of Europe than the historical Republican Party. The Republican Party has stood for embrace of anyone who will embrace American values; extreme European right-wing parties tend to embrace people out of ethnic allegiance rather than ideological allegiance. Trump uncomfortably straddles that divide. His talk about limiting immigration has little to do with embrace of American values and much more to do with “protecting” Americans from foreigners — even highly educated foreigners willing to work in the United States without taking benefits from the tax system. It’s one thing to object to an influx of people who disagree with basic constitutional values. But Trump doesn’t care about basic constitutional values. He simply opposes people coming in who aren’t us. There’s a reason so many of his supporters occupy the #altright portion of the Internet, which traffics in anti-Semitism and racism.

The rise of ‘The Great Man’

Trump poisons the brew of justified anger at the establishment, justified anger at the political correctness and justified anger at anti-Americanism from the left. People feel victimized by a government that centralizes all power in the back corridors of D.C., a media dedicated to upholding nonsensical sloganeering as opposed to honest discussion, and a president who sees America as a global bully and an international pariah in need of re-education. Trump has channeled that sense of victimization into support. 

But there’s one more spice he adds to that toxic concoction: worship of “The Great Man.”

Republicans have typically been wary of The Great Man. Democrats have not. Woodrow Wilson wrote in 1906, “The president is at liberty both in law and conscience to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit.” Franklin D. Roosevelt came as close to dictatorship in America as anyone in history. Barack Obama obviously sees little limit to executive authority; he chafes at constitutional restrictions on his power. The presidency, according to Democrats, is a position of elected dictatorship — at least when Democrats run the show.

Conservatives have always believed in the constitutional checks and balances. Republicans have not; there were Republicans who cheered the Bush administration’s abuses of executive power, for example. But as the proxy for the conservative movement, the GOP at least paid lip service to the idea that power resided in the people, then local government, then the states, and last and weakest, the federal government. Republicans supposedly stood for the proposition that the government was the greatest obstacle to freedom.

Trump overthrows all of that. Thanks to Obama’s usurpation of power, many Americans are ready for a Reverse Obama — someone who will use the power of the presidency to “win” for them, as opposed to using a powerful presidency to weaken the country. And that’s what Trump pledges to do. He pledges to singlehandedly make deals — great deals! He promises to make America great again, not through the application of constitutional liberties, but through the power of his persona. He’ll be strong, his supporters believe. When he expresses sympathy for Vladimir Putin and says at least Saddam Hussein killed terrorists and admires the strength of the Chinese government in quashing protest at Tiananmen Square (in a 1990 interview with Playboy), his supporters thrill. Because Trump is a strong leader. He’s no wimp. Give him control, and watch him roll!

Like Obama, Trump has built a cult following on worship of power. Big government has prepared Americans for tyrannical central government for a century. Republicans resisted that call.

Trump does not. 

Is this the end of the Republican Party?

If Trump is nominated, there will be a split in the national GOP. There will be those who hold their noses and vote for him, but who see him as a horrible historical aberration; there will be those who stay home altogether. There may be a third party conservative who decides to provide an alternative to the evils of Trumpism. The Republican Party will remain a major force at the local and state levels regardless; national elections do not reshape parties at these lower levels immediately.

But over time, they can. Is Trumpism temporary, or is it here to stay? The answer to that question may lie with the establishment Republicans, who will have to make peace with actual conservatives if they hope to stanch the rise of populism. Establishment Republicans got behind Jeb Bush in this election cycle, and they stayed behind him even as he flailed; they made clear they’d prefer Trumpism to hard-core conservatism. Now we’re seeing the result. 

The Republican Party can come back, but only if it recognizes that decades of standing for nothing breed reactionary, power-addicted, nationalist populism. That’s a hard realization, but it will have to be made. Otherwise, the Republican Party will, indeed, become the party of Trump rather than the party of Lincoln and Reagan.


Benjamin Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, senior editor-at-large of Breitbart News, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and co-host of “The Morning Answer” on KRLA-AM in Los Angeles and KTIE-AM in the Inland Empire. He is also the author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America,” Simon *& Schuster (2013).

Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton and a $16 Moscow Mule


Actually before we get started let’s clarify a couple things: I’m less twenty-something and more decidedly twenty-four, and the Moscow Mule was $18 with tip.

It was the other week, Valentine’s Day, that I decided to reach out to the Regional Organizing Director I had worked with last summer, when I was a “Hillary for Nevada” volunteer fellow. Now, the Nevada Caucuses were about six days away, and since I’d had experience on the ground out in Clark County last June and July, I felt pretty attached to the Nevada outcome. Yes, I’d abandoned the campaign after a month, but that’s because I’m not good in 105-degree weather, not because I don’t care about Hillary. I do, very much. So much so that when my former R.O.D responded to my email by saying “yes, when can you get here” with more exclamation points and question marks than I care to disclose, I was worried. So I did what any young, liberal, temporarily unemployed woman would do: I called a friend and asked if she and her boyfriend wanted to go with me to Vegas for the weekend, and when they said no, I decided to go anyway! What resulted was a sleepless couple of days that simultaneously deepened my commitment to Hillary and confused my faith in Democracy. Ya know, an average Friday and Saturday.

As a fellow, I was stationed in Henderson, a suburb of Vegas, so it was to Henderson I returned. I drove up to the campaign’s strip-mall office around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, saw some semi-familiar faces as well as new ones, grabbed a clipboard, door-hangers, and a map, and hopped back into my car to do some door canvassing, something I’d never done before. The good news was, my BFA in Acting would come in handy in an “I’m a saleslady connecting to partner” kind of way; the bad news was door-to-door canvasing alone late on a Friday afternoon kind of sucked. I knocked on 29 doors, talked to 11 people, and still don’t know if I made any difference. When I got back to the office around 7:30, I ate a square piece of pizza and was told that I would be a precinct captain on Saturday.

If you’re unfamiliar with how the Nevada caucus works (and for your sake, I kinda hope you are), a precinct captain is someone who volunteers to help with the caucus proceedings of their precinct. I felt my face flush with anxiety because I’d never been a captain of anything in my life (except of course, my own destiny), but after a quick training and the promise of a nifty shirt and super official button, I thought “Hey, maybe it’d be cool to be a part of history-making after all.”r

So, on the morning of Feb. 20, 2016, as instructed by The Hillary For America team I was to arrive at the caucus site at 10:00 a.m. Two hours early, because the actual caucus was to begin at noon.

The caucus works like this: To participate, you can pre-register or register upon arrival. Each precinct’s caucus takes place in a room at a school, civic center, or if you’re in Vegas, a casino, where, in this case, Democratic neighbors come together and “align” with their candidate. As precinct captain, my job was to designate a Hillary area, hand out stickers, engage with and try to win over undecided voters, and double check the number-crunching of the temporary caucus chair (the person who reports the delegates).  There are lots of strange little rules involved in the caucus. We couldn’t tape up signs or talk to people about our candidates in certain hallways. It’s like half democratic process, half weird voodoo ritual. There were 67 people in my precinct, and the whole time it was hilarious to me that I was one of those in charge, and that a primary election for president of the United States was being decided by hand-raising.

The Bernie Sanders precinct captain had similarly signed up just the day before to help out. He kept making digs at me about Hillary, and I kept making his side of the room laugh. Ultimately Hillary got 5 delegates and Bernie got 4 from our precinct. We, as a room, called the reporting hotline from our caucus chair’s iPhone. It all felt incredibly unsound. Like, what if we accidentally snapchatted our delegates instead of confirming them with the Nevada Democratic Party?

I soon learned that our room had been relatively smooth in it’s sailing. I was hearing horror stories about miscounts and people walking out and phone calls to caucus lawyers. I overheard a lot of hostility over discrepancies, people frustrated and truly confused about who to blame and complain to (not me, you guys!)

Despite the chaos and the bitterly disorganized system, it did truly in that moment feel like the government was in our hands.  It was also cool to be a young woman repping Hill—and many Bernie people in my precinct came up to me to shake my hand, telling me things I’d said about leaders listening and evolving had resonated with them. The Bernie precinct captain even asked for my number to get drinks! (I laughed later, because, much like my candidate, I said maybe, and much like his, he didn’t follow through).

The rest of the afternoon involved attending a Hillary victory rally at Caesars Palace, running into other Los Angelenos who’d shown up in support, and watching the heads of the Nevada team weep with joy. But the day wasn’t yet done! After changing clothes in the back of my car in a hotel parking structure and talking to my mom on the phone for an hour, I went to get a drink. I found some Baby-Boomer women (a judge, a lawyer, and a reporter—I’m not kidding), wearing Hillary shirts, and we all raised a glass to our win and told the bartender he could not change CNN to “the game.”  I met up with a friend I’d met over the summer for more toasting and food-truck sushi at midnight that still has not killed me. So, it was really successful all around.

I guess what I want to leave you with is this: People are participating. They are young, old, angry, and inspired. In Nevada, they are White, Black, Latino, Asian, Gay, Straight, Jewish, and Other. And for me, as a twenty-something, there was huge meaning in engaging with real people in real life, seeing the character of the country outside of the Internet, and getting great gas mileage on my drive back home.

Hillary Clinton: Both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are wrong on Israel


Supporting Israel and pursuing the two-state solution are not “mutually exclusive,” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Sunday.

“I happen to think that moving toward a two-state solution, trying to provide more support for the aspirations of the Palestinian people is in the long-term best interests of Israel, as well as the region, and, of course, the people themselves,” Clinton told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.

Clinton’s statement came in response to Donald Trump’s comments last week, in which he suggested that he would be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to broker peace negotiations.

Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz responded to Trump on Friday, saying, “I have no intention of being neutral.” He would be standing by Israel.

But according to Clinton, both Trump and Cruz “missed the mark” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

First of all, Israel is our partner, our ally. We have longstanding and important ties with Israelis going back to the formation of the state of Israel,” she asserted. “I will defend and do everything I can to support Israel, particularly as the neighborhood around it seems to become more dangerous and difficult. I also believe the Palestinians deserve to have a state of their own. That’s why I support a two-state solution.”

Clinton further touted her effort as Secretary of State in brokering peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. “That’s what I tried to move forward when I was Secretary [of State], and holding three very intense conversations between the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority,” she said. “Those are not mutually exclusive.”

Trump dismissed the criticism by highlighting his 2013 endorsement of Netanyahu. “I’m very pro-Israel,” Trump told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “In fact, I was the head of the Israeli Day Parade a number of years ago, I did a commercial for Netanyahu when he was getting elected, he asked me to do a commercial for him, I did a commercial for him. I am.” He also clarified his ‘neutral’ position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “People are born with hatred, they’re taught hatred. And I have to say, it’s mostly on the one side, not on the other side. But they’re taught hatred. I say this. If I’m going to be president, I’d rather be in the position, because I will try the best I can, and I’m a very good dealmaker, believe me, to try and solve that puzzle. You’re not going to solve it if you’re going to be on one side or another. Everyone understands that. If I’m going to solve the problem, I want to go in with a clean slate. Otherwise, you’re never going to get the cooperation of the other side.”

Clinton, Sanders clash over Obama as they vie for minority votes


Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed sharply in a debate on Thursday over their support for President Barack Obama, with Sanders accusing Clinton of “a low blow” after she compared him to Republicans.

As the Democratic race moves to states with large minority populations, both candidates openly courted black and Hispanic votes during a debate that was far more restrained and cordial than last week's contentious debate in New Hampshire.

In the sharpest exchange of the night, Clinton attacked Sanders for being too critical of Obama, who is extremely popular with the black voters who will play a big role in the outcome in South Carolina and other upcoming nominating contests.

“The kind of criticism that we've heard from Senator Sanders about our president, I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” said Clinton, who served as secretary of state during Obama's first term.

“Madam Secretary, that is a low blow,” said Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont. Sanders said he had been an Obama ally in the Senate even if he did not always agree with him.

“Do senators have the right to disagree with the president?” Sanders said.

Clinton, who has eagerly embraced Obama's legacy, said Sanders had called Obama weak and a disappointment, and “that goes further than saying we have our disagreements.”

With Clinton looking to rebound after her crushing 22-point loss to Sanders in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, the two also differed over healthcare and Wall Street.

Even so, the restrained exchange on Thursday was unlikely to change the trajectory of a race that has intensified dramatically over two weeks.

Clinton accused Sanders of misleading Americans on his healthcare. She said his proposal for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare plan would mean dismantling the program known as Obamacare and triggering another intense political struggle.

“Based on every analysis I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don't add up,” Clinton told Sanders. “That's a promise that cannot be kept.”

Sanders said he was simply moving to provide what most industrialized countries have – healthcare coverage for all.

“We're not going to dismantle anything,” Sanders said. “In my view healthcare is a right of all people, not a privilege, and I will fight for that.”

Sanders also repeated his accusation that Clinton is too beholden to the Wall Street interests she once represented as a U.S. senator from New York, noting her Super PAC received $15 million in donations from Wall Street.

“Let's not insult the intelligence of the American people,” he said. “Why in God's name does Wall Street make huge campaign contributions? I guess just for the fun of it, they want to throw money around.”

Clinton said the donations did not mean she was in Wall Street's pocket, and noted that President Barack Obama had taken donations from Wall Street during his campaigns.

“When it mattered, he stood up and took on Wall Street,” she said.

THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM AND RACE

With an eye to on the minority vote, both candidates decried the high incarceration rate of African-Americans and called for broad reforms of the criminal justice system. Sanders said the disproportionately high rate of incarceration for black men was “one of the great tragedies” in the United States.

He called for “fundamental police reform” that would “make it clear that any police officer who breaks the law will in fact be dealt with.”

Clinton criticized what she called “systemic racism” in education, housing and employment. “When we talk about criminal justice reform  we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing and other ways of helping communities of color,” she said.

They both agreed on the need for immigration reform, an important issue to Hispanic voters, though they clashed over the Obama administration's actions on handling a wave of undocumented children who entered the country alone. Clinton criticized Sanders for voting against a reform measure in 2007, which Sanders defended because of a provision in the bill for guest workers.

Clinton entered Thursday's debate under acute pressure to calm growing nervousness among her supporters after her drubbing in New Hampshire and a razor-thin win the prior week in the Iowa caucus. Both states have nearly all-white populations.

For his part, Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, hoped to harness the momentum and enthusiasm he gained from the first two contests and prove he can be a viable contender to lead the Democratic Party to victory in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“What our campaign is indicating is that the American people are tired of establishment politics,”Sanders said. “They want a political revolution.”

Clinton dodged an opportunity to distance herself from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's recent controversial comments that there was “a special place in hell” for women who don't support other women.

“Look, I think that she's been saying that for as long as I've known her, which is about 25 years. But it doesn't change my view that we need to empower everyone, women and men, to make the best decisions in their minds that they can make,” she said.

On the foreign policy front, Sanders criticized Clinton for her warm relationship for Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under Republican President Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. Sanders called Kissinger “one of the most destructive secretaries of state.”

Asked by Clinton about who his foreign policy advisers were, Sanders shot back: “Well it ain't Henry Kissinger.”

The race now moves to what should be more favorable ground for Clinton in Nevada and South Carolina, states with more black and Hispanic voters, who, polls show, have been more supportive of Clinton so far.

Trump versus Jeb in New Hampshire on day before crucial primary


White House hopefuls Donald Trump and Jeb Bush opened political hostilities on Monday as Republican and Democratic candidates stormed across New Hampshire in a final flurry of events before the state's crucial first-in-the-nation primary.

The stage was set for the vote on Tuesday, with New York billionaire Trump enjoying a big lead in opinion polls of the state's Republican voters and a host of rivals jockeying to emerge as his chief challenger for the Republican presidential nomination in the Nov. 8 election.

In the race for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders from neighboring Vermont sought to hang on for a much-needed victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a week after a razor-thin loss to her in the Iowa caucuses.

Sanders told a crowd of about 500 people in Nashua that his call to eradicate income inequality and level the economic playing field for lower- and middle-class workers was resonating.

“I'm here today to ask your support, to join us in making that political revolution,” he said.

Polls showed his big New Hampshire lead tightening but still sizable. Clinton hoped to make the finish close in a feat much like her husband's, former President Bill Clinton, in 1992 when he declared himself “the 'Comeback Kid.'”

“For those of you who are still deciding, still shopping, I hope I can close the deal,” Clinton said at Manchester Community College, campaigning with her raspy-voiced husband and daughter Chelsea.

Clinton was reported by Politico to be pondering a staff shakeup out of concern at the messaging of her campaign.

“I have no idea what they’re talking about or who they are talking to,” Clinton, responding to the report, said on MSNBC. “We’re going to take stock, but it’s going to be the campaign that I’ve got. I’m very confident in the people that I have.” 

A snowstorm swept across the state but it did not slow down the last, tense full day of campaigning ahead of the primary.

Trump, still rankled that Bush hit him hard at a candidates' debate in Manchester on Saturday night, peppered his stump speeches with attacks on the former Florida governor at events in Salem and Londonderry.

“This stiff, Jeb Bush,” Trump said. “He's a total stiff. … If you had a company, you wouldn't even hire him. He's like a child, like a spoiled child.”

Bush fired off a tweet referring to Trump's comment last summer that Senator John McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee who spent 5-1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, was not a hero because he got captured.

“@realDonaldTrump, you aren’t just a loser, you are a liar and a whiner. John McCain is a hero. Over and out,” Bush said.

Senator Marco Rubio's shaky performance at Saturday's debate gave hope to his rivals that the Floridian's rise after a strong third-place finish in Iowa could be blunted. 

Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are fighting to finish strongly enough in New Hampshire to justify staying in the race and taking their campaigns to South Carolina, which holds its primary on Feb. 20.

As the New Hampshire polls stand now, Trump would win and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who won Iowa; Rubio; Kasich; Bush; and Christie would end right behind him in a tight bunch. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and businesswoman Carly Fiorina are also in the race.

Rubio wilted under an attack by Christie at the debate, repeating rehearsed lines from his stump speech in defending himself against criticism that he is not experienced enough to be president. The moment triggered commentary comparing Rubio to a robot, both in the news media and on social media.

Rubio's point was that even though he is a first-term senator, he should not be compared to Democratic President Barack Obama, who was a first-term senator when elected in 2008. He said at the debate that Obama has pushed the country in the wrong direction because of his political beliefs, not from inexperience.

“The core of this campaign is that statement, and I am going to continue to say it: Barack Obama is deliberately carrying out a strategy to change America: He wants to redefine this country,” Rubio said on CBS's “This Morning.”

Hillary Clinton to ‘watch Iran like the proverbial hawk’


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday issued a more measured response to the implementation of the first phase in the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of U.S. sanction by executive order.

“I have said for a long time that I’m very proud of the role that I played in getting us to the point where we could negotiate the agreement that puts a lid on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But I’ve also said that the way we’re going to hold them accountable is to have consequences when they do anything that might deviate from the agreement or continue to flaut the kind of sanctions and mandates that the UN Secretary Council has put on, including on missiles,” Clinton said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program Sunday.

“This is a good day,” President Barack Obama started off in a rare address from the White House cabinet room on Sunday. “Yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear deal.”

But according to Hillary, “There’s more work to be done” in enforcing the nuclear deal as well as bring home Jewish-American Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran nine years ago. “But if the implementation of the agreement which is being done today, is to be successful in the way that I expect, we’re going to watch Iran like the proverbial hawk,” she vowed.

Hillary also promised to immediately impose sanction on Iran if they violate UN Security Council restrictions on their missile program, as they have done twice in the past few months. “If they are violating it, which the evidence seems to suggest, they should be held accountable,” she said. “They need to know that this is a good step forward with respect to the nuclear weapons program. But there are other areas of their behavior that we’re going to continue to be focused on.”

Asked is she still considers Iran a national security threat to the United States, Hillary said, “Certainly we have lowered that threat, because of the nuclear agreement. But they continue to destabilize governments in the Middle East, they continue to support proxies and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. They continue to threaten Israel. There are a lot of concerns. But what I have said for some time now is I’d rather have the nuclear weapons program off to one side and work to make sure they abide by the agreement and then turn our attention to some of these other behaviors that are threatening certainly in the region, and therefore cause concern for us.”

Meanwhile, Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, appearing on the same program, criticized the administration for the terms of the prisoner swap deal. “I don’t think these Americans should have ever been in prison. They didn’t do anything wrong. They are hostages. And so now we have a president that has traded hostages in exchange for prisoners who did commit a crime and were convicted after due process and a trial and everything of that sort,” said Rubio. “And what the President’s now doing, not just with this but what he did with the Castro brothers and what he did with Bergdahl, is he’s put a price on the head of every American abroad. Our enemies now know that if you can capture an American, you can get something meaningful in exchange for it.”

Rubio reiterated his pledge to reimpose sanctions on Iran on Day One, “and if Iran tries to build a nuclear weapon program, we will stop it.”

2016 election will be a game-changer


No one saw Donald Trump coming. Not the pundits, the party leaders, the political scientists and certainly not the traditional Republicans or Democrats running for president. His dominance of the Republican campaign has shattered conventional wisdom.

Trump was not 2015’s only surprise. There was the remarkably successful candidacy for the Democratic nomination of a Jewish socialist, Bernie Sanders, whose support in the polls within his faction is at least as large as Trump’s among Republicans. Add the inability of billionaires thus far to determine who will be the Republican Party nominee, and we have had a year in which American politics experienced the kind of unpredictability more commonly associated with sports. The great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra might have been describing politics in 2015 when he said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Trump could actually become the Republican nominee for president, to the consternation of those in other countries who count on Americans having our bit of fun, then settling for a “normal” candidate. If Trump wins the Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire, the firewall state for the establishment candidates, he will be much more difficult to stop than once supposed.

Yet we also cannot dismiss the prospect of a Trump defeat in the primaries, his total political collapse, and the nomination of Ted Cruz or of an establishment favorite such as Marco Rubio or, in a universe far, far away, Jeb Bush. (I can even imagine a scenario in which, at a deadlocked convention, the Republican Party turns to House Speaker Paul Ryan, who already played the reluctant party savior role in his ascent to the speakership, or tries to persuade Mitt Romney to run.)

The truth is we just don’t know.  

If Trump holds on, Republican leaders will have to choose between their obvious distaste for him and their ambition to win party control of the White House. For the “investor wing” of the Republican Party, the chance to get a new round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy and to relax federal regulation of Wall Street and other corporations has to be tempting. If polls show a close race — which, given partisan loyalties, seems very likely — we might see some leading Republicans swallow their terror about a Trump presidency and get on board. Fox News, a key player in Republican politics, has seen its profile rise even higher because of the Trump phenomenon, and the rest of the media know that a Trump candidacy would drive up their ratings.

Israel’s political leaders face a somewhat different set of dilemmas. If Trump wins the nomination, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Jewish supporters in the U.S. will be in a quandary. They lean Republican in presidential politics, and if an establishment figure such as Bush or Rubio is nominated, their preference will be much easier to discern. At the same time, Netanyahu clearly hopes to assuage some of the ill feelings within the Democratic Party leadership from his conflicts with President Barack Obama.

For Israel, Trump represents total uncertainty. Unlike the U.S., Israel lives in about the toughest and most hostile neighborhood on Earth. While bombast plays well in the U.S., words and symbols in the Middle East can light a match and set off a conflagration. An American president’s ill-timed words can crash the stock market or set off violent attacks and provoke all sorts of other consequences. Before Trump’s planned visit to Israel last month, Netanyahu criticized his call to block Muslims from entering the United States. Rumors that Trump would visit the Temple Mount set off alarm bells in Israel, as people quickly imagined how Trump’s bombast would play at Jerusalem’s most explosive site. To widespread relief, Trump cancelled his visit to Israel.

We can already envision some of the dimensions of a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump faceoff and how it might look in the Jewish community. The same people who predicted Trump would collapse in 2015 are sure he will go down easily to Clinton in November. But in a two-person race with a closely divided electorate, anything could happen. (A recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows Trump and Clinton tied.) 

Trump and Clinton have large numbers of Jewish associates and allies — Trump from his years as a New York City real estate developer and Clinton from her decades in Democratic politics, including as a U.S. senator from New York. They would compete heavily for Jewish donors, of whom there are more on the Democratic side. Both have long ties to Wall Street. They also both have Jewish sons-in-law.

Among Republican donors, Sheldon Adelson is an important player in the U.S., but a bigger force in Israeli politics. Having just bought a top newspaper in swing-state Nevada, Adelson is clearly hoping not only to protect his economic interests in that state, but to replicate his success in Israel, where his control of a free-media outlet has been a boon to Netanyahu. So far, Adelson has indicated his preference for candidates more traditional than Trump, but that could change.

For Jewish voters, the lean is likely to be toward Clinton and the Democrats. In most issues, the majority of Jews are closer to the Democratic position, and that is likely to hold true even if Trump is not the nominee. A national Jewish Journal survey in summer 2015 under the direction of Steven M. Cohen