None dare call it treason


In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson, a man named John A. Stormer self-published a book called, “None Dare Call It Treason.” It accused America’s left-leaning elites of paving the way for a Soviet victory in the Cold War. The book sold seven million copies, but Johnson crushed Goldwater in the election.

Now that the C.I.A. has determined that the Russians intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win, the Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped. If Stormer rewrote his book for 2016, its thesis might go like this:

Beware of Donald Trump. Witlessly or willfully, he’s doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Anyone who enables him – on his payroll or in the press, by sucking up or by silence, out of good will or cowardice – is Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. This is a national emergency, and treating it like normal is criminally negligent of our duty to American democracy.

Trump as traitor: I can just imagine the reaction from the Tower penthouse. Lying media. Paranoid hyperbole. Partisan libel. Sour grapes. A pathetic bid for clicks. A desperate assault on the will of the people. Sad! (Note to Tweeter-in-Chief: You’re welcome.)

As a kid in a New Jersey household where Adlai Stevenson was worshipped, I thought Stormer was a nut job, so I won’t pretend that accepting the modern inverse of his case is a no-brainer. I’m also not trying to recast my political differences with the president-elect as a national security crisis. Trump won. Elections have consequences. I get that.

I may not like it, but I’m not surprised that Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a crusading climate change denier and an advocate of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, to run the E.P.A., presumably into the ground. Anyone who interpreted Al Gore’s meeting with Trump as a sign of his open-mindedness on climate change got played, just like Gore got played.

Similarly, I’m cynical, but not shocked that Trump’s picks for treasury secretary, National Economic Council and chief adviser – Steven Mnuchin, Gary Cohn and Steve Bannon – are alumni of Goldman Sachs. A billionaire managed to hijack Bernie Sanders’ indictment of Wall Street and brand Hillary Clinton as the stooge of Goldman Sachs. The success of that impersonation isn’t on Trump, it’s on us.

I’m infuriated, but not startled that Trump refuses to disclose his tax returns, divest his assets, create a credible blind trust, obey the constitutional prohibition of foreign emoluments or eliminate the conflict between fattening his family fortune and advancing American interests.  That’s not draining the swamp, it’s drinking it.

It’s abysmal that Democrats didn’t have a good enough jobs message to convince enough Rust Belt voters to choose their economic alternative to Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. It’s disgraceful that the media normalized Trump, propagated his lies, monetized his notoriety and lapped up his tweet porn. It’s maddening that the Electoral College apportions ballot power inequitably. But as enervating as any of that is, none of it is as dangerous to democracy as the C.I.A.’s finding that Putin hacked the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Without firing a single shot, the Kremlin is weeks away from installing its puppet in the White House.

Within days, Trump is expected to name Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, as his secretary of state. Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship, one of Russia’s highest civilian honors, on Tillerson, after Exxon signed a deal with Rosneft, the Russian government-owned oil company, to jointly explore the Black Sea and Arctic. The plan died when the U.S. and E.U. sanctioned Russia for annexing Crimea; Tillerson, whose Exxon shares’ value will skyrocket if sanctions are lifted, favors lifting them.

The Tillerson appointment is the latest dot in the pattern of Trump’s Putinophilia. When 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails, Trump – who’s refused most of his security briefings – rejected their conclusion, claiming at one point that it “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” at another that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” I knew that Trump is a serial fat-shamer, but I didn’t know until now that being a Newarker puts me in his crosshairs, too.

It’s entirely conceivable that Russia has something on Trump. They may hold hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump debt. They may have spousally unsettling video of him – a K.G.B. specialty, and a plausible Trump susceptibility. Surely the Kremlin has mapped his character disorder. In the third debate, when Trump said Putin had no respect for Clinton, and she shot back, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” Trump’s interruption – “No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet, no, you’re the puppet” – sounded like a third-grader. Actually, it was a confession, what clinicians call projective identification. Putin’s psy ops must know every such string on him to play.

Before the election, when both parties’ congressional leaders were secretly informed that Russia had its thumb on the scale for Trump, Republican leader Mitch McConnell torpedoed a bipartisan plan to decry their intervention. Now that the news is out, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday that the intel “should alarm every American,” and they called for a bipartisan investigation to stop “the grave threats that cyberattacks… pose to our national security.”

Trump’s response? “I think it is ridiculous. It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”

As we don’t know. Trump’s Electoral College margin will rank 44th among the 54 presidential elections that have been held since the 12th Amendment was ratified.  Nate Silver called Trump’s “landslide” claim “Orwellian.” The Washington Post gave it Four Pinocchios. Why not just call it a lie?

Trump blew off the Kremlin’s intervention in our election the way Putin denied Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Do we call that a lie, too?

Maybe there’s a better word we should dare to use.


Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

When progressives value politics over friends and family


A troubling pattern appears to be developing in America that good people of all political persuasions need to be aware of — and hopefully then do something to change it. 

According to news reports and numerous callers to my nationally syndicated radio show, many people — it is, of course, impossible to know exactly how many — have ceased communicating with friends and even family members who voted for Donald Trump. 

It is so common that The New York Times published a front-page article headlined “Political Divide Splits Relationships — and Thanksgiving, Too” on the subject. 

The article begins with three stories:

“Matthew Horn, a software engineer from Boulder, Colo., canceled Christmas plans with his family in Texas. Nancy Sundin, a social worker in Spokane, Wash., has called off Thanksgiving with her mother and brother. Ruth Dorancy, a software designer in Chicago, decided to move her wedding so that her fiancé’s grandmother and aunt, strong Trump supporters from Florida, could not attend.”

The Times acknowledges that this phenomenon is one-sided:

“Democrats have dug in their heels, and in some cases are refusing to sit across the table from relatives who voted for President-elect Donald J. Trump. … ”

A number of people who voted for Trump called my show to tell me that their daughters had informed them that they would no longer allow their parents to see their grandchildren. One man sent me an email to report that his brother-in-law’s mother told him that she “no longer had a son.”

Back in December, The Washington Post had already reported on this:

“Sites from Mic to Quartz to Buzzfeed have published how-tos on blocking Donald Trump news and supporters from your Facebook News Feed. …

“In the past week alone, thousands of Facebook users have publicly promised to unfriend each and every Trump supporter in their network, regardless of — in the words of one Trump critic — ‘how long I’ve known you or how close we are.’ ”

All of this raises an obvious question: Why is this phenomenon of cutting off contact with friends and relatives so one-sided? Why do we not hear about conservatives cutting off all contact with friends and relatives who supported Hillary Clinton? After all, almost every conservative considered Hillary Clinton to be at least as ethically and morally challenged as Donald Trump. And most believed that another four years of left-wing rule would complete what Barack Obama promised he would do in 2008 if he were elected president — “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”

In other words, conservatives were not one whit less fearful of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats than Democrats were of Donald Trump and Republicans.

Yet virtually none cut off contact with friends, let alone with parents, who supported Clinton.

Why not?

Here are my unsettling answers:

1. While there are kind and mean individuals on both sides of the political spectrum, there are more mean people on the left than on the right. What other word than “mean” would anyone use to describe a daughter who banished her parents from their grandchildren’s lives because of their vote? (Actually, I can think of one more: “despicable.”)

2. There are far more conservatives who read articles, listen to and watch broadcasts on the left, and studied under left-wing teachers, than there are progressives who read, listen to or watch anything on the right, or took classes with conservative instructors. Therefore, most people on the left — like our universities — shut out conservative ideas. And increasingly, conservative friends and relatives as well.

3. Most left-wing positions are deeply emotion-based. Therefore, it makes sense that people who hold those positions would react so emotionally when their candidate lost as to sever relations with people they previously cared for or even loved.

4. Most people on the right think that most people on the left are wrong. Most people on the left think that most people on the right are evil. Decades of labeling conservative positions as “hate” and conservative individuals as “sexist,” “intolerant,” “xenophobic,” “homophobic,” “racist” and “bigoted” have had their desired effect.

5. The left associates human decency not so much with personal integrity as with having correct — i.e. progressive — political positions. Therefore, if you don’t hold such positions, you lack decency.

6. Most individuals on the left are irreligious, so the commandment “Honor your father and mother” means nothing to those who have cut off relations with parents because they voted for Trump.

I wish this were not the case. But there is a way to prove me wrong. 

Re-friend your friends and relatives who voted for Trump and tell everyone who has ended relations with family members — especially parents — to reach out to them and allow them back into their lives. 


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

The irony of hate


Typically, I try to keep politics off of the pulpit. I believe the job of clergy is to help people deepen their relationship with God, and I recommend only that everyone act ethically and become active and involved in their political passions. But the circumstances of the last week have created a situation that I believe must be addressed from a Jewish perspective.

I understand emotions have run high throughout this election cycle, as they do every four years. In 2000, I remember so many politically liberal friends angry and sad about the presidential election, and committing themselves to working in the next cycle harder for their candidate and beliefs. In 2008 and 2012, I heard many conservative friends bemoan the election and re-election of Barack Obama, and express their fears of what they felt he would do to the country. But in all of these cases, there was always a respect for their political opponents and an acceptance that after the election was over, we would come together as Americans.

Our tradition is filled with rabbis and Sages having passionate debates over a multiplicity of topics. These dialogues are so intense that they are even referred to as a “War between Sages” (Bavli Bava Metzia 59b). It is a Jewish tradition to passionately argue our beliefs, and again in the tractate Bava Metzia (84a) we learn through the story of Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish that it is through this passionate discourse that a “fuller comprehension” can be achieved. This is the basis of the process of argumentation in the Great Assembly wherein the court made a ruling based on the sages’ arguments.

But in Judaism, this is traditionally done with respect for one another. We don’t degrade our opponents personally. After the decision is reached, we do not continue debating, and our history is clear to respect the outcome of the debate.

I am beyond saddened that these simple demonstrations of respect seem to have left our political world on a national level, and instead so many people have resorted to hate and violence. There have been riots in cities throughout the country, including the destruction of shops and businesses, and even shootings as people have decided that it is OK to act with hatred in their hearts. All of the accusations made by these demonstrators that president-elect Donald Trump is oppressive, bigoted and dangerous have become manifest in their own inappropriate actions of violent demonstrations. They are the ones acting out of hatred toward their fellow Americans just because they disagree with them politically. These rioters are demonstrating not only a complete lack of respect for the political process and for America, but in their actions they are showing a self-involved narcissism that discounts the fact that half of the nation feels differently than they do. 

These demonstrators have become the hate that they so vehemently allege to oppose.

I applaud everyone who passionately stands for their beliefs and tries to legally make changes in policies. But it is ethically wrong on every level to violently demonstrate just because you didn’t get your way. It is against the moral fabric of this nation’s history to unilaterally decide to ignore the results of an election just because it didn’t go the way you wanted. Liberals didn’t act like this in 2000; conservatives didn’t do it in 2008 and 2012. It is against Jewish ethical practices to violently demonstrate in this way, and it is a dangerous form of adolescent behavior that is a direct expression of a hate for others with opposing political views. Ironically, it is a manifestation of the hatred these rioters accuse their political opponents of having —yet they are the ones truly showing actions of darkness and hate in these riots.

If you are unhappy with the results of the election, I encourage you to get involved in the political process for the next cycle. Please become a champion for your beliefs through the election of candidates who you support, but I beg you to remove any of the hatred in your heart that is expressed in inappropriate actions of violence toward the man who was legally elected to be our president — and toward his supporters. 

Like the sages of old, we must come together now and try to make changes in the future through respectful and legal ways — not through these hate-filled demonstrations, but through mutually respectful and legal processes. If you have been involved in these riots, please stop trying to make a change through violence and instead work together alongside those with whom you disagree in attempts to find harmony with one another in policies and practices. Please don’t act like like angry children; instead, demonstrate a respect for those you disagree with and engage in a healthy discourse.

Let go of the anger and hatred in your hearts, and I beg you instead to come together as Americans and human beings who recognize that everyone has the same goal: to see a brighter future in this country for our children and their children.

Rabbi Hillel taught: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14). Let us all in this time choose to respect one another, and act on that respect without hatred in our hearts and actions. And maybe if we really respect one another even in our differences, our nation and the world will be more filled with peace.

That is my prayer. Will you join me in this prayer for peace through mutual respect?


Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village (nersimcha.org) and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together.” He can be reached at RabbiBarclay@aol.com.

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump: A choice between two stark visions of America


Our two political parties have never been more different from each other. They inhabit wildly opposite political and social universes. The two party conventions that just ended revealed one party whose view of America is of a hellish dystopia, while the other sees a struggling, striving optimistic nation of diversity.  

The Republican Party of Donald J. Trump is a distilled version of the white, working-class and middle-class pessimism that has been growing for years as the nation’s diversity has become more politically and culturally dominant and the economic recovery has left behind many voters. This is the 100-proof angst that has been a core energizer for Republicans, but until now had not ever won control of the party.  

Trump’s campaign is not so much a traditional national effort, with local and state organizations, policy agendas, a data plan to reach voters and a strategic program in battleground states, but rather a primal scream to stop the world, I want to get off!  

As unprecedented as Trump’s campaign has been, it has shown a certain logic in its boiled-down 140 characters on Twitter. It is purely one man and one message. And it can work in that way. Our culture has many models of the individual against the group, such as the sheriff in the town driving away the bad guys. This one-person solution can also be a source of autocracy and a threat to democracy. What if the sheriff is nuts?

To the agony of traditional conservatives, this new, distilled Republican Party is less concerned with the role of government than with race and identity, and Trumpism is fairly certain to outlast Trump, whatever happens in November. Remember, Mitt Romney was fairly reasonable but was pulled to the right on immigration, and he’s the one who invented “self deportation.”  It was a small step from that to Trump dropping the “self” part. I doubt that, except perhaps in tone, the party will go backward in the future.  

Democrats, once the party of Bill Clinton’s centrist balancing act, are now the home of the new electorally empowered diversity of Barack Obama. The party is varied, not distilled, which is both its strength and its weakness. Today’s Democratic Party is unmistakably more liberal, and much bolder than Bill Clinton’s party, which he crafted as a brilliant improvisation to survive in a Republican-dominated system.  

Today, communities of color and labor and others have made massive strides in the Democratic Party, Republicans have become much more conservative on social issues important to Jews, and Bill Clinton’s less than 50 percent coalition has become a 50-plus percent majority. That’s why Obama has been a bigger and more consequential president than Clinton. Where once the party had to focus on surmounting black-white tensions, Democrats now must work on keeping African-Americans, Asian- Americans, Latinos, labor, business and environmentalists all together in the same tent. At the same time, they cannot ignore whites, who still compose the majority of voters. Crafting a single message like Trump’s is not in the cards.

The differences between the two party models now seem insurmountable, and only a decisive victory by one side or the other will solve the gridlock we face. Even outside nations are now playing parts in this epic battle. For Israel, it was Benjamin Netanyahu tying himself to Republicans in Congress over the Iran negotiations (Jewish Journal, March 27, 2015), but this is small potatoes compared with what Vladimir Putin seems to be doing. Russia’s alleged interference by hacking Democratic National Committee emails during our election cycle (as well as its increasingly active role in other democracies) could change global politics and reverse the end of the Cold War. A weakened U.S.-Europe-NATO alliance (if Trump’s promised revisions take hold) combined with the post-Brexit fragmenting of the United Kingdom would be sweet revenge for the former KGB agent.

Seeing these two party machines in conflict is, for a political scientist, both spectacularly fascinating and frightening. I cannot write off Trump, because he reminds us how a distilled message made by one person can be powerful: I am not among those who dismiss the power of 140 characters (our modern version of the bumper sticker). But Clinton’s party is better organized than it has ever been: Thanks to the merging of the Clinton and Obama organizations, it is data wise, younger, broader and has two ex-presidents and most everybody on board. So it comes down to a test of whether a vast party can beat an eccentric individual with few friends but a message.

For Jewish voters, finding the right “home” is complex. Jews are not a single voting bloc. There are still thousands of Jewish Berniacs; there are Hillary enthusiasts; there are socially liberal, strongly pro-Israel voters who were comfortable with Bill Clinton but detest Obama; there are Jewish liberals who preferred Obama to Hillary Clinton. There are Jewish Republicans, who worry about the direction of their own party, but detest Democrats. And there are Jewish independents such as Michael Bloomberg who have taken the plunge to support Hillary. The odds are, though, that there are very few Jewish enthusiasts for Trump.

In any case, Israel has been less of a fixture in this round than it has been before. Israel was not mentioned much at either convention, except to check a box of support. And polls show that Israel is no longer quite the deciding factor even among many American Jews in terms of vote choice that it was in earlier times. It was a moment’s news that Bill Clinton was wearing a button pledging his support to Hillary in Hebrew, and both nominees have Jewish sons-in-law.    

Oddly though, Trump’s rise may nevertheless more closely bind Jews to the Democrats for a different reason. Democrats have lost college-educated whites in election after election. But this year may be different, and one thing you can say about Jewish voters: They are college educated whites. Trump’s behavior and attitudes alienate these voters. Clinton is now leading among them, and in the suburbs around the Democratic cities, she will run up big margins.  College-educated whites, like Jews, are high turnout voters. Jewish voters, who once were seen as keys to national elections (as in the perennial question: Will Jews turn to the right this time?) may once again emerge as a balance wheel in our divided American politics.


Raphael J. Sonenshein is executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.  

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.”

After Orlando, Trump amps up calls to ban Muslim entry, monitor U.S. Muslims


Donald Trump amped up his calls to cut off Muslim entry into the United States and to monitor U.S. Muslims, in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, through his Twitter feed and speaking to news outlets on Monday, said a substantial threat existed among Muslims overseas and Muslims in the United States.

“First of all we have to stop people coming in from Syria, we’re taking them in by the thousands,” he told CNN, referring to Obama administration policy on Syrian refugees, which has allowed in just over two thousand this year and which sets an annual maximum of 10,000.

“This will only get worse because we have very weak leadership,” he said, and called for more monitoring of American Muslims. “We need intelligence gathering, we have to look at the mosques, we have to look at the community.”

Omar Mateen, the attacker who killed 49 people in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, was American born. He pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the attack. An array of Muslim American groups has condemned the attack.

Speaking to Fox News Channel, Trump increased the number of Syrians he claims to be entering the country each year to “tens of thousands” and said they were not vetted. U.S. officials vet asylum applicants from Syria for up to two years before allowing them in.

Trump accused Muslims in the United States of not reporting terrorists in their midst.

“You have many, many people, thousands of people living in our country, people who are around them, Muslims, know who they are,” he said. “People in his community,” Trump said, referring to Mateen, “and their community, they know who the people are, almost in every case, they know who they are, they brag about it, they talk about it, they have to turn them in.”

He did not cite evidence showing that Mateen’s coreligionists in his south Florida community knew he was planning a terrorist attack. Local and federal law enforcement agencies generally work closely with Muslim community leaders to track radicals.

Trump called on President Barack Obama to resign and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, to quit the race, for not saying that “radical Islam” is at fault.

Clinton rejected the accusation. “I have clearly said that we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people,” she told NBC. “We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism and we will. And to me, radical Jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”

Obama, speaking just prior to a briefing on the mass killing by FBI chief James Comey, described the attack as emblematic of “homegrown extremism” that “perverts” Islam, and said it was critical to confront the ideology fuelling it.

“Countering this extremist ideology is increasingly going to be just as important as making sure we’re disrupting” Islamic State activities overseas,” he said.

Trump on Fox appeared to suggest that Obama knew more about radical Islamic plots than he was saying.

“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anyone understands, it’s one or the other, and either one is unacceptable,” Trump said of Obama.

Even before the shooting, Trump was promising to make his proposed ban on Muslims a centerpiece of his campaign. On Friday, he told a conservative Christian group he would defend Israel and protect American Christians.

“We will respect and defend Christian Americans,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Friday, addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C. “Christian Americans,” he added, for emphasis.

He said Americans faced dangers from Islamic extremists, and he would keep them out, promising “new immigration controls to keep us safe from radical Islamic terrorism.”

He said at the Christian forum that his policy would extend to protecting Israel as well.

“We must continue to forge our partnership with Israel and work to ensure Israel’s security,” he said.

Trump is planning to elaborate on his plans to combat radical Islam in a speech in New Hampshire scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Both Jewish 25-year-olds bidding to be youngest member of Congress come up short


Erin Schrode and Alex Law, Jewish 25-year-olds running to become the youngest lawmakers in Congress, both lost to incumbents in their respective Democratic primary races Tuesday for a House of Representatives seat.

Schrode, an environmentalist and entrepreneur, garnered 7 percent of the vote in Northern California’s 2nd District in falling to two-term incumbent Jared Huffman, who had nearly 75 percent.

Days before the election, Schrode was flooded with anti-Semitic social media and cellphone messages. The progressive activist called the messages “pure evil” and told Buzzfeed that people contacted the FBI on her behalf.

Law, a former IBM consultant, won 30 percent of the vote in Southern New Jersey’s 1st district in his loss to Donald Norcross, who had 70 percent.

Both of the young candidates — who each told JTA they support Bernie Sanders — had made national headlines for their upstart efforts but were projected as heavy underdogs.

Schrode entered the race on March 29.

Law, who earned an endorsement from the Philadelphia Inquirer, faced an opponent supported by what is widely acknowledged as the most powerful political network in New Jersey. Norcross, 57, was a longtime union leader before being elected to his House seat in 2014 after former Rep. Robert Andrews, also a Democrat, resigned in the wake of an ethics probe.

Sheldon Adelson urges Republican Jewish leaders to support Donald Trump


Sheldon Adelson, after formally endorsing Donald Trump for president and offering his financial support, is now lobbying for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee among skeptical Republican Jewish leaders, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. 

“I’m asking for your support [for Trump],” Adelson implored in an email to more than 50 Republican Jewish leaders on Monday. According to the report, Adelson wrote that after meeting with Trump, he is “specifically convinced he will be a tremendous president when it comes to the safety and security of Israel.”

“Like many of you, I do not agree with him on every issue,” he wrote in the email. “However, I will not sit idly by and let Hillary Clinton become the next president. The consequences to our country, and Israel, are far too great to take that risk.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, largely funded by Adelson, issued an unenthusiastic endorsement of Donald Trump once he was declared the presumptive presidential nominee on Wednesday. “The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party,” RJC’s national chairman David Flaum said in a statement. The statement went on to emphasize the need of defeating Hillary Clinton rather than about choosing their party’s new standard-bearer as the better choice in the general election. “Throughout the course of this long campaign, among Republicans, there has been unity in the belief that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief,” Flaum stressed. “Secretary Clinton has proven time and again through her record and her policies that her candidacy will compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally Israel.”

Several prominent Republican Jewish donors have already “>Jewish Journal, “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.”

On Friday, Adelson formally announced his endorsement of Trump and urged Republicans to follow suit. “If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, [President Barack] Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow — a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton,” he wrote in an Op-Ed published by “>reported that Adelson told Trump in a private meeting last week that he was willing to contribute more than $100 million to help elect him in the fall. During the meeting, Trump reportedly assured Sheldon and his wife Miriam Adelson that he was dedicated to protecting Israel’s security.

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.”

Jon Stewart calls Donald Trump a ‘man-baby’ – reminds us why we miss him


On May 9, the IOP welcomed Jon Stewart for a special live taping of “The Axe Files” podcast, hosted by IOP Director David Axelrod.

Sanders says he opposes case against Israel at ICC


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed in length his policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during an editorial board meeting with the New York Daily News last Thursday, which its “>repeated what he called was an overreaction of Israel in response to Hamas launching hundreds of rockets into Israel during the Gaza war in the summer of 2o14. ”I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed,” he asserted. “My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.”

Nevertheless, Sanders expressed his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to file charges against Israel for alleged war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He also maintained that his position remains that peace will also require Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The Democratic presidential hopeful has recently received the backing of several pro-Palestinian groups and activists critical of Israel. On Monday, Sanders was introduced by Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, who came 

Kasich offers himself to Trump voters


Republican presidential candidate John Kasich on Thursday offered himself as an alternative to the fervent supporters of Donald Trump, who may have been put off by his recent controversial comments.

“For those people who have been fervent Trump supporters, their frustration, their expressions do not fall on deaf ears for me,” Kasich told reporters at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “In addition to being a candidate for president of the U.S. and being governor of the great state of Ohio, I am also a citizen, and I see what’s happening. I know it’s frustrating. But to the Trump voters, there is hope. We’ve done it before – putting a team together to improve people’s situation, including those who have lived in the shadows. And, secondly, we can do it again.

Issuing a call for the Trump voters to defect, the Republican presidential hopeful said, “While the person that you have favored continues to move in an unmoored, untethered fashion, I understand that, at times, he is the vessel for your frustration, and I want to offer myself up. There’s a new vessel that could actually understand your problems, and work aggressively to fix them.”

Kasich listed five examples – his most recent comments on abortion, Muslim profiling, NATO, nuclear proliferation, and SCOTUS choice – that continue to prove Trump is not prepared to be president of the U.S. and serve as commander-in-chief and the leader of the free world.

“You wonder about his hand or his thumb getting any close to the critical buttons the president is in charge of,” he remarked. “It takes judgement. It takes experience. Not wild-eye suggestions, and, basically, moving from one suggestion and the need to try and explain what you really meant when you realize that the suggestion you made confused or enraged people. That is not how you act as president of the United States. It shows that he is really not prepared to be president of the United States.”

Kasich acknowledged that he has no path to get to 1,237 delegates before the convention, but so doesn’t Ted Cruz have a viable path to prevent a contested convention. Touting recent national polls that continue to show him as the only Republican that could beat Hillary Clinton in the fall, Kasich expressed confidence that his electability pitch would win over delegates and the establishment at the convention.

A Quinnipiac poll published on Thursday showed Kasich trailing Hillary Clinton by only five percentage points in the State of New York.

Hillary vs Bernie: ‘It’s the ego, stupid!’


Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton's voting records on women's issues may be — as Sanders claims — very similar. But experienced women know what qualities ultimately determine whether someone will be good or bad for them. And when it comes to personality traits, the two candidates couldn’t be more different. Watching them in the last few debate rounds, town halls, and TV interviews clarifies for me why I, a mature female voter, want to see Hillary Clinton as the next President of The United States. To borrow from an old phrase popular during a previous presidential election, “It’s the ego, stupid!”

He is rigid; she is flexible. He is dogmatic; she is inquisitive. He is theoretical; she is practical.  He is abrupt; she is measured.  He reduces; she enlarges. He simplifies; she qualifies. He has an unequivocal answer for every question. She pauses, ponders and often follows a question with a question.  He sees the world in black and white. She sees the world in shades of gray.

A woman complains that in her case, The Affordable Care Act resulted in higher, less affordable rates. What kind of health plan did you have previously? Hillary asks. She listens; she probes; she offers several practical alternatives. Bernie, on the other hand, always responds instantly.  He will fix everything. His single payer health program will provide adequate free care for all.

As far as he’s concerned, the solutions are crystal clear; they always were: “We live in a rigged economy.” Our enemies are “Wall Street,” and “the billionaire class.” “Can you name one billionaire you like?” a man in one town hall asks him. Maybe Oprah, or Gates, or Buffet, I hope. “Oh no,” Bernie answers.  “This isn’t personal.” I should have known. Marxist theory divides the world between “class friends,” and “class enemies.”  Those labels are never personal. If Secretary Clinton used her education, knowledge, and experience to speak to the enemy and got well paid for her work, her checks must have been tainted. Such accusations bring bad memories. In The Socialist Republic of Romania, where I grew up, if you got caught talking to or buying from a “class enemy” – a Western tourist, for example – you could get arrested.  

Bernie will lead the revolution to tear down the ancient capitalist structures and erect novel ones according to his theories and specifications. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board, Sanders claims that no president can “literally do anything for the American people, unless there is a political revolution,” against “the ruling class — that is Wall Street, that is corporate America, that is the wealthy contributors, that is corporate media…” And how exactly will President Sanders work with the other side, let's say during the first 100 days of his revolution, editor Goldberg asks him. Bernie responds that he will tell Mitch McConnell, “Hey Mitch, look out the window. There's a million young people out there, now!”

Hillary, by contrast, limits her claims.  Obamacare isn’t perfect care, but she will work hard to expand our choices and improve our alternatives. She will encourage non-profits to join the competition, and she will pressure insurance providers to lower their rates. “I don’t know if my answer will solve everything,” she says, “but I am going to take them on.” As far as she is concerned, we live in a complex, volatile, ever changing world; she will lead efforts to improve, modify, evolve, elevate, learning from past failures and building on past successes; if we elect her, she will create an environment that will increase the incentives and opportunities that will empower more of us to maximize our chances for success. This is the American way – not the Swedish or Russian or Cuban way.

Bernie reminds me of Aylmer, the scientist in Hawthorne’s, “The Birthmark,” who wants to perfect his wife, as Bernie wants to perfect his country, by cutting out her birthmark, and ends up killing her in the process. Hawthorne was a champion of women’s rights and many of his male reformers, like the utopian Hollingsworth, in The Blithedale Romance (“the bond slave” “to that cold, spectral monster, his philanthropic theory”), end up favoring theories over people and harming those they mean to help.

But then Bernie appears sincere, while Hillary seems studied. He is passionate, and she, reserved. Isn't a charismatic idealist with noble dreams preferable to a cautious pragmatist with mundane plans? Some Millennials think so. I think about my father, who joined the communist underground in Romania during World War II, believed in the worker's paradise, rose to become Vice-Secretary of Defense in the new, socialist government only to discover that the nouvelle elite used its power to enrich itself and oppress the rest. He exposed the truth in his book, Gulliver In The Land of Lies, which earned him a sentence of 25 years in prison. Today, his country recognizes him as a hero, “The Romanian Solzhenitsyn.”

As a young woman, I glorified him over my mother, the way young women sometimes glorify their charismatic fathers over their dependable mothers. But it was she, the pragmatist in the family, who had to pick up the pieces of her husband’s shattered dreams, put bread on her children’s table and start a new life from scratch, alone with two children.  And I wonder: How many experienced, resilient, pragmatic women and mothers, married and single, are choosing Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders because they know the difference between dreams and reality, fact and fiction, words and deeds?

Listening to Secretary Clinton’s thoughtful answers to the complex questions raised by Wolf Blitzer after the Brussels attack (“I’m a very strong supporter of Nato. It’s the best international defense alliance I think ever,” but “we have to keep adjusting and changing its mission to meet the new threats that we, as members of Nato, face”), I have faith that this intelligent, experienced, resilient woman has the capacity to bring peace and prosperity to our embattled land.


Irina Eremia Bragin is chair of the English Department at Touro College, Los Angeles. She is the author of the memoir, Subterranean Towers: A Father-Daughter Story

Bill Clinton meets Jewish leaders in New York


Former President Bill Clinton met with a group of two dozen multi-denominational rabbis for an off-the-record two-hour meeting at a law firm in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, according to a source who spoke with participants after the meeting.

Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly, and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism, were among the participants.

Clinton – saying he feels among friends – spoke about spirituality, policy issues and his wife’s presidential campaign, according to the source. The former president also highlighted Hillary’s remarks at AIPAC’s annual policy conference last week , where her policy and knowledge were impeccable when compared to Trump’s recent comments on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, according to one attendee who wished to remain anonymous in order to preserve the ground rules of the meeting.

President Clinton held a similar 

Poll: Trump, Clinton lead among Russian American Jews


Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the top choices for president among Russian-speaking American Jews, according to poll data obtained by Jewish Insider.

16.3 percent of Russian American Jews support Trump, and 12.7 percent support Clinton, according to a poll of more than 500 Russian-speaking Jews in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas conducted by Israeli research firm Midgam on behalf of Limmud FSU ahead of the organization’s upcoming conference in Parsippany N.J., April 1-3.

The survey was conducted between January and March 2016.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders received the support of 10.8 percent, while only 5.4 percent picked Texas Senator Ted Cruz as their choice for president. The rest of respondents chose former candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio or hadn’t made up their minds yet.

Sanders topped Clinton (14.3% vs. 13%) among Russian Jews residing in New York. Trump was the choice of 22 percent, while Cruz, who is expected to attend an event in the Russian Brighton Beach neighborhood next month, received a mere 2.6 percent. Among voters in LA, Clinton leads the pack with 12.4 percent.

The poll also showed that 52 percent of Russian-speaking American Jews say they are more concerned about their personal security amid recent terror attacks in Europe and Israel. 19 percent said they were “much more concerned” about their personal safety, and 33 percent said they were “slightly more concerned.”

Respondents were also asked about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. 67 percent said they believe BDS poses “a strategic threat against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Trump at AIPAC: Is the pro-Israel lobby going astray?


I watched Donald Trump speak to AIPAC from my office, 3,000 miles away from Washington, D.C., staring at C-SPAN on my laptop while eating hummus.

So why was it that afterward, I still felt I needed a shower?

I cringe as I write this, but it wasn’t Donald who made me feel kind of yucky. It was AIPAC.

I cringe, because a big part of me has the utmost respect for the important work of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. I am grateful such a lobbying group exists. Although you wouldn’t know it from watching the coverage of AIPAC’s annual convention, Jews are actually a minority in the world, even in America.

And somehow, to a degree almost as miraculous as Israel’s own creation, a small group of American Jews built an organization that can amplify the pro-Israel cause within the halls of power. Many of us take their work for granted, and even more of us pick at every misstep such a large lobbying group is bound to make.

Given AIPAC’s current size and influence, it is easy to forget the forces that were arrayed against Israel when AIPAC came into existence in 1951: far, far more powerful oil and gas interests with ties to the Arab world, a subtly anti-Semitic Harry Truman administration and State Department, knee-jerk anti-Western reactionaries, arms dealers eager to cash in on the Middle East conflict, numerous nations actively seeking to destroy Israel. Would Israel have survived without the U.S. support garnered through AIPAC’s influence? Probably. Would it have thrived? Unlikely.

And it’s not as if today’s world makes AIPAC any less necessary. Israel is powerful, but it’s hardly a superpower. Big Oil, with its deep ties to OPEC, spends more on lobbying than any other group. I can’t help but wonder if the progressives who constantly slam AIPAC feel so much better letting Saudi and Gulf State emirs have their way on Capitol Hill. In the real world, where powerful financial, political and ideological forces are arrayed against Israel and where politicians are not known for their unwavering moral stands, it’s a good thing AIPAC is good at what it does.

And that’s exactly why Monday’s speeches left me feeling unsettled, if not unclean. Precisely because AIPAC’s mission is so important, I worry that it is going astray.

The world is not privy to the serious policy work, sincere bipartisan outreach and thoughtful analysis that make up so much of AIPAC’s behind-the-scenes success.

What the world saw was one presidential candidate after another throwing red meat to the crowd.

The world heard the crowd cheer when Republican front-runner Donald Trump derided President Barack Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The world heard the crowd applaud Sen. Ted Cruz’s empty promise to “rip this catastrophic Iran deal to shreds.” The world watched as AIPAC’s carefully built reputation for seriousness and bipartisanship was drowned by blind ovations.

You could make the case that forcing one candidate after another to pander to the crowd and make empty promises on the record was, in its way, a show of power, a signal to Israel’s opponents that Washington belongs to AIPAC.

But if that’s the strategy, it’s time to rethink the strategy.

Inside the Verizon Center, there must have been a feeling of power and unity. Outside the Verizon Center, it read differently.

Bernie Sanders, whose candidacy has energized and mobilized the very college students whom AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups say they are most worried about, wasn’t allowed to speak at all. AIPAC said its rules prohibited candidates from making video addresses, though four years ago, the same rules allowed Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to do just that. College students have a word for that: BS.

Though Clinton received enthusiastic applause, her pre-dawn (by Pacific Daylight Time) speech was a distant memory by the time Trump stepped to the podium. The pro-Israel crowd spent prime time cheering the most hard-line and partisan pronouncements.

As I wrote last week, the fact that AIPAC gave Trump a platform without clearly condemning his attacks against Muslims and Mexicans, and his calls to violence only weakened the organization’s own standing among the minorities, moderates and liberals whose support Israel will certainly need in the future. Only Clinton and GOP candidate John Kasich alluded to the low road Trump has taken. Before the speech, AIPAC remained mum.

Its defenders argued that AIPAC is solely a pro-Israel advocacy group, and it shouldn’t be expected to weigh in on anything that doesn’t have to do with defending Israel.

But as I watched Trump speak to frequent ovations, I couldn’t help but wonder if there weren’t more American Jews like me, who don’t believe you have to check in your Jewish ethics to support a Jewish state.

On Tuesday, AIPAC leaders apparently woke up to the fact that Trump had put his foot in their mouths.  The organization's president, Lillian Pinkus, issued a statement  condemning Trump’s anti-Obama remarks and the (thousands of) audience members who applauded them.

“We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with or condone,” Pinkus wrote.

Of course by then, the cameras were off. And the damage was done.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Is campaign news necessary?


Last week, “>Pew Research Center they learned something about the presidential election in the past week. Just 2 percent of them – 2 percent! – said a national newspaper was their most helpful source of campaign information. Maybe they got issues and analysis. But the 24 percent who said cable news was their most helpful source of information? The 14 percent who said local TV news? The 14 percent who said social media? I’m not saying they got nothing civically nutritious. But judging from the hours I waste on campaign news, the word I’d use for what I get from it isn’t information – it’s entertainment.

Great entertainment, actually. Half the adults in the presidential debate audience, and six out of 10 under 30, told Pew the debates were “fun to watch.” You couldn’t want more entertaining characters than Trump, Cruz, Clinton, Sanders, Carson, Christie et al. The story has been riveting, full of shock and suspense, and the stakes just keep on rising. What fresh hell is next? What vile version of “Little Marco” or “Lyin’ Ted” will Trump unleash on Clinton, as he “>predicted on CNN? Will Trump leverage the chaos and violence he provokes and condones in order to present himself as the law-and-order strongman that Americans will be clamoring for? No wonder we can’t look away – we might get to see someone killed. 

With that much drama, it’s understandable that campaign news is as good a binge-watch as “Breaking Bad.” But if I’m glued to Netflix, I don’t try to tell myself that what I’m hooked on is necessary, important, that it makes me a better citizen. It’s just fun. But cable news, the Sunday morning shows, the rabbit hole of blogs I keep falling down: they’re meant to inform me, to make my opinions more sound, my views more valuable, my predictions more credible. It pains me to say it, because I’ve blown so much time doing it, but a lot of that is wishful thinking.  At best, all that intake makes me a classier gossip.  At worst, it gives me night terrors.

From the media I take in, I know a dozen scenarios for Trump, Cruz or Ryan to win or lose the nomination or the election. I know the difference between the Sanders and the Clinton college affordability plans. I can handicap the veepstakes for both tickets. Who cares? A year from now, what possible difference will knowing any of that make? What difference does it even make today?

I’ll never get back the hours I spent paying attention to Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, not to mention Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. What I know about Eric Cantor and John Edwards is a waste of good neurons. I didn’t miss a single minute of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, or Bill Clinton’s impeachment. They got my blood boiling; they were lurid beyond belief, and I was convinced I had an intellectual responsibility and patriotic obligation to witness every moment of that history. But if instead I’d spent that time doing yoga, perfecting my ratatouille or cleaning my gutters, I wouldn’t have been a lesser citizen. I watched every one of President Obama’s State of the Union addresses, each promoted as once-in-a-lifetime TV, but unless I cheat, I can’t now recall a phrase from any of them, and I’d be hard pressed to name a single consequential thing in his presidency, let alone in American history, that would have been different if he’d spent those eight nights helping Sasha and Malia with their homework. That’s not a knock on Obama’s eloquence or his agenda; it’s about how ephemeral spectacle is and how often “breaking news” deserves the amnesia that befalls it.

Of course we need news. Ignorance is worse than infotainment. Lies require refutation. Investigative reporting is expensive and essential. Though the New York Times has sometimes been unfair to “>Bernie Sanders, its political coverage remains competitive with the best political journalism in the world. Sites like “>FiveThirtyEight; writers like “>Jim Fallows; bloggers like “>Charlie Pierce; satirists like “>Samantha Bee; explainers like “>Amy Goodman: they do make me smarter, and they show how Donald Trump gamed journalistic dysfunction to bring us to the brink of fascism.

But knowing that won’t stop Trump or elect anyone else.  The impact of the “>financial meltdown, but when a president of the Federal Reserve Bank sounds that alarm, it’s a one-day story. Sixty million martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Why Trump makes us all dizzy


There’s no better feeling in the world than being 100 percent right about something. In a slippery world where everything seems to be debatable — even climate change! — it’s so refreshing to find something that is not debatable, something truly black and white.

The fact that Donald Trump has made vile, racist, sexist, violent and bigoted statements is not debatable. It’s the cold truth, as if I told you that water is a liquid or the Lubavitcher Rebbe was Jewish.

This cold truth has united most of the Jews of America. Whether you’re on the right or the left, religious or secular, the vast majority of Jews (there are always exceptions) will not condone the vile statements made by Trump as he has climbed to the top of the Republican primaries. If you don’t believe me, try getting a Jew to publicly defend Trump’s racist comments. It’s one thing to harbor dark thoughts, it’s another to go public with them.

Trump goes public with them, and this has made us all dizzy.

Saying things like “Muslims won’t be allowed into America until we can figure out what the hell is going on” is not just racist, it’s incredibly stupid. We’re not used to hearing such raw bile from politicians who want to get elected. Talking points that come out of focus groups are littered with inoffensive clichés. If you want to be popular and attract as many voters as possible, the less offensive you are, the better.

So, when we hear such shocking and immoral bile from a presidential candidate, we go nuts. How could we not?

Our revulsion at Trump is making us so dizzy that it is trumping other values, like knowledge, curiosity and understanding. The rabbis and activists who plan to walk out in protest of Trump’s speech Monday night at the AIPAC Policy Conference have no interest in hearing what he has to say. I get it. Moral values are fundamental to one’s identity. If someone challenges these values as blatantly as Trump has, our instinct is to cut him out.

But I will be there Monday night, and I will definitely not walk out.

I hate Trump’s racist bile as much as anyone, but that’s not the point. The point is this: my feelings often bore me. They don’t encourage me to think, and thinking is what I love to do. The minute I internalize something like, “I hate you,” “You’re a racist,” or “Your statements are unacceptable and beyond the pale,” my feelings take over and I get in activist mode. I don’t mind the activist mode; I just prefer the thinking mode.

I prefer the mode of trying to make sense of this crazy Trump phenomenon, the likes of which I have never seen. Is he more of a huckster than a racist? Can attitude trump substance? Is he getting all those votes because or despite his vile comments? Is he just another politician who won’t deliver on his promises, including appalling ones like cutting out Muslims or building that 10-foot wall on the border of Mexico?

How much validity is there in his argument that we’re getting ripped off by China in our trade agreements? How much of his appeal is due to people’s economic worries and his shtick that because he knows how to negotiate good deals for himself, he’ll know how to negotiate good deals for America? How could so many voters overlook his horrible comments? Why are even educated people voting for him? How will he tailor his speech for the AIPAC crowd, and what will that say about him? And so on, and so on.

That Trump’s comments offend me to no end is a cold truth, but there’s another, equally vital truth swimming in my head: I like to figure out what the hell is going on.

It makes me less dizzy, and better equipped to counter what I hate.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com

How groups plan to protest Trump at AIPAC: Walk out, stay away, study Torah


Walk in wearing stickers. Stay out bearing placards. Get up and walk out when Trump walks in. Just don’t go. Go but don’t clap. Blame AIPAC. Don’t blame AIPAC.

And whatever you do, hit the Jewish texts.

Donald Trump’s scheduled appearance on Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual Policy Conference has sparked a microcosmic Jewish version of the question now besetting much of the American polity: How do you solve a problem like the Donald?

The announcement last week that Trump, the billionaire real-estate developer who is the front-runner among Republican candidates and who has aimed broadsides at Mexicans and Muslims among other groups, will speak at AIPAC has sparked a flurry of debate on social media over whether his appearance is appropriate and whether it merits protest.

For some, AIPAC's single-issue focus on the U.S.-Israel alliance means it has no choice but to host an increasingly likely candidate for the nation's highest office. Others insist that organizers of and delegates to one of the year's largest Jewish gatherings — some 18,000 people are expected to attend — must stand up for what the Reform movement, in a statement, called the “values we hold most dear – justice, mercy, compassion, peace.”

And among those who are planning protests, there is disagreement over what would be the most effective way of signaling displeasure. Some would-be objectors to Trump advocate that protests be as non-intrusive as possible, abjuring even the word “protest” and recommending that folks simply absent themselves from the speech. Others are seeking a more visible sign of dissent from what they say is Trump’s bigotry.

The one thing all agree on is that studying Jewish texts while Trump is speaking is the right way to go.

The Reform movement, the largest American Jewish religious stream, is recommending a combination of Jewish textual study and social media activism.

Reform officials are planning to hand out pages of text to protesters who will absent themselves from the main hall during Trump’s speech. Grouped in pairs – or “hevrutas,” as study partners are called in the yeshiva — the protesters will study the Jewish writings while monitoring Trump’s speech on screens scattered throughout the conference venue. After the speech, the hevrutas will blast out on social media their impressions of how Trump’s speech lined up with the values in the text, tagged with the AIPAC conference hashtags, #cometogether and #pc16.

“It will be a conversation about dignity and the responsibility of officials to hold up dignity,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who directs Reform’s Religious Action Center, one of three Reform bodies organizing the protest. The others are the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. “Human dignity is so important it even supersedes biblical prohibitions,” Pesner said.

Biblical prohibitions, maybe, but even among the Reform officials who plotted out the protest there was a reluctance to cross AIPAC, American Jewry's main conduit for high-level pro-Israel advocacy.

“They should do it in a way that is respectful to AIPAC, that is not a protest, that is not a disruption,” Pesner said.

Pesner said the Reform movement also wrote to Trump asking for a meeting that would launch what Pesner hoped would be Trump’s “hard work of teshuvah,” or repentance.

Repentance would be quite the “get” from a candidate who has yet to apologize for his many insults during the campaign, including those aimed at women, Asians, POWs, and those with disabilities.

Two rabbis, Rabbi David Paskin of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange, N.J., have organized a protest they dubbed “Come Together Against Hate,” a play on the conference's official theme, “Come Together.”

Trump’s Jewish lawyer, Michael Cohen, made it clear Camp Trump does not think much of the rabbis.

“Anyone who believes that @realDonaldTrump is a racist doesn't know #Trump at all,” he said on Twitteron Thursday. “Shame on the protesting rabbis with #AIPAC.”

How visible the protest should be was a subject of debate among those planning “Come Together Against Hate.”

The organizers settled on a compromise: “Many will be standing up before he speaks and silently leaving the room,” said the announcement by the group, which is separate from the Reform movement’s initiative. “Others will be absenting themselves from his introduction as well.”

Paskin acknowledged that a mass organized walkout when Trump walks in would have a greater visual impact, but said the group could not reach a consensus.

“When we started this Facebook group on Sunday or Monday night, there were people with all sorts of powerful arguments,” said Paskin. The group now has over 1,500 members. “We want people to respond to this in whatever way they see fit. AIPAC has been very respectful of our right to protest as we strive to be respectful of the choice they made.”

Olitzky said they did reject one particularly passive proposal that came up in discussions: Just don’t clap.

“We can’t sit idly by and not clap,” he said. “A candidate in favor of registering Muslims, we know what that leads to. Sitting down and not clapping is standing idly by.”

However they choose to absent themselves, the “Come Together Against Hate” protesters will meet for — yes — Torah study at The Greene Turtle sports bar inside the Verizon Center complex where Trump will speak. Paskin said the group had named about 300 “leaders” who would distribute flyers and stickers emblazoned with their slogan.

AIPAC would prefer no protests whatsoever. Earlier this week, an email from a staffer warned students planning to attend that any attempt to disrupt the program would result in removal “and it will be the last AIPAC event you attend.”

AIPAC later said the email was sent without authorization, but an official said the group would prefer not to see disruptions at an event where every presidential candidate had been invited to speak.

“AIPAC has a unique function and special responsibility in America — we are the bipartisan stewards of this special relationship” between Israel and the United States, said the official. “Therefore, it is of paramount importance that our community develops a constructive relationship with whomever wins their respective party nomination and thus could be elected president.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, of Hollywood, Fla, is organizing yet another planned absence from Trump’s speech to be filled with Torah study. He said he had fielded and rejected proposals for more dramatic protests. One was for the twirling of groggers, the noisemakers used in synagogues during Purim – which takes place next week – to drown out mentions of  Haman, the villain of the Purim story.

“The action we are proposing is intended to be an alternative to more dramatic and demonstrative protests,” said Salkin, who has about 60 rabbis signed on. “We don’t believe people should stand up and walk out, boo or use groggers.”

Doing something more vociferous “will result in our being ejected and play into Trump’s narrative – we will become part of the story,” he said.

Some protesters,  who object to the pro-Israel group’s positions as much as they do Trump, are unlikely to defer to the conference organizers. If Not Now, a group launched to protest Israel’s actions during its 2014 war in the Gaza Strip, will picket outside the conference while singing songs and engaging in a yet-to-be-determined Jewish ritual.

Trump’s invitation “exposes part of the problem – this is what happens when you have a single issue, focus-on-Israel-at-any-cost organization,” said If Not Now’s spokeswoman, Sharon Rose Goldtzvik. “AIPAC has not said anything to disavow Trump.”

A number of groups have proposed that the protest against Trump come from AIPAC itself. Ameinu, a member of the AIPAC National Council – made up of Jewish groups that consult with the lobby – called on the group to publicly denounce Trump’s “disgusting bigotry, demagogic rhetoric and campaign style” during the conference.

The Reconstructionist movement also called on AIPAC to speak out.

“We call on AIPAC to affirm that we welcome Muslims into the United States and condemn racist statements” during the conference, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, the director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, said in an interview. “We would certainly prefer that they rescinded the invitation but we understand that might not be possible.”

Michael Bloomberg will not enter presidential race, denounces Trump


Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Monday that he has decided against an independent run for president in 2016. 

In a post published on Bloomberg View, Bloomberg cited his fear that he would play the spoiler and hand over the presidency to one of the likely Republican presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

“When I look at the data, it’s clear to me that if I entered the race, I could not win,” Bloomberg said. “I believe I could win a number of diverse states — but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency. In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress.”

Bloomberg began flirting about running and making history as a third-party candidate as polls indicated Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders could win their parties nomination. The former New York Mayor saw an opportunity to serve as a compromise candidate for Republican and Democratic voters who would be unsatisfied with their respective parties’ nominees. 

But as Hillary Clinton showed signs of overcoming her Democratic challenger and public opinion turned against Trump, Bloomberg opted out for the good of the country, in his words. “As the race stands now, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, there is a good chance that my candidacy could lead to the election of Donald Trump or Senator Ted Cruz. That is not a risk I can take in good conscience,” he wrote. 

Bloomberg berated Trump for running “the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.”

Republican Romney leads old guard in condemnation of Trump as ‘a fraud’


Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a blistering rebuke of 2016 Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday, leading an attempt by the party establishment to halt the rise of the outspoken New York billionaire.

Romney, a Republican elder statesman and the nominee four years ago, urged Republicans in states that have not yet held nominating contests to back Trump's opponents to stop his march to the nomination for the Nov. 8 election to succeed President Barack Obama.

“Here's what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” said Romney, 68, in a hard-hitting speech.

“He's playing the members of the American public for suckers. He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat,” he said.

Trump has made his party's mainstream uneasy with his positions on trade and immigration, including his calls to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country.

But Romney's strategy risks backfiring by further energizing Trump's supporters, who are angry with a party they see as not representing their views on illegal immigration, trade and America's role in the world.

“If you’re Trump, this is like getting the good kind of Kryptonite,” Republican strategist Doug Heye said.

The real estate mogul dismissed Romney in television interviews and posts on Twitter, calling him “a failed candidate” who had “begged” him for an endorsement in 2012 when he eventually lost to Obama.

“Mitt Romney is a stiff,” Trump told NBC's “Today” program.

In a speech he wrote himself, Romney said Trump's economic policy would sink America “into prolonged recession” and slammed his business acumen and temperament.

He warned that polls show Trump would likely lose to possible Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November.

Earlier, more than 70 Republican national security leaders signed a scathing open letter opposing Trump and his stance on many foreign policy issues.

Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 who has sparred with Trump, joined the wave of criticism of the billionaire who took a step toward securing the nomination when he won most of the Republican contests on Super Tuesday this week.

“DANGEROUS”

“I would also echo the many concerns about Mr. Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national security issues,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Romney pointed to Trump's refusal to release his tax returns and initial reluctance to disavow an endorsement from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group.

Romney, who did not endorse anyone, suggested Republicans vote for candidates with the best chance against Trump in states still to hold nominating votes: Senator Marco Rubio in Florida, Ohio Governor Kasich in his home state, and Senator Ted Cruz from Texas where he is strong.

Romney's speech came hours before Trump and his rivals share a stage in Detroit at 9 p.m. EST for a debate hosted by Fox News.

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.

Did Sheldon Adelson vote for Marco Rubio?


GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson may have made a choice in 2016 by picking Marco Rubio over Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential primary. 

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Adelson checked a box on the lower third of his ballot – where the names Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum and Donald Trump appeared – in the Nevada Caucus Tuesday night.

Adelson did not reveal his choice to the reporters surrounding him. “I’m voting for myself,” he joked, according to the report.

His wife Miriam indicated she voted for Cruz – based on reports that she adores the Texas Senator. “God knows who I like,” she told reporters.

Since last summer, Rubio and Cruz became the leading favorites to win the ‘Adelson primary’, after Scott Walker dropped out of the race, and Jeb Bush failed to prevent his foreign policy advisor, James Baker, from delivering a keynote speech at J Street’s annual gala. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump also sought Adelson’s support and at some point.

All along, Sheldon was reportedly leaning towards Rubio, while Miriam considered Cruz as her favorite choice for president. On Monday, Rubio told reporters he speaks regularly with Adelson but did not plan to meet with him during his Nevada campaign swing. “We talk to him quite a bit on the phone and different things like that,” Rubio said. “I won’t see him tonight or tomorrow, but we’ve got a longstanding relationship and friendship. And I’m sure we’ll continue to communicate. He’s interested in politics beyond southern Nevada.”

But despite the anticipation that he may pull out a checkbook and start writing some checks in support of an alternative to Trump, whom he doesn’t trust on Israel, Adelson has held back from publicly endorsing one of the two junior Senators.

A report by Politico on Tuesday indicated that Adelson may very well be holding off his endorsement until a nominee is picked. A source close to Adelson was quoted as saying to Politico, “Right now everything is negative, and he doesn’t want to be involved in that. That’s the lesson of 2012, when his money was spent attacking Romney. He’s not interested in attacking any Republicans, no matter who they are.”

Where Jeb Bush’s Jewish backers go from here


Many of Jeb Bush’s supporters and longtime friends expressed their disappointment in the outcome that caused the former Florida governor to suspend his campaign on Saturday night.

“I’m very disappointed that the rest of America didn’t agree with me, but they certainly spoke,” Fred Zeidman told Jewish Insider on Sunday. “I always felt Jeb was the best candidate to beat whoever the Democrats put up.”

“Times have changed, the country has changed, the electorate has changed,” Mel Sembler, former RNC finance chairman and board member of the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC Right to Rise, was quoted as saying by Tampa Bay Times. “I don’t understand our country anymore.”

Just one year ago, Jeb was considered by many to be a leading contender for the 2016 Republican nomination. On June 15, the son and brother of former Presidents presented himself to the American people as an accomplished conservative leader with the best experience needed to win back the White House. On August 25, the Bush campaign launched the largest ‘National Jewish Leadership Committee’ for a presidential primary contender, consisting of 71 prominent members of the Jewish community.

As Donald Trump gained in the polls and dominated the news cycle on a regular basis, Jeb’s early supporters maintained hope and confidence that their struggling candidate would perform well enough in the Iowa caucuses and then ultimately win the New Hampshire primary. Despite spending a significant amount of time and resources in the Granite State, Bush came in with a disappointing fourth-place finish, barely ahead of Marco Rubio, who days earlier surprisingly wilted under sustained attack by his rivals. On Saturday, after finishing fifth in the SC primary, Jeb told his supporters, “The people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. I respect their decision. So, tonight, I am suspending my campaign.”

Jewish Insider spoke with some of Jeb’s leading Jewish supporters to hear their thoughts on Jeb’s campaign and the state of the race going forward.

“I am still very much despondent about Jeb’s unexpected departure from the race,” Thane Rosenbaum, an American novelist and law professor, told Jewish Insider via email. “I thought he was the superior candidate with the right attitude and policy proposals toward Israel, the Iran [nuclear] deal, and global anti-Semitism–issues that matter to me greatly.”

“Having been ‘Associate Jewish Coordinator ‘ for the Clinton-Gore ticket in 1992, against George H.W. Bush, it was ironic that Jeb’s was the first Republican Presidential campaign in which I became engaged,” Michael Granoff explained. “Jeb’s appeal across party lines as Governor (of Florida) played a major role in my decision because I believe political polarization is eroding the country’s fabric and hampering its ability to deal with very real national security threats.”

Noam Neusner, a WH Jewish liaison in the Bush 43 administration, shared his experience in the short-lived campaign of the younger Bush. “Working for Jeb was immensely rewarding. He is a great boss — lively and upbeat,” said Neusner. “He cares deeply about ideas and governing, and public service — and his staff and volunteers all could see it in everything he did as a candidate and before that as a governor.”

Scott Arogeti, who was appointed as the White House liaison to the Jewish community in the last year of the George W. Bush administration, had only words of praise for the former Florida Governor. “Jeb Bush is a patriot that ran an honorable, substantive campaign aimed at helping millions of Americans reach their full potential,” Arogeti told Jewish Insider. “Additionally, his consistent support for reasserting and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship was genuine, and deserving of both our respect and our gratitude. I’m proud and thankful to have been a small part of his team.”

Members of the “Right to Rise USA” super PAC, took pride in their work on behalf of their candidate despite burning over $100 million in the past few months. “I’m proud to have supported Jeb,” Charlie Spies, the leading counsel to Right to Rise, related to Jewish Insider. “His campaign focusing on policy solutions and an optimistic vision that was an example of the best in our politics. It was also great to see President George W. Bush back on the trail in SC this week. Both he and Jeb have been steadfast friends of Israel and their leadership in a dangerous world is in stark contrast to the failed ‘leading from behind’ of the Obama administration.”

Jason Lyons, founder and CEO of the Wall Street Conference and a political expert, explained what went wrong for Jeb in this unpredictable political season. “We’re in a particular time right now when voters are very upset and looking for someone who says exactly what’s on their mind without thinking twice,” Lyons asserted in a phone conversation with Jewish Insider on Sunday. “Jeb is not that person. His message was not able to resonate since that is not part of his DNA. Donald Trump did an effective job painting Jeb as low energy. The irony is, knowing Jeb, he is anything but low energy.”

According to Lyons, Jeb’s physical makeup suggested the opposite. “You know, he lost a significant amount of weight going into this election and with all the traveling he’s done, one could make the argument that he actually had more energy than anyone else,” he maintained.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Jay Lefkowitz, a senior partner at the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, who also served as President Bush’s Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, summed up the outcome of the recent primaries. “We’re seeing a political year in which both parties, voters are favoring fringe candidates. It could well be that the Republican Party is on its way to nominating Trump as its nominee, which a year ago was unthinkable.”

Looking forward, Ronnie Krongold, a longtime friend and supporter of the Bush family, said he’s confident Jeb “will continue to support conservative principles and the State of Israel, even though he is no longer in the presidential contest.”

“Jeb is a serious leader, who assembled a presidential policy team. I hope he stays in public life,” added Sander Gerber.

In terms of supporting any of the other candidates remaining in the race, many pointed towards Marco Rubio as their favorite. “I think Rubio is the most attractive candidate in the race. I am sure other donors will also shift their support to Rubio,” said Lefkowitz. Adding that the outcome of the Florida primary on March 15 will determine whether Rubio could beat Trump and win the nomination.

“The only one that I could foresee having the potential to build bridges is Marco Rubio,” Granoff stated. “Watching his appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations last spring, I was enormously impressed with his granular grasp of fundamentalist Islamic threats, and by his moral clarity. Likewise, I was impressed with his thoughtful response to the controversy surrounding Apple’s decision to challenge Federal authorities on the San Bernardino iPhone. It is my hope that, despite my discomfort with some of his positions on social issues, despite his young age and lack of executive experience, Senator Rubio will be able to parlay his eloquence and command of issues into an ability to inspire Americans across the political spectrum – and begin to bring them closer together.”

Former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman also announced he was shifting support to Rubio. “With Bush out, I’m clearly on Rubio’s team. I’m not sure whether that helps or hurts. I thought Jeb was the most qualified to be president,” Coleman said in a statement, according to Star Tribune. “But Rubio clearly is our best hope and most qualified to be commander in chief with Jeb out of the race.”

The rest remained undecided, saying they would need time to assess before deciding whom to back. The consensus, however, was that the Republicans must nominate a candidate who can beat the Democratic nominee in the fall. “You can put me in the undecided column,” Krongold told Jewish Insider. “Where I’m not undecided is with regards to the Democratic candidates. We must not allow either of them to end up as President.”

“We all miscalculated,” Zeidman conceded. “We need to sit back and assess who has the best chance to beat the Democrats.”

Lyons offered some deeper analysis on the state of the race. “It’s a three and a half man race,” he said. “I say three and a half because Kasich has to be still involved since Ohio is a swing state. It would be in the best interest of the remaining candidates to come together after Super Tuesday and decide who will be the nominee, the VP candidate, Secretary of State, etc. I would just add that Marco and Ted are very gifted individuals. At this stage, the remaining candidates should begin to unify the party. The Republicans have a real opportunity to recapture the White House if they stop killing each other one by one.”

If Donald Trump continues winning states in March, Lyons suggested that it would be time for the establishment “to rally around him as well and support him.” But he also offered some unsolicited advice to the Republican presidential frontrunner: “It’s time for Trump to tone down some of the rhetoric and start embracing the establishment.”

Granoff, however, said he would refuse to accept the idea of supporting Trump in the general election. Instead, he added his voice to the recent chatter around Mike Bloomberg running as an independent. “If the circus continues, and Trump prevails as the GOP nominee, then it is my conviction that it would be a moral imperative for someone richer than him to enter the race. Maybe someone richer than him who popularly governed the nation’s largest city for over a decade,” he recommended.

Clinton clear on Trump: ‘We were not friends’


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wants to set the record straight on Donald Trump: “We were not friends.”

“We knew each other, obviously, in New York,” Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York, said in excerpts of a People magazine interview released on Wednesday. “I knew a lot of people.”

Trump, the real estate billionaire whose standing as Republican front-runner was dented by a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Monday, had long touted his friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. In a March 2012 Fox News interview, Trump praised Clinton as a “terrific woman.”

“I am biased because I have known her for years. I live in New York. She lives in New York. I really like her and her husband both a lot. I think she really works hard,” Trump told Fox.

But the Clintons, who attended Trump's 2005 wedding, were fair game on the campaign trail. 

In November, Trump said Hillary Clinton did not have strength or stamina to be president and called her the worst U.S. secretary of state, a post she held from 2009 to 2013.

When Clinton denounced Trump last month for showing “a penchant for sexism,” Trump turned the phrase against her, using it to refer to Bill Clinton's sexual scandals as president.

Trump's caustic comments about Hispanics, women, Muslims and his rivals for the nomination have set much of the tone for the Republican race. 

Clinton has accused him of being divisive and a bully.

Clinton told People she could handle Trump's barbs, but worried about the immigrants and American Muslims he targets.

“I'm more concerned about the tone that is being set in the political debate this year because the last thing our country needs right now is more divisiveness, more mean-spiritedness,” she said. 

It was not clear when the People interview, which included Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, was conducted. Clinton won the Iowa Democratic caucuses over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday. 

“I really care about what he says about other people, who don't have the voice and the platform,” Clinton said, referring to immigrants and American Muslims.

Chelsea Clinton said she has never had a relationship with Donald Trump but remains friends with his daughter, Ivanka.

“I do believe that friendship is more important than politics,” she told People. “I would never hold anyone accountable for what their parents or anyone else in their family said or did.”

Among White House hopefuls, Trump least likely to hit ‘follow’ button on Twitter


The millions of Twitter users following Donald Trump shouldn't expect a “follow back” from the Republican presidential front-runner anytime soon. 

Trump's campaign account @realDonaldTrump has nearly 6 million Twitter followers, the most of any candidate running for president. But he is picky about who he follows, with just 49 accounts listed as of Friday. That means he has the highest ratio of followers to those he is following, in both the Republican and Democratic fields. 

In contrast, Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas who has emerged as Trump's strongest rival, follows nearly 14,000 accounts on Twitter and has 755,000 followers, according to his profile as of Friday.

The exclusivity underscores how Trump primarily uses Twitter to broadcast his message as opposed to engaging in a back and forth with users, experts in digital strategy said. While other campaigns use a similar approach, Trump commands the most attention on social media.

Trump's pickiness may indicate a surprising strategy for the freewheeling Republican front-runner: Playing it safe when it comes to pledging his Twitter allegiance with a “follow.” 

Candidates can't pick and choose their followers, but they have control over when to click the follow button.

“There is more risk in who you follow,” said Scott Talan, a communications professor at American University who teaches social media strategy. “If you’re actively following someone, you’re assuming it's not going to be some religious extremist … or a prisoner with a record.”

And, while some Republican candidates follow each other, Trump follows none of them. 

The accounts Trump monitors include those of his children and several hotel properties. Also on the eclectic list are musician Steven Tyler, basketball great Magic Johnson, Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE Inc, and sisters Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson, former Democrats who now stump for Trump and tweet under the handle @DiamondandSilk.

Despite Trump's highly public battle with Fox News over anchor Megyn Kelly's role as a moderator in last week's Republican debate, Fox shows or news personalities such as Sean Hannity account for better than 10 percent of the handles he follows. Kelly, not surprisingly, did not make the list, but the Fox handles still add up to a larger bloc than any outside of Trump's family or business.

Hannity and other Fox presenters are also widely followed by Trump's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump's cautious approach to who he follows hasn't put a damper on his social activity. His account shows more than 30,000 tweets, the highest of any account reviewed by Reuters. 

It also hasn't stopped Trump from committing blunders with his retweets, like the one from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM, which gave its location as “Jewmerica” and featured an image that referenced George Lincoln Rockwell, a prominent figure in the neo-Nazi movement in the United States.

“A LOOSE CANNON”

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, said that Trump operates his own Twitter account. “Everything you see on there is pretty much directly from him,” she said. “The strategy behind it is to tell the truth and to call it like he sees it.”

On Twitter, Trump goes where his opponents fear to tread. He uses it to launch unfiltered personal attacks on those who cross paths with him. For example, he did not shy from retweeting a post that included photographs of a skimpily dressed Kelly from a magazine shoot and the comment, “And this is the bimbo that's asking presidential questions?”

“He is definitely a loose cannon in terms of how he uses his Twitter account,” said Micah Sifry, co-founder of Personal Democracy Media, an online forum on technology and politics. “At the same time, he hasn’t been hurt by it yet because apparently a big chunk of what he’s saying is popular among Republican voters.” 

Trump is aware of his social media success. Following the seventh Republican presidential debate on Thursday, he tweeted Twitter data showing that he commanded the most traffic during the event. “Great Twitter poll-and I wasn't even there,” he said.

Twitter matters to campaigns – it is an increasingly important way for candidates to reach their most ardent supporters. 

But talking about the issues on Twitter may not always be the most effective means of engaging supporters. A recent Trump tweet wishing retired golfer Jack Nicklaus happy birthday received more than four thousand “likes”, roughly twice as many as Clinton’s policy-related tweets on the same day.

Sanders celebrates poll showing lead against GOP hopefuls


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday celebrated a somewhat unrealistic poll that shows him leading potential Republican presidential candidates in a head-to-head matchup next fall.

According to Quinnipiac University poll published Wednesday, Sanders leads Donald Trump 49 percent to 41 percent, 47 to 41 percent over Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz by a 49 to 39 percentage margin. He also has a slim one-point lead (44-43) over Marco Rubio. The numbers are identical to Hillary Clinton’s edge over Republican presidential candidates.

“Bernie Sanders beats the most popular Republican White House hopefuls by margins as big or bigger than Hillary Clinton,” the Sanders campaign news release proudly announced.

Campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement, “The survey demonstrated Sanders’ remarkable strength as a general election candidate based on his enormous popularity among young voters, his standing as the most trusted candidate and his strength with independents. This is the latest evidence that Bernie is the most electable candidate the Democrats could nominate.”

Sanders also leads with independents over the GOP hopefuls, while Hillary trails candidates like Rubio and Carson.

“Bernie is generating the kind of excitement and enthusiasm needed for Democrats to retain the White House and elect more Democrats in Congress and state capitals,” Weaver opined.

The downside, however, is the fact that the poll shows Hillary beating Sanders by 30 points (6-30) among National Democratic voters. Hillary has an even larger lead among women voters – 65% vs. 23%.

Also, when asked is Sanders would have a good chance of defeating the Republican nominee in the general election for President, 55 percent of voters, including 39% of Democrats, think he stands no chance of winning.

The Quinnipiac poll also surveyed GOP primary voters. While Trump is still the frontrunner – with 27% of support – Rubio and Cruz are gradually moving up – now in a dead heat for 2nd place with 17-16 percent. Among voters who consider Foreign Policy to be the most pressing issue of the election (17% of GOP primary voters), Rubio leads the GOP field with 22 percent.

Azerbaijan: Israel’s secret Muslim friend


This article first appeared on The Media Line.

Azerbaijan went to the polls earlier in the week in an event that was shunned by both the country’s main opposition parties and even by international election monitors. One exception was a group of several Israeli politicians who flew into the oil rich nation to observe the proceedings. Although this is unlikely to improve the poll’s credibility it does demonstrate the intimacy of the relationship between the Jewish state and its closest Muslim ally, experts said.

Location explains Azerbaijan’s standing in the world. Situated on the oil rich Caspian Sea, the state is wooed by Western governments seeking an alternative to Russia as a source of energy imports. Israel is one such customer and in return sells large quantities of sophisticated weaponry to Azerbaijan, partly in exchange for oil.

Much of the oil Israel purchases – about 40% — travels through the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, Gallia Lindenstrauss, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Media Line. The BTC runs overland from Baku, the country’s capital on the Caspian Sea, through Georgia, and ends in Turkey. “Historically speaking, Israel put a lot of importance on energy security,” Lindenstrauss said. This caused Israel to pursue a close relationship with the Caucasus state, and led to it recognizing Azerbaijan shortly after it declared independence in 1991.

Equally important to Israel is Azerbaijan’s southern border with Iran, a country with no love lost for Baku, despite both countries’ populations being predominantly Shi’ite Muslim. This makes Israel and Azerbaijan natural allies since “both countries see Iran as an existential threat,” Lindenstrauss observed.

There are ample reasons for Azerbaijan to welcome its alliance with the Jewish state: some with a view toward Iran and others due to Armenia, according to Alexander Murinson, an independent researcher with the Begin-Sadat Center and author of Turkey's Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan. Armenia and Azerbaijan became embroiled in an ethnic conflict following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a dispute which continues to dominate their interactions. “Joint containment of Iran, access to high-tech Israeli military, [and the] blocking of the Armenian diaspora in the United States by the Jewish lobby,” are incentives for Azerbaijan to court Israel, Murinson suggested.

The Azerbaijan-Israel association suits both parties well. The selling of sophisticated weapons to Azerbaijan is “another attempt at psychological pressure on Iran” by the Jewish state, the author explained. Drone and air defense technologies make up the bulk of such exchanges.

But the cooperation goes further than this. Azerbaijan’s location makes it a natural back door into Iran. There are reports suggesting that all of Israel’s covert espionage activities conducted against Iran were based in Azerbaijan, including the assassinations of the nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, Murinson said.

The Iranian foreign ministry has accused Azerbaijan of collaborating with the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, and of acting as a safe house for its operations. Azerbaijan’s proximity to Iran could also enable it to function as an airfield or refueling stop for Israeli jets conducting raids against targets in Iran.

Turkey adds another piece to this complex arrangement. Previously, a triangle alliance was created between it, Azerbaijan and Israel. But following a long term cooling of relations between Ankara and Israel due in large part to the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, Azerbaijan came under pressure to distance itself from Israel. Nine Turkish activists were killed on the ship when Israeli commandos stormed the ship as it was attempting to circumvent the Israeli blockade and sail to the Gaza Strip.

Although the cultural connection between Azerbaijan and its “big brother” Turkey is extremely close, expediency and regional ambition caused the smaller state to stick to its alliance with Israel, Murinson argued.

In recent years, the under the radar relationship appeared problematic for the United States, too, as Washington was concerned that Israel would use Azerbaijani airfields to strike at Iran, Lindenstrauss said. This would have disrupted attempts to negotiate the nuclear agreement between Iran and Western states that was recently signed, and which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been consistently opposed to.

With an ally able to both provide oil and pressure Iran, Israel doesn’t want to look too closely at the domestic politics of Azirbaijan. This, Lindenstrauss suggested, is a common trend in Israeli foreign affairs where realpolitik is central.

The elections which took place recently, and which comfortably returned incumbent Ilham Heydar Aliyev to power, were boycotted by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Monitors for the poll had not been guaranteed sufficient access to ensure transparency, the OSCE said. Most members of the opposition boycotted the election as well.

“It’s hard to talk about free and fair elections in a country where freedom of expression and assembly are restricted, and journalists who should be reporting on elections, and NGO activists who should be monitoring them are in jail,” Giorgi Gogia, Human Rights Watch’s researcher for Azerbaijan, told The Media Line.

However there are limits to how far and to how visibly the relationship will go. Although an Israeli embassy exists in Baku, Azerbaijan has never deemed to open a diplomatic headquarters in Tel Aviv. The Azerbaijani government always feared that doing so would make fellow Muslim states less likely to support it in its dispute with Christian Armenia, Lindenstrauss explained.

As for the future of the Israel-Azerbaijan relationship, it is likely to continue unless Israel breaks its long kept silence on the Armenian Genocide, Zeev Levin, a historian with the central Asian and Caucasus research unit at the Hebrew University, told The Media Line. Such a change in stance might drive Azerbaijan away from Israel and into the arms of Ankara.

Bernie has it. Trump has it. Joe has it. Does Hillary?


As Joe Biden polls family and friends about entering the presidential fray, he’s getting two kinds of advice – personal and political.  The personal is about his life, his values and what he can give to his country.  The political is about Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability.

Honesty and trustworthiness are top issues for voters, but majorities in swing states “>said on “Face the Nation,” “because he’s a billionaire.” The “logical consequence” of Trump’s argument: “The only people who can run for office in America who don’t have to curry favors are billionaires themselves.” Sanders’ alternative is the 350,000 people who’ve contributed an average of $31 to his campaign.  This is peanuts, but it makes him real.

Clinton, too, wants campaign finance reform, and Sanders’ catching fire with the base on that issue is probably what got her to talk more about it.  At the same time, her campaign plans to raise $2.5 billion.  Barack Obama’s credibility on campaign finance reform cratered in 2008, when he became the first major candidate “>voters’ top issue in NBC/Wall Street Journal and New York Times polls.  Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has even launched a quixotic presidential campaign on this one issue. 

Clinton won’t go as far as Lessig wants her to, and she won’t go as far as Sanders is, but she can’t afford to be seen as any less credible on money in politics than Trump.  Straight talk from her would be electrifying. Did the hours she spent dialing for dollars ever make her want to take a shower? Was there a contribution to her Senate campaigns she regrets accepting?  Have donors asked for things that crossed a line?  Where does she draw that line? (And did she really go to Trump’s wedding just because she thought “>More than half of the money that Republican candidates have raised has come from just 130 families and their businesses.  Trump’s candor about the contributor class – his rupture with donor omertà – has turned the other candidates’ evasions into anvils around their ankles. Questions about Clinton’s money machine won’t go away.  They give her an opportunity. But if her answers sound as weasely as Jeb Bush’s, it won’t do wonders for her trustworthiness.

Another taboo Trump broke:  he trumpeted the Cleveland debate’s TV ratings.  “There should have been 2 million people watching,” he said, but instead there were 24 million. “Who do you think they were watching – Jeb Bush? I don’t think so.”  It’s a casual admission that campaigns are spectacles, candidates are infotainment talent and news is a corporate cash cow. The debate contained more than 17 minutes of paid ads and Fox News self-promotion.  Networks and stations monetize the eyeballs of the audiences that their political programming attracts.  Candidates win or lose, but media oligarchs always come out ahead.

It didn’t used to be that way (hello, League of Women Voters!), and it doesn’t have to be that way now. Why should parties and networks run the debate schedule and format? Why should Fox News or CNN get to say who gets prime time, who gets the children’s table, whether there’s a live audience and whether they’re encouraged to emote, as they were in Cleveland, where “>proposed that primary debates randomly mix Republican and Democratic candidates, he distanced himself from bipartisan compliance with corporate media kabuki. Clinton could spring herself, too. Unless a candidate picks a fight, the only It prize at an establishment debate is an Authentic Hack badge.

“You know, they’re calling it ‘the summer of Trump,’” Trump martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Rand Paul promises to ‘take our country back’ in 2016 White House bid


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) promised to be a different kind of Republican on Tuesday, launching a 2016 White House bid that he said would highlight the conservative principles of reduced government and spending as he vowed to break up “the Washington machine.”

The senator from Kentucky, a libertarian who has built a national reputation for challenging party orthodoxy, criticized Republicans in Congress and recent Republican presidents for helping to drive up the federal debt and reducing personal liberties.

“We have come to take our country back,” he told cheering supporters on a flag-draped stage in Louisville, Kentucky, promising to break up “the Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives.”

With his announcement, Paul becomes the second major Republican to announce presidential ambitions for 2016, after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. A crowded field is expected, with candidates competing hard for constituencies ranging from the Christian right to traditional Wall Street Republicans.

Paul starts the campaign in the second tier of Republican candidates, drawing the support of 8.4 percent of Republicans, according to a March Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.

That puts him behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is considered a top contender among Republicans although he has not declared himself a presidential candidate; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

He is in a statistical tie with four other candidates – Cruz, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Paul, who entered Congress on the Tea Party wave of 2010, has been reaching out in recent months to attract more mainstream voters.

The anti-war agitator who mounted a 13-hour filibuster to call attention to the United States' use of drones recently proposed a boost to military spending. The firebrand who wants to scale back the authority of the Federal Reserve has been quietly courting Wall Street donors.

And the 52-year-old former eye surgeon who harnessed the anti-establishment energy of the Tea Party movement, has been raising money for fellow Republicans, at times upsetting the grassroots activists who have made him a national figure.

Paul told the Louisville crowd he would campaign with “the Constitution in one hand and the Bill of Rights in the other.”

Paul's father, Ron Paul, the libertarian former congressman and failed presidential candidate, attended the announcement but did not speak at the rally.