Sarah Silverman speaking during the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Head of GOP in Israel says ‘self-hating Jew’ Sarah Silverman ‘needs a muzzle’


The leader of Israel’s main Republican group called Sarah Silverman a “self-hating Jew” and said she “needs a muzzle.”

Marc Zell made the comments Saturday night on behalf of the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page, which he manages as the group’s co-chairman. The post links to a blog post about a decade-old video clip of the Jewish comedian performing her standup show “Jesus is Magic.”

The Feb. 2 blog post by conservative documentary filmmaker Pat Dollard is titled “Jew Sarah Silverman: “I Hope The Jews Did Kill Christ. I’d Fucking Do It Again In A Second,” and features Silverman delivering a version of that line.

Zell, an attorney who lives in the West Bank settlement Tekoa, said Silverman’s comments “damage” the Jewish community and insult Christians. He said it falls within the mission of Republican Overseas Israel to “call down” public figures like Silverman.

“Republicans Overseas Israel exists in order to not only represent the Republican Party here in Israel but also to represent the Jewish community in Israel to the Republican Party and the millions of Americans who support the Republican Party and our president,” he told JTA Sunday. “I think it’s appropriate to say something about a public figure as widely known as this woman, who during the campaign also had some ‘precious’ views to express about our candidate and our president. People like her need to be called down when they step over the line.”

Silverman — who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and then Hillary Clinton, for president during the 2016 election campaign — has been an outspoken critic of Trump. Last March, during the Republican primaries, she appeared on TBS’ “Conan” dressed as Adolf Hitler and complained of her character being “unfavorably” compared to Trump.

Republican Overseas Israel held a get-out-of the-vote campaign in Israel for Trump during the general election, and Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded video messages for an event the group held in Jerusalem in October. Zell claimed a record number of Americans in Israel cast absentee ballots, though that was widely disputed.

One of Donald Trump’s most prominent boosters in Israel during the campaign, Zell continues to combatively advocate for and defend the president, along with Israel and the settlements. On the Republicans Overseas Israel Facebook page Thursday, he also deemed the Israeli-American teenager from Asheklon who was arrested last week on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the United States “The Ultimate Self-Hating Jew.”

Four women had commented on Zell’s Facebook post about Silverman Sunday, all agreeing with its sentiment. One invited Silverman to visit the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, saying “Your friends are there, you’ll feel really comfortable and soon the rainy season is over so you won’t drown in your bed.” Others called her a “Trash box” and a “pig.”

Zell responded in a comment Sunday: “Better not to even pass her stuff around. I’m hitting delete.” But the post remained up.

Jerusalem-based journalist Noga Tarnopolsky in a tweet called on the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition to “do something” about Zell, saying of Zell’s Silverman tweet: “This is in your name.”  She also tweeted to the Anti-Defamation League, saying: “Hi & : An online troll is confusing a prominent Jewish woman with a dog. Do something.”

U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Senator Susan Collins backs David Friedman


Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) — a moderate Republican who has already voted against one Trump nominee — told Jewish Insider that she is “inclined to support” David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel. In a brief interview on Tuesday, the Maine lawmaker explained, “I called Joe (Lieberman) to find out his views and he (Lieberman) speaks very highly of him (Friedman). That certainly is a good endorsement…  I’m inclined to support him.”

During the Senate Foreign Relations vote on March 9, all of the Republican committee members voted in favor of Friedman. However, nine Democrats opposed the New York attorney with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) crossing party lines to join with the GOP. Along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Senator Joe Lieberman introduced Friedman at his hearing and offered strong praise for the President’s nominee.

It appears likely that Friedman will pass the Senate floor if he is able to win over moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins. The question remains how much backing he will receive from Democrats. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not yet announced his intentions and could play a significant role in swaying fellow Democrats. Last week, when asked by Jewish Insider if he backs Friedman, Schumer noted, “I’m waiting until I see him” and declined to comment further.

On February 16, Lieberman told a symposium at Yeshiva University, “I want to assure you that David Friedman will perform as Ambassador way above expectations.” The former Connecticut Senator is a partner at Friedman’s law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP.

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC). Photo via Walter Jones/Facebook.

Meet the Republican congressman who calls for a settlement freeze


In many ways, Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), is a staunch conservative. He blasted former President Barack Obama’s “burdensome” environmental regulations as “completely out of touch with the American people.” The North Carolina lawmaker vehemently opposed the outgoing administration’s rule mandating that states offer Title X funding for abortion providers including Planned Parenthood. However, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far outside the norm for a Republican member of Congress these days.

This post was originally published at JewishInsider.com.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Jones called for a “moratorium” on Israeli West Bank settlement growth. Jones was one of four Republicans who voted with 76 Democrats against House Resolution 11 in January, a measure that criticized the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for condemning Israeli settlements at the end of the Obama Administration. While the overwhelming majority of Republican leaders including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and President Donald Trump assailed the UN for engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, Walter offered a dramatically different response. “I think they (the UN) can be part of a process that could be helpful,” he explained. When discussing America’s role as a mediator, the 74-year-old North Carolina lawmaker noted, “America because of its friendship and relationship with Israel – and I have great respect for Israel – I think it’s going to take more than just one country to put this together.”

Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign onto a letter currently circulating from Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VI) and David Price (D-NC), which “affirms” the two state solution. In doing so, Jones joined 113 Democrats who back the measure. Explaining his support, Jones noted, “If we just sit back, watch and complain, and nobody is making any effort to get the two sides together, I think it is wrong.” The veteran GOP Congressman cites his Christian faith in motivating his desire to search for peace. In contrast to most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Jones repeatedly used the term “Palestine” throughout the interview.

Some pro-Israel organizations have worked tirelessly to unseat Jones given his unorthodox viewpoint as a Republican on the Jewish state. Breitbart called an ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) against Jones, which included anti-Israel protesters burning U.S. and Israeli flags while narrating Jones’ Congressional record, “brutal.” The ECI ad also warned that Jones was endorsed by the “anti-Israel group J Street.” In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Jones broke with his party in 2005 emphasizing that his vote in favor of the 2003 Iraq War was mistaken, years before candidate Trump made opposition to the war a mainstay of his presidential campaign.

Despite the numerous foreign policy challenges, Jones urged Trump to signal that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be “the number one issue” in order for America “to be a facilitator to find peace.” With Trump calling on Israel to “hold back on settlements,” and the President’s Special Assistant Jason Greenblatt meeting this week with Netanyahu, and visiting a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp, Jones may have reason to be more upbeat than usual.

Melanie Steinhardt comforting Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, Feb. 26. Photo by Dominick Reuter/Getty Images.

Poll: 87 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Republicans say anti-Semitism a ‘serious’ problem


Seventy percent of American voters see anti-Semitism in the country as a “very” or “somewhat serious” problem, up from 49 percent a month ago, according to a new poll.

The responses differed by party identification, with an overwhelming majority of Democrats, 87 percent, seeing anti-Semitism as a “very” or “somewhat serious” problem, and slightly more than half of Republicans, 53 percent, seeing it as such, according to the poll released Thursday.

The survey was was conducted by Quinnipiac University at the beginning of March.

Jewish institutions, including community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices, have been hit with more than 100 bomb threats so far this year, all of them hoaxes. In the past three weeks, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in Philadelphia,St. Louis, and Rochester, New York.

Respondents were split on President Donald Trump’s response to the bomb threats and vandalism, with 37 percent approving and 38 percent disapproving. Most Republicans, 71 percent, approved of Trump’s response, while most Democrats, 66 percent, disapproved.

The poll also found that 63 percent of American voters think hatred and prejudice has increased since Trump’s election, while two percent say it has decreased and 32 percent say it has stayed the same.

Trump has come under fire for his delayed response to the incidents. Concerning the threats on Jewish establishments, Trump at first deflected questions – and in one instance shouted down a reporter who asked him about it – before calling them “horrible.”

Last month, the president noted the bomb threats and vandalism of cemeteries in his first address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.

The Kansas City incident occurred after a patron ejected from a bar after hurling racial epithets at two workers from India allegedly returned with a gun and killed one of the men and wounded another.

5 Jewish things to expect from Donald Trump (and Ivanka) on Thursday night


We’ve caught glimpses of him this week. He gave a three-line speech Monday night. The next day, he addressed the crowd via video feed.

But Thursday night is the real thing: Donald Trump, the official nominee of the Republican Party, will address 50,000 of his faithful from the convention stage in Cleveland.

Cable networks have been touting this convention almost as if it were the final episode of a reality show, which in some sense it is. Trump will likely speak from prepared remarks on a teleprompter, but if there’s one constant in his topsy-turvy campaign, we should be prepared for him to go off script and surprise the crowd.

With that caveat, here’s what to expect from one of American history’s most unexpected candidates — and the Jewish daughter, Ivanka, who will introduce him:

1. He’ll bash the Iran deal: This convention has been full of discord, but one constant thread is a vomit-like distaste for the agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear program, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vociferously opposed. Throughout the campaign, Trump has described the deal as a disastrous capitulation, born of a failed negotiating strategy, that has emboldened one of America’s enemies.

2. He’ll gripe about America’s allies — except Israel: Trump has long said — even 30 years ago — that America’s allies play it for a fool. He has called on military partners to shoulder more of the financial burden of defense, and on Wednesday even suggested he wouldn’t necessarily honor America’s obligation to defend NATO allies if they are attacked.

But if he says anything at all about Israel, which benefits from $3 billion of U.S. aid, expect it to be flattering. Trump is a fan of Netanyahu. He admires Israel’s West Bank security barrier. And at least ever since his well-received speech to AIPAC in March, pro-Israel policy is one Republican orthodoxy he has not upended.

3. He’ll use the phrase “America First”: Jewish leaders have scolded Trump for his foreign policy campaign slogan, which was also the name of an American isolationist, frequently anti-Semitic group leading up to World War II. Given Trump’s support from an array of white supremacists, “America First” has poor connotations. But Trump has doubled down on the slogan, and even appended it as a hashtag to the revised version of a tweet many called anti-Semitic. The slogan was part of Wednesday night’s convention theme, “Make America First Again.” Don’t expect him to back down now.

4. He’ll praise his Jewish family: When critics accuse Trump of dog-whistling to anti-Semites, the most common defense is his obvious bond with his observant Jewish daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and their children. “The fact is that my father-in-law is an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife,” Kushner wrote in support of Trump earlier this month. Ivanka is a senior executive in the Trump Organization, and Kushner has been called Trump’s informal campaign manager.

His children have earned generally high marks so far in painting a human portrait of their father. Tiffany recalled how her dad would write thoughtful notes on her report cards. Donald Jr. described how his father had his kids learn from blue-collar workers. Eric described his father’s feeling of obligation to the country. Expect Trump to reciprocate the flattery.

5. His Jewish family will praise him: Perhaps the most charming and articulate spokeswoman for the Donald has been Ivanka. An icon in her own right, Ivanka Trump has provided a friendly face for the campaign, adding a softer touch to her father’s more extreme rhetoric and defending him from accusations of misogyny and bigotry. She’s also been tough, reportedly helping engineer the ouster of Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Ivanka has been so valuable to the campaign that her brother Eric said she’d make a good running mate.

When she introduces her father tonight, Ivanka Trump will try to warm up the crowd. After Ted Cruz spent 20 minutes throwing shade at Trump on Wednesday night, the candidate needs someone to go positive for the campaign. Expect Ivanka to do her utmost.

Cruz may be down, but he is not out as a favorite of the pro-Israel right


Wednesday night’s gripping tale of a dramatic, sudden repudiation of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by Sheldon Adelson, the major pro-Israel philanthropist and Republican donor, seems a little less consequential in the light of Thursday morning, according to folks who are close with Adelson and his wife, Miriam.

There is no rift, they say, only a cooling off until after Nov. 8, Election Day. Until then, the Adelsons are invested in Donald Trump, while Cruz remains a darling of the pro-Israel right.

Reports Wednesday night said Cruz had been banned from Adelson’s suite at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland after Cruz declined to endorse Trump during his convention speech Wednesday night and exited the stage to boos from the delegates.

Describing what occurred as a snub or a ban would be to “utterly misrepresent” it, said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who was present and issued a statement at the Adelsons’ behest.

“After the speech, given its newsworthy content, it appears that a large contingent of reporters followed the Senator as he made his rounds, including to the Adelsons’ suite,” Boteach said. “The decision was taken by advisers to the Adelsons not to make a spectacle in the small private suite given the intense media scrutiny engulfing the Senator at that moment and to instead meet him in private the following day.”

Boteach, whose advocacy group The World Values Network is funded in large part by the Adelsons, said the couple planned to meet privately with Cruz on Thursday.

“Whatever issues they would have had with Senator Cruz’s speech, they would never have chosen to disrespect a friend who is a United States Senator, a patriot, and a staunch friend of Israel,” he said.

Cruz still stands out as perhaps the best political friend to the wing of pro-Israel activists who embrace settlements and would like to put the two-state solution into deep freeze, according to Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America.

“There is no one better than Cruz,” said Klein, whose group is also a major beneficiary of Adelson’s largesse but who emphasized that he was not speaking on behalf of the casino magnate.

“I mean, others are just as good,” he said, naming former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee among once and possibly future presidential contenders. “But there is no one better.”

The Adelsons kept out of this presidential race for months, in part because their generous backing for Gingrich in the 2012 cycle is believed to have set back eventual nominee Mitt Romney’s bid to unseat President Barack Obama (who, like this year’s Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, they consider a greater threat than Trump).

Still, Adelson did reveal last year that he favored Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, while his wife was impressed with Cruz. Both candidates had what the pro-Israel right regards as unassailable records on Israel and on opposing the Iran nuclear deal.

Adelson did not pronounce his preference for Trump until May, after Rubio’s campaign imploded – he lost his home state, Florida, to Trump — and after Trump had emerged as the presumptive nominee, despite a formidable late-in-the-game challenge by Cruz. Adelson reportedly told Trump that he would back his campaign to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

There was not much love lost between the two. When Trump was boasting last year that he did not need Adelson’s money, sources in the Adelson camp were quoted as saying that he had assiduously courted the casino magnate. Trump’s refusal to say he would completely kill the Iran deal – he says he hates it, but appears open to tweaking it as opposed to scrapping it outright – and his back-and-forth on whether he would be “neutral” on Israel were also of concern to Adelson and other Republicans.

So when it emerged late Wednesday that Adelson ordered Cruz turned away from his suite, there was speculation of a rift. Those reports appeared to be confirmed when Adelson’s adviser, Andy Abboud, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump posing with the Adelsons captioned, “The Adelsons and their choice for president!”

However, a source close to the Adelsons immediately told CNN that they shut out Cruz because they did not want him to use the couple “as a prop against Trump” – suggesting that the distancing was about electoral strategies (which will be irrelevant post-Nov. 8) and not about a permanent falling out.

Cruz was a headliner at the annual ZOA dinner in 2014. The 2016 headliner is Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, but Cruz would get a hero’s welcome were he to turn up, Klein said. (The dinner takes place in December, after the election turns primaries tensions into mist.)

“Jews who are staunch supporters of Cruz, almost entirely because of his pro-Israel stance, I believe this will have little impact,” he said. “Because support for Cruz is all about his strong positions on Israel.”

Fear, loathing and the shortest Donald Trump speech ever


It was the biggest surprise of the convention so far: The calmest and shortest speech came from Donald Trump.

Just days after he took nearly a half hour of meandering tangents to introduce his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump kept his words to an uncharacteristic minimum Monday when introducing his wife, Melania, in Cleveland.

“We’re gonna win so big,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to present the next first lady of the United States, my wife, an amazing mother and incredible woman, Melania Trump.”

That was it. Calvin Coolidge gave speeches longer than that.

It was also a stark change in tone from the rest of the night, which was filled with anger, attacks and invective toward Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and President Barack Obama. Speaker after speaker either called for Clinton to go to prison, said she had the blood of the Benghazi victims on her hands or predicted that her presidency would put the country’s survival at risk.

Pat Smith, whose son Sean died in the 2012 Benghazi attacks, said “Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.” Darryl Glen, who’s running for Senate in Colorado, said Clinton “deserves to be in an orange jumpsuit.” Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, said “a vote for Hillary is putting all of our children’s lives at risk.”

Remember when John McCain told a crowd in 2008 that Obama “is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared [of] as president of the United States?” Don’t expect that now.

In fact, fear coursed throughout the night. Some of the speakers portrayed a nation on the brink of collapse.

“Our country’s national security is at risk,” said Texas Rep. Mike McCaul.

“The challenges facing America have never been greater,” said the reality TV personality Rachel Duffy.

Monday morning, Trump senior adviser Paul Manafort told reporters the day’s program would focus on introducing Trump as the “father, businessman, compassionate human being he is when the spotlights aren’t on and when he wasn’t running for president.”

For most of the night, though, the focus was on bashing Hillary. Only when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani got up to speak did a trickle of Trump anecdotes begin to flow, and even then they were vague.

Melania struck a softer note, promising that Trump would care for every American, regardless of race or religion, and praising him as a husband, father and person. (Although she may have cribbed part of the speechfrom the strikingly similar speech Michelle Obama gave in introducing her husband eight years earlier.)

But when she was touting his candidacy, Melania Trump made up for Donald’s surprisingly subdued demeanor with a little Trump-style boasting of her own.

“He can do this better than anyone else can,” she said, smiling. “And it won’t even be close.”

At Republican convention, Donald Trump sharing the limelight with rock and roll


On the Lake Erie boardwalk, a few Republican delegates huddle next to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for a quick selfie before scooting away.

Walker was the anti-Donald Trump for 15 minutes last year, until he quit and asked other lagging Republicans to rally around Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, until he, too, dropped out.

Now Walker is appearing at the convention and speaking in support of Trump after accusing the presumptive party nominee just a month or so ago of “saying things that run directly at odds with our core beliefs and principles in this country.”

The Walker selfies are almost surreptitious, husbands gently tugging away wives and looking left and right before they continue to the beer garden just outside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Trumpism is visible here, but not in the way nominees and what they stand for have dominated previous conventions. A few baseball caps are visible with his slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and there are discreet buttons and a service dog named Titan wearing a Trump sticker. Law enforcement, in the wake of a horrific spate of police shootings, has become a theme, with delegates whooping cheers for blue uniforms whenever they appear. There is one subtle nod to Trumpism: a proliferation of tall young blonds who have affected the swept-over hairstyle of his daughter Ivanka.

A vendor peddling T-shirts emblazoned “Trump 2016” stands forlorn on 9th Street, the main thoroughfare connecting downtown with the convention area.

More interesting to the delegates are the attractions at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among the more popular exhibits is a blow-up photo of Doors frontman Jim Morrison, who died in Paris in 1971, having gained notoriety for his sexually explicit lyrics and stage performances. Baby boomer couples in pastel-colored shorts and shirts affect contemplative expressions as they pose in front of the photo.

Downstairs, a group of aging rockers, The Second Amendments, blast out the Sam and Dave hit “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Upstairs, a 30-something Washington-based GOP operative garbed in a dark suit and a crew cut examines the Beastie Boys exhibit, where they’re billed as “smart, arty Jewish kids from New York.” He can’t help himself and starts rocking. A woman watching him shouts in laughter, and he says, “Hey, I’m young enough to be a fan.”

The morning after the opening night party, the Ohio delegation has a breakfast emceed by Ohio’s Jewish Republican star, Josh Mandel, the glamorous young state treasurer.

An hour into the event, there are plenty of hangover jokes but not a single Trump mention — neither by Mandel nor the speaker, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a rising star in the party and a neoconservative favorite for his robust embrace of foreign interventionism.

“While we definitely want to elect a Republican the next president of the United States, what I’m focused on and what I’ll be focusing on is helping Rob Portman,” said Mandel, referring to the senator facing a tough challenge from former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Trump is a different kind of Republican. The official convention guide does not feature the typical outdoorsy photo of the candidate enjoying his family. Instead there is Trump indoors, candle-lit, grasping his wife, Melania, in a décolletage-revealing dress. She stares at him worshipfully, displaying a massive diamond ring. He’s raised millions for veterans, his bio says, and in 1996 he was honored with a lunch at the Pentagon.

It’s about defeating Hillary Clinton, says Sam Horowitz, 70, and his 30-year-old son, David. Both are Republican Party activists from Cleveland’s Eastern suburbs.

“He’s showing signs of statesmanlike attitude,” Sam Horowitz, a broker, says of Trump.

David chimes in: “The alternative is a crook who should be in jail.”

When Trump merits a mention, it’s often from a defensive crouch.

“What does the Jewish Post think of Donald Trump?” a delegate from Texas asks me, poking my back, mishearing my introduction to a woman from New York wearing a “Women for Donald Trump” button. I demur, explaining the exigencies of wire service neutrality and not correcting her.

“If Donald Trump is a misogynist, what about Bill Clinton?” she continues.

A delegate from Nebraska waiting for a free meatball at a food truck gives the once-over to a cardboard cutout of Trump bearing a sign “Papa Nick’s is great!”

“Do you think Donald Trump really thinks Papa Nick’s is great?” he asks. “It seems opportunistic.”

I ask him if he’s met Trump.

“No, but I just talked to Stephen Colbert,” who challenged him to play a game, “Trump or Not.” The Nebraskan failed, but conceded, “That was fun.”

Former Hawaii governor: Unlike Democrats, GOP united on Israel


On the first day of the Republican convention in Cleveland, with fewer traditional Republican Jews “>unanimously approved by the party’s platform committee last week, as proof that the Republican Party is the home for Jewish voters in the November election.

American Jews, the former Hawaii Governor stressed, in five of the last six presidential elections have supported the Republican candidate by increasing numbers. “The support for Republican presidential candidates by American Jews have tripled over the past twenty-five years,” she said.

Though she urged Republicans to support the Republican ticket, Lingle made no mention of Trump’s stance on Israel. Instead, she blasted President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. “Clinton and Obama have treated our allies as strangers, insulted their leaders, and ignored their advice and interests,” said Lingle.

Republicans must dump Trump


It’s bad enough when a narcissist is so full of himself that even a defeat can’t humble him. Win or lose, he’s always right. Imagine, then, what happens when an extreme narcissist starts to win, and wins big. All narcissism breaks loose. He goes from being drunk on his greatness to being totally plastered.

This is what is happening to Donald Trump.

He has passed the drunken phase. His stunning victories in the Republican primaries, his endless media exposure and his raucous rallies have become like cocaine-heroin speedballs to the part of his brain that triggers his ego. Blinded by self-love, he has doubled down on his offensiveness and recklessness. 

His critics inside the Republican party say, “What did you expect? This is who Trump is.” But I think it’s worse than that.

What we’re seeing now is Trump becoming more and more Trumpish, a man so hypnotized by his own success that he can’t see himself unraveling (with a 70 percent disapproval rating). He can hire and fire advisers, but it won’t help, because he can’t help himself.

If Trump pulls off a miracle and wins the White House, we will have an unhinged leader of the free world, intoxicated by his greatness, prone to even more recklessness. 

 But even if he loses, which is more likely, we will still have to brave another few months of Trumpian bile. Come November, there won’t be anyone left to offend. We will all need a National Detox Day.

Among the many fallouts of this cringe-inducing year is how Trump’s crassness has overshadowed some genuine grievances among his working-class voters. Many of them feel, rightfully, that the economic recovery has left them behind and the Washington establishment has ignored them.

Some Trump voters also are tired of seeing their country getting ripped off, whether by a badly run war in Iraq that squandered $3 trillion, a badly negotiated nuclear deal that empowered a terror-sponsoring Iran, or unfair trade agreements that have cost American jobs.

The great GOP tragedy of 2016 is that it was a vulgar and divisive circus clown who figured out how to tap into many of those grievances.

In the beginning, many of us saw the Trump phenomenon as a harmless and amusing sideshow. Now, we see it is contaminating a party — and a nation.

That’s why Republicans must do everything they can to dump the Trumpster.

This is no longer about partisan politics; it’s about defending the honor of our country. As Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said recently, “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

With their convention only a month away, for Republicans that time is now. Trump’s beyond-the-pale behavior justifies looking for every possible angle in the playbook to allow delegates to nominate another candidate.

Yes, it’ll be messy, but as John Fund writes in National Review Online, there are expert opinions in support of freeing up the delegates:

“Curly Haugland, a member of both the Republican National Committee and the convention’s Rules Committee, has co-authored with Sean Parnell a persuasive mini-book, ‘Unbound: The Conscience of a Republican Delegate,’ to make the case that delegates to the GOP convention are free to vote their conscience.”

Denying Trump the nomination is a long shot, to be sure. Love him or hate him, the man has earned his delegates. Still, this is one of those torturous moments when one imperative overrides another. If there is a legitimate way to replace Trump with another candidate, it must be tried. 

Republican leaders must say to America, “We have decided that Donald Trump is so far out of line that we can’t in good conscience support him. Even if we have to bear the wrath of his supporters, divide our party and forfeit the election, we will encourage delegates to go in another direction.” 

Politicians and operatives inside the GOP who have mocked and criticized Trump but are nevertheless supporting him are simply proving his point about the cronyism of the political class. The only way they can salvage their integrity is to throw themselves at the mercy of principle and work to replace him.

This would be good not only for America — in the long run, it also would be good for the Republican Party.

“There will always be other Trumps until Republicans decide to make defeating Trumpism a cause, even if that means short-term losses,” former Democratic speechwriter Jon Favreau writes on The Ringer website. “If the party does not become more welcoming and inclusive, young people and other voters will tune it out.”

Donald Trump is too narcissistic to learn from his experience, either in victory or in failure. The Republican Party cannot afford to become like him.


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

I can no longer consider myself a Republican


I have been a member of the Republican Party since I turned 18.  And well before that, I considered myself a rational, moderate conservative.

For all that time, living in Jewish communities in West LA, Berkeley, Northwest DC and other less-than-conservative places, I have openly and proudly identified myself as a conservative and a Republican. In my community, identifying as anything other than a liberal Democrat makes you at the very least a curiosity. More commonly, it places you into the perceived category of maybe-racist/surely-sexist. In that context, I served as an executive officer of the Republican clubs at Berkeley and Georgetown; I worked for several GOP campaigns at the federal, state and local levels; and I attended numerous Republican Party conventions.

I certainly have not identified as a conservative and a Republican because it was fun or a helpful way to ensure that I was the most popular person in the room. I remained a proud Republican in spite of asinine, indefensible positions my party advocated or articulated over the years… Prop 187, a nuance-free pro-life stance, “f**k-the-Jews-they-don’t-vote-for-us-anyway,” a foolish, dangerous, destructive and counterproductive approach to drug laws and their enforcement, a flat rejection of LGBT rights, an aversion to tax increases of any kind regardless of the state of the treasury, and financing off the books and on credit the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – wars I believe were just and necessary, though poorly managed and executed – all come to mind in this context. None of these were great ideas. None of them were easy to defend to my family and friends. But, through all of that, and more, I remained a member of the party.

I have remained a Republican, because I came to the conclusion, when I first considered political ideas more than two decades ago, that I prioritized my policy preferences in a very clear hierarchy.

At the top of this hierarchy I prioritized foreign policy, because foreign policy mistakes will almost certainly get people (and likely a significant number of people) killed.

On the second rung of this ladder, I prioritized economic policy.  Poor economic policies will prevent people from putting food on their table.  When people can’t put food on their tables, that also causes suffering and death, though in significantly smaller numbers than result from foreign policy blunders.

Finally, behind both foreign and economic policy, I prioritized social policy. Flawed social policy can result in serious harm to people. In extreme cases, it can even result in deaths.  Suicides of ostracized and unsupported LGBT youth provide an obvious example.  However, social policy errors are not likely to result in nearly as much harm or death as mistakes in foreign policy or economic policy.

With that prioritization of policies, since the early 1990s until this year’s primaries, while I have disagreed with almost everything the GOP has come to stand for in the social policy arena, I could still vote Republican with a clear conscience. During that time, I have come to disagree with almost everything “mainstream” Democrats have come to stand for in the foreign policy arena: a weak, retreating, almost isolationist, appeasing approach to foreign policy that must have Scoop Jackson rolling in his grave. I still think the GOP is right more often than Democrats on economic policy, although the GOP’s lack of fiscal discipline and uncompromising approach to tax policy have diminished the Republican advantage in that area. And, even in the area of social policy, I have been troubled by the tendency of Democrats to try to push social policy initiatives through courts untethered to originalist (or any other) limiting principles instead of via the elected branches of government.

But, with Trump at the top of the ticket, and with many in the GOP now seeming to fall in line behind him, that calculus has changed. I (and I suspect many others like me) am now saddened to conclude that I can no longer consider myself a Republican.

On social policy, Trump actually, ironically, may improve the GOP in certain respects. Though he has been pretending over the past few months that he’s a social conservative, we all know (and Trump knows that we all know) that he is putting on an act to get the nomination.  I think it would be great to have a pro-choice nominee in the GOP. While I know this would be heresy within some quarters of the GOP, I think the party’s failure to embrace equal rights – including the right to marry the person they love – for gay people is a stain on the party.

But Mr. Trump's blatant sexism, his failure to disavow racists and his demagoguery against Muslim Americans as well as against foreign nationals outweigh even significant social policy progress on other issues. So, on social policy, Trump is effectively like having all the good policies of the Democrats, but with sexism, racism and bigotry mixed in. The result: the Democrats are still better for our country on social policy.

On economic policy, Trump hasn’t said much of substance. While economic policy is really about cutting deals, and while Trump claims to be good at cutting deals, the one bit of economic policy Trump has emphasized is a more nativist/mercantilist trade policy, which has never worked in the past… and there is no indication it will work now. On balance, while it’s hard to tell what his policies might actually be, Trump is likely a net negative on economic policy.

This brings me to foreign policy, the one place where there is no question in my mind that the GOP has had for the past half century a clear advantage over the Democrats. Trump threatens a clear break with everything the GOP has stood for in the realm of foreign policy since I became a Republican.

With the country reeling from the September 11 attacks and a nativist sentiment available to be unleashed, President Bush visited a mosque six days after the attacks to make clear to all Americans that we are not at war with Islam. That, I believe, may go down as one of the most important moments of the 21st century. At what could have been an historic turning point towards a true clash of civilizations, Bush instead placed us firmly on the side of moderate Islam in its internal clash with radical Islam. Trump now threatens to upend that strategy. His thoughtless, reactionary, counterproductive and morally repugnant call to ban all Muslims from entering our country is, quite possibly, the most dangerous statement made by a politician running for office in my lifetime.

We live in a very dangerous time. President Obama has virtually abandoned the field in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and left Libya and Yemen exposed. He has left our allies in the Middle East and Africa scrambling for alternatives to an America that has decided to follow events from the rear and that establishes “red lines” that have no meaning when they are crossed. Daesh has taken advantage of our absence to take over large swaths of territory, massacring and terrorizing civilians, many of whom counted on the U.S. for support.

Threats abound throughout the world. In Eastern Europe, Putin is leading a resurgent, irredentist, territorially aggressive Russia, challenging our allies in the Black Sea region, the Baltic and now the Middle East.

China constitutes an increasingly aggressive rival in Asia and the Pacific, while maintaining a monumental investment in our national economy (including, ominously, in our now massive government debt). With the consolidation of its military leadership, with its development of a Blue Water navy that can project power and interdict sea lanes, with its power grab and militarization of the South China Sea and with its bellicose sword-rattling towards many of its neighbors, including many of our longtime allies, China is on its way to becoming a strategic military threat.

The combination of challenges presented by Russia and China stand poised to undo the great strides towards democracy and democratization that have been achieved around the world ever since President Reagan challenged Gorbachev to tear down that Wall.

Our inability or unwillingness to check Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions compound these threats.

At this moment of great peril, the GOP appears poised to nominate to the Presidency of the United States, the holder of the nuclear launch codes, the commander-in-chief of the most powerful armed forces in human history, an unstable man with no military experience and even less foreign policy expertise.

Mr. Trump threatens our alliances with our neighbors, as well. He has made blatantly racist attacks on Mexican immigrants as “rapists and killers” and he has foolishly (and quite regularly) attempted to publicly shame Mexico into paying for a border wall that would not solve our border security challenges even if it were built.

Mr. Trump and his supporters do not represent the GOP I believe in. They do not represent the GOP I have supported for two decades.

I believe in supporting small business and entrepreneurs.

I believe in helping kids struggling in inner city schools to find a way out of those schools instead of helping the teachers’ union bosses with their fight to keep those kids in failing schools.

I believe that a strong US military, judiciously used, has often (if not always) been, and can continue to be, an indispensable force for immense good in this world.

I believe that the free market is, and always has been, much more effective than government programs at lifting people out of poverty.

I believe that the more centralized the government, the further that government is from the governed, and the less effective it is at accomplishing key goals: fighting poverty, running schools, and performing the many other functions it is crucially important for government to perform.

I believe that, though it certainly creates winners and losers, the aggregate benefits of free trade are irrefutably more valuable than the isolated and temporary benefits of a mercantilist anti-trade policy.

I believe in building bridges to people of goodwill in other countries and cultures. I believe in tearing down, not building up, walls.

I believe in welcoming immigrants, recognizing that we are a nation of immigrants, and striving to be the shining city on the hill spoken of by Reagan, that city “teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity; and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”

The GOP used to believe in all these things, too.  That GOP, I am sad to say, may soon be a relic of the past. That GOP will not survive Donald Trump being nominated as its candidate for President of the United States.

I’ve watched with increasing dismay as many Republican leaders have gone from clearly (if not vocally) opposing Trump’s candidacy, to wishy-washy on his candidacy, to openness to his candidacy, and now, apparently, to full-throated support for his candidacy.

I do not write this out of anger or resentment or fear. I write this out of sorrow: sorrow that a party I have spent more than half my life supporting is soon to be no more; sorrow that a party that has done so much good for this country has been hijacked by a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue willing to say anything necessary in order to get into office; sorrow that the GOP’s leadership, when it had the opportunity to stop this from happening, failed to do so.

I just hope that this failure to save the Republican Party from Trump does not presage a failure by our country as a whole to stop Trump in the general election. But, because I cannot support a Trump candidacy, and because I cannot believe in, and do not believe I belong in, a party that would nominate a man like Mr. Trump, in the event Mr. Trump receives the Republican nomination, I will resign from the party and re-register as an independent. I urge all other Republicans of good will to do the same.

Yoni Fife is an attorney living in Los Angeles.

Protesters target Trump speech to California Republicans


Protests erupted on Friday outside the venue where U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump was speaking to a group of California Republicans, a day after a demonstration against the former reality TV star turned ugly.

About 300 people gathered outside the convention in Burlingame, south of San Francisco. Protesters, who held signs and Mexican flags, at one point rushed security gates, and police officers had their batons out.

News cameras caught images of Trump, guarded by security officials, hopping a barrier and walking toward a back entrance of the hotel for his speech to the California Republican convention. Protesters were blocking traffic.

“That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made,” Trump told the gathering. “It felt like I was crossing the border actually.”

Trump has won a following among Republican voters in the United States, along with ardent critics, for his hardline stand on illegal immigration. He has accused Mexico of sending drug dealers and rapists across the U.S. border, and promised to end it by building a wall and making Mexico pay for it.

Chaotic scenes broke out on Thursday outside a Trump rally at the county fair grounds in Costa Mesa, California. Media reported that anti-Trump protesters smashed the window of a police patrol car and blocked traffic. Some 20 people were arrested.

The Republican front-runner was in the state ahead of its June 7 primary, when the most convention delegates of the Republican nominating cycle will be at stake.

Trump's rivals hope to block the real estate mogul from garnering the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on Friday picked up the backing of Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, the next state to hold a nominating contest.

Trump, who described himself this week as the party's presumptive nominee, would take a huge stride toward knocking his Republican rivals out of the presidential race if he wins the Indiana primary next week.

Protests have become common outside rallies for Trump. His campaign had to cancel a rally in Chicago last month after clashes between his supporters and protesters.

Cheryl McDonald, 71, of Discovery Bay, said she had to pass through protesters to get inside the hotel where his event was being held on Friday. “They were yelling. I think the only words they know in the dictionary are profanity,” said McDonald, who said she is a Trump supporter.

Cruz won backing from Indiana's governor on Friday ahead of the state's primary, where the Texan is fighting a rearguard battle to damage Trump's chances of winning the nomination.

“I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence said on an Indiana radio show.

Cruz, a U.S. Senator from Texas, is trailing the New York billionaire in the Midwestern state after losing to him by a wide margin in all five Northeastern states that held nominating contests on Tuesday.

The endorsement from Pence could boost Cruz's hopes of winning Indiana on Tuesday. A CBS poll out earlier this week found Trump with about 40 percent of support in Indiana, compared to 35 percent for Cruz. The poll had a margin of error of 6.6 points. Other polls have also shown Trump ahead.

Fearing Trump, Republican Jews give Cruz another look


Ted Cruz came here to woo Republican Jews over the weekend, and in the absence of his opponents for the GOP presidential nomination came away with qualified support based not on who he is but who he is not — Donald Trump.

Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich skipped the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, leaving Cruz as the sole hopeful to address the 560 Jews packed into a conference room at The Venetian casino resort.

Trump’s high negative approval ratings among women and minorities coupled with his seeming fecklessness on Israel — pledging neutrality one week and support the next — seemed to drive many in attendance to give Cruz a second look after months of shunning the Texas senator for his social conservatism and reputation for not making nice with other Republicans.

“This is a room of dear, dear friends and people who are becoming dear friends,” Cruz said during his Saturday night address.

No one questioned Cruz’s Israel bona fides, and his impassioned expressions of support for the country earned standing ovations, the longest when he swore to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. But his more important qualification was the possibility that he could beat Trump, whose candidacy, as folks whispered in conversations in the corridors, would lead inexorably to President Hillary Clinton.

“There was a very clear realization that where we are today, Ted Cruz is our best choice to be the nominee,” Jay Zeidman, a Houston businessman, said after the RJC weekend. He and his father, Fred, had been leading bundlers for the campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “Everyone understands we need to get Cruz to get to the convention to at least stop Trump from getting the nomination.”

Trump had planned to attend the RJC event as part of a Western campaign trip, but the tour was canceled. Kasich, badly trailing Trump and Cruz, is working the corners of New York state hoping to garner enough delegates in its primary next week to make his remaining in the race seem less than absurd.

“Senator Cruz was the only one to accept our invitation,” Michael Epstein, a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in his introduction of the candidate. The room burst into grateful applause.

Cruz addressed the hesitation, the fraught quality of this getting-to-know-you session.

“Many of you started with someone else,” he said. “That’s a perfectly natural, reasonable thing to do.”

One of the more emotional moments came when Joel Geiderman, a Houston doctor and the child of a Holocaust survivor, refuted the TV pundits, including Geraldo Rivera, who said Cruz’s derision of “New York values” was a dog-whistle to anti-Semites.

“We don’t think you have an anti-Semitic bone in your body,” Geiderman said, stirring a standing ovation.

There were also anxious, awkward questions about his social policies.

“I recognize that is a question that many people here wrestle with,” Cruz said after one of the attendees earned applause for saying Cruz’s hard-line attitudes on abortion and gay marriage were unpopular with many Jewish Republicans.

Cruz said social issues devolve to the states and suggested he would not seek to impose his views as a president.

“Nobody wants to elect a hectoring scold,” he said.

Yet within minutes, he was hectoring, however politely. Wealthier Republicans needed to acknowledge the strong feelings of blue-collar voters who believe they are losing jobs to undocumented immigrants, Cruz said.

“You want to understand the rage,” Cruz said. “That frustration, that anger – median income has not changed in 20 years” for the working class.

He acknowledged that he would not win on a first vote at the convention.

“On a subsequent ballot,” he said, “we’re going to win the nomination.”

Cruz is working hard at it. He spent Friday at the RJC event meeting privately with fund-raisers. The reception was positive, said Nick Muzin, a senior adviser to the campaign.

“On issues that matter most, Ted is on the same side,” Muzin said. “He’s going to do what he says.”

Cruz flew early Saturday to Colorado to work its Republican Party state convention, to productive effect — he walked away with the state’s entire slate of pledged delegates.

He flew back to Las Vegas in the afternoon. Rains drenching the city kept him circling the airport for an hour or so while the RJC activists paced the cavernous Venetian casino, owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major funder of the RJC and a Republican kingmaker.

Cruz did not score the prized Adelson endorsement; the magnate left the RJC confab early for a wedding.

In the halls,  Jewish Republicans were more inclined to talk about whom they did not favor – Trump – than offer a glowing recommendation of Cruz.

“No one knows who [Trump] is,” said Ellyn Bogdanoff, a former Florida state legislator who backed Marco Rubio, a U.S. senator from her state. “His negatives are extremely high.”

What about Cruz?

Bogdanoff thought a moment. “I’d like to see someone who would win,” she said in a tone suggesting she wanted Cruz to convince her.

David Gilson, a lawyer from Arlington, Virginia, who backs Kasich, said conference-goers were not, at least, negative regarding Cruz.

“I do hear cracks about Trump,” he said.

One member explained his support for Trump — “so far” — in pragmatic terms.

“There’s no point in backing someone if he’s not going to be elected in November,” said David Pulver, a Florida businessman.

Mark Hirsch, a real estate investor from Scarsdale, New York, decried Trump’s “politics of personal destruction.”

“We haven’t focused on the failed presidency of Barack Obama or factored Hillary Clinton into it,” he said, worried that the momentum for such a narrative is slipping away.

Asked about Cruz, Hirsch — like others — paused, then said: “He’s brilliant but rigid.”

After Cruz spoke, many in the room appeared reassured.

“Ted Cruz helped himself a lot at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting,” Ari Fleischer, an RJC board member and the first-term spokesman for President George W. Bush, said on Twitter. “He’s going to leave here with a lot of support.”

Walking out of the room, Hirsch said: “I liked hearing that he feels he can bring the party together. He hasn’t run a negative campaign.”

Republican Jewish Coalition targeting 4 races where GOP senators are at risk


The Republican Jewish Coalition named four incumbent GOP senators as at risk in a fundraising drive.

The fundraising email sent Tuesday listed Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Mark Kirk of Illinois as needing RJC assistance in winning reelection.

Each of the RJC pitches says funds raised would be directed to shaping the narrative about the races in question.

Republicans are defending 24 seats in this year’s Senate race and Democrats 10.

Democrats need to win four Senate seats and the presidency to regain control of the body, giving a Democratic president a leg up in advancing legislation and approving Supreme Court judges.

According to the fundraising letter, Ayotte has a slight advantage over Maggie Hassan, the state’s Democratic governor, among Independents, and the RJC would seek to expand that margin.

Kirk’s challenger, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, is well liked among those who know her – but much of the state does not know her, the email says, and the RJC would seek to define Duckworth among that plurality.

Portman is in a dead heat in polls with Ted Strickland, the former Ohio governor, and both are well known in the electorate, it says.

“We need to make sure we’re driving the narrative that Portman is a strong friend of Israel before opponents try to paint him as anything else,” the email says.

Toomey is leading Democrat Joe Sestak by 43-38 percent in polling, the email says. Toomey edged Sestak, a former congressman, for the seat six years ago. In that race, Sestak was one of the first candidates to accept the backing of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, and the RJC hammered him for it — and signaled it would do so this year.

“Toomey leads Joe Sestak, who has a horrible record on Israel and has been supported by J Street,” the email says.

In the 2010 Sestak-Toomey faceoff, the RJC targeted Jewish voters by raising questions about Sestak’s pro-Israel credentials.

AIPAC’s plans to ‘come together’ undone by Trump


Hear out Donald Trump. Ignore Donald Trump.

There were two distinct approaches to the Trump moment this week at AIPAC’s annual conference here, and there were mutual warnings that one or the other side would get burned.

The burn came fast, and it came to those who said listening to the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nod was the right thing to do.

After days of repeated warnings to its activists not to disrupt Trump, and to treat speakers with respect, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leadership issued an extraordinary apology on Tuesday morning – but not to Trump.

Instead, AIPAC said it was sorry for its members who had applauded his insulting remarks about President Obama during Trump’s Monday night speech at the Verizon Center. Many members roared and leapt to their feet when Trump suggested Obama was “the worst thing to ever happen to Israel.”

“While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the president of the United States and our President Barack Obama,” Lillian Pinkus, the lobby’s newly installed president, said from the AIPAC stage, joined by other AIPAC lay and professional leaders.

“There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night and for that we are deeply sorry,” Pinkus said, her voice choking. “We are deeply disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”

The evident anguish in the aftermath of Trump’s remarks undid the hopes that his speech would not undo the prominent Israel lobby’s careful claims to bipartisanship, even as its Iran policy is more or less aligned wholly with Republicans. The Trump moment came during a conference with a slogan, “Come Together,” that AIPAC had hoped would signal a new day of bipartisanship.

Complaints that the lobby had given Trump a platform at its largest annual assembly without expressing official displeasure at his most controversial remarks about immigrants and Muslims led many to wonder how AIPAC would function in an election in which the likely GOP nominee has alienated much of the organized Jewish community.

AIPAC officials said before the conference that the event would be an opportunity for Trump, derided by his rivals for speaking mostly in vagaries, to finally attach substance to his ideas. Trump’s prepared remarks included substantive and critical assessments of Obama’s Middle East policies, which AIPAC expected and indeed would have welcomed.

He also softened two positions that have created unease among pro-Israel activists — insisting he would remain neutral in brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, saying his negotiating skills as a businessman would be key to reaching a deal, and refusing to commit to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Jerusalem, Trump vowed to move the American embassy to the city, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people.” And he said the Palestinians must accept as a given the closeness of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

His extemporized flourishes, however, typified the red meat he likes to throw out at his rallies, and many in the massive Verizon Center hall, chosen to accommodate a record-breaking 18,000 activists this year, gobbled it up.

Launching a critique of Obama’s U.N. policy, Trump started a sentence Monday evening by saying, “With President Obama in his final year” – then stopped himself and said “Yay!”

Cheers, laughter and applause arose from the crowd, and not just from isolated pockets.

“He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me,” said Trump, a billionaire real estate magnate. “And you know it and you know it better than anybody.”

The largest group advocating some form of protest ahead of Trump’s appearance, the Reform movement, sounded a note of vindication the day after his speech.

“We were disappointed but not surprised that Mr. Trump did nothing tonight to allay our deep concerns about his campaign,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, said in a statement Monday. “It still seems that he does not share our values of equality, pluralism, and humility.”

Trump’s laceration of Obama is the last thing AIPAC needed at a time when the lobby is endeavoring to show it remains a bipartisan enterprise.

Hoard Kohr, the one-time Republican operative who has led the organization for decades, alluded in his opening remarks on Sunday to pressure from the right to simply give up on Democrats in the wake of the party’s almost wholesale embrace of an Iran nuclear deal that AIPAC continues to insist endangers Israel.

“There are those who question our bipartisan approach to political advocacy,” Kohr said. “Unless one party controls all branches of government forever, bipartisanship remains the only way.”

Trump spoke on a night that also included live addresses from his Republican presidential rivals, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also addressed the throng.

There were warm welcomes for Democrats at the conference, particularly Vice President Joe Biden, the closest administration member to AIPAC, who spoke of his decades of attachment to Israel in emotional terms.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, also spoke — earlier in the day than Trump — pitching herself to his right on Israel.

“American can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security and survival,” Clinton said to repeated cheers and applause. “Some things aren’t negotiable and anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business in being our president.”

Yet it was clear the lobby still had difficulties in reconciling with Democrats, especially progressives among them. Only one Democrat from the vast majority in Congress who voted last year in favor of the Iran deal — Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip — addressed the conference.

Hoyer’s appearance together with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority leader, was designed to show bipartisan support for Israel, yet tension crept into the buddy show. When McCarthy suggested that the Obama administration had sowed “doubt” about the U.S.-Israel relationship, Hoyer countered that the two nations’ security establishments “are cooperating as closely today as they have in the past.”

AIPAC’s activists, lobbying on Tuesday, were unable to recommend any specific legislation on Iran; there is none suitable that is backed by both parties.

Bernie Sanders, the Independent from Vermont challenging Clinton for the Democratic nod, did not attend because he was in the West ahead of three primaries in the region on Tuesday. He offered to deliver remarks via video link but was rejected by AIPAC. Sanders did deliver the remarks — at a Utah rally — with his consistent message of support for Israel tempered by criticism of its actions on settlements and in waging war.

Aiming to appeal to progressives, the lobby screened a video presentation Tuesday morning on Menachem Creditor, a rabbi from Berkeley, California, who is a progressive leader and supporter of AIPAC.

Such profiles of AIPAC members are usually followed by short live appearances by the subjects, who usually deliver a few inspiring words of thanks.

Creditor presented his prepared remarks and added an indirect swipe at Trump, telling JTA after his address that he was prompted to the changes not just by Trump’s speech but by the applause it earned.

“We must not embrace the politics of hate,” he told the AIPAC crowd, appearing immediately after Pinkus’ apology.

 

“AIPAC’s commitment to bipartisanship isn’t just about being mensches in the world. The only way to keep Israel strong and to build a beloved community here in the United States is to regard the multiplicity of voices here and in our nation as sacred.”

Foxman: Trump knew his Hitler-like salute was evoking fascist symbolism


Donald Trump knew he was evoking fascist symbolism when he asked supporters at a campaign rally in Florida to raise their right arms and pledge to vote for him, former Anti-Defamation League leader Abraham Foxman said.

The salute at a rally Saturday for the front-running Republican presidential candidate prompted a backlash on social media, where comparisons to Hitler were rife.

“It is a fascist gesture,” Foxman told the Times of Israel news website on Sunday. “He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him.”

At the rally at the University of Central Florida’s arena in Orlando, Trump said: “Raise your right hand. I do solemnly swear that I — no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever — will vote, on or before the 12th, for Donald J. Trump for president.”

Hands went up throughout the audience amid loud cheers and a recitation of the “pledge.”

Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who was saved from the Nazis by his Catholic nanny, told the Times of Israel that Trump’s ability to motivate his supporters to make such symbolic gestures is disturbing.

“As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America,” he told The Times of Israel.

“We’ve seen this sort of thing at rallies of neo-Nazis. We’ve seen it at rallies of white supremacists. But to see it at a rally for a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States is outrageous.”

Foxman also said: “I think he was intoxicated with all the things that he’s already got away with, and it led him to this. This is the summit of his own intoxication with what he perceives as his leadership quality.”

Foxman also asserted that the David Duke chapter in the Trump saga was manufactured.

“He is a man of the world. Even though he proclaims he doesn’t know who David Duke was, or the other white supremacists, we know very well that he knows. So he’s playing to an image,” he said.

On Feb. 28, Trump responded in contradictory ways to being endorsed by Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, and said on CNN, “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Later in the day, the ADL said it would provide Trump and the other Republican and Democratic candidates with information on extremists and hate groups. Trump has disavowed the endorsement several times since the CNN program.

Foxman, who retired as head of the ADL last year after nearly three decades at the helm, told the Times of Israel he finds it even more troubling that Trump appears to appeal to so many American voters. He also believes that Trump will not make it all the way to the White House.

“I think the American people are rational and reasonable at the end of the day,” Foxman said. “And I think that if the intoxication we are seeing continues, more and more people will realize that this is not a person that they want to be led by.”

Jewish Republican security leaders: Trump would ‘make American less safe’


A number of prominent Jewish Republicans are among dozens of conservatives in the U.S. national security community who have come out against Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

The letter posted Wednesday by some 60 influential conservatives in think tanks and alumni of Republican administrations lists the ways they say the billionaire real estate magnate would “make America less safe,” including “hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric” that “undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism.” It also accuses Trump of contempt for neighbors such as Mexico and allies like Japan while admiring dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Trump is feckless, the letter says.

“He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence,” it said.

“As committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head,” said the letter posted on “War on The Rocks,” a conservative foreign policy and national security news and opinion website. “We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.

A good portion of the signatories are Jewish members of the conservative national community, including Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush; Max Boot, a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when he was the 2008 GOP presidential candidate; Eric Edelman, an undersecretary of defense under George W. Bush; and Dov Zakheim, a deputy undersecretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan. Eliot Cohen, a counselor in the State Department under George W. Bush, initiated the letter.

The signatories, notably, include both realists such as Zakheim and neoconservatives like Boot, representing two strands of Republican foreign policy thinking that are often at odds.

Jewish Republicans have been unsettled by the rise of Trump, who has said he will remain neutral when he approaches peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians. A number, however, have joined other Republicans in arguing that because he is winning in presidential primaries, it’s time to support him.

Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 candidate, is set to deliver a speech on Thursday blasting Trump as unfit for office.

Trump releases healthcare proposals


U.S. Republican presidential front-runner candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled proposals for reforming U.S. healthcare that included repealing Obamacare, allowing prescription drugs to be imported, and turning the Medicaid program for the poor into block grants to states.

The plan also calls for the sale of health insurance plans across state lines, full deduction of health insurance premiums from income tax and adds: “We must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance.” (here)

Trump, who is the front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee in November's presidential election, is also proposing allowing individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HAS) to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Contributions to HSAs would be tax-free and could be passed on to heirs without any tax penalty.

The proposals include requiring “…price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.”

On drug prices, Trump departs from standard Republican policy by calling for lowering barriers to cheaper imported pharmaceuticals.

“Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers,”

the statement says, adding that “Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America.”

The proposals also call for reforming mental health programs and institutions, but provides few details about how to do this.

Trump also called for tighter enforcement of immigration laws, a key plank in his campaign platform, as a way to bring down healthcare costs.

“Providing healthcare to illegal immigrants costs us some $11 billion annually. If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve healthcare cost pressures on state and local governments,” the proposal statement says.

Democrats were quick to criticize the plan.

“As Democrats have said all along, Donald Trump is not an outsider engaging in a hostile takeover of the GOP – in fact, he embodies the Republican Party.

“The fact that his healthcare 'plan' is clearly cribbed from worn-out and false GOP talking points proves that Trump is just another Republican politician who wants to take healthcare away from millions of Americans without offering any substantive alternative,” Democratic National Committee Communications Director Luis Miranda said in a statement.

Donald Trump cites Jewish groups in bizarre explanation for not disavowing KKK


Donald Trump, entering the fifth day of defending himself against his equivocal response on CNN to an endorsement by David Duke, said the former Ku Klux Klan head was a “bad man.”

The characterization Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is about as direct as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has been so far in disavowing the white supremacist who expressed support for him.

But Trump had to add a wrinkle. Having previously blamed a faulty earpiece for failing to condemn Duke, he this time said he couldn’t just come out and condemn groups generically because — what if they were Jewish?

 

“And the one question that was asked of me on CNN — he’s having a great time — he talked about ‘groups of people.’ And I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are. I mean, you could have the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in ‘groups,’” he said.

 

 

The thing is, though, in the original encounter on CNN Sunday, Trump clearly understood that interviewer Jake Tapper was not referring to just any groups, but to white supremacist groups in particular. How do we know this? Because Trump said so.

“Well just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay, I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, I don’t know. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists. So you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about,” he said.

Tapper pushed back, saying, “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, that you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”

Trump again demurred. “Well, I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and that would be unfair, so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know,” he said.

Even in the unlikely event Trump had never heard the term “white supremacist,'” “white” coupled with “supremacist” is kind of self-explanatory. Now, Trump is making it even weirder by suggesting that when Tapper said “white supremacist,” the candidate heard “Jewish philanthropy.”

Cruz, Rubio claim anti-Trump title


Following Super Tuesday’s results, the respective campaigns of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio vowed to carry on the fight to deny Donald Trump’s nomination for president.

“What you are hearing now is how do we prevent the party of Reagan and Lincoln from being taken over by someone who for days refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan and someone who quite frankly is carrying the most elaborate con job we have ever seen in politics,” Rubio said Wednesday morning on Fox News.

In his victory speech in Texas on Tuesday, Cruz used policy differences to make the case why he is best suited to take on Trump. “Trump pledges to be neutral between Israel and Palestine. As president, I won’t be neutral. We’ll stand unapologetically with Israel,” said Cruz. “Trump says he’ll keep the Iranian nuclear deal. I’ll rip it to shreds on day one. If you’re angry with Washington, I understand. But Trump has been part of the Washington corruption for 40 years.”

The main argument now being implied is to unite the non-Trump voters around one conservative candidate that could win the nomination. But both Rubio and Cruz are convinced they have the best chance to take down the current Republican presidential front-runner at the ballot box.

“Let’s not forget last night was supposed to be Ted Cruz’s big night, it was supposed to be the night he was going to sweep — these states were tailor-made for the kind of campaign he was running,” Rubio argued.

But after winning three states – Texas (his home state), Oklahoma and Alaska, the Cruz campaign maintains that they have been winning so far in states that would’ve gone into Trump’s column.

“Here’s the bottom line: If Cruz was to drop out of the race tomorrow, Trump would sweep every remaining state because most of our voters would go to him,” Cruz’s senior advisor Nick Muzin toldJewish Insider. “If Marco drops out, Cruz defeats Trump because Rubio’s people will come to us.”

“The stakes for our nation and for Israel could not be any higher,” Muzin stressed. “Now is the time to join the only campaign that has beaten Trump, and that will beat Trump. Any dollar raised for any candidate not named Ted Cruz is a dollar that will be spent electing Donald Trump.”

The Rubio campaign dismissed the notion that winning first place in several states makes you the ultimate front-runner. “It’s not “If you’re not first, you’re last.” It’s about delegates,” Rubio’s director of Jewish outreach, Martin Sweet told Jewish Insider. “The American people came out against Donald Trump in different iterations across the country, and Ted Cruz’s southern firewall collapsed. Marco remains the only Republican candidate who can win the nomination, expand the party, and win the general election.”

Former Senator Norm Coleman, who successfully campaigned for Marco Rubio in Minnesota, told Jewish Insider, “Minnesotans are thoughtful voters on policy matters. It was the perfect environment for Marco Rubio and a poor environment for Donald Trump.”

“The Republican endorsement race is a long way from being decided,” Coleman declared.

The race for the Republican nomination shifts now to battleground states like Florida and Ohio, where Rubio hopes to reset his campaign and emerge as the alternative to Trump.

“Trump is about to be under enormous scrutiny like he hasn’t been before,” Dan Senor, founder of Foreign Policy Initiative and a Rubio supporter, said during an interview on Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect” program on Tuesday. “I think he is going to be subjected to a paid media campaign – tens of millions of dollars that he hasn’t been subjected to before.”

As reported by NY Times’s Maggie Haberman, Republican donors Meg Whitman, Todd Ricketts and Paul Singer, among others, took part in a Tuesday conference call with about 50 people, urging them to fund “Our Principles PAC,” which started airing ads in Iowa before the caucuses to try to stop Trump.

Why the Republican Party is dying


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

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

Trump didn’t.

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

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

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

It certainly isn’t conservatism.

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

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

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

Anger at ‘the Establishment’

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

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

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

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

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

Anger at political correctness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger at anti-Americanism

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

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

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

The rise of ‘The Great Man’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump does not. 

Is this the end of the Republican Party?

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

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

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


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

Will Republican Jews dump Trump?


Donald Trump will set the cause of Republican Jews back 75 years.

That’s why the leading voice of Republican Jews seems to have all but abandoned the leading contender for the Republican nomination.

Trump’s bellicose takeover of the GOP has been met with a complete and telling silence from the Republican Jewish Coalition, the largest and most active group of Republican Jews. 

Trump is not mentioned on the group’s website.  He and his surrogates are not listed on its calendar of events. He is not even pictured on the group’s homepage. You know who is?  Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Scott Walker.  Two of those three men have already dropped out of the race. The leading contender for the Republican nomination?  Nowhere to be found.   

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks did not respond to my interview requests about Trump. Republican pollster and consultant Frank Luntz answered an email about whether Republican Jews will throw their support behind Trump with an uncharacteristically terse, “I have no idea.” 

Then, on March 1, Dan Senor, the co-author of the seminal book “Start-up Nation” who served as senior foreign policy adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign, announced he would not support Trump.

“I am not voting for Donald Trump,” Senor told Bloomberg News. “I am not voting for him in the primary, and I am not voting for him in the general.”

Folks, this is big.

Yes, there are assorted Jewish Americans who like Trump and will vote for him, even work for him — and I have received spiteful emails from all three of them.    

But for now, it looks like Trump will set a record for garnering the lowest Republican Jewish vote in 75 years. In 1940, Wendell Willkie received just 10 percent of the Jewish vote in his run against Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Trump could do worse. 

Of course, he could still win — maybe Hillary or Bernie stumble so badly Trump looks like John F. Kennedy. But history shows that a large Jewish vote, while it doesn’t guarantee a win, inoculates a GOP candidate against loss.

“The last losing GOP candidate to get more than 30 percent of the Jewish vote was Charles Evans Hughes, in 1916,” Jewish Journal Senior Political Editor Shmuel Rosner points out in his book, “The Jewish Vote: Obama vs. Romney, A Jewish Voters Guide.”  

“So you see, there’s a good reason … to invest in the Jewish vote … it is almost like getting insurance policy against losing.”

Trump has taken out no such policy.  He has reversed whatever progress Republicans have made in winning over more Jewish voters. He has alienated Republican Jews looking for any reason to get behind him.

The first breach occurred last December, when Trump appeared at a high-level RJC event in Washington, D.C .

According to a report by Jewish Insider, Trump told the well-heeled donor crowd, “I know why you are not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your own politicians.”

During the Q-and-A, Trump lifted his other middle finger to the conservative Jewish establishment, saying he wouldn’t commit to the idea of an undivided Jerusalem. The audience booed.

Last month, Trump declared he would be “neutral” about the Israelis and Palestinians, another taboo idea among Republicans, who proclaim unswerving loyalty to the current Israeli government. In response, Trump’s primary opponents condemned the idea of neutrality in the last Republican presidential debate.

And over the past two weeks, Trump has equivocated on whether he would disavow the losers’ row of anti-Semitic groups and individuals who have come out in support of his candidacy. Last week, I wrote that Trump has a white supremacist problem. A week later, the problem has reached Zika proportions.

But Trump has yet to back down.  Not on calling the Republican Jewish establishment rich puppet masters. Not on BS-ing his way through Middle East politics, not on quoting Mussolini or retweeting anti-Semites.

In effect, Trump has been saying, “Screw you” to the largest base of organized, loyal Jewish Republicans in American history.

And, as of now, it looks like they are poised to say it right back. 

Cruz campaign clarifies controversial endorsement of Bickle


Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has come under fire for associating himself with a controversial Christian evangelical leader who is notorious for having said that God sent Hitler to hunt Jews “for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah.”

Last month, the Cruz campaign issued a press release announcing the endorsement of evangelical leader Mike Bickle, the founder and director of the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer. According to a report by Times of Israel, in recent years, Bickle has delivered numerous sermons that predict new Holocaust-like conditions for Jews if they do not recognize Jesus as their Messiah. He also suggested, based on a passage from Jeremiah 16:16, that Adolf Hitler was sent by God to murder more than six million Jews.

Cruz, seeking to boost his candidacy among evangelical voters, said in a statement that he is “grateful for Mike’s dedication to call a generation of young people to prayer and spiritual commitment,” adding, “With the support of Mike and many other people of faith, we will fight the good fight, finish the course, and keep the faith.”

On Tuesday, the National Jewish Democratic Council called on Cruz to disassociate himself from Bickle and clarify his position. “It is profoundly troubling that Sen. Ted Cruz proudly trumpeted the endorsement of such a controversial figure who holds such offensive views,” the NJDC said in a statement. “In announcing Bickle’s support, Sen. Cruz said, ‘we will fight the good fight, finish the course.’ We call on Sen. Cruz to clarify his position and explain why he chose to highlight someone who is ‘notorious for having said that God sent Hitler to hunt Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah.’ ”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also called on Cruz to repudiate Bickle’s rhetoric. “Mike Bickle’s views about why God allowed Jews to be killed in the Holocaust, as expressed in a 2011 speech, are abhorrent, intolerant and unacceptable,” a statement by ADL read. “We assume that Senator Cruz accepted Bickle’s endorsement without knowing about these comments. We hope that when these comments are called to the Senator’s attention, he will clearly and forcefully reject Bickle’s hateful ideas.”

In an email to Jewish Insider, Cruz’s senior advisor, Nick Muzin, insisted that Bickle is “only one of the hundreds who have endorsed us.” According to Muzin, “My understanding is that he was paraphrasing the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah. I know that he has made support for Israel and the Jewish people a central part of his mission.”

The Republican presidential hopeful’s advisor went on to tout Cruz’s record on Israel and his warm relationship with the American Jewish community. “No one has a better record than Senator Cruz when it comes to standing with Israel, fighting against radical Islamic terror, and combating global anti-Semitism. That is why he has been endorsed by over 70 rabbis and Jewish leaders from across the country, including leaders of major Jewish organizations,” said Muzin. “Last summer, Senator Cruz brought together evangelical faith leaders with Jewish organizations to try and stop the Iran nuclear deal. We are proud of the support we are building in both communities and see them as complementary, and part of our larger goal of restoring Judeo-Christian leadership values to America and the world.”

But that clarification was not satisfying enough for the NJDC. “The Cruz campaign’s response from criticism from NJDC and the ADL of one of its feature endorsees falls woefully short,” the Jewish Democratic group said. “We remain troubled that rather than distance himself and refute Bickle’s offensive rhetoric, the Cruz campaign has doubled down, merely restating the senator’s position on Israel and attempting to minimize Pastor Bickle’s role as an endorser. We call on Sen. Cruz’s campaign to speak clearly when it comes to such an offensive statement.”

“Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz must clarify if he stands with Pastor Mike Bickle and his belief that God sent Hitler to hunt Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah,” the NJDC demanded.

Republican Ben Carson’s campaign manager, 20 staff quit


U.S. Republican Ben Carson's 2016 presidential bid was thrown into chaos on Thursday when his campaign manager and some 20 other staff members quit amid infighting, dropping poll numbers and negative media coverage.

Barry Bennett, who oversaw Carson's rapid rise to the top tier of Republican contenders and his later fall, said he quit over differences with another top adviser to Carson, Armstrong Williams.

Specifically, Bennett blamed Williams for an interview Carson gave last week to The Washington Post suggesting that the campaign was in disarray. “It's one of the stupidest things I've ever seen a candidate do,” Bennett said.

Things had “boiled over” with Williams, Bennett told Reuters. “For the past seven weeks, I've been doing nothing but putting out Armstrong Williams-started fires,” Bennett said.

He also charged Williams was behind a story in The New York Times that suggested Carson was out of his depth on foreign policy.

Carson's communications director, Doug Watts, also resigned due to differences with Williams, Bennett said. Some 20 staff in total left, he said. Among them was deputy campaign manager Lisa Coen.

Williams, a political commentator who holds no official role with the campaign, said he was “shocked” by Bennett's criticism. “They're giving me a lot more credit than I deserve,” he told Reuters.

He suggested Bennett and Watts left the campaign rather than be fired. “Right now, they're upset and they need a scapegoat, and I'm the scapegoat,” Williams said.

Support for Carson has fallen ahead of the first contest – on Feb. 1 in the state of Iowa – for the Republican nomination in the Nov. 8 election.

The retired neurosurgeon now places fourth in many national opinion polls after surging into the second slot behind the front-runner, real estate mogul Donald Trump, in the autumn.

With the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, elevating national security concerns among voters, Carson has been criticized by rivals for his lack of foreign policy experience. He has never held elected office.

Craig Robinson, former political director for Iowa's Republican Party, said Carson's lack of visibility in Iowa damaged him even though he had the chance to capitalize on his much-touted status as a political outsider.

“All along, I've never really thought this was a serious presidential campaign in that it is actually operating and doing things to get elected,” Robinson said.

In spite of the poll numbers, Carson's campaign on Wednesday announced a fourth-quarter fundraising haul of about $23 million, and Bennett said Carson remained in a strong position.

“He's got millions of dollars on hand,” Bennett said. “He should be able to do something with that.”

Carson's campaign announced that Bob Dees, a retired Army major general, would be the campaign chairman while Ed Brookover, formerly a senior strategist, would serve as campaign manager.

GOP hopefuls stick to positions on NSA surveillance amid spying on Israel report


Republican presidential candidates – from both sides on the aisle on the issue of NSA surveillance – on Wednesday protested the Obama administration’s spying on Israel’s government and the collecting of their communications with members of Congress, after the Wall Street Journal broke the story on Tuesday.

But they also stuck to their positions regarding the program.

Appearing on “Fox & Friends” morning program, Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Israel and Americans alike have a right to be concerned about the fact that an ally of the U.S. and its citizens were unfairly treated with the use of the U.S. surveillance program during the debate over the Iran nuclear deal.

“Obviously, people read this report, and they have a right to be concerned this morning about it,” Rubio said. “They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East — Israel — is. These are all concerns, and they’re legitimate.”

However, Rubio cautioned that before rushing to conclusions people should understand the complicated issue. “We have to be very careful about how we discuss it, especially since there’s a press report that I don’t think gets the entire story,” said the GOP presidential hopeful. “I actually think it might be worse than what some people might think, but this is an issue that we’ll keep a close eye on, and the role that I have in the Intelligence Committee. I’m not trying to be evasive, but I want to be very careful in a national broadcast like this how we discuss these sorts of issues.”

Senator Rand Paul, appearing on the same program, was less defensive of the administration using the program to shoot down private conversations of U.S. citizens. “I’m appalled by it. This is exactly why we need more NSA reform and the debate in Washington right now has been unfortunately going the other way, since the San Bernardino shooting, everyone’s saying ‘Oh we need more surveillance of Americans.’ In reality, what we need is more targeted surveillance,” Paul said. “I’m not against surveillance, but I am against indiscriminate surveillance.”

Paul explained that “when we listen in on foreigners’ conversations when they’re talking to Americans, we’re scooping up tens of thousands of conversations of Americans, and that this is a real problem because it’s a real invasion of our privacy.”

Ted Cruz aims to liberate GOP from ‘crazy’ neoconservatives


Ted Cruz wants to make sure you understand: “Republican” and “neoconservative” are no longer synonymous.

The Texas senator, inching up to second place behind front-runner Donald Trump in the polls just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, has launched a broadside against the “crazy” movement that not so long ago was inextricable from establishment GOP foreign policy.

Cruz has long advocated against regime change, but in a Nov. 30 interview with Bloomberg News, he named neoconservatives as the villains of a policy that mires Americans overseas.

“If you look at President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and for that matter some of the more aggressive Washington neocons, they have consistently misperceived the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and have advocated military adventurism that has had the effect of benefiting radical Islamic terrorists,” Cruz said.

The interview earned immediate rebukes from neoconservatives and brought into the open a long-simmering struggle within the party over how to move on from the Iraq war, widely seen as George W. Bush’s signature fiasco.

The dispute has lurked beneath the surface since the Bush administration, whose foreign policy was shaped in the first term to a great degree by neoconservatives, many of them Jewish, who urged the promotion of democracy in the Middle East. Bush cited former Soviet refusenik and Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy” as a major influence on his thinking. In fact, so many of the movement theorists were Jewish that the term neoconservative, when used disparagingly, was seen in some quarters as a borderline anti-Semitic slur.

“I’m not sure where the neocons wish us to invade (left my decoder ring at the last Elders of Zion meeting), but what exactly does this would-be Commander in Chief wish us to do?” Daniel Pletka, the vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote on the conservative think tank’s website just days after the Bloomberg story. “Not approach Syria. Ignore Libya. Stop collecting intelligence. Love the dictators.”

In an interview Victoria Coates, Cruz’s national security adviser, told JTA that Cruz is seeking to recalibrate the party’s foreign policy to what it was during the Reagan administration, when Jeane Kirkpatrick – then the ambassador to the United Nations and herself a neoconservative – distinguished between dictators who needed toppling and those who could be encouraged toward reform. Since then, Coates said, neoconservatism has come to represent “a foreign policy that prioritizes democracy promotion as an absolute.”

Coates listed several recent initiatives by the United States that ended in failure, including Iraq, the encouragement of elections in Lebanon and Egypt, and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadafi. And she cast a clear contrast between Cruz and his chief rival, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has embraced an interventionist foreign policy.

Cruz “has been looking at Libya and Syria and the eagerness to go into Libya, which was driven by Secretary Clinton and also frankly Rubio, who wrote her a letter supporting the intervention,” she said. Libya “was not well thought through and not how we would do things.”

According to Bloomberg, Cruz told a rally in Iowa that he is as opposed to the isolationist tendency in the party as he is to the “crazy neocon invade-every-country-on-earth and send our kids to die in the Middle East.”

Cruz’s posturing appears opportunistic to some conservatives, a bid by the senator to distinguish himself in a crowded field – particularly against Rubio, with whom he shares many qualities. Both are youthful sons of Cuban immigrants who bucked the party establishment on their way up. And both are leading contenders for the backing of Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who is willing to spend tens of millions to elect a Republican.

“His use of the term ‘neocon’ was bizarre and obviously derogatory,” said Seth Mandel, the opinion editor at the New York Post. “We don’t know what it means aside from tying Rubio to Bush’s foreign policy to get ahead of the pack.”

Gary Schmitt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has advised the struggling campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said Cruz is misreading the lessons of the Reagan-Kirkpatrick era, citing that administration’s involvement in bringing about reform in the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia.

“As much as I admire Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Reagan administration moved away from ‘Dictatorships and Double Standards’ in his second term,” Schmitt said, referring to the 1982 book in which Kirkpatrick defended propping up some dictators while confronting others.

Cruz’s foreign policy in some ways is unapologetically aggressive. He has vowed, like some of the others in the GOP field, including Rubio, to tear up the Iran nuclear deal on his first day in office and to “carpet-bomb” the Islamic State.

“If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you are voting for the Ayatollah Khamenei to have nuclear weapons,” Cruz said at a Republican Jewish Coalition for presidential candidates earlier this month, referring to the supreme leader of Iran.

But advocating for an aggressive military posture overseas while rejecting regime change out of hand does not make sense, according to Joshua Muravchik, a historian of the neoconservative movement, who identified two “immense” problems with Cruz’s intention to crush the Islamic State with air power.

“One is that all military experts agree that you can’t defeat ISIS like that,” Muravchik said. “Second of all, it doesn’t address the question of Iran’s machinations in the area.”

However much Cruz’s attacks may rile conservatives here, his critiques won’t necessarily undercut enthusiasm among the pro-Israel right, which has been sharply critical of recent pro-democracy efforts. In 2006, there was an open split between American neoconservatives, who favored Palestinian elections, and Israeli conservatives who correctly predicted they would empower Hamas. In 2011, much of the Israeli leadership favored doing whatever it took to keep Hosni Mubarak in power in Egypt, while many neoconservatives hailed the Arab Spring that unseated him as a herald of democratic reform.

Likewise, Adelson is also unlikely to be troubled by Cruz’s critiques, as the billionaire’s emphasis has traditionally been on keeping Israel secure, detached from the particulars of any ideology.

“One of the great gifts to the United States over the last 70 years has been Israel – how fantastic to have a functioning, vibrant democracy in the Middle East,” Coates said. “That’s something we should be fiercely protective of and understand its rarity and significance.”

Rivals hit Rubio for skipping important senate votes


Despite the early snow, the campaign for president is getting pretty heated up in Iowa and the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.

A Super PAC supporting former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s campaign for president, Right to Rise USA, launched its first negative television ad, calling out Florida Senator Marco Rubio for missing national-security Senate hearings to campaign for president.

“Over the last three years, Rubio has missed important national-security hearings and missed more total votes than any other senator,” the ad narrator says, according to The Des Moines Register.

“Politics first: That’s the Rubio way,” the ad concludes.

Rubio’s campaign spokesman Alex Conant called the ad sad and dishonest. “Bush’s team dishonestly omits that Marco is on the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, where he attended the highest-level briefings on the Paris attacks,” Conant said in a statement. “No other candidate for president has received more classified Intelligence briefings or better understands the threats facing our nation today than Marco. It’s sad to see Jeb’s ‘joyful’ campaign reduced to such intellectual dishonesty.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also slammed Rubio for skipping the Senate vote on the recent omnibus spending bill while expressing his opposition to it. “Dude, show up to work. Show up to work and vote no. And if you don’t like it, quit,” Christie said during a town hall meeting in Iowa on Tuesday.

“He gives a good speech, Marco, and I want to hear his stirring speech that’s going to try to persuade people on the floor of the Senate not to vote for this awful spending bill, except he never showed up,” Christie said according to TIME. “He was totally opposed to it and didn’t go there to vote no. Then what’s it matter that you’re opposed to it? He matters as much as I do. I don’t have a vote in the Senate. He has one just didn’t go. Only in Washington could you have the guts to stand up and say I’m against something that you have a vote to vote no on and then just not go and then put out a press release after it gets passed and say this is why I was opposed to it.”

The spending bill appropriated $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel for Fiscal Year 2016. It also included $487 million for US-Israel missile defense programs and $40 million for a new US-Israel tunnel detection program. This may explain why Rubio decided to skip the vote rather than oppose the bill and be on record voting against funding for Israel’s military assistance. During the last GOP TV debate, Rubio hit Texas Senator Ted Cruz over his vote against the Defense Authorization Act, which “by the way, funds the Iron Dome and other important programs.”

Rubio is tied with Christie for 2nd or 3rd place and slightly ahead of Jeb in recent polls of New Hampshire primary voters.

‘Rabbi for Trump’ launches Facebook campaign for The Donald


On Facebook, there are “Rabbis for Human Rights,” “Rabbis for Bernie” and, until recently, “Rabbis for Hillary.”

Now, they are joined by a rabbinical flag-bearer for Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

The controversial GOP front-runner’s fiery rhetoric about Muslims may have drawn condemnation from American rabbis and other Jewish leaders across the denominational spectrum, but that hasn’t stopped Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg from cheering on The Donald.

A Yeshiva University-educated rabbi who is rabbi emeritus of an Edison, New Jersey, Conservative congregation, Rosenberg started a Facebook group, “Rabbi for Trump,” on Dec. 8. (Originally called “Rabbis for Trump,” he renamed it after failing to attract many like-minded colleagues.)

The group’s page has 520 “likes” so far, though how many of the likers are actual supporters, as opposed to voyeurs, is anyone’s guess. So far, the posts are mostly praise for Trump, fiery complaints about negative media coverage of the candidate, promotions of Rosenberg’s book and a proud mention that Rosenberg’s congregation hosted the controversial, anti-Muslim blogger-activist Pamela Geller.

Rosenberg told the New Jersey Jewish News he started the group because Trump is “ the leader among all the Republicans at this point.”

He added that he also “wanted a vehicle to communicate a very strong message to [Trump] for supporting the State of Israel.”

The rabbi, who is the child of two Holocaust survivors and says he was born in a displaced person’s camp in Germany, shares Trump’s opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the country.

“My concern is that these Syrian refugees are not being vetted by the FBI,” he told the New Jersey Jewish News.

“There’s no comparison between this and the Holocaust, where Jews had nowhere to go to. Certainly in this case Europe can take them in and certainly the Arab countries can take them in. I just don’t want something to happen where my children or somebody else’s children live. I think it’s a disservice for Holocaust survivors to make the comparison.”

Rosenberg, who notes frequently (and all in capital letters) on the Rabbi for Trump page, “The Nazis and Hitler murdered most of my family,” told the New Jersey paper he objected to a letter signed by 1,000 rabbis several weeks ago that, in urging compassion for Syrian refugees, referenced the European Jewish refugees on the St. Louis ship who were turned away from the U.S. in 1939.

“The truth is my parents had to go through all sorts of checks and be sponsored,” he said. “They had to have jobs. I know more about being a refugee than many of these rabbis.”

Republican presidential hopefuls make their pitch to GOP Jews


In carefully tailored stump speeches that ranged in tone from apocalyptic to chummy, all but one of the Republican presidential candidates showed up in an attempt to woo Jewish voters.

Many of the speeches at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum, held Dec. 3 at the Ronald Reagan Building downtown, focused on the threat of “radical Islamic terror,” emphasized their disapproval for the recently negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, and took direct aim at Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

For decades, the Republican Jewish Coalition has had as its mission bridging the divide between a conservative party and a moderate constituency, U.S. Jews. Since the late 1990s, when casino magnate Sheldon Adelson became the group’s most generous funder, it has taken on his passions — for instance, embracing a hawkish pro-Israel stance.

The daylong forum began with a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting that killed 14 a day earlier in San Bernardino, California, and prayers for the survivors and those who had lost loved ones. The killings are thought to have been carried out by a husband-and-wife pair inspired by the so-called Islamic State.

The massacre “underscores we are at a time of war,” said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the first candidate to address the crowd. “This nation needs a wartime president to defend it.”

When it came time for Donald Trump to speak, the real estate mogul turned Republican front-runner, who has long traded in conspiracy theories about Obama, told the crowd: “We have a president who refuses to use the term” — referring to “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump then added, “There’s something about him we don’t know about.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, “This president and his former secretary of state cannot call it what it is: Islamic terrorism,” referencing Clinton, who preceded Kerry as America’s top diplomat. “[Islamic terrorists] have declared war on us and we need to declare war on them.”

Among the candidates to take the stage, only New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a point to distinguish between mainstream Muslim-Americans and radical jihadists, noting his own pushback when one of his appointed judges was falsely accused of practicing traditional Islamic religious, or shariah, law.

At times throughout the day, the candidates seemed to be competing over who was closest with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and which had spent more time in Israel. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, for example, said he had visited the Jewish state “dozens of times since 1973.

Many pledged to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on “day one” of their presidency.

Trump, however, balked in response to a question about Jerusalem — united in Israeli hands or divided between Israelis and Palestinians — saying he would wait to decide until he spoke with Netanyahu. The crowd booed its disapproval. He then tried to win back the audience by telling them about how he made a commercial for Netanyahu’s re-election campaign. (Trump also made a point of reminding the room that his daughter Ivanka is Jewish; she converted before marrying real estate developer Jared Kushner.)

But Trump also seemed to acknowledge that he wasn’t likely to be popular among Jewish Republicans, telling the crowd, “You aren’t going to support me even though you know I’m the best thing that will ever happen for Israel. You aren’t going to support me because I don’t want your money.”

Ben Carson addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, Dec. 3, 2015. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)Ben Carson speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum, Dec. 3, 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

One common refrain during the event was the rejection of the deal that the Obama administration, together with other world powers, struck with Iran over its nuclear program.

Trump, for one, said he would send everyone back to the negotiating table, assuring the room that inking a better deal would be “so easy.” Bush said he would reinstitute sanctions against Iran lifted as part of the deal. And Cruz declared, “We need to nominate a candidate who has the clarity to stand up and say: If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you are voting for the Ayatollah Khamenei to have nuclear weapons,” referring to Iran’s supreme leader. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida vowed to “shred” the agreement.

And there was also a near-universal declaration of revulsion for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. Cruz indicated that as president, his administration would strip federal funding from universities that divest from companies that do business with Israel. Rubio blasted the new European Union resolution to label products made in the West Bank settlements, saying that the policy was tantamount to anti-Semitism. He also promised to “call on university and religious leaders to speak out with clarity and force on this issue the same way … they speak out against racism and bigotry.”

The room generally received the candidates warmly, but their votes may be few: Jewish voters consistently skew Democratic. Obama won the 2012 presidential election with about 70 percent of the Jewish vote, and Jews overwhelmingly support social issues that fall in the progressive column, including gay marriage and abortion rights.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, made some headway over the 2008 GOP choice, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Romney garnered about 30 percent of the Jewish vote to McCain’s 22-24 percent, corresponding to sagging enthusiasm among voters generally for Obama. Additionally, McCain’s vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is believed to have turned off many Jewish voters because of her stridency on social issues.

On a call with the media the day before the forum, National Jewish Democratic Council Chairman Greg Rosenbaum said, “[W]hen we look at the candidates this party is putting forward, we’re amazed by how out of sync they are with the priorities of Jewish-Americans. The RJC attempts to drive a wedge between the parties on Israel, using Israel as a partisan issue, because it is all they’ve got.”

Only Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tried to address that lag, noting a successful Republican candidate had to rethink immigration policy, reach out to Latinos, and allow for exceptions on rape and incest with regard to abortion.

Each of the speeches had moments of direct Jewish appeal, sometimes to mixed effect.

Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore warmed up the crowd by noting that just the night before he had watched the Oscar-winning Holocaust feature “Schindler’s List.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he always followed his mother’s advice.

“She said, ‘Johnny, if you want to look for a really good friend, get someone who is Jewish,'” Kasich recalled. “You know why she said that? Your Jewish friend will stick by your side and stand by your side.”

Trump was introduced as a “mensch” with “chutzpah.”

“This room negotiates deals, perhaps more than any room I’ve ever spoken to,” he said.

Not all of the effort was well received: Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon running for the nomination, spent his time on stage woodenly reading from “Ally,” a book written by Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Then, in the same monotone, he read his own prepared remarks, several times mispronouncing Hamas — it sounded more like hummus.

Other candidates to speak were former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul missed the event, citing Senate votes.

As raucous as the crowd was at times, it may not be about votes at all but about dollars.

“I am a fiscal conservative,” said Richard Fox, a venture capitalist from Haddonfield, New Jersey, who listed Israel as a top voting priority. “Oddly I thought that Cruz lit the crowd up on fire. But Rubio was a little flatter today.  I haven’t decided.”

The real money will come from another reportedly undecided voter: Adelson, who was traveling overseas and not in attendance. He is rumored to still be considering which candidate to support for 2016.

Adelson, the RJC’s main bankroller, helped sustain the 2012 campaign of former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich — backing the mogul now believes wounded Romney in the general election.

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.