The apprentice candidate

The next president is in a good position because he cannot do worse than Obama when it comes to foreign policy.

Larry Gordon,

OpEds Larry Gordon
Larry Gordon
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It was said about Bill Clinton before he became president of the United States that his only foreign-policy experience was having once eaten at the International House of Pancakes.

I could not help but conjure up that old anecdote when presidential hopeful Donald Trump vouched for his commitment to Israel more than a few times over the last several weeks by explaining that he was grand marshal of the Salute to Israel Parade in 2004.

That a leading candidate for the presidency can repeat something so absurd is shocking. We know at this point that amongst others who are advising Mr. Trump are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. There are most certainly others assisting the Trump campaign on any number of policy issues related to becoming one of the most powerful and important men in the world. The question is, where are they? And where are Christie and Giuliani on this issue? They both know that vouching for his Israel credentials this way makes him look extremely simplistic if not downright stupid.

What is Trump thinking? Is that the extent of his thought process about what identifies him or solidifies him as a candidate and as a personality with the State of Israel? One has to wonder whether he feels that his relationship with Turkey will be based on his Mar-a-Lago Florida club menu over Thanksgiving. I hope that his feeling or affinity with the people of France is not based on his predisposition to fries or French toast.

But let’s back up for a moment and take a look at what is involved in becoming a grand marshal of the Israel Day Parade in Manhattan. You do not need any special policy on Israel or the future of peace in the Middle East. One of the things that allow an individual to become a grand marshal is probably donating a significant amount of money in support of the event. The larger the gift, the grander the marshal-ness. More than any other qualification he may or may not have, Trump apparently understands that in many of these contentious international situations, a key elixir is money. Maybe that is the sentiment he is attempting to sloppily express by his frequent reference to wearing a silky sash on parade day that says, “Grand Marshal.”

While it is a nice thing that Donald Trump was a grand marshal at a parade in Manhattan that celebrates Israel, unfortunately touting that not-necessarily-glamorous achievement expresses the minimal nature of the relationship between the candidate and the Jewish state. If he were a contestant on his own show “The Apprentice,” he would have been fired. I can just see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refusing to meet with President Trump because the would-be president was a key personality at a parade celebrating Israel in Manhattan 12 years ago.

Let’s not forget that at present the parade itself is shrouded in some controversy, as the sponsoring group—the Jewish Community Relations Council—is conflicted about whether a group can march in the annual procession up Fifth Avenue if its stated agenda is the promotion of a policy that conceivably endangers rather than supports the State of Israel.

Over the last several years, groups calling for a policy that jeopardizes the security of the State of Israel—like Peace Now and J Street, amongst others—have fought their way into the parade, maintaining that their desire for a shrunken Jewish state is for Israel’s own benefit. They contend that a smaller Israel means there is less for the enemies of the Jewish state to threaten to wipe off the map. So in a distorted and illogical way of thinking, this makes Israel safer. Now there is something to revel over and march about.

There is no question that when it comes to foreign-policy issues, Mr. Trump will have it a little rough at the outset. A real-estate mogul or builder of casinos does not necessarily need to have a foreign policy. But then again, when Barack Obama ran for president eight-plus years ago, he had served a half a term in the Senate and, other than his being a local Chicago politician, could only point to his work as a community organizer as his from-the-ground-up political experience.

The hope is that if Trump is successful and scores a victory over Hillary Clinton in November, Trump will not rely on Trump for foreign-policy decisions. (And that’s even though Donald Trump is a smart man, which we know because he has told us that thousands of times over the last ten months.)


When Barack Obama ran for president eight-plus years ago, he had served a half a term in the Senate and, other than his being a local Chicago politician, could only point to his work as a community organizer.
On the flip side of all this jockeying for position and speculating about the future, the good news is that the next president cannot be more of a disappointment on foreign policy than Mr. Obama. As the Obama presidency winds down, we are becoming gradually aware of the remarkable strength of our republic as Mr. Obama’s persistent attempts to not just redefine but to reduce the stature and strength of America will, in the end, be one of his last presidential failures.

So the next president—whether Hillary or Donald, or maybe even another candidate—is in a good position of sorts. They cannot do worse. I heard Bernie Sanders say the other day that what we are about to see with his election as president (unlikely) is a transformation of the United States as we know it. But wait a minute, now—that is exactly what Barack Obama said almost eight years ago, a few days before he was going to be sworn in as president. His words were precisely that: “What we are about to see is the transformation of the United States of America.”

Sanders and Obama are both liberals with a great deal of the same views on issues. So is the Sanders plan to transform America a revision or retransformation of the Obama plan, or is it something new? Does Sanders want to erase the Obama transformation or is it a reworking from a completely different direction?

Whatever the situation is in the aftermath of Tuesday’s results, it looks like Trump is in a better position than at any time up to this point. The conservative Republicans don’t like him—well, they are going to like Hillary a lot less. It’s time to bury the hatchet and come together behind Donald Trump for the good of the future and in the best interest of America.

Perhaps once that happens, Mr. Trump will start listening to those who know the politics business as well as he knows the deal-making business. In the meantime, over the short term, he’s got to stop referring to his being the grand marshal of the Israel Day Parade as a way of proving his allegiance to the rightness of Israel’s position. How about mentioning that Israel shares American values, that Israel is the only democracy with true freedom for its citizens in the entire Middle East, and so on.

That Donald was a grand marshal at a parade is not that impressive. As far as the fact that his daughter converted to Judaism, that his son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish—well, that’s a nice thing, but it does not impact on our future policy on Israel that much. Or does it? I wish someone would step up and tell him that.




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