Sanders, Cruz and Jews

Cruz might have made a better candidate but he erred at the RNC.

Larry Gordon,

OpEds Larry Gordon
Larry Gordon

The performance by Senator Ted Cruz at last week’s Republican National Convention was disappointing. It’s understandable that Cruz was offended by Donald Trump’s personal style and even his insults that targeted, at one point, Cruz’s father, wife, and children. But the calculation here is not so personal or sincere.

I was and still am an admirer of Senator Cruz and his outspokenness on issues that are vital to our communities. Chief amongst those positions is his uncompromising dedication to the U.S.–Israel relationship and his forthrightness on the importance of that association.

But sadly, it seems that Mr. Cruz’s emotions and the desire to even the score, so to speak, got the best of him at the risk of jeopardizing the future of the United States. It could be that at the end of the day, the Cruz endorsement or lack thereof will be inconsequential. But it seems rather selfish and even insensitive that at this point personal feelings nudge out consideration of what is best for the future of America.

Hillary Clinton might be the next president of the United States, but if that eventuality becomes our reality, we will have missed an important opportunity to not just “make America great again,” but to actually provide this country with the shock treatment we need to jolt us out of this Jimmy Carter-like malaise that brings everything and everyone down—except ISIS, that is.

The greatest casualty of the Democratic National Convention taking place this week in Philadelphia was the truth. We saw thousands of people being intoxicated with pie-in-the-sky promises that will be impossible to fulfill. How is it possible that close-call candidate Senator Bernie Sanders can proclaim from the podium the promise of free higher education for every post-high-school student while completely neglecting the matter of how this type of advanced study will be paid for and by whom?

As for Bill Clinton’s rambling yet eloquent testimony about Hillary’s proficiency as a mother, what does that have to do with what America needs? By the way, it looks like Mr. Trump has been a fairly good parent to his children as well.

While we are on the subject of Mr. Sanders, it is warranted to mention that the last thing he could have hoped or even prayed to be identified as was Jewish. He was proud to be called socialist, even communist by some. Others referred to him as an anarchist seeking to undermine the fabric and fundamentals of the Democratic Party, whatever they might be. You could see it in his eyes and on the expression on his face—call me anything, but do not hang this albatross of being a Jew or the first Jew who had a chance to take charge of the White House. Anything but that.

So what did the Democratic National Committee do? Several WikiLeaks e‑mails refer directly to a discussion amongst DNC operatives about how to handle Bernie the Jew. It seems that throughout the primary campaign, the looming impression of Sanders’s Jewishness was effectively ignored only by Mr. Sanders but was on the mind of the DNC Jewish leadership and specifically the now-deposed leader, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Wasserman Schultz represents some of the tony parts of South Florida, including the upscale Aventura area. It’s a densely populated Jewish area with many shuls and several yeshivas. The formerly popular congresswoman likes to create the impression that she is deeply committed to not just the security of Israel (she supported the Iran nuclear deal) but is also in touch with her Jewish roots. I was at a Jewish heritage event in Washington, DC last year where Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz spoke to a predominantly Orthodox Jewish audience in one of the congressional office buildings.

The congresswoman was stating that the security of Israel and the safety of Jewish children are of utmost importance to her. Then she said, “You know we in the Jewish community believe in dor l’dor, and that’s why Israel is so important.” So she dropped in two little Hebrew words that made almost everyone’s ears perk up as she droned on. “Maybe she knows what she is talking about after all,” some must have thought. But in retrospect she was just being patronizing.

The greatest casualty of the Democratic National Convention taking place this week in Philadelphia was the truth.
But therein perhaps was where some of her expertise on how to prevent a successful Bernie Sanders campaign came from. Here was Bernie doing everything to distance himself from anything that resembles Jewishness, and so the DNC was planning to tilt the primary competition between Bernie and Hillary in the Clinton direction by possibly pointing out that Sanders was, after all, Jewish.

They weren’t sure if they should go with the Jewish angle or with the possible atheist spin. Therein was the DNC’s dilemma of how to most effectively damage the surprisingly popular Sanders campaign. So the e‑mail discussion was conducted—do we tell West Virginians and Kentuckians that he is Jewish, or a complete nonbeliever?

How foolish these operatives were. Didn’t they know that in the U.S. today it is easy to be both a Jew and an atheist? The plan was to get a reporter to press Sanders on his religious beliefs and that he would hopefully fall into that trap.

So who do you think might have hatched this type of plan other than the Hillary loyalist, Debbie, who already knows about dor l’dor—generation to generation—and that Bernie cannot pass that litmus test because he probably doesn’t even know what that means. Bernie apparently is pleased to be so far from his Brooklyn-born-and-raised religious affiliation or the time he spent living in Israel that he did not even take the time the other night to stand up for himself and mention the matter.

In all the hubbub that surrounds these conventions, we forget to appreciate that an extreme and heretofore practically unknown candidate—Mr. Sanders—was and still is able to give the closest thing to an American queen a run for the money, so to speak. The Sanders campaign was never that impressive. The points made and the expressions enunciated by his campaign were more about disaffection than affection. On his own and in his own merit, Sanders is not at all impressive. The stir he caused and the enthusiasm he generated because people are tired of the Obama–Clinton-type doublespeak and betrayals are quite remarkable.

This leads us back to support for something new and different in the candidacy of Mr. Trump and the missteps by Senator Cruz. The Texas senator’s calculation was about his chances for the presidency in 2020. It’s understandable from one with a passionate political determination that is driven by ambition. But this is not the time or place for that. This election is about the future of America for the next generation, not about Ted Cruz’s career moves.

In all likelihood, Cruz might have been a better candidate than Mr. Trump. But for now, fate has delivered Donald Trump to us and we are obligated for a variety of important reasons to make the best of his candidacy and the impressive array of personalities that surround him. After two long weeks of conventions, it all comes down to trying something new, improved, and certainly different, as opposed to the same old, same old. v

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