Two Cheers for Ted
Politics is called the art of the possible. You work with what you have. Sometimes, you have to make the best of what you are presented with, rather than working for your heart’s desire.
In the Fellini-meets-Kafka nightmare that is the 2016 US presidential election, the issue of my heart’s desire long ago bit the proverbial dust. Marco Rubio ran a poorly organized and uncompelling campaign. I supported him because I thought he was long and strong on “electability” in the general election.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get nearly enough people excited about that prospect.
Now we are faced with four leading candidates, three of whom seem to be products of a drug-induced all-nighter in some college dorm room.
The Democrats are offering the choice — on the one hand — of a woman of breathtakingly little integrity. While Hillary Clinton has been compared to Lucretia Borgia and Lady Macbeth, I would prefer the female version of Boss Tweed – “I’ll say whatever you want to anyone, just spell my name correctly on the check.”
What has Hillary Clinton done for the nation, other than to get rich from the myriad connections she and her husband have milked since he left office? Her term as secretary of state was notable for its futility – yes, it does matter that Libya was her brainchild and her failure.
As to the email server scandal, that just encapsulates the Clintonian world view of how laws apply to most, but not all, of us.
On the other hand, there is the man who, if we are playing a party game called “Pick the kind of person least likely to become president,” would have won hands down: an old Jewish socialist from Vermont.
Bernie Sanders is Obama out of the ideological closet: a hard-core leftist, who would be happy to bankrupt the United States in the name of an ideology that all but the under-20 set remember as the greatest failure of Western civilization.
As a Jew, I am repulsed by Sanders’s hostility to Israel (Okay, its tough love. He loves Israel the way J Street does: in its own idealized image of Israel, not in its flawed, unfortunate reality.). Sanders is very much in the ideological tradition of leftist antipathy to Zionism, if not to Judaism; one need only peruse Robert Wistrich’s encyclopedic From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, Jews and Israel to contextualize Sanders among his ideological ancestors.
That leaves Donald Trump. Am I the only guy who thinks he is actually doing this whole thing as a pretext for a book/TV/movie deal? “Look Ma, I’m running for president!”
He defines winging it, not being serious, preparing for the first stream-of-consciousness presidency. I am not in the camp that thinks him stupid. Far from it. But his skill set is wrong for the office he seeks.
Trump is not a fascist, though he could be a good, old-fashioned rabblerouser. Mostly, he reduces important and complex issues to shouting points, which eventually seem wildly simplistic and even embarrassing.
His suggestion — that we allow the Iranians to take the $150 billion that we should never be giving them, and then have them buy deliberately defective US missiles with the money — says it all. I mean, this is a snickering point we would make to each other after a few drinks, not in front of thousands of people at a rally in Rochester, NY.
That leaves Ted Cruz, who looks better by comparison day by day. Cruz is serious and principled, though his great challenge will be to attract those who don’t embrace all of his principles.
Many people — intelligent people, mind you — dismiss Cruz because he always appears to be sneering. He doesn’t seem lovable, and some would say not even likable. But he is not running for Miss Congeniality, rather for president, and (while Obama did his level best to abdicate from this) the leader of the Free World.
Cruz has a vision of American exceptionalism, of the appropriateness, indeed the necessity, of American leadership. He exudes a horror for the creeping entitle-ism that threatens to bury the American dream, and is desirous of seeing how government can serve the people and facilitate economic growth, and not the reverse.
As an American Israeli, I see Cruz assessing Israel and the Middle East with a degree of understanding and empathy for the Jewish state that leaves his opponents in the dust. While some of that is due to his freedom/Western/America-centric worldview, much of it also stems from his Christian Zionism. Cruz’s evangelism is a source of hand-wringing and cringing to some American Jews.
I say, get over it. First of all, no one is trying to convert anyone. And even if they were, as my mother of blessed memory would constantly remind me as a kid, so if your pal is jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, does that mean you have to, too? In other words, just say no.
Above all, I believe in what Ed Koch used to call his one-question rule. When moshiach comes, you will ask him one question: is this your first or second time? Depending on what he says, many attitudes will have to be adjusted. Until then, I am thrilled to have the friendship of Christians, who embarrass us with their unambiguous, no-questions-asked, no-punches-pulled love of Israel.
Would that it were that way with all of the Jews.
People get the leadership they deserve, and America is courting a self-affliction of massive proportions. There is only one way out, and that is a decision to embrace the candidate who can steer the nation away from its current anemia and self-doubt.
For the sake of America’s future, Americans need to elect Ted Cruz as President.