Lots of naches at the Orthodox Green Road synagogue, in the Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, for Jack Lew and Tevi Troy, Orthodox Jews who have reached the highest precincts of governmnt — Lew as President Obama’s chief of staff, and Troy as the deputy health secretary in the last Bush administration.
The debate has been organized by the Orthodox Union. Its moderator is OU’s Washington director, Nathan Diament.
More naches: Lew yesterday "had" a granddaughter.
Opening remarks: Lew starts with "visible’ recovery, an Ohio-tailored message — there has been auto industry growth in the state.
But he segues to Israel, which may make sense in a crowd that looks predominantly Orthodox.
Some of his points: Importance of multilateral sanctions on Iran.
"It is impossible for one country in the world to impose crippling sanctions on Iran."
"We have an absolute obligation when we go to war to rule out all other means."
"I have never witnessed a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship than in the last 35 years."
Notes Obama’s pro-Israel speeches at the United Nations:
"It’s easy to come to a room like this and give a speech like that. It’s not easy at the U.N."
Troy starts with $16 trillion debt, unemployment just under 8 percent. "Gov. Romney is willing to take responsibility for the economy from day one."
Reiterates Romney’s five point plan: Jobs, energy independence, trade
Troy, in his opening, is more positive on Romney than negative on Obama; cites his "resume" as one seeking the job of president — successful as businessman, turned Salt Lake City Olympics, working with Democrats as Massachusetts governor.
He goes negative — not hard negative, but negative — when he segues to Middle East, criticizing Obama for not doing enough in 2009 during Iran’s green revolution, and blames Obama too for the "troubled" U.S.-Israel relationship, although he says it is "irresponsible" to call Obama anti-Israel. He emphasizes Romney-Benjamin Netanyahu "closeness."
Lew addresses differences on Iran — he says it arises out of an understandable Israeli anxiety over the fact that there are military actions the U.S. can carry out against Iran that Israel cannot — a difficult scenario for a nation, thinking back to the Shoah, that has always insted on relying on itself.
Troy says it is not one or two incidents, it is a pattern.
"I don’t think you see the warmth of relationship that you say with President Bush before, and frankly with President Clinton before him." Cites "hot mic" incident with Nicolas Sarkozy, when Obama seemed to complain of having to talk to Netanyahu every day.
Troy tries a pivot on enhanced military aid, suggesting that Obama campaign’s emphasis on it implies a "spigot" that might be turned off.
Troy says Obama told Jewish leaders he wanted to "create daylight" with Israel. At that July 2009 meeting, Obama, asked about predecessors’ "no daylight" policy, questioned its efficacy, saying that under his predecessor, George W. Bush, there had been "no daylight and no progress."
Moderator Nathan Diament notes volume of questions from audience on domestic issue. The first has to do with concerns about the "fiscal cliff."
Lew assails Romney for pledging to balance the budget not through not extending Bush-era tax cuts, but through closing loopholes in the tax code. Lew says Romney is not giving specifics, and in any case it doesn;t add up.
Lew slams Medicare "voucher" plan, and purported Romney cuts to Medicare.
Troy faults Obama for lacking bipartisanship, remembers Rahm Emanuel saying "F*** em, we have the votes." Faults health care for being done in a "unipartisan" way.
On whether Obama was "unipartisan," uncooperative with Republicans, Troy cites bob Woodward book, and notes that Lew, seeing Troy read it on the plane to Cleveland (they had the same flight), said: "Not everything in that book is true."
Lew, a very laid back guy, seems exercised for the first time in the evening — he amost leaps to rebut, and recalls Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that the first priority is making Obama a one-term president.
Someone in the audience asks the "falafel or shwarma" question. Troy gets coolness points by noting the end of the Avengers, and choosing shwarma. Lew is diplomatic, says Obama would go for either.
On court question, both surrogates argue that the othr side picks "activist" judges. Lew notes Romney favoring overturn of Roe v. Wade and says it is "shocking" how conservative Supreme court justices have in recent years asked questions in court more appropriate in a legislative setting.
Gun question: What would your candidate do about gun violence? Troy gives the family-values, two parent home answer, but then gets to substance: He (Troy) wants a "mutilpronged" approach that would include more efficient gun checks. Ends by noting that these are his own views.
Lew advocates faith leaders, edication leaders involvement — it’s broader than gun laws. Then he too gets to substance: Uphold the Second Amendment, but ban assault weapons.
Both men discuss the satisfaction they derived from balancing observance and work — and note the support they got from their bosses in maintaining observance.