(UPDATED MAY 12)
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Never Trump? Always Trump? Never-doesn’t-last-forever-Trump?
And what about Hillary or Bernie?
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, presents a quandary for Jewish conservatives. He said in December that he doesn’t want Jewish Republican money, and that he would be “neutral” when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.
He walked the “neutrality” back in his speech in March to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but his peregrinations on foreign policy (hawk? dove? anything?), his lack of political and policy experience, his appeals to nativist, isolationist voters and his broadsides against Muslims, Hispanics and women continue to chill some conservatives, many Jews among them. On the other hand, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are both Jewish and involved in pro-Israel and Jewish activism, and both have played prominent roles in his campaign.
We’ve started a running list of where prominent Jewish conservatives land when it comes to how to deal with The Donald. Expect updates, with new names (please tweet them to me @kampeas) and possibly changed positions.
Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for President George W. Bush: “There’s a lot about Donald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hillary any day,” he said on Twitter.
Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate, Republican powerbroker, major pro-Israel giver: “I think that Donald Trump will be good for Israel,” he told the BBC. “I’m a Republican, he’s a Republican. He’s our nominee.” On May 13, Adelson endorsed Trump in an Op-Ed in the Washington Post. “If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow — a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton,” he wrote.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.: “He is by far a much better candidate for president than Hillary Clinton,” he told the New York Jewish Week.
Jeff Ballabon, heads a strategic communications firm: “We’re on the Trump train because we know where Hillary Clinton wants to go. She is committed to continuing, enshrining, and accelerating the destruction of the past eight years,” he wrote, with Bruce Abramson, on the CNBC website.
Sid Dinerstein, former chairman of the Palm Beach, Fla., Republican Party: “A 35 point victory is a statement rocking the world: Donald will be the Republican nominee and then he’ll do to Hillary what he did to the Republicans — take no prisoners,” he wrote on Newsmax after Trump’s New York primary vote.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author, “Kosher Sex”: “There’s no question that for Israel, he’s a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton,” Boteach told The Blaze.
Dennis Prager, author, radio host: “I said from the outset that if my darkest dreams were realized, and he became the Republican nominee, I would vote for him,” Prager told the Jewish Journal on May 9. “The reason is that there is one thing that frightens me more than Donald Trump being elected president, and that is Hillary Clinton being elected president.”
NOT VOTING TRUMP OR HIS DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT
Norm Coleman, former U.S. Senator from Minnesota: “Not voting Trump or Clinton,” he said in an email.
Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and the Emergency Committee for Israel: “I feel like we should do better than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I suspect the Lord would reward us if we try hard to find a better president for the country than those two people,” he said on WMAL, a Washington, DC-area talk radio station May 5.
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post columnist: “There have been and will continue to be efforts to find an alternative candidate to Trump and Clinton,” she wrote on May 3, the day after Trump clinched the presumptive nomination. “Honorable men and women who find Trumpism repugnant and are willing to step into the fray should be commended regardless of the election’s outcome. They will have a ready answer to the question: What did you do to stop Trump?”
Noam Neusner, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush: “Not Trump, not Hillary,” he said in an email.
Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum: “1. Hold onto #NeverTrump, keep the conservative movement alive, and build for the future,” he said in an email. “2. Focus on Congress & state races. 3. Hope for a 3rd-party candidate like Romney. Maybe even vote for Gary Johnson?”
Eliot Cohen, served George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush presidencies, respectively, in the Pentagon and State Department: “Donald Trump, a man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences, will be the Republican nominee for president,” Cohen wroteb in the Washington Post. “He will run against Hillary Clinton, who is easily the lesser evil but is trailed by clouds of scandal and misconduct and whose party’s left wing poses its own threats to liberties of speech, religion, enterprise and association. It is time for a third candidate, and probably for a third party.”
Dan Senor, former George W. Bush administration official, author, “Start Up Nation”: “I’m never going to be for Trump,” he told Bloomberg. Nebraska Sen. “Ben Sasse is an interesting guy. The country hangs in the balance and we could use someone like him for the next six months to help make the case for conservatives, to save the down-ballot, to potentially throw this into the House of Representatives and win.”
Paul Singer, hedge fund manager, backed Marco Rubio and major anti-Trump SuperPAC: Back in March, Singer was reportedly helped arrange an anti-Trump advertising campaign in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, Wisconsin and other states. The National Review on May 9 quoted him as telling GOP donors that they must “stand up for what we believe, which is not embodied by either choice on the menu in November.”
Jeff Jacoby, columnist for the Boston Globe: “The country has come to a really bad pass, and no matter which path we take, something bad lies ahead,” Jacoby told The Jewish Journal on May 9.
Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush: “I do not support either presidential candidate,” Abrams told JBS, the Jewish Broadcasting Service.
NOT VOTING TRUMP, NO FINAL DECISION ON HIS OPPONENT
Seth Mandel, New York Post Op-Ed page editor: “I haven’t truly decided yet,” he said in an email.
Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations fellow, foreign policy adviser to John McCain’s presidential run in 2008: “I’m literally losing sleep over Donald Trump,” he told Vox. Hillary Clinton “would be vastly preferable to Trump.”
Bethany Mandel, blogger, contributor to N.Y. Post, The Federalist and The New York Observer: “I would be open to voting third party if there’s a decent choice, or not voting if there’s no,” Mandel told JTA. “If New Jersey is close (where I’m registered) I would vote for Hillary in a heartbeat.”
David Bernstein, law professor, Volokh Conspiracy columnist at the Washington Post: “I’d rather Hillary Clinton win,” Bernstein wrote in the Washington Post. “I’d rather (and I never thought I’d say this) Barack Obama serve a third term. I’d even rather Bernie Sanders win, though if it came down to Sanders vs. Trump it might be time to form a breakaway republic. If Trump wins the nomination, I will actively seek to prevent him from becoming president. I would support any of the Republican presidential candidates who ran in this election over Trump. If Trump wins a majority of the delegates, I will implore any delegates pledged to Trump to stay in their hotel rooms for the first ballot to deny him the nomination. Is that stealing the nomination from the voters? If it is, I don’t care. Anything that’s legal can and should be done to stop the disastrous Donald Trump.”
Orin Kerr, law professor, Volokh Conspiracy columnist at the Washington Post: “With Donald Trump now the presumptive GOP nominee, I’ll chime in to add that I will never ever vote for him,” Kerr wrote in the Washington Post. “For all the reasons David Bernstein mentioned, and that I have touched on before, I’m disgusted that Trump is going to be the GOP nominee. It’s a sad day for the GOP — and for the USA. Polls suggest that Trump will likely lose to Hillary Clinton in November. I sure hope so.”
WOULD VOTE CLINTON
Robert Kagan, Brookings Institution fellow and foreign policy adviser to John McCain’s presidential run in 2008: “For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
Joshua Muravchik, neoconservative thinker, author of “Making David Into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel: “I’m voting for Hillary” if she wins the Democratic nomination, he told JTA. “I am very skeptical of her. But Trump has degraded American politics in a way unlike anything I have ever witnessed. I can’t say enough bad things about him. His ignorance is staggering and his personality is revolting.”
Bret Stephens, Op-Ed columnist, the Wall Street Journal: “The best hope for what’s left of a serious conservative movement in America is the election in November of a Democratic president, held in check by a Republican Congress. Conservatives can survive liberal administrations, especially those whose predictable failures lead to healthy restorations—think Carter, then Reagan. What isn’t survivable is a Republican president who is part Know Nothing, part Smoot-Hawley and part John Birch. The stain of a Trump administration would cripple the conservative cause for a generation.”
Jamie Weinstein, senior editor, The Daily Caller: “Donald Trump is a threat to the American system, whereas Clinton is a threat to our economic well-being for four years,” Weinstein told the Jewish Journal on May 9.
OPPOSED TRUMP, BUT OPEN TO PERSUASION
Nick Muzin, senior adviser to the campaign of Ted Cruz: “I am a Republican and want to vote for the Republican nominee, but Mr. Trump still has to prove himself,” he told the New York Jewish Week May 5.
Fred Zeidman, former chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, backed Jeb Bush and then Ted Cruz: “I think he will be fine, but we need to sit down and be comfortable with him,” Zeidman told the New York Jewish Week May 5.
Tevi Troy, former deputy health secretary under President George W. Bush: “Over the next 6 months, Trump will have a chance to earn my vote, based on how (if) he changes his rhetoric; what the GOP platform looks like at the Trump-led convention; who Trump selects as his vice presidential candidate; and — assuming I am comfortable with that selection — what areas of responsibility Trump grants to that person,” Troy told JTA in an email.
OPPOSED TRUMP, BUT WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Eric Cantor, former majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, backed Jeb Bush: Cantor, who backed Jeb Bush for the GOP nomination, told CNBC May 3 that he had underestimated Trump, and that the billionaire could best Clinton. “I think there could be more states in play. I really do, because I do not think that the American people overall want to see more of the Clintons,” he said. Cantor did not volunteer where he now stood. “I’ve sat it out until now, and I will see.”