NEW YORK – For 24 years, Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents New York’s 10th district, has known very little competition for his seat.
But in an election year when the idea of a political outsider seems to appeal to Americans across the political aisle, entrepreneur Phil Rosenthal has decided to take his chances as the Republican challenger to the Democrat Nadler.
Rosenthal had always been interested in politics, but he didn’t think he would run for office. The trigger for his decision, he told the Post
, came when Nadler voted in favor of the Iran nuclear deal last year.
“That was upsetting to me,” Rosenthal explained. “It’s the job of our representative to speak up when the administration is not doing the right things.
“People say it’s an existential threat to Israel, which it is, but it’s also an existential threat to this city,” he continued. “We’re a target just like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are.”
Rosenthal is also a physicist, and specialized in patent, nuclear, and telecommunications law. He said he was “flabbergasted” when he read the terms of the Iran agreement.
“If Iran follows the deal to the letter, which is impossible, but if they did, still the restrictions expire. It doesn’t stop them from getting a nuclear weapon in our lifetime,” he told the Post. “Secondly, there is the over a hundred billion [dollars] that goes to the greatest state sponsor of terror. Why is that okay?” While he says he would have been happy to see a “good deal” concluded with the Islamic Republic, the current one is not achieving the intended goals. If he is elected to Congress, Rosenthal said he plans on taking steps to ensure any damage caused by the agreement is minimized.
“It is hard to unscramble the egg,” he said. “Some of the money has been released, we can’t get it back and that’s a tragedy but if Iran is not following things to the letter, a lot of sanctions can go back on. It had a major effect and can have a major effect.”
Rosenthal believes the US should start rebuilding its military, so that there is a more credible threat to Iran, and to provide Israel with the latest generation of bunker busting bombs so that Tehran knows there is also a threat from Israel.
Israel is indeed high on Rosenthal’s agenda. He believes the United States should be supporting Israel “in a much stronger way than [it is] today.”
“Israel is truly on the front lines of the war against Islamic terror and therefore is of the utmost strategic importance to the United States. Our national security demands that the United States once again has Israel’s back,” he wrote on his website.
He criticized the Obama administration for often failing to speak with “moral clarity” and distinguish between those who incite terrorism and the victims.
Rosenthal was born and raised in a middle class Jewish family in the Bronx, studied physics at Yale and Caltech and graduated from Harvard Law School. But Rosenthal said he is most proud of his company, Fastcase, which he founded with his partner Ed Walters and which aims to democratize the law by bringing big data analytics to legal research and to ensure that more American lawyers have access to the needed material.
Nadler was born in Brooklyn, also to a Jewish family.
He graduated from Columbia University, and from Fordham University School of Law in 1978. He worked for Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 US presidential campaign.
New York’s 10th congressional district is home to more Jews than any other in the US.
It encompasses all of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which includes a large modern- Orthodox community, the west side of Midtown and Lower Manhattan including Greenwich Village and the Financial District, as well as Borough Park in Brooklyn. In recent years, Rosenthal has been moving toward becoming a more observant Jew and often wear a yarmulke. He believes his faith is an advantage in this district.
“All Jews, regardless of their position on one state or two state solution, no one wants to see, God forbid, a Holocaust in Israel. No one wants to see Israel destroyed,” he told the Post.
“We need to properly represent this district,” Rosenthal added. “It’s also the district that includes Ground Zero.
This election is going to be a referendum on critical issues like Iran, Israel, ISIS, on the handling of all of this.”
On his website, he explains his platform includes defending the concept of free market; fighting homelessness, which he calls a “national disgrace”; pushing forward science and technology; and passing education reform to make it easier for parents to choose their children’s school, among other things.
“Liberty in all forms is what really sets this nation apart,” he said. “It’s so important to give people more choice of freedom where you can.”
“I’m not a progressive, Jerry Nadler would probably call himself a progressive,” he told the Post. “I want progress. The question is where to you get progress: Does progress come from the American people, from the free market system, or does it come from the government figuring out what’s the best thing for us? “Part of the message of this year is how much people are yearning for the outsider, someone who knows something about the world you are about to try to govern,” Rosenthal said. “So having the science, technology and space background, the entrepreneurship, that’s what people want, I think it makes sense this year.
“Congress has 10 or 9 percent approval ratings, if our company’s customers gave us these approval ratings, we’d be out of business in a year,” he said with a smile. “I actually think overall it’s the right time to do this.”
Weighing in on the presidential election, while Rosenthal does not say he is in favor of Donald Trump, he made clear he “absolutely cannot get behind Hillary Clinton” and said Trump’s vice presidential pick Mike Pence is a strong candidate for Israel.
Rosenthal told the Post that his motivation for running for office also came from the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
“We have a mission in life. If we see a major problem in the world we have to do something about that. That’s what got me running here,” he said.
Sarah Stern, the president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel think tank and policy center which Phil is involved in as a board member, told the Post she knows him to be “a person of great intellect and wisdom, passion for the safety and security of our country, as well as for the survival of the State of Israel.
“Beyond that, he has the intellectual honesty and moral integrity that is so lacking within certain quarters of Washington, DC, these days,” she added.
Stern explained her organization was disappointed that like Nadler, many Jewish members of Congress voted for the Iranian nuclear agreement.
“To us, this pernicious deal provides a litmus test as to who really cares about the continued safety and security of the United States and Israel,” she said.