Recent polls showing that a majority of Israelis support the reelection of US President Donald Trump on November 3, and that an even higher percentage of American Jews have sworn their allegiance to contender Joe Biden, are not surprising.
The latter is a no-brainer, to put it mildly. As a Hebrew quip that was popular during the Trump’s predecessor’s two terms in office aptly described the situation, “If Barack Obama personally nuked Tel Aviv right before an election, the Jewish vote for the Democrats would drop to 75%.”
The former makes sense, as well. Though Israel is a Jewish state, with the world’s third-largest population of ex-pat Americans, its citizens are far more focused on US foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East than they are on how an administration in Washington handles its country’s internal affairs.
While Trump’s domestic record since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic is a matter of debate – as is the case with all leaders trying to curb the spread of COVID-19 without killing their economies – his international achievements are irrefutable. A key ally in and beneficiary of his chess game in the region is Israel.
But even some of his most ardent fans, both at home and abroad, are uncomfortable with his rhetorical style and Twitter rants. Indeed, the assertion that his “base” is buoyed by and encourages his frequently embarrassing behavior is just as inaccurate as the claim that the bulk of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s voters are pleased with the lack of decorum exhibited by certain members of his Likud Party.
This was evident in the way that conservatives responded to the debate on October 7 between Vice President Mike Pence and wannabe veep Kamala Harris. Republicans of all stripes were proud of the way in which the VP kept his cool while arguing his/their positions, particularly after the cringe-inducing Trump-Biden face-off the previous week.
Their admiration for Pence was minor, however, compared to the literal and figurative cheers from pro-Trump conservatives everywhere at the classy performance of Judge Amy Coney Barrett during this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
Trump announced his nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court on September 26, to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) a mere eight days earlier. His eagerness to have her confirmed before the election, knowing that his victory is far from guaranteed, is among the reasons he was elected in the first place.
He had vowed to replace available places on the bench with judges who believe in the separation of powers – of restricting the purview of the Supreme Court to interpreting the law instead of trying forge or alter it in keeping with their political views. Two such justices he has appointed and seen confirmed are Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Barrett, if and when she’s confirmed next week, will be the third.
The fury of Democrats in general and Jewish liberals in particular has been palpable, and not only because of the rush to get Barrett confirmed. RBG had been their heroine. She was the first Jewish woman to sit on the Supreme Court, and the second woman after Sandra Day O’Connor.
She was a warrior for all left-wing causes, whose opinions on and off the bench gained her the adoration far and wide, including in Israel, which has one of the Western world’s most politically interventionist Supreme Courts. For Jews who worship at the altar of abortion and gun control, RBG was an icon.
Barrett, on the other hand, is a conservative Catholic mother-of-seven whose gender and professional accomplishments carry no weight in feminist circles. On the contrary, her record as a law professor and judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is irrelevant to Democrats who fear that her adherence to the Constitution is tantamount to right-wing lunacy.
IT IS THUS that the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee, whose minority means that Barrett’s confirmation is a done deal, have been using the hearings as a platform to campaign for their own seats among constituents in their states – and, of course, for Biden.
Their initial hope was to accomplish this by discrediting Trump through Barrett. They failed badly.
Without any notes, Barrett calmly and brilliantly answered hours and days on end of hostile grilling by lawmakers trying desperately to trip her up and make Trump look bad. No matter what the question or the tone in which it was asked (though most of the “cross-examining” took the form of long lectures), she remained attentive and relaxed.
Her nomination speech at the White House – the one that would emerge as a COVID-19 “super-spreader” event, after which Trump and many others in attendance tested positive for the virus – already had given an inkling into her character.
“The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff, in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to mark the end of a great American life,” she said from the Rose Garden podium. “Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings; she smashed them. For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country, and indeed, all over the world. She was a woman of enormous talent and consequence, and her life of public service serves as an example to us all.”
She then reiterated her attitude toward the role of the judiciary that caused Trump to nominate her in 2017 for the Seventh Circuit and today for the Supreme Court.
“A judge must apply the law as written,” she stated. “Judges are not policy-makers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
Her clarity on this score was on display from the moment that she made her opening statement at the start of the hearings on Monday.
“Courts have a vital responsibility to the rule of law, which is critical to a free society, but courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” she said. “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches, elected by and accountable to the people.... I believe Americans of all backgrounds deserve an independent Supreme Court that interprets our constitution and laws as they are written. And I believe I can serve my country by playing that role.”
She continued her testimony in the same unflappable vein, citing statutes with ease and defending opinions she has written that were distasteful to her Democratic interrogators. To their dismay, in spite of being equipped with reams of documents, charts and photographs, they were unable to unravel her logic or reveal cracks in her legal acumen.
Still, it was probably her composure and grace during the course of the proceedings, even more than her expertise, which caused her popularity to soar in surveys among so-called “suburban housewives.”
This is significant on two counts. One is that these “soccer moms” supposedly belong to a demographic – however it’s measured – that Trump has been wooing to no avail.
The other is that it consists of women who were brainwashed by Democratic propaganda, much of it from Jewish progressives, into imagining that Barrett is a backward, anti-science, right-to-life fanatic; a subservient “handmaid” with a gun-toting husband, or an Annie Oakley figure wielding a crucifix.
That she won them over unwittingly is a testament to her brains and their open minds. The Biden campaign must be nervous that she has raised the bar.
Meanwhile, Republicans who are voting for Trump but wish he would exude a bit more gravitas are relieved. These supporters don’t wear MAGA hats, yet quietly approve of his policies and champion his Supreme Court nominees, certainly this one.
If the coronavirus is what actress/activist Jane Fonda recently called “God’s gift to the Left,” Barrett is a godsend to Trump’s silent base. Her confirmation also serves as a lesson to vociferous pro-Trump Israelis on why they should be paying closer attention right now to America’s domestic affairs than to the administration’s Mideast moves.