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August 29, 2016 / 25 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘presidential’

Great Presidential Campaign Reading

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Of the taking of polls there is no end, particularly in a presidential election year. And while it’s considered the better part of wisdom to feign at least a healthy disregard, if not an active disdain, for the preponderance of polling, the truth is that political junkies couldn’t live without a steady dose of polls.

The more obnoxiously pretentious a pundit, the more likely he or she is to routinely decry the ubiquity of polls. The common lament from the smugly high-minded is that the media’s fascination with polls gives too much weight to the horse-race aspect of a campaign, at the expense of the important and weighty discussions of policy for which voters presumably hunger.

Too much weight to the horse race? What utter nonsense. Give us more of the horse race – please!

Imagine for a moment a presidential campaign bereft of polls and the horse-race atmosphere they so helpfully foster. The mind reels at such a dreadfully dreary prospect. And since the subject at hand is books, would anyone even pretend to read campaign accounts like Theodore White’s Making of the President series if they were simply compilations of stump speeches and position papers?

Richard Ben Cramer wrote what is arguably the best book ever on presidential politics, a thousand-page opus on the 1988 campaign called What It Takes: The Way to the White House (Random House, 1992) and it’s such a great read precisely because he knew better than to indulge in detailed analysis of tax plans and trade initiatives. (The book has remained remarkably fresh nearly 25 years after publication thanks to Cramer’s deftly detailed portraits of such late 20th-century political heavyweights as George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Gary Hart, and Joe Biden.)

All the books worth reading on presidential campaigns are heavy on the drama and blessedly light on the kind of stuff that keeps policy wonks up at night. The interest is in the narrative, the story line – the plot, if you will.

Sure, readers of the best campaign books come away possessing a not-insubstantial acquaintance with the candidates’ positions on at least some the major issues of the day, but the story is driven by the personalities, the gossip, the constant and obsessive polling by news organizations, and the campaigns themselves.

In other words, it all comes down to the much-maligned horse race.

In addition to Cramer’s What It Takes, the following are some other highly recommended books on presidential campaigns:

 

The Real Making of the President: Kennedy, Nixon, and the 1960 Election by W.J. Rorabaugh (University Press of Kansas, 2009) – A much needed counter to Theodore White’s iconic The Making of the President 1960 (the first of White’s series of books on presidential campaigns). Rorabaugh convincingly shows how White got many important things wrong due mainly to his shameless worship of John Kennedy, which makes one wonder why White’s book is still held up as a classic by people who should know better.

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1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon by David Pietrusza (Union Square Press, 2008) – Another corrective to the flaws in White’s work. Pietrusza, like Rorabaugh, wrote his book decades after the 1960 election, so he had a more expansive and dispassionate perspective than White, as well as access to information the Kennedys and their toadies worked long and hard to keep from the public.

 

An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968 by Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodgson, and Bruce Page (Viking, 1969) – A finely textured account of the pivotal 1968 campaign by three distinguished British journalists – and far superior to Theodore White’s Making of the President 1968. Although some of the authors’ assumptions have aged badly (such as, for example, their thoroughly condescending view of then-California governor Ronald Reagan, who would be elected president twelve years later), their view for detail and their deeply reported narrative have stood the test of time.

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American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division by Michael Cohen (Oxford University Press, 2016) – The fact that this is the newest book on the list and the book directly preceding it is the oldest should tell you something about what a seminal year in politics 1968 was and how the divisions that came to the fore during that presidential campaign resonate across the decades. Events came at a non-stop pace: the decision by a sitting president not to seek reelection; the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy; the political resurrection of Richard Nixon; the sudden emergence of Ronald Reagan as a presidential possibility; the angry, racially charged campaign of Alabama governor George Wallace; and the rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In Cohen’s hands the story reads like a richly imagined novel.

 

Maoz-062416-NixonThe Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority by Patrick Buchanan (Crown Forum 2014) – Not a campaign book in the usual sense, this superbly written (one would expect nothing less from a veteran speechwriter, columnist, and author) behind-the-scenes story of Richard Nixon’s 1968 victory is a gold mine of insider anecdotes and information. The candid depictions – some biting, others moving – of prominent public figures of the day add to the appeal of one of the best political books you’ll ever read. And given that some of Buchanan’s views are widely perceived to be anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic, his poignant recounting of a visit he and then-private citizen Nixon made to Israel in June 1967, shortly after the conclusion of the Six-Day War, reveals a side to him that many readers will no doubt find surprising.

 

The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse (Random House, 1973) – There are several books that cover the 1972 presidential campaign, among them Hunter S. Thompson’s On the Campaign Trail 1972 (a compendium of the author’s trademark idiosyncratic and drug and alcohol-fueled reporting for Rolling Stone magazine); Bruce Miroff’s The Liberals’ Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party (a solid if somewhat wonkish account); and Theodore White’s Making of the President 1972. But if one had to recommend a single book about the 1972 race, that book would be Timothy Crouse’s no-holds-barred look at the newspaper, newsmagazine, and television network reporters (the “boys on the bus”) whose power and influence in the days before the Internet and social media cannot be overstated. By reporting on the journalists who covered the campaign, Crouse tells the story of the campaign itself.

 

Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976 by Jules Witcover (Viking, 1977) – Witcover’s occasionally plodding prose spread out over 700 pages notwithstanding, the book is as in-depth a report as one could ask for, with the longtime political journalist guiding readers through four of the most eventful years in the country’s history and the election that gave us (yikes) the Jimmy Carter presidency.

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Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America by Craig Shirley (ISI Books, 2009) – The inside story of Ronald Reagan’s epic 1980 victory over Jimmy Carter, told by a historian and veteran political consultant whose earlier work, Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All (Thomas Nelson, 2005) focused on Reagan’s nearly successful 1976 battle with incumbent president Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination. Although it’s a fact that has been obscured with the passage of time and Reagan’s steadily ascending historical ranking, the election’s outcome, let alone its landslide proportions – 44 states and 489 electoral votes for Reagan, six states and 49 electoral votes for Carter – was far from a certainty through much of the campaign, which was actually a nail-biter for most of the year.

 

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Harper 2010) – Purists lamented the book’s all-out gossipy tone, but no one challenged its accuracy. Heilemann and Halperin seemingly got everyone of note in both the Obama and McCain campaigns to dish freely – and often far from flatteringly – on the candidates and their families. The chapters on then-senator John Edwards (whose campaign for the Democratic nomination disintegrated amid scandal and family tragedy) and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin are particularly devastating. The book was such a sensation that the authors were immediately paid a hefty sum for a book on the 2012 campaign. That book, Double Down: Game Change 2012 (The Penguin Press, 2013) has its moments and is a good read, especially for political junkies, but it isn’t nearly the eye-opener Heilemann and Halperin produced about the 2008 election.

Jason Maoz

Will Israel be ‘Trumped’ by the US Presidential Elections?

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

There is a great deal at stake for Americans voting in this year’s U.S. presidential elections — but at least as much is riding on the results for the State of Israel.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has been one of the few candidates in the race to insist he would maintain neutrality when dealing with Israel and the Palestinian Authority from the White House.

Israeli Jews surveyed so far have nevertheless expressed more faith in his ability to deal fairly with Israel than any of the other candidates.

This may be due to Trump’s blunt, “in your face” style – the very characteristic that so alienates some of his American audiences – but which is similar to a large percentage of Israelis in the Jewish State.

It is far easier to deal with a person who is “up front” about their intentions, one might say, than a smiling politician who hides the weapon. Moreover, Trump pulls no punches about dealing with tough situations in a like manner – a necessary Middle Eastern attitude.

But probably the biggest factor in his popularity has to do with his willingness to simply say he will be neutral in dealing with both sides.

At an MSNBC town hall meeting in South Carolina on Feb. 17, Trump described a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as “probably the toughest deal in the world right now to make.” What he did promise was that if he were elected president, he would “give it one hell of a shot.” This was a deal in which he would act as “sort of a neutral guy,” he said. Wisely, when asked whose fault it was that no agreement had been reached so far, he deflected the question – and did not blame either side.

That is the mark of a real negotiator, one who has the seasoned skills of someone who has been at the table for a very long time. It gives the lie to those who claim Trump lacks foreign policy experience; they forget that Trump has been dealing with political leaders around the world for years while cutting deals in nations on different continents for his various business interests.

Israelis have too often heard American politicians claim their undying support of Israel only to throw the Jewish State under the bus as they try to “bring peace” to the Middle East.

However, at a Republican debate held on CNN, Trump did comment at one point: “It doesn’t help if I start saying, ‘I am very pro-Israel, very pro, more than anybody on this stage… With that being said, I am totally pro-Israel.” But he was unwilling to go farther, and made no promises whatsoever. Certainly no promise to ‘bring peace to the Middle East.’

Nearly every single U.S. presidential candidate has vowed to move the American embassy to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem – and not one has done it once taking office.

Every American president swears up and down about the “unbreakable bond” between the two countries – but that didn’t stop President Barack Obama from freezing the supply of basic military equipment and ordnance in the middle of Israel’s defensive counter terrorist war with Hamas in the summer of 2014.

Promises are one thing and action is quite another, and if Israelis have learned anything, it is to know not to depend on fancy promises. So when a guy like Trump says he will be neutral, after flowery vows of endless support – that gets the attention of Israelis who are really sick of making that run for the bomb shelters.

Trump’s style and substance is straightforward, simple and different. He’s making no promises and no pretensions to expertise. He is an executive who says he’ll run the country pretty much the same way – by hiring top experts to do what they do best, in the areas of their specialization.

Hana Levi Julian

Kahneman Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Friday, August 9th, 2013

President Obama awarded Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton psychologist known for his application of psychology to economic analysis, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The White House release Thursday naming Kahneman and other recipients notes that the Princeton University scholar, who shared the Nobel Price for Economics in 2002, escaped Nazi Europe and served in the Israeli army.

Among the 16 people receiving the award this year are Gloria Steinem, the feminist pioneer, and the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who was for decades a pro-Israel leader in Congress.

The awards will be presented later this year.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by President John Kennedy in 1963, is with the Congressional Gold Medal the highest civilian honor in the United States.

JTA

Tanks Deployed Outside Morsi’s Palace as Bloody Confrontations Are Raging (Video)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

According to Aljazeera, Egypt’s army has deployed tanks outside the presidential palace after a night of deadly clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi.

Four tanks and three armored personnel carriers were stationed metres from the front gate of the palace in northern Cairo as hundreds of Morsi’s partisans chanted slogans in support of the president early on Thursday.

At least five people have been killed and over 440 people injured in the Egyptian capital as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed near the presidential palace on Wednesday evening, the health ministry said.

Fighting continued into the early morning on Thursday with fires burning in the streets where the opposing sides threw stones and petrol bombs at each other.

“No to dictatorship,” Morsi’s opponents chanted, while their rivals chanted: “Defending Morsi is defending Islam.”

Riot police were sent in to break up the violence on Wednesday, in which about 350 people were injured.

As of 11:20 last night, bloody clashes near the presidential palace were still on and off, gunshots heard intermittently, at least 126 injured in the bloody confrontations and unconfirmed reports of two deaths, while President Morsi and the presidential office have yet to comment on the ongoing turmoil.

Thousands of pro and anti-Morsi forces clashed into the night outside the presidential palace as the Egyptian opposition forces are saying the leader’s legitimacy is in “jeopardy,” Al Ahram reported. Two Morsi aides have resigned to protest the Muslim Brotherhood’s “narrow-mindedness.” Two Islamist Freedom and Justice Party buildings have been torched.

Jewish Press Staff

Romney’s Frum Adviser Sums Up Campaign

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Had Mitt Romney won the presidential election on November 6, Tevi Troy would be busy working right now as director of domestic policy on Romney’s transition team. Fate had other ideas, though.

Troy, who served as special policy adviser to Romney’s presidential campaign, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank. An Orthodox Jew who grew up in Queens, Troy has served in a number of government positions over the past 15 years, including deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in President George W. Bush’s administration. At one point he was also the White House’s lead adviser on healthcare, labor, education, transportation, immigration, crime, veterans affairs, and welfare.

Troy is also the author of two books: “Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians?” (2002) and “What Washington Read, Eisenhower Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House” (forthcoming, 2013).

The Jewish Press recently spoke with him.

The Jewish Press: What exactly did you do for Romney?

Troy: I advised on a host of issues, including health policy, domestic policy, and also Jewish issues. I made TV and radio appearances, spoke to the media on Governor Romney’s behalf, and even debated Jack Lew, White House chief of staff, at a Cleveland shul a few days before the campaign ended.

What was Romney like as a person?

Well, it’s hard to say what he’s like on a trip to Disney World or something like that.

In terms of policy, he’s very bright and knowledgeable and picks up stuff very quickly. I was in a series of policy meetings he had in Washington where he met with experts on various issues; I headed the healthcare briefing. He walked into that room with no notes, spoke off the cuff very knowledgably about healthcare, and then took questions from experts and responded knowledgably, skillfully, with facts and figures.

How many times did you meet him?

Not that many. Three, four, or five.

Why do you think he lost?

It’s very hard to beat an incumbent president. A president has four years to prepare for an election campaign. Only one incumbent Democrat has lost over the last century, and that was Jimmy Carter.

I also think the torrent of negative ads that hit Governor Romney over the summer at a time when he did not have the funding to respond was very damaging. Finally, the American people tend to want to give first-term presidents a second chance.

Some people think his toned-down performance in the second and third debates may have hurt him as well.

I don’t think he toned it down at all. I think he was equally good in the second debate, and in the third debate I thought [Romney] had the right strategy, which is you don’t want to get in an ugly brawl over foreign policy when you’re trying to show the American people that you’re ready to lead.

But it seems to me that we’re in a more knuckle-baring era, and maybe the American people do want to see that kind of fighting in a foreign policy debate.

How would you compare Romney to George W. Bush?

It’s hard to say because I spent more time with Bush. Bush was very good at getting to the heart of an issue very quickly. He asked very tough questions in policy meetings. He also seemed to have more of an easygoing manner than Romney. He was very good with people – the backslapping, “hey, I’m your buddy” kind of thing. That’s a real skill in politics.

In other words, Romney is, as some people argue, a bit stiff.

I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t say anything against Romney. I’m just praising Bush for being a very good retail politician.

One of the reasons many Orthodox Jews voted for Romney was Obama’s alleged anti-Israel bias. Yet, some people argue that Obama’s position vis-à-vis Israel is identical to Bush’s; that Bush, too, supported a two-state solution.

I don’t buy that at all. First of all, President Bush worked much better with the Israelis. Second of all, President Bush supported a two-state solution, but with the Palestinians having corresponding obligations. And third of all, President Bush did not want to have preconditions before getting to the negotiating table, whereas President Obama presumed to draw what the final lines were in his speech before Netanyahu’s visit a couple of years ago.

Elliot Resnick

Morsi Back After Massive Protests Threaten Palace

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

After a night of protests threatening the presidential palace, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has returned home, despite national outrage over his attempts at constitutional reform.

Police held back tens of thousands of protests around the perimeter of the residence, citizens who came out to protest reforms which will strongly increase the powers of the president and severely restrict any judicial oversight.

A referendum on the new measures is expected to be supported by the MuslimBrotherhood in the parliament.

Malkah Fleisher

NY Jewish Boroughs Voted Romney

Monday, November 26th, 2012

An analysis of a recent New York Times article examining the presidential voting trends of all the New York precincts determined that almost all Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney over Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

According to an article by Front Page Mag, Romney won over 90 percent of the Jewish votes in Borough Park, Williamsburg, Flatbush, Crown Heights, Manhattan Beach, Belle Harbor, Howard Beach, Kew Garden Hills, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

The article noted that support for Romney was irrespective of the level of income of the neighborhoods.

Malkah Fleisher

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