As my father was before me, I have been a registered Republican all of my life. I twice served on the White House staff in Republican Administrations, including a period of almost 18 months when one of my responsibilities was liaison with the Jewish community. I was the senior Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and at what was then called the Department of Health, Education & Welfare, I headed the staff of the Executive Secretariat, meaning I was the person who decided what written material the Secretary or Deputy Secretary should see.
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But this year I am voting for Hillary Clinton for President.
Suffice it to say that my Jewish identity and ties to Israel are strong, and my community involvement extensive. My first visit to Israel was in 1961, and there have been 16 or 17 subsequent visits. I note this because I am well aware that while the election choice can only be made by those registered to vote in the United States, the election outcome will have significant impact not only on all Americans, but also on all Israelis.
My experience in Washington as well as my experience with Jewish communal life taught me that while positions on issues certainly matter, the higher up you go , the more important it is that your personality, temperament and general disposition be suited to working with others. I also learned how important it is that you be open to the views of others and understand the consequences of hasty or rash decisions.
Having said all of the above by way of prelude, let’s deal with the reality of the binary choice we face, because voting for a third party candidate with no chance of winning is simply an abdication of responsibility.
As a Republican who voted in a primary for someone other than Donald Trump, I see it as somewhat pointless at this juncture to dissect how Trump maneuvered his way to the nomination. But however unhappy I might be about the result, I still face a choice. And this one is actually quite easy to make. Hillary Clinton may not be the perfect candidate, but even when I ran for local office and voted for myself, I was not sure I was voting for the perfect candidate. I do not need to agree with Hillary Clinton on all issues to know that she at least understands them. I think her world view is informed and realistic, not one of foolish bombast nor of fuzzy idealism. That should be good for Israel.
There is also no question as to Hillary Clinton’s longstanding strong ties with the U.S. Jewish community, nor is there any question about her many years of support for Israel. In that regard, effective defense of Israel on the world stage demands someone whose leadership is respected in other countries. Hillary Clinton meets that test; Donald Trump does not.
My concerns about Donald Trump go well beyond his tweeting and his offensive statements. As someone with business experience myself (I was a senior officer of a $4 billion company), I see little to suggest that Trump was a good businessman. He started with a huge (could not resist the word) parental assist, bullied and cheated those without the financial resources to fight him in court and had large losses.
As for taxes, Trump is apparently not man enough to directly explain that, while perhaps legal, he has not paid anything to support the government he now wants to lead. It says something about his character, or lack thereof, that in past elections he thought nothing about caustic comments about the percentage of income paid by others as federal tax. I would call this the Trump double standard. As for Trump’s losses and other business failures, it defies all logic to suggest they are the result of good business decisions.
Truth may be subjective, but facts are concrete. Trump’s disregard for facts, for reality, is frightening. In terms of a president making a decision, what is really scary is the thought Trump might actually believe the nonsense he spouts.
Jewish values matter to me. Trump’s notion of charity is a perversion of Jewish values. He gives ostentatiously, but apparently primarily with other people’s money. When confronted by grieving parents of a fallen soldier, his stated view of his own sacrifice was so bizarre as to defy comment.
For months now, Trump has somehow managed to navigate around his verbal abuse of women. Offensive as that was, it is not even in the same league as the latest tape release which goes well beyond what anyone of sound mind would call "locker room banter." What we hear on the tape is a sixtyish narcissist who has neither regard for anyone’s marital vows nor even the slightest sense that anything should be off limits as long as it satisfies his urges. Everything about that runs counter to Jewish teaching. Worse, as Jews, we have experience with this personality type, and should dread it.
What I think most distresses me about Donald Trump, and this also goes to core Jewish values, is that he promotes disdain for the democratic process itself. Doing the classic Trump two-step, he has even suggested that if he loses the election it could only be because he was cheated out of it. In close elections in 1960, and again in 2000, we were blessed by the fact that the losing candidate supported the legitimacy of the result while having realistic cause to challenge it. Trump seems more interested in promoting himself than in the democratic process or the future of the country.
When I vote in a few weeks, I will hope for three things:
First, a decisive victory for Hillary Clinton. Secondly, a president and a Congress who manage to work together for the good of the country. And thirdly, a revitalization of the Republican party.
David Lissy spent over eight years as Executive Director of the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel. A lawyer, business executive and American Jewish community leader, Lissy spent eight years serving Republican administrations in Washington, DC and has worked on several major election battles.