THE RETURN OF ROMNEY — Despite losing the House of Representatives, the President now has a safe majority in the Senate — pending a recount in Florida and the final results in Arizona — with which to approve his future judicial and cabinet appointees. With John McCain gone, along with Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, the outspoken chair of the Foreign Relations Committee — both of whom notably clashed with Trump —Trump faces diminished resistance from within his party, reducing the risk that a lone outlier could derail his legislation.
Less noticed in Tuesday’s election was the return of Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 presidential nominee, to political office. Romney, Senator-elect for Utah, is qualified to fill the void for an independent voice of reason in the Trump era, say a number of his supporters and former aides.
Dov Zakheim, a former Pentagon official who also served as a foreign policy advisor on the Romney presidential campaign, tells us: "Even if Trump is re-elected in 2020, he'll be up for re-election when Trump is leaving. So I don't feel that he's going to have any fear of Trump or any real need to bow down to him. He represents a very different kind of Republicanism. Most Mormons that I know are anti-Trump... I don't see that Romney has any particular loyalty, allegiance, or sense of obligation to Trump. I think he'll be a terrific senator. I think he's going to be a major voice for a sane Republican party. And in a sense, he could be the old kind of standard-bearer. So, you know, on foreign policy or on domestic policy. I just don't see him particularly concerned about what Trump cares about. He will go his own way and I think he will find that there are a lot of Republicans who follow him."
“I think, to the extent that his thoughts agree with President Trump's, you're going to see that President Trump would have no greater supporter in the U.S. Senate,” Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based Romney donor and board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told Jewish Insider. “And to the extent that he disagrees with him, I think that he will voice that and lead the opposition.”
Phil Rosen, a leading Romney bundler in 2012, anticipates that the Utah Senator will mostly toe the party line, primarily because he and Trump agree, fundamentally, on policy. “He has voiced his support for the administration with respect to the economy, Israel and Mideast policy and many other successful efforts,” Rosen noted. “And he will work with the Trump administration to push those policies forward.”
According to Ron Krongold, a Miami businessman, Romney could influence Trump in areas where they don't see eye to eye, like the U.S. relationship with China and Russia. Trump, Krongold suggested, will benefit from discussion with Romney and “take his intuitive outlook on these matters in consideration.”
Comparisons to Corker? — “I think very much so,” Zeidman said when asked if Romney would wear the Bob Corker hat in the Senate. “When Corker agreed with the president he led the parade. And when he disagreed with the President, he led the parade,” he explained. “Romney is so driven to get things done that he has a great sense of compromise and I think he will work very, very closely with the White House to try and reach compromise positions that will allow the administration to govern.”
Former Romney fundraiser and Jewish outreach director, Lisa Spies emails us: “I believe Senator-elect Romney has the credibility to stick to his own brand and not be easily categorized. He will support conservative reform just like he did as Governor, and work with whomever best helps enact an agenda consistent with Utah values." [JewishInsider]
IN IOWA — King of the Low Road: Iowa’s worst congressman ekes out a victory — by Adam Rubenstein: "Steve King has said and done a lot of indecent things. In October, he endorsed Faith Goldy, a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto. Both King and Goldy have publicly embraced the “great replacement” theory, which posits a coordinated global conspiracy to repopulate countries with immigrants. Usually it’s the Jews who are blamed for this—there were chants of “Jews will not replace us” during the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. And in August, while on a foundation-funded trip to visit Holocaust sites in Poland, King took a side trip to Austria to have dinner with members of the far-right Freedom party, which has historical ties to the Nazis..."
"A local GOP insider told me just how much discord there is in the party when it comes to King. “We’re trying to put out a positive message, and he steps on it every day. He used to do a lot [for Iowa]. He’s MIA in D.C.,” he told me. “He’s on his crusade overseas, and he’s leaving Iowa voters behind. No one is comfortable with him anymore.” [WeeklyStandard]
How we got Ayanna Pressley wrong on Israel — by Ron Kampeas: "Pressley’s views on Israel differ little from the long-serving Democrat she unseated in the primary, Michael Capuano... “The Jewish community in Boston has enjoyed a warm and productive relationship with congresswoman-elect Pressley during her nine years holding a Boston citywide elected position,” [Jeremy] Burton said in an email. “During that time and during this year’s campaign, Pressley has sought out the input and perspectives of our leaders and organizations on a range of issues, including the US-Israel partnership,” he said." [JTA]
Rep. John Yarmuth vs. Trump, Bibi — by Danna Harman: “When Rep. John Yarmuth returns to Washington, he will be the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on the Budget. This makes it highly likely he will become its chairman when Congress resumes in January... Today, Yarmuth is at the forefront of Democratic disillusionment with Israel’s leadership. “Unfortunately, Israel has lost a lot of support,” he says. He has dubbed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the Dick Cheney” of Israel – “willing to say or do anything to scare his crowd into supporting him.” “I once sat across from Netanyahu and looked at him and felt he was the most bold-faced liar I had ever heard,” he says."
“Yarmuth shakes his head when asked about Netanyahu, as well as Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent handling of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. “Trump has clearly made it more acceptable to surface your prejudices,” Yarmuth says... He adds that for Israeli leaders to try to protect Trump at such a moment is “off-putting.” [Haaretz]
Mairav Zonszein writes... "Trump First, Jews Later: What Pittsburgh cemented is just how far the Israeli leadership is willing to go to protect its nationalist interests, even at the expense of condoning explicit forms of anti-Semitism that are couched in a form of white Christian supremacism hostile to immigrants and people of color." [ForeignPolicy]
Interview — Natan Sharansky believes the current Israeli government is not listening to concerns of diaspora Jews regarding the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, the detention of left-wing activists at Israel’s airport, or the plurality of ways Judaism is practiced. [i24News]
DAYLIGHT? — Tension Between U.S. and Israel Over China Infrastructure Projects — by Amir Tibon and Amos Harel: "Two months ago, Haaretz reported that, at a conference with their Israeli counterparts, retired American admirals warned that Washington was simply astonished at Israel’s decision to award major infrastructure projects, including the construction of a civilian port in Haifa, to Chinese companies... Based on conversations with ministers and other top officials, it now turns out that the Israelis were amazed at the intensity of their American counterparts’ ire on the matter. “They blew up at us,” said one of the Israelis who attended the meetings." [Haaretz]
HEARD YESTERDAY — Stuart Eizenstat speaking at at a policy forum hosted by The Washington Institute: "I support the JCPOA, but at the same time, I also feel that there should be tougher sanctions for [Iran’s] other actions: supporting terrorism, human rights violations, their missile program and so forth… I think that it’s in our interest, I think it’s in Israel’s interest, to keep the JCPOA alive because I think it blunted their capacity to have a nuclear breakthrough and that you can have that position and still believe, as I do, in very tough sanctions outside of the nuclear [pact].”
UPDATE — In yesterday's Daily Kickoff, we reported the White House is hosting a Hanukkah party on December 5th at 3PM. They are hosting a second Hanukkah party on the same day at 7PM.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT — Court Case Reveals Alan Dershowitz Had a Contract With a Lobbyist for Qatar — by Dan Friedman: "Joseph “Joey” Allaham... said in a sworn deposition taken on June 19 that he had contracted with Dershowitz for the attorney to provide him with “advisory and consulting” services “in many matters that involved [the] Middle East, especially Israel.”
"Dershowitz told Mother Jones that he “never received a single penny pursuant to that contract” or from any other work with Allaham and that the deal was “never implemented.” Dershowitz said that following a discussion with Allaham in early 2018, Allaham “drafted a retention letter but my legal advice was never actually sought or given.” ... “I have done nothing and will do nothing on behalf of any country,” he said." [MotherJones]
Trump’s New A.G. Worked for Scam Firm That Threatened Victims with Krav Maga–Style Beatdowns — by Bess Levin: "Whitaker’s most crucial role was arguably in using his prior work as a federal prosecutor to intimidate people when they realized World Patent Marketing was a scam. According to e-mails filed by the F.T.C, in August 2015 Whitaker allegedly responded to a customer who had complained about World Patent Marketing to the Better Business Bureau by telling them, “I am assuming you understand that there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you. Understand that we take threats like this quite seriously.”
"The pièce de résistance, though, would have to be the correspondence sent to unhappy customers suggesting they keep their grievances to themselves, lest an ex-member of the Israeli Special Ops show up on their doorstep: The F.T.C. complaint adds that “Defendants also cultivate a threatening atmosphere” by sending its victims e-mails describing a company “security team” of “all ex-Israeli Special Ops and trained in Krav Maga, one of the most deadly of the martial arts.” [VanityFair]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR — Bribery Charges Urged Against Four Close to Netanyahu in Submarine Case — by David Halbfinger: "The Israeli police on Thursday recommended the indictment of one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest confidants and three others from his inner circle in a sprawling bribery case involving the multibillion-dollar purchase of submarines and missile boats from Germany... With elections expected early next year, it is unclear how the police recommendations in the submarine case will affect Mr. Netanyahu’s standing. The growing list of people close to the Israeli leader who face possible criminal charges could be used against him by his challengers." [NYTimes]
ON THE GROUND — Qatar pays Gaza salaries to ease tensions; Israel says money's not for Hamas — by Nidal al-Mughrabi: "A $15 million Qatari cash infusion was paid out to impoverished Palestinian civil servants in Gaza on Friday, offering Hamas a potential domestic reprieve though Israel said the money would not go to the enclave’s dominant Islamist group. Palestinian sources said the Qatari payout, received on Thursday, was the first of a total of $90 million that would come into the Gaza Strip over the next six months with Israeli approval." [Reuters]
-- Neri Zilber tweets: "Diplomatic correspondent for Adelson-owned Israel Hayom Ariel Kahana blasts Netanyahu government for giving Hamas money. Compares it to Oslo Accords & Iran nuclear deal. Demands ministers resign. Strong stuff from the hard right."
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Lloyd Blankfein Was the Unidentified Goldman Executive Present at 2009 1MDB Meeting [Bloomberg] Will Nancy Pelosi Bring Down the Gavel on Mark Zuckerberg? [VanityFair] Google has hired Geisinger's David Feinberg to lead its health strategy [CNBC] Bob Iger Talks Disney+, Hulu Plans and His Vision for Enlarged TV Studio [Variety]
PROFILE — Why Lauren Bush Lauren Is Increasing FEED's Investment In Brick-And-Mortar — by Alexandra Wilson: "After developing a myriad of product offerings, Bush Lauren is looking to continue to reinvent the brand by taking the ecommerce company into brick-and-mortar locations nationwide. The first-ever physical location opened up last year in the trendy Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. The shop and cafe offers food, coffee and FEED products, in addition to hosting civic-minded events. Bush Lauren claims that the store has been wildly successful, with the location's gross profit up nearly 35% from 2017. Additionally, since opening they've seen over 60% of customers making repeat purchases. "It was a leap of faith, to some extent, but I still very much believe in brick-and-mortar. It just needs to be done differently," says Bush Lauren." [Forbes]
HOLLYWOOD — HBO Lands David Simon’s Fascism Drama ‘The Plot Against America’ — by Tim Baysinger: "The pay cable network has given a production commitment to Simon’s adaptation of the Philip Roth book, “The Plot Against America,” which will be a six-part miniseries. Based on Roth’s 2004 book, the series imagines an alternate American history told through the eyes of a working-class Jewish family in New Jersey, as they watch the political rise of Charles Lindbergh, an aviator-hero and xenophobic populist, who becomes president and turns the nation toward fascism." [TheWrap]
DESSERT — Five Places to Go in Jerusalem — by Amy Tara Koch: "Jerusalem’s city center has transformed into a vibrant scene, with youthful, often tattooed habitués offering a curious juxtaposition to the religious pilgrims roaming the Holy City. A growing tech scene — there are upward of 500 start ups in the city — has fueled the metamorphosis... Machneyuda: For a meal that is as much a party as a dining experience, this nine-year-old restaurant inside the Machane Yehuda Market... embodies the boisterous spirit and flavors of contemporary Jerusalem. As dishes arrive — Arabic funk blares. Impromptu dancing erupts when the staff gives a signal by banging on kitchen pots." [NYTimes]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS — FRIDAY: British Conservative politician and businessman, Baron David Wolfson of Sunningdale, turns 83... British businessman and philanthropist, formerly Chairman of Lloyds TSB, a major UK bank, Sir Maurice Victor Blank turns 76... Professional baseball manager in the minor leagues and college, he managed Team Israel at the WBC qualifier in 2016 and the World Baseball Classic in South Korea and Japan in 2017, Jerry Weinstein turns 75... Israeli war hero who transitioned to a long career in the Knesset (1999-2013) for the National Religious and Jewish Home parties, Zevulun Orlev turns 73... Chairman and CEO of Los Angeles-based PR and public affairs firm, Cerrell Associates, Hal Dash turns 70... Chula Vista, California resident, Daniel Ajzen turns 68... Senior producer at NBC Nightly News, Joel Seidman 64... Political consultant and fundraiser, she founded "No Labels" in 2010 to solve problems across the partisan divide, Nancy Jacobson turns 56... Director of Los Angeles-based Remember Us: The Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah Project, she was previously the executive director of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Samara Hutman turns 56...
Professor of journalism and media studies at Fordham University, Amy Beth Aronson Ph.D. turns 56... Partner in the Chicago office of Kirkland & Ellis, he represents private equity and venture capital sponsors, Douglas C. Gessner turns 53... Partner at Covington & Burling specializing in export controls and sanctions, he was previously the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for export administration during the Bush 43 administration, Peter Lichtenbaum turns 53... American-born Israeli fighter pilot turned venture capitalist, he is the author of a 2018 book on the future of Judaism and founder of Clarity Capital, a NYC and Tel Aviv-based investment management firm, Tal Keinan turns 49... Founding Executive Director of OneTable, Aliza Kline turns 47... Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2015, despite being legally blind since birth as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, Richard H. Bernstein turns 44... Cleveland-born, now living in Phoenix, singer, songwriter and rapper, he has collaborated with artists like Gad Elbaz, Lipa Schmeltzer and C Lanzbom, Ari Benjamin Lesser turns 32...
SATURDAY: Lyricist and songwriter for TV, film and stage, who together with her husband, won three Academy Awards for Best Original Song, Marilyn Bergman turns 89... Manager of the Atlanta Hearing Aid Service, Murray Kurtzberg turns 76... Former CNN news anchor whose first day on the job was September 11, 2001, longtime reporter for ABC, Aaron Brown turns 70... Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles, Raphael J. Sonenshein, Ph.D. turns 69... DC-based producer for CBS News and 60 Minutes since 2008, after 11 years as a producer for ABC's news programs, Howard L. Rosenberg turns 67...
ESPN's SportsCenter anchor, Linda Cohn turns 59... Bar-Ilan University Professor and social historian, ordained by Yeshiva University, Adam Ferziger turns 54... Senior Rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, Ken Chasen turns 53... Managing editor for news at Vox since 2018, he was previously in a series of roles at Foreign Policy Magazine (2010-2018), Benjamin Pauker turns 43... Co-founder in 2004 of Yelp, where he remains the CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman turns 41... Senior investigative reporter at ABC News, Josh Margolin turns 39... Global communications official for Bloomberg Philanthropies on public health, Jean B. Weinberg turns 38...
SUNDAY: Russian-born billionaire, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist, Yuri Milner turns 57... US Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2011-2014), now a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, he is the co-founder and chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Ambassador Norm Eisen turns 58... Attorney in Los Angeles, Gerald Neiter turns 85... Former Democratic US Senator from California (1993-2017), Barbara Boxer turns 78... Author and Senior Fellow at USC’s Annenberg School, Morley Winograd turns 76... Television personality (former host of Double Dare), comedian and talk show host, Marc Summers (born Marc Berkowitz) turns 67... Billionaire businessman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Ken Grossman turns 64... Founder and president of DC-based Plurus Strategies, he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, David Leiter turns 64...
President at American Built-in Closets in South Florida, Perry Birman turns 61... Aish HaTorah teacher in Los Angeles, she holds a law degree and a masters in clinical psychology, author and co-founder of a gourmet kosher cooking website, Emuna Braverman turns 61... Talk show host Zev Brenner turns 60... Founder and executive director of Los Angeles-based IKAR (a Jewish spiritual community led by Rabbi Sharon Brous), Melissa Balaban turns 54... Emmy Award and People's Choice Award winning television producer, Jason Nidorf "Max" Mutchnick turns 53... Member of the Knesset since 2009, originally representing the Yisrael Beiteinu party but now independent, she is a former model and television anchor, Orly Levy-Abekasis turns 45... Surprise, Arizona resident, Shula Kantor...