INTERVIEW: RJC’s Matt Brooks Talks Trump
Donald Trump and Matt Brooks at the RJC presidential forum Dec. 2015 - screenshot via CSPAN
As Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States of America, we spoke with Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks about what to expect from President Trump in the first 100 days, and how the RJC will play a major role in the Trump Administration.
“I think you’re going to see a very robust agenda on the part of President Trump and Vice President Pence to engage in really dramatic policy moves to undo, or begin the process of undoing, much of what President Obama did in terms of regulatory policy, tax policy, spending and economic issues, and putting things in place to begin moving forward on building the wall and moving us toward better border security and things like that,” Brooks said with regards to the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. “Precisely the issues that President Trump campaigned on. President Trump is somebody who acts decisively.”
Brooks on the U.S.-relationship under President Trump: “There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind in the Jewish community that President Trump is going to be a radical departure from President Obama, who systematically weakened and undermined the U.S.-Israel relationship over the last eight years with his administration. You’ve seen it precisely by the people that he has appointed to key positions already. Whether it’s David Friedman as the nominee for Ambassador (to Israel), whether it’s Nikki Haley, who was phenomenal yesterday in her hearings to be ambassador to the UN. Jason Greenblatt and the significant role that Jared Kushner is going to have. He is surrounding himself with folks who are unabashedly supportive of Israel and are willing to stand up and defend Israel in the international community and in international forums like the UN, something that we have not seen during the last eight years of the Obama administration.”
On the role the RJC will play going forward: “What I think I see is really several important factors. Number one, to be there as a resource for the Administration, to help advise and provide counsel where needed on critical issues to the incoming administration. Our role, by the way, despite many organizations in the Jewish community, we are very unique in that when we speak to senior members of the administration, we speak to the President or the Vice President, those meetings are very different than any meetings in the Jewish community, because they know that when they meet with us, it’s a meeting between friends and supporters. The advice will give them is advice that is from the heart and we’re all on the same team, and they know that there is a bond between the RJC and this administration that makes our counsel, I think, a little more significant. We have that role.”
“Number two is to help the salesmen and help make sure that the Jewish community is constantly aware of the good policies and the good programs and the good initiatives that the Administration is doing. Thirdly, what our mission is all of the time, is to continue to work to educate the Jewish community and broaden the base of the Republican party in the Jewish community. I’m highly confident as this President embarks on the eve of his new Administration, the policies and programs especially as it relates to restrengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship is going to go a long way in helping us to continue and grow and expand and bring more Jews into the Republican party.”
Q: What will the relationship between the Trump administration and Jewish American organizations look like?
I have no doubt that President Trump would be able to work with any of the organizations or folks in the Jewish community if there’s an opportunity to do so. The bigger question is, are these organizations, which have invested so much publicly in their protests and condemnation of the Trump candidacy and the initial stages of the Trump incoming administration, going to be able to work effectively with this administration. I think there will certainly be a willingness to be inclusive on the part of the Administration. I question and would like to see, hopefully, whether those groups from the Jewish community really will have an open mind and be willing to engage in an honest and sincere manner with the Administration on the range of issues that are so important to our community.”
“The biggest message that I have for people in the Jewish community right now, who are issuing statements left and right about their concern about this and their opposition to that, is: give the guy a chance. It’s easy to criticize. Right now people are criticizing in the abstract. They have no idea what he’s really going to do, or what his policies are because he’s not even sworn in yet. I would say it’s perfectly legitimate for people to be critical of actual policies that run counter to the missions of their organizations or things that they’re concerned about, but right now there’s no actual policy. All this flurry of press releases and interviews criticizing and objecting to this administration, I think, are ill-timed at this point. I think we owe it, as a community, to give the president an opportunity to lead and an opportunity to see what he’s really doing. There will be plenty of time for people to jump on the bandwagon and criticize down the road if they so choose. I say, give the guy a chance, and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.”
On the Jewish vote going forward: “We’ve seen the share of the Jewish vote go up in five of the last seven national elections. I have every confidence in the midterms and then in 2020 that we’re going to continue to chip away and make the kind of inroads and continue to build on the success that we’ve had. Some years, we’ll have huge jumps like we did in 2012. Other years we’re just going to continue to chip away. What I’m looking at is the long-term trend line, and what we’re seeing is more and more, Jews coming over to the Republican party and one of the things you didn’t mention is who’s going to be the head of the Democratic Party: is it going to be Democratic chairman Keith Ellison, or is it going to be somebody else? There’s a lot of things we just don’t know yet that I think are going to be important drivers, ultimately, in affecting the Jewish vote going forward.”