Daily Kickoff: Lindsey Graham at the UJA Wall St. Dinner talks Trump, ISIL & Kosher Food | JCPA names new head | Obama’s Jewish Flack Catcher

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SCENE LAST NIGHT: The UJA-Federation of New York held its annual Wall Street dinner last night at the New York Midtown Hilton with over 1,900 financial professionals in attendance. The dinner raised $27 million, making it, at least according to one JFNA insider we spoke to, the most successful Jewish Federation dinner in history. Prior to the dinner, guests were mingling and catching up with each other over prime rib, sushi, and of course latkes (regular and sweet potato). One of those guests we ran into was presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was seen chatting with UJA President Alisa Doctoroff and Jerry Levin. [Pic]

We caught up with Sen. Graham who agreed to answer a few questions for the Daily Kickoff. What follows is a quick transcript of the interview…

Senator, what brings you here tonight? “Michael Milken invited me. I’m not Jewish but I might as well be (laughter). The pro-Israel community has been the heart and soul of my campaign, I’m honored to be here. What a great organization doing good throughout the world.”

We’ve heard you joke on several occasions that you might get an all-Jewish cabinet, any potential members here tonight? “Yes, 1,900 of them.” Any specific nominees? “Oh I’ve got a list a mile long. The reason I think people like me is because I’ve been resolute in the face of isolationist movement in my party, I’ve stood up for an internationalist view of being a Republican, unwavering in my desire to defeat radical Islam by building up others over there so we don’t have to get hit here, and understanding that the fate of Israel and the United States are intertwined — common enemies and common values. I think people in the community have been very supportive because they see me as a reliable friend.”

Donald Trump has talked about banning Muslim immigrants into the country, is that the right approach? “It’s not.” Why is that? “Of all the people in America who understand what it’s like to be singled out, based on your faith, it’s the Jewish Americans. He’s bringing up a dark side of American politics. I just returned a week ago today from my 36th trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military commanders and our diplomats have told me that what Mr. Trump is saying is putting our soldiers and diplomats at risk. The way you win this war is to build up people within the faith. The vast majority of Muslims reject what ISIL is trying to sell. Mr. Trump is making it harder on the war effort, he’s empowering the enemy, and of all the people on the planet who understand religious bigotry it’s the Jewish community and what Mr. Trump is doing is putting our nation at risk, undermining the war effort and empowering our enemy.”

How about President Obama? He laid out his approach last night. Is that the right approach? “In their own way, they’re putting America at risk. Donald Trump for not understanding what it takes to win the war, and playing on people’s fears and prejudices. President Obama’s leading from behind has caught up with him. He cannot say the word ‘radical Islam.’ You don’t need to ban all Muslims but you need to admit that radical Islam exists. Between the two, they’re clueless…. For two years, I’ve been talking about American boots on the ground as necessary to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The way I would approach the issue is to form a regional army of Arabs and Turkey to destroy ISIL in Racca and then push Assad out.”

Isn’t that similar to what Hillary Clinton advocated for yesterday at the Saban forum?“Hillary Clinton is embracing a no-fly zone only because she has to. She’s running away from President Obama’s failed foreign policy for political reasons. I embrace a bold, American boots on the ground approach two years ago and got attacked pretty hard. I saw the decimation of the Free Syrian Army. President Obama leaving Iraq too soon and not taking Assad out when he could has led to the rise of ISIL. The good news is we need about 10,000 troops in Iraq, not 3,500 and about 10,000 to help a Arab Turkish army of 80,000 – 90,000 to destroy the caliphate inside of Syria.”

So would you be more comfortable with Hillary Clinton right now as Commander in Chief vs. Donald Trump? Not talking about the election but to be Commander in Chief today? “All I could tell you is that’s a choice I don’t want to make. She represents a third term of a failed presidency. She’s not the person to send into to negotiate with the Iranians. She started this whole mess. This Iranian deal is a death sentence to Israel over time and a nightmare for America. I wouldn’t give the Ayatollah another dime or a bullet until he stops becoming the largest state-sponsor of terrorism. What John Kerry has done is given the Ayatollah a pathway to a bomb, a missile to deliver it, and money to pay for it. As president of the United States, I would tear this deal up and get America and Israel a better deal. That’s not the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

“But I will say this, that Donald Trump’s view of the world is a disaster. His approach to destroying radical Islam will never work. He’s an unreliable, unfocused, unqualified person to lead a great nation. I hope the Republican party will wake up.”

Senator, you attend a lot of Jewish and pro-Israel events — perhaps more than us even — how does the Kosher food here tonight rank? “This is on the high-end of the food chain. But I will say this, I’ve eaten enough Salmon to sink a battleship and I’m beginning to like it, but not so much for breakfast (laughter).”

The 40th annual Wall Street Dinner honored Steven A. Tananbaum of GoldenTree Asset Management and Andrew Rechtschaffen of Greenlight Capital. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat thanked the UJA for standing with his city during tough times and encouraged the audience to visit more frequently. Dan Ochs introduced the keynote speaker Michael Milken but not before noting the presence of Lindsey Graham who he wished “much success in his new endeavors.” Milken recalled his days at Berkeley and the start of the free speech movement by joking “there always seems to be a commotion wherever I go.” Milken added that he thinks the free speech movement needs to start again and listed examples of campus protests against speakers including Michael Oren and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Milken credited the free speech movement for leading him to enter the financial services industry.

SPOTTED: UJA’s CEO Eric Goldstein, Richard and Ellen Sandler, Michael Appelbaum, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, David Millstone, Marc Rowan, Carol Levin, John Paulson, Daniel Bonner, Leon Wagner, Ken Moelis, Michael Jesselson, Mark Tsesarsky, Robert Kapito, Andrew Klaber, and Ilana D. Weinstein.

2016 WATCH: “Donald Trump Stands by Barring Muslims Despite Bipartisan Criticism” by John Santucci: “Trump’s plan would block all Muslims from entering the United States, with an exception for U.S. citizens who are Muslim, who would come and go as they wish. He hopes the ban “will go quickly,” as soon as “our leaders figure out what the hell is going on,” Trump said.” [ABCNews]

“Jewish Groups Denounce Trump” by Jacob Kornbluh: “Mr. Trump’s plan to bar people from entry to the United States based on their religion is unacceptable and antithetical to American values,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “A plan that singles out Muslims and denies them entry to the U.S. based on their religion is deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values. In the Jewish community, we know all too well what can happen when a particular religious group is singled out for stereotyping and scapegoating.” [JewishInsider]

“Obama Administration Reaches Out to Muslims, But Trump Looms Large” by Damian Paletta: “Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson came to a Muslim center here Monday afternoon to meet with faith leaders about ways to prevent terrorist attacks. But despite a carefully choreographed meeting with Boy Scouts and a press conference flanked by faith leaders, he couldn’t escape questions about Donald Trump.” [WSJ]

HAPPENING TODAY: “Marco Rubio to Hold Beverly Hills Fundraiser at Home of Tony Pritzker” by Ted Johnson: “Rubio’s campaign has scheduled a fundraiser at the sprawling hilltop home of Tony Pritzker, with John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting scheduled to perform, according to an invite. Some of the industry names on the host committee include Jim Jackoway and his wife Michele, Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman. Josh Friedman, co-founder of Canyon Partners and a supporter of Mitt Romney in the 2012 cycle, is also on the host committee list with wife Beth.” [Variety]

“Carson Defends Foreign Policy Experience, Plans Israel Trip” by Kevin Cirilli: “Carson, who traveled to Jordan over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit a Syrian refugee camp, said he’s planning another trip to Israel sometime before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, his second trip to the country in one year.”[Bloomberg]

**Good Tuesday Morning! Enjoying the Daily Kickoff? Please share us with your friends & tell them to sign up at [JI].  Have a tip, scoop, or op-ed? We’d love to hear from you. Anything from hard news and punditry to the lighter stuff, including event coverage, job transitions, or even special birthdays, is much appreciated. Email editor@jewishinsider.com**

BUSINESS BRIEFS: “Viacom Chief Addresses Concerns About Sumner Redstone” [NYTimes• “First Solar, SunPower Foresaw Tepper’s Concerns About Yieldcos” [Bloomberg] • “These investors are quietly remaking Brooklyn” [RealDeal] • “How Israeli Video-Chat App Glide Got Deaf People Talking” [FastCompany]

SPOTLIGHT: “Real-Estate Law Firms Roll With the Market” by Peter Grant: “J. Philip Rosen, the co-head of Weil Gotshal & Manges’ white-shoe real-estate law practice, was dropping his daughter off at Columbia University this year when he noticed a long line of cars each with an Amazon Prime decal on its side… Eyeing the cars, he figured a little bit of information about Amazon Prime’s business would be helpful. “I went to the driver of one of the cars and said what’s going on here?” Mr. Rosen recalled. Mr. Rosen slipped him a bit of money as an incentive. “Twenty dollars later he said ‘sure, I’ll tell you.’” [WSJ]

TRANSITION: “The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is proud to welcome its newest President and CEO David Bernstein. For the past year, David has worked with Jewish Federations and other national foundations as the President of CultureSolutions LLC, which offers services designed to helps organizations adjust to the demands of 21st century economy. Prior to that, David worked as Executive Director of the David Project from 2010-2014 and held a series of senior roles at the American Jewish Committee, including serving as director of their Washington regional office.”

PROFILE: “Meet Barack Obama’s Jewish Flack Catcher” by Nathan Guttman: “It’s almost Hanukkah, and Matt Nosanchuk knows what to expect when his phone rings with a Brooklyn-area number on the screen. Almost for sure, it’s another Jewish community leader concerned about not having yet received an invitation to the White House’s annual Hanukkah reception.”

“Navigating the jockeying among Jewish leaders for access to this seasonal celebration is the easy part of Nosanchuk’s job as President Obama’s liaison to the Jewish community at the White House Office of Public Engagement. In the past year, Nosanchuk found himself in the middle of an epic, some say unprecedented, battle between the Jewish community and the Obama administration over the nuclear deal signed with Iran.” [Forward]

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Why Hanukkah is the perfect festival for religious freedom” [WashPost]

TALK OF THE TOWN: “Park menorah defaced on first night of Hanukkah” by Daniel Prendergast: “A large menorah at an Upper East Side park near Mayor Bill de Blasio’s house was partially destroyed shortly after it was lit in a ceremony celebrating the first night of Hanukkah.” [NYPost]

DESSERT: “Stephen Colbert Wants to Celebrate All Eight Nights of Hanukkah With You” [WSJ]

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