Daily Kickoff: RJC vs. J Street Recap | Hillary to speak at AIPAC | Interview: Kasich supporter Brad Kastan | Dos Equis is retiring Jonathan Goldsmith

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FIRST LOOK — Jeffrey Goldberg’s cover story for The Atlantic: “The Obama Doctrine: The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world” in the April issue: “When I asked Obama recently what he had hoped to accomplish with his Cairo reset speech, he said that he had been trying—unsuccessfully, he acknowledged—to persuade Muslims to more closely examine the roots of their unhappiness. “My argument was this: Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel,” he told me. “We want to work to help achieve statehood and dignity for the Palestinians, but I was hoping that my speech could trigger a discussion, could create space for Muslims to address the real problems they are confronting.”

“Obama has long believed that Netanyahu could bring about a two-state solution that would protect Israel’s status as a Jewish-majority democracy, but is too fearful and politically paralyzed to do so. Obama has also not had much patience for Netanyahu and other Middle Eastern leaders who question his understanding of the region. In one of Netanyahu’s meetings with the president, the Israeli prime minister launched into something of a lecture about the dangers of the brutal region in which he lives…”

“Obama felt that Netanyahu was behaving in a condescending fashion, and was also avoiding the subject at hand: peace negotiations. Finally, the president interrupted the prime minister: “Bibi, you have to understand something,” he said. “I’m the African American son of a single mother, and I live here, in this house. I live in the White House. I managed to get elected president of the United States. You think I don’t understand what you’re talking about, but I do.” [TheAtlantic]

James Bennet’s preview: “Jeffrey Goldberg, in our cover story, presents a far more illuminating view of what it takes for an American president to influence, let alone command, the course of world affairs. In addition to interviewing this administration’s key national-security officers, its allies, and its critics, he spent many hours questioning and occasionally debating the president about his evolving worldview and his attempts, across more than seven years, to act on it, from Syria to the South China Sea.” [TheAtlantic]

DEBATE RECAP — RJC vs. J Street: “I would take my billionaire over your billionaire any day” — Brooks & Ben-Ami Battle in Vegas at a debate moderated by Jon Ralston at Temple Beth Shalom: “Who funds your organization?,” Ralston questioned Ben-Ami who replied: “We have over 10,000 donors. I know that the name you all are begging to hear is the name George Soros, and George Soros does fund J Street. There was controversy at the beginning of J Street as to the involvement of George Soros in our launching. A lot of miscommunication. I have apologized for all of that, and we are well beyond that. The only thing I have had to say about George Soros’s funding since then, is that I wish there were more of it.”

Brooks: “George Soros does not give us any money. I would take my billionaire over your billionaire any day.” Ben-Ami: “The billionaire you are stuck with, in this cycle, is Donald Trump, and you are going to earn your salary all year long defending Donald Trump.” Brooks: “I will take my billionaire and his wife (Sheldon and Miriam Adelson) over your billionaire any day.” Ralston: “So, Sheldon Adelson funds the RJC completely? Brooks: No. He doesn’t, of course not. We have a wide range of donors; we have 45,000 members across the country.”

Ralston: “Can you see the RJC endorsing Donald Trump if he’s the nominee?” Brooks: “It’s a ‘we are going to have to wait and see’ answer. The long-standing policy is that when there’s an ongoing primary, we are not going to weigh in and try to pick and choose favorites, and try and put our thumb on the scale and help one candidate or hurt another. Our track record in speaking up — and we will have plenty of opportunity once we have a nominee to speak up or speak out as the case may be — if you step back and you look at the history of the organization, whether it’s Pat Buchanan or others, even speaking out and taking on our own president when we had fundamental differences of opinion…”

Ralston: “Does Donald Trump make you feel uncomfortable?” Brooks: “Uncomfortable in what way? Uncomfortable in the way that if you look at Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton? He is someone who has clearly said he’s going to do what it takes to stand up to radical Islam. When you look at the contrast between anyone of the Republicans that are in this race right now, the choices are absolutely clear – including Donald Trump. All of them have said that they are going to rip up the Iran deal on Day One. They have all said that they are going to do whatever it takes to beat back the threat from ISIS, and they call it for what it is: radical Islamic terrorism. All of them have stated a strong commitment to the pro-Israel agenda.”

Ralston to Ben-Ami: “Aren’t you a little bit worried about Bernie Sanders’ knowledge of foreign policy, at all?” Ben-Ami: “We are not endorsing any candidate in this race. We are meeting with anybody [who is willing to meet with us]. We are very happy to be meeting with Bernie Sanders and with Hillary Clinton – and we would meet with any of the Republican candidates if you can help arrange that opportunity. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to that yet – to provide our perspective on these issues. That’s what we do; we are a lobbying organization, and we meet with these groups. Bernie Sanders lived in Israel – on a kibbutz. He has a very deep personal connection to the State of Israel. I think that should be something that is really a positive for all of us. He has a deep love for the State of Israel. If people were worried about feeling it in the kishkes, believe me, he feels it in the kishkes. He tells us that every day. So, that is absolutely something that I am not at all concerned about. What I am concerned about is ripping up the Iran deal on Day One.”

–Ed note: As of now, the YouTube video of the debate is down but, rest assured, we have a transcript that will be posted later today on our website. 

FUNNY SYMBOLISM: The RJC’s Matt Brooks wore a blue kippah while J Street’s Ben Ami wore the red kippah. Perhaps it was in honor of the new Jewish month of Adar where the ‘shtick’ is often to do things backwards. [Twitter]

POST GAME REACTIONS: Matt Brooks emails… “The conversation with J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami demonstrated that groups and individuals can disagree strongly on important issues yet debate and discuss those issues with civility and respect. Substantively, last night’s program highlighted the very stark differences in policy and world view between J street, our organization and the mainstream Jewish community. On critical issues J street stands not with the mainstream of the Jewish community but rather with those who espouse more extreme views.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami tells Jacob Kornbluh: “On the one hand, I felt that it actually was a very good example of being able to sit together in a conversation where we aired out our differences. I thought we didn’t engage in negative personal attacks, and we explored the differences. On the other hand, the arguments that Matt was making were really based on rhetoric and repeating a lot of the same talking points, but not on the facts of things, like what’s actually happening to Iran’s nuclear program and how does Israel actually preserve its future. So, I felt we didn’t really get full answers from him on the critical issues on the table, but the conversation, at least, was a good model of engagement.”

–On Trump: “At some point, the RJC will have to clarify is it supporting a candidate who is endorsed by David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and Pat Buchanan, or not. That’s a simple yes or no, and it’s clear to us that the answer should be no.”

JI INTERVIEW — Brad Kastan, a prominent Jewish leader in Columbus, Ohio spoke with JI’s Jared Sichel on Wednesday about his relationship with John Kasich. Kastan, a money manager and veteran in the financial services industry, said he and Kasich have been friends since they met at Ohio State University in the ’70s, and that he’s helped Kasich with every campaign since the now-governor’s successful 1982 run for Congress. In fact, Kastan said, many of Kasich’s relationships with major Jewish families (Meltons, Schottensteins, Wexners, Ratners, etc.) go back to that 1982 run, in which he defeated incumbent Democrat (and Jewish pol) Bob Shamansky. Below are some excerpts of Kastan’s interview with JI.

On his friendship with Kasich: “Like any other friendship he’s been to my kids’ bar mitzvahs…my wife and I were at his wedding.”

On Kastan’s support of Kasich in 2016: “I’ve been traveling around the country doing surrogate work on my own, speaking to Jewish groups…assisting him on the money side. Because it’s a small group of people in Columbus involved with this, it’s fair to say I’ve had input with finance strategy, with debate strategy…introduced him at the RJC event in Washington in November…helped advise on his Israel and Middle East papers and positions.”

Some background on Kasich’s Jewish relationships: “John gave the eulogy at Gordie’s (Gordon Zacks) funeral. Gordie met John when he ran for Congress the first time. Several Jews in Columbus got behind John’s campaign against this incumbent Democrat. Part of that was taking John to Israel, where he met with leadership…I don’t know this but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his first trip out of the country.”

On a Kasich path to the nomination: “I think his most realistic path to the nomination–first of all, he’s got to hopefully win Ohio next week, and I think we’ve gotta get to an open convention. Trump keeps apparently getting a third to a little bit more than a third of the delegates, but two-thirds aren’t going his way. Either people drop out and that accrues to us or we get an open convention.” Full story will be posted later today

Rob Eshman on Kasich’s Faith: “Two years ago, at a Palm Springs conference sponsored by the Koch brothers, a wealthy Republican donor challenged Ohio Gov. John Kasich on his decision to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Kasich’s temper flared. “I don’t know about you, Lady,” he said. “But when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.” [JewishJournal]

PROFILE: “Marco Rubio’s Biggest Fan: Can Norman Braman save America from Donald Trump?” by Simon van Zuylen-Wood: “I haven’t had a cause, a political cause, since Kemp passed away,” Braman said… Braman (BRAY-min) is tall, lean, and a bit creaky. His hair, formerly curly and sumptuous, is mostly white tufts now. “You’re not going to find any major dollars in the [George W.] Bush campaign, and you’re not going to find any major dollars in the Romney campaign from me,” he said. Then came Marco Rubio. The first-term Florida senator, Braman said, is “the first politician that has inspired, truly inspired” him in decades.”

This sort of personal bond only makes Braman closer than your average megadonor. Former Mayor Ferré has a story. In 2010 he’d been invited as a guest to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. While waiting in line at a VIP entrance, he saw Braman and Rubio enter together. “It’s a luncheon, thousands of people go to this thing. Bibi Netanyahu was speaking,” Ferré recalled. “Braman knew exactly who he wanted Rubio to talk to and to meet. He literally grabbed him by the arm and pushed his way through. We were all waiting in line, and they went right past us. It was amazing.” [Bloomberg]

AIPAC PREVIEW: “Hillary to Speak at AIPAC’s Policy Conference” by Jacob Kornbluh: “AIPAC is pleased to announce that former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is confirmed to join us live at AIPAC’s 2016 Policy Conference,” the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States said in an email. “It is our honor to host presidential candidates this year, just as we have in previous election cycles.” [JewishInsider]

“Hillary Clinton Vows to Stand With Israel to Stop Iranian Threats” by Laura Meckler and Jay Solomon: “Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Iran should face sanctions for its ballistic missile tests, and she vowed that as president that she would stand with Israel against Iranian threats.” [WSJJI]

2016 WATCH: “Chelsea and Ivanka put their friendship on ice” by Annie Karni: “When Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump were introduced by their husbands a few years ago, they clicked immediately — the two famous daughters swanned around Manhattan together for a time, posing on the red carpet at events like the Glamour Women of the Year Awards where they laughed and embraced for the cameras… Both non-Jewish women, they married Jewish men from prominent families in real estate and politics — both chose Vera Wang gowns for the high-profile nuptials.” [Politico]

Richard Johnson: “Why the Jewish community is defending Donald Trump” [PageSix]

DONOR WATCH: “Trump’s VIPs Get Front-Row Seats to His Political Spectacle” by Michael Bender: “As has become Trump’s habit in South Florida, he invited club members to the news conference, and seated them in the first few rows. For all the huge rallies and talk of angry outsiders, this small, expensively dressed group is Trump’s real base… There’s Ike Perlmutter, the Marvel Comics boss who gave $2 million to Marco Rubio’s presidential cause many months ago; Tova Leidesdorf, a former Miss Israel; and, another guest informs me, Patrick Swayze’s widow is in the room, too.” [Bloomberg]

**Good Thursday 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**

SPOTLIGHT: “Meet Ken Feinberg, the Master of Disasters” by Ross Barkan: “On a frigid February afternoon, Kenneth Feinberg, one of the singular figures in American legal history, pondered the concept of fate. “Lighting can strike. I mean, I don’t think I plan more than two weeks ahead, I’ll tell you that,” said Mr. Feinberg, munching on salted nuts in the bar of the Carlyle Hotel. “I was much more a believer that I can chart my own destiny, basically have control over the future. It doesn’t work that way. You think you can, but life has a way of throwing curveballs.” Mr. Feinberg would know.” [Observer]

TOP TALKER: “WeWork Is Raising $780 Million at a Huge Valuation” by Dan Primack: “WeWork, a New York-based startup that leases out offices and other co-working spaces, has authorized the sale of up to $780 million in new stock, according to documents filed on Tuesday in Delaware.”[Fortune]

STARTUP NATION: “Intel acquires sports instant replay startup Replay Technologies” by Dean Takahashi: “Intel has acquired the Israeli startup Replay Technologies to capitalize on its technology for capturing sports events with instant replays that are viewable from all angles.” [VentureBeat]

SXSW PREVIEW: “#openShabbat: Pulling the Plug at Plugged-In SXSW” by Eric Berger:“Since 2010, the Lightstones have made the annual trek from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., to the tech-induced city of Austin, and focus their efforts on the dinner, called #openShabbat. The event has since gone viral, with a few hundred people attending and even more interested every year. The Friday-night dinner is now held at the Hilton Austin Hotel—one of the largest venues near the festival—and the Lightstones already expect more than 250 people.” [Chabad]

ADL at SXSW: “On March 12, the Anti-Defamation League will play a key role at the first South by South­west (SXSW) Online Harass­ment Sum­mit.  In a series of pan­els at this day-long event, the Sum­mit will focus atten­tion on var­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of hate online, includ­ing every­thing from cyber­bul­ly­ing to the sale of offen­sive mer­chan­dise to hate speech on social media to online extrem­ist recruit­ment and pro­pa­ganda.” [ADL]

CAMPUS BEAT: “Jewish students are feeling isolated by a growing tide of anti-Semitism at Britain’s elite universities including Oxford and LSE, new report reveals” [DailyMail]

TRANSITIONS: “Educational Alliance hired Anya Hoerburger as their senior vice president for development and communications, handling the agency’s fundraising, media outreach and branding efforts. Previously, she worked at InterMedia Partners, LP, and as finance director for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, where she led the fund-raising effort for the senator’s re-election campaign. Alliance President and CEO Alan van Capelle said in a statement he is “thrilled” to bring Hoerburger on board.” [PoliticoNY] • H/T Jarrod Bernstein. 

Harold H. Saunders, Mideast Peace Broker, Dies at 85: “Harold H. Saunders, a diplomat who helped draft the Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978 and helped negotiate the release of American hostages from the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1981, died on Sunday in McLean, Va. He was 85.” [NYTimes]

“John Gutfreund, 86, Dies; Ran Wall Street Investment Firm at Its Apex” by Jonathan Kandell: “As chairman and chief executive of Salomon, the giant investment firm, Mr. Gutfreund (pronounced GOOD-friend) was called “the king of Wall Street” for having transformed his company into one of the world’s largest securities traders. He was hailed as one of Wall Street’s most brilliant and innovative players.” [DealBook]

FEATURE: “From Wall St. Bundlers to Bradley Cooper: Inside the State Dinner Guest Lists: The guest lists of White House state dinners are boldface ledgers showing the people whom presidents want to influence and reward. On Thursday, President Obama’s state dinner is for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada. Here we deconstruct the guest lists of the previous nine.” [NYTimes]

HOLLYWOOD: “Dos Equis is retiring ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World'” by Frank Pallotta: “Dos Equis is retiring “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” a famed beer campaign by the company, the Mexican beer company announced on Wednesday. Dos Equis, which is owned by Heineken, isn’t halting the campaign as much as ending the tenure of Jonathan Goldsmith, the man who has played the character since 2007.” [CNNMoney]

Flashback: “The actor who portrays the Most Interesting Man in the World is more likely to attend a bar mitzvah than a Quinceañera. Jonathan Goldsmith, 72, whose face and voice are now inexorably linked with one of Mexico’s top-selling beers, is a New York-born Jew who lives with his wife on a 50-foot Beneteau sailboat in Marina del Rey.” [JewishJournal]

DESSERT: “Beyond the Bagel: Exploring the Many Flavors of New York City’s Jewish Cuisine” by Leah Koenig: “In the early aughts, shortly after I moved to New York City, some new friends invited me out for kosher Bukharian food in Rego Park, Queens. I had no idea what they were talking about. Growing up Jewish in suburban Chicago, I thought I knew what Jewish food was: challah and brisket for Friday night dinner, Sunday morning lox and bagels, and visits to the delicatessen for matzo ball soup and the gastronomic wonder known as the pastrami sandwich. That trip to Queens changed everything. Rego Park is home to some 30,000 Bukharian Jews—a community with ancient Persian roots that thrived in Central Asia (primarily what’s now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) for more than 2,000 years.” [SeriousEats]

BIRTHDAYS: Carrie Filipetti, Director of Portfolio Management at the Paul E. Singer Foundation (h/t Bonner)… Wayne Firestone… CNBC’s morning show co-host, David Faber, turns 52… Actor Stephen Mailer, son of Norman Mailer, turns 50…

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