INTERVIEW: Gary Bauer on the Presidential Election

The following is an interview with Gary Bauer, president of American Values, a non-profit conservative-values oriented organization, and board member of Christians United for Israel and Emergency Committee for Israel:

“It obviously looks extremely close,” Bauer told Jewish Insider in a phone interview about the presidential election. “If it is close, that in itself is a miracle because Donald Trump has been subjected to the most negative political campaign, I think, in American history, and has been massively outspent, and yet seems to have forced Hillary Clinton to campaign in states like Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and Wisconsin, which should be safely in her column. I think if he wins, it will be because more working class people flock to the polls, and enough Christian conservatives were willing to also vote for him, even though they were put off by some of the disclosures, and also unlike, let’s say, a George W. Bush, Trump never tried to play identity politics. He didn’t try to act like he was an Evangelical or anything like that, which is what these voters usually like.”

On why Trump was subject to so much negativity in the election: “He’s an unconventional candidate, and had zero experience in measuring every word you speak, which is what is usually required in American politics these days. He made a number of errors that certainly gave Hillary Clinton and the media fodder to attack him. But, look, I mean, 4 years ago, the Republican party nominated one of the kindest human beings. A literal political Boy Scout, and by the end of the election, the Democrats and the media had turned him into a monster who made his dog ride on the roof, was a bully when he was in school, and didn’t care that women’s husbands were dying of cancer because somehow he had taken over the company their husbands worked for. I’m not comparing the two men as far as their public personas. But the American political left has developed a killing machine. It’s ironic because they complain about negative advertising. They are the experts at it. They are the experts at dividing and identity politics. If your skin is this color, you’ve got to vote this way. If you’re this ethnic group, you must vote this way. Then they have the audacity to run on a slogan of united, or “Stronger Together.” Everything the left does is intended to divide by characteristics that have absolutely no significance to how people actually live their lives.”

On his personal experience running for president in 2000: “I was never under the illusion that I was going to be taking the oath of office. I was trying in my own way to run a sort of populist campaign to get the Republican party to pay attention to a number of issues. It was a fantastic experience. My father was a janitor, and nobody in my family had ever finished high school. I had managed to work for Ronald Reagan for 8 years, be his chief domestic policy advisor. To then get into a presidential race and be in a half dozen nationally televised presidential debates was an incredible experience. I took my lumps. I was subjected to all the things that unfortunately are a bigger and bigger part of American politics. But I felt good about the experience at the end of it.”

“I think what’s so different now is that 40 percent, maybe even a little larger, of the country, believes we are on the edge of a cliff, that they’re living through things that are inexplicable to them, and deeply troubling. It goes everywhere from either our lack of will or our inability to defeat an army of barbarians in the Middle East. It includes, incidentally, for millions of these people, watching as our foreign policy appeared to get turned upside down so that we spend more time reaching out to Iran than we do to standing with Israel. That’s deeply offensive to millions of particularly conservative Christians. But they’ve also see things like the redefinition of marriage and all the implications of that, and a loss of the American dream, a loss of the idea that if you play by the rules, work hard, put a little bit of money aside, that you had a fairly decent chance that you could raise a family, send them to school, and have an expectation that they would have, your children would have a better life than you did. That is now becoming a minority view among the American people. I did not feel in any way, shape, or form in 2000 that things were as that dire. But a good bit of us certainly do today.”

On the difference between Trump and Clinton on Israel: “Hillary Clinton has done her best in her public pronouncements and in the Democrat party platform to reassure American, Jewish American voters. But I believe the evidence is pretty clear that a Trump administration would be, and I’m not speaking for Christians United for Israel, but in my personal view that a Trump administration would be much more sympathetic to Israel, much, much, much tougher on Iran, than a Clinton administration would, for a variety of reasons. But which is not, I’m afraid getting enough attention, is that she is part of a political party that appears to be in the process, at the grassroots level, of abandoning its traditional support for Israel. I think that even if she wanted to be more pro-Israel than Barack Obama, and I’m not even sure she wants to, but even if she did, I’m not sure she’ll have much leeway to be able to do that… For me, you can use a pretty easy litmus test. If you’re not willing to call Muslims, who are screaming out verses from the Koran when they kill you, Islamic extremists, then you are in a state of denial that will make it very difficult for you to understand what’s going on in the Middle East.”

On why Trump can be trusted on Israel and how it will impact the Jewish vote in the future: “I think the difference between a Trump administration on Israel and what we’ve just lived through will be so overwhelmingly different that it will cause American Jews to rethink their normal party loyalties in the future. Yes, I’m absolutely convinced of that. I’ve talked with him a number of times on this issue. I know the kind of people that almost any Republican president will end up relying on when it comes to foreign policy. I think he’ll be less likely to get us involved in wars. He’ll be more likely to win those wars if we get involved. But I have no doubt that he understands the fortunes of Israel and the United States are tied together, and we’re stronger when we have Israel’s back, and when Israel has our back. It’s not a one-way street. Israel is a tremendous asset for the United States, just as we’re an asset for Israel.”

On the Iran nuclear deal: “It may be a mute question in the sense that if you believe some of the stuff coming out of Tehran, they’re going to walk away from the deal before we get a chance to. I think that Donald Trump, he has said repeatedly he will immediately act on the Iranian deal. Now, he hasn’t nailed down exactly what he would do, because as he, saying what he says, we’ve got to stop broadcasting our plans to the enemy. But I can tell you what many of us hope he would do, which is, just as a starting point, say to Iran, either stop immediately your support for these proxies, whether it’s Hezbollah or Hamas, whatever it is, or we’re going to try to go back to a sanctions regime. We’ve been conducting ourselves as if they’ve got all the cards and we’re at their mercy. That isn’t an accurate reflection of the correlation of forces. The path we’re on now, it’s unsustainable. It’s going to be dominated by Iran, and of course, hurt Israel, and even for folks I don’t care about as much, like the Saudis, it would be a disastrous situation. If people love Israel, I don’t see how they can vote for anybody other than Donald Trump.”

On the possibility President Obama will re-engage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before leaving office: “I am deeply, deeply concerned that the president will stick it to Israel one more time on his way out of office. I think he would have been even more hostile to Israel than he has periodically been if it wasn’t for pressure from some major donors in the Democrat party, as well as from the American people, who remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. I think it’s a huge danger. I think it will be something that both Democrats, something that Republicans in Congress will definitely fight against, but it’s something that Democrats will be required to stand up on, too.”

On why Republican Jews, former Bush administration officials are not supporting Trump: “Certainly for many Jews, they feel that one should do good in life, and that you should avoid mistreating people and so forth. The media has, I think, pictured Donald Trump as somebody that has said and done things that are hurtful. So some of it, I don’t know, some of it might be that. I think there was a tremendous reservoir among Republican Jews, there was a tremendous reservoir of affection for the Bush family. Of course, Donald Trump did not show much mercy to Jeb. Then I think a lot of folks had a fall-back position on Marco Rubio. Again, neither of those men were able to prevail. Some of it may be that.”

“I think that there’s a disagreement on two major areas in foreign policy. One, Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he believes the Iraq war was a mistake. I supported going into Iraq. But it’s hard to conclude, in retrospect, anything other than that it was a mistake, simply for the reason that it has in many ways laid low the one counterbalance there was to Iran. It has massively increased the influence of Iran in the Middle East, including Iran’s influence in Iraq. That’s not good for the United States, and it’s not good for Israel. But I think a lot of people had vested in this idea that going into Irag was the right thing to do, and they don’t want to admit now that it did not turn out the way we all hoped and prayed it would. The second thing is, the foreign policy elite, many of whom are my friends, of course, as I am, are supporters of NATO. They’re such supporters of NATO that they’re perfectly happy to continue to foot the bill inequitably. That’s resulted in Western Europe building welfare states while the American taxpayer pays most of the defense bill. There’s a big grassroots feeling, just average Americans, that, ‘Look, of course we want to defend Europe. But why should Europe get government completely free healthcare while I’m paying higher and higher taxes,’ these Americans say, ‘to station troops and weapons to protect Europeans from even a weakened Russia?’ It’s time for our allies to show that they’re willing to invest more in their own defense. Now that’s irritated people. But I think he’s absolutely right when he makes that argument.”

Q: Why would Israel be excluded from that assertion?

Bauer: “Well, becuase Israel does not skimp on their own defense. The Israeli people pay a very high price to secure their liberty, as you know, in a very dangerous neighborhood. Plus, there is a bond between the Israeli people and millions of religious Americans that I think is much closer even than the historical relationship that we’ve had with our European allies.”

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