Good Friday morning!
Last night, Joe Biden accepted the presidential nomination during the final evening of the Democratic National Convention. “If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst,” he proclaimed. “I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) endorsed Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) in his bid to challenge Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in the Massachusetts Democratic Senate primary on September 1. Pelosi cited Markey’s attacks on the Kennedy family as a motivation for getting involved.
In response, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted that Pelosi’s decision — coupled with the “lack of care” around the challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) — exposed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy of protecting incumbents as “cherry-picking.” Pelosi did endorse Omar in the race.
Ocasio-Cortez added: “Ilhan’s multimillion challenge was bankrolled by DC lobbyists & dark money groups. [Anton Melton-Meaux] blatantly admitted to using shell corporations to get around the DCCC blacklist, which all but means his vendors work w/ the Democratic Party. Yet DCCC hasn’t enforced policy. I wonder why.”
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Lindsey Graham is taking nothing for granted
Lindsey Graham, the outspoken longtime Republican senator, is facing one of his toughest reelection bids as he prepares to go up against Democrat Jaime Harrison in November. Harrison, a rising star within the party’s ranks, will have to overcome steep odds if he hopes to unseat Graham in deep-red South Carolina. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel spoke to Graham about the upcoming race, and why he believes Israel will be a factor in the campaign.
Staying positive: Recent polling suggests Harrison is in a statistical dead heat with Graham, whom he has consistently outraised. On Monday, The Cook Political Reportmoved the race from “likely” to “lean Republican.” While Graham acknowledged the formidability of his opponent, he seemed confident he would hold onto the seat. “I’m taking it seriously, but I know my state,” Graham told JI. “I’m structurally in good shape. We’re raising money — the more the better.” Graham has so far raised about $26 million for his reelection effort. “My opponent’s outraising me every quarter, but money’s not going to determine the outcome,” he added. “My opponent’s just on the wrong side of a lot of issues.”
‘Defining issue’: Israel, according to Graham, will be a “defining issue” in the race due in part to the state’s sizable evangelical Christian population. “People in South Carolina have an affinity for our friends in Israel, and they get the idea that the people who want to destroy Israel also want to destroy us — and the Democratic Party is adrift, unfortunately,” Graham told JI. “There are still pro-Israel Democrats, but I would put my record of supporting the State of Israel up against anybody in the Congress.”
Critical words: Graham, to put it mildly, does not regard Harrison as a pro-Israel Democrat. “Bottom line is, he’s going to raise about $50 million, and it’s coming from the most liberal people in the country that are antagonistic toward the State of Israel,” Graham said of his 44-year-old opponent, who is the associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee and has raised nearly $30 million, per the FEC.
Word of caution: In the interview with JI, Graham cautioned that those who believe in a strong U.S.-Israel relationship should be worried by the Democrats’ efforts to flip the Senate this year. “Watch these races,” said Graham, who has been trying to drum up enthusiasm for some of his more vulnerable colleagues in the upper chamber, including Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). But the three-term senator is also mindful that his own seat is more vulnerable than it has been in previous elections. “I’m taking nothing for granted.”
Down to the wire
Jake Auchincloss embraces frontrunner status in Massachusetts 4th
Jack Auchincloss, a Marine veteran and Newton City councilman, has long been considered the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy in Massachusetts’s fourth district. With less than two weeks until the primary, and a series of public and internal polls showing conflicting results, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod spoke to Auchincloss about the race and his priorities.
Crowded field: Auchincloss — who received the endorsement of the Boston Globe last month — is facing strong competition from Becky Grossman, another member of the Newton City Council; Jesse Mermell, a former aide to then-Gov. Deval Patrick; and Ihssane Leckey, an activist and former Federal Reserve regulator. But he feels optimistic about his chances. “We have put together a full district campaign,” he told JI. “We have a full district coalition that really reflects what the Boston Globe said about me, which is of all the field, I am the candidate best prepared to represent a district of haves and have nots.”
No to BDS:While some of Auchincloss’s opponents, including Mermell, have defended the rights of those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel on First Amendment grounds, Auchincloss has taken a harder line against BDS. “I certainly support the constitutional right of people to express criticisms of Israel,” he said. “But at the same time, I recognize that BDS as an institution targets the Jewish people, targets Israel and harasses those who have pro-Israel views.”
Long tradition:Political activism is a long tradition in the Auchincloss family. His maternal great-grandparents were Jews who fled pogroms in Ukraine before WWI, settling in Chelsea, Mass., where his great-grandmother became involved in local politics. “My great-grandmother was a fearsome on-the-ground organizer in 1920s Chelsea, holding a series of mayors to account at a time before women were really allowed to participate actively in politics,” he said. And his maternal grandfather — “a skinny, 17-year-old Jewish kid” — joined the Marine Corps during WWII, something Auchincloss said inspired his own path.
Jewish values:Auchincloss said his Jewish upbringing has impacted his political priorities in a number of ways. “I think being a Jew does make me appreciate, as well, the imperative to create a welcoming and inclusive body politic and society,” he said. “Jews are always going to be subject to discrimination. And we as a people know that when society at large looks for a scapegoat, it’s oftentimes Jews who get picked. And so it’s made me acutely aware that all marginalized communities deserve to have their voices heard and deserve to feel fully welcomed and included in our civil processes.”
ON THE Hill
Meeks: U.S. commitment to Israel aid is ‘absolute and unequivocal’
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who is competing for the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairmanship, expressed his firm opposition yesterday to conditioning U.S. assistance to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government unilaterally annexes portions of the West Bank. “We know the extreme importance in the region to make sure that Israel has the right to defend itself — and the dollars that we give Israel to defend itself is absolute and unequivocal,” Meeks said in a Zoom call hosted by the American Jewish Committee.
Flashback: Earlier this month, The Times of Israel reported that — following a public lobbying effort from J Street and other groups — Meeks and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Joaquín Castro (D-TX) expressed support for a measure that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military assistance to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank. “Of course there are disputes in regards to policy, in regards to some of the things that President [Donald] Trump has done, and some of the things and some of the issues that Prime Minister Netanyahu has done, and so we have the ability to talk about that,” Meeks stressed on Thursday. “But we understand that Israel has a right to defend itself, our strong ally — in a bipartisan way. We stand strong in that regard.”
Book a flight: Meeks also criticized the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) questionnaire that asked New York City Council candidates to commit not to travel to Israel if elected. “I urge members to travel anytime they get the opportunity to the region because that changes your mind and gives you a better understanding of what’s taking place [in] the region,” he said.
Podcast playback: Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said in an interview on the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic, that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle “deserve a share of credit” for the recently announced UAE-Israel deal:
“You know, everybody is trying to find the straw that breaks the camel’s back — what was the last meeting that led to the breakthrough that made this possible. But the truth is every straw on the camel’s back breaks it back. The last one is one, but all the ones that are underneath it also do it. And there is no question in my mind that a pillar of Israel’s strength is the alliance that we have with the United States, and for decades you have seen support for Israel on both sides of the aisle. So for some members of Congress and the Senate — those who’ve been there for a long time, some of them up to three decades — we are very grateful for their consistent support for Israel. Because the only way you have breakthroughs like this is that Israel remains very, very strong… So Israel’s strength has led us to the precipice of this moment, and a pillar of that strength is the U.S.-Israel alliance. And those people on both sides, who have worked year after year to support Israel, they have actually put a lot of straw on that back. And therefore, when these days happen, I think they deserve a share of that credit, and I see it as my role as Israel’s ambassador to say thank you for making this day possible.”
🧾 Center Stage: Despite anger from party progressives as well as some ex-staffers, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was awarded a five-minute primetime slot at the DNC last night. Many feel Bloomberg has fallen short of his pledge to financially support Biden and other Democratic candidates. [NYTimes]
📺 TV Trap: An excerpt from CNN anchor Brian Stelter’s upcoming book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, reveals that many Fox staffers feel “trapped in the Trump cult,” in particular those working for “shadow chief of staff” Sean Hannity. “Hannity would tell you, off-off-off the record, that Trump is a batshit crazy person.” [VanityFair]
🤴 Prodigal Son: In The Wall Street Journal, Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck examine the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 34-year-old “with a taste for opulence, a hunger for money and a need for power,” who has quickly become a powerbroker in the kingdom. [WSJ]
Around the Web
💥 Flexing Muscles: Iran unveiled two new ballistic missiles yesterday, named for Gen. Qassim Soleimani, that it said have enough range to target Israel.
📰 New Friends: In a new Yediot Aharonotop-ed, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba said the peace deal with Israel “unlocked a gate toward a better future across the Middle East.”
🛩️ No Problem:UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash maintained yesterday that the U.S. should have no issue selling the Gulf nation F-35 jets because “the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists.”
🤝 Planning Ahead:Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told leaders of the UAE Jewish community via Zoom that he’s looking forward to visiting them soon.
😱 Horrific Crime: An Israeli teen vacationing in Eilat was allegedly gang-raped by a group of 30 men, shocking the nation and leading to widespread protests.
🔒 In Custody:Former White House advisor Steve Bannon was arrested yesterday on charges of stealing money from donors who sought to support building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
🎰 Feeling Lucky: Billionaire Barry Diller has joined the board of MGM Resorts after buying a $1 billion stake in the casino operator.
💄 Cut Back: Estée Lauder is cutting 3% of jobs worldwide, as the company suffers from the coronavirus-driven economic downturn.
💰 Filling Up: Billionaire Len Blavatnik’s DAZN group is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion in new funding.
🕍 Pro-Protest: A federal judge dismissed a motion to block weekly anti-Israel protests outside Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, citing First Amendment rights.
✈️ No Fly:A Jewish family from Brooklyn was kicked off a JetBlue flight from Orlando because their toddler kept pulling off her mask.
⛓️ Locked Up: Four brothers from Rockland County — Yoel, Heshl, Zishe and Shmuel Abraham — were arrested and charged with scamming Amazon out of $19 million over the course of two years.
💪 Hard Flex: An Israeli bodybuilding competition was held outdoors and with masks this week in order to determine the next “Mr. Israel.”
🖼️ Art Heist: Thieves made away with 27 artifacts worth millions from the Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art & Studies on a small kibbutz in the country’s north.
👨💼 Transition:Aaron Ringel, a senior advisor at the State Department, has been appointed as an assistant secretary of state in global public affairs.
🕯️ Remembering:Philanthropist and real estate developer David Flaum, a past chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, died at age 68.
Song of the Day
Israeli pop sensation Hanan Ben Ari released this week his latest single, “Those With Broken Hearts.”
Chairwoman of Israel’s Strauss Group, a large dairy and food company, Ofra Strauss turns 60 on Saturday…
FRIDAY: Retired owner of Effective Strategy Consultants, Irwin Wecker turns 85… The first woman appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Ilana Kara Diamond Rovner turns 82… President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, L. Rafael Reif turns 70… Israeli-born pawnbroker and star of the reality television series “Beverly Hills Pawn,” Yossi Dina turns 66… Former member of the Knesset, he now serves as mayor of Ashdod, Dr. Yehiel Lasri turns 63… Co-founder of BlueLine Grid, Jack Weiss turns 56…
Manager of strategic partnerships for UJA-Federation of New York’s Day School Challenge Fund, Chavie N. Kahn turns 55… Global head of public affairs at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Ken Mehlman turns 54… Co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin turns 47… Former MLB pitcher and starting pitcher for Team Israel, Jason Marquis turns 42… President at Core Decision Analytics, Adam Rosenblatt turns 35… Director of partnerships at Usher 1F Collaborative, Erica N. Miller turns 35… Tzippy Baitch… Lynn Sharon… James Barton…
SATURDAY: Emmy Award-winning television news journalist, Morton Dean turns 85… Former director of Prozdor at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts, Margie Berkowitz turns 77… Founder and co-CEO of Elliott Management Corporation, Paul Elliott Singer turns 76… Dermatologist in Los Angeles, Joyce Naness Fox, MD turns 74… Founder of the magazine “American Lawyer” and the cable channel Court TV (now TruTV), Steven Brill turns 70… Former chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby turns 70… Chairman of Israel Military Industries (now known as IMI Systems), Yitzhak Aharonovich turns 70… Robin Elcott turns 64…
Former MLB outfielder, he was the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, Mark Gilbert turns 64… Professor at USC, Adlai W. Wertman turns 61… Co-founder of Marquis Jet and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, Jesse Itzler turns 52… Director of strategic partnerships at The Paul E. Singer Foundation, Deborah Hochberg turns 47… Deputy mayor of Lawrence, N.Y., political consultant and investor, Michael A. Fragin turns 47… Project coordinator for “The Conversation: Jewish In America,” Rachel Saifer Goldman turns 46… Co-executive director of Christians United for Israel, Shari Dollinger turns 43… Principal at CSR Operations LLC, an HR consultancy, Claire Stein-Ross turns 32… Outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, Braden Adam Bishop turns 27…
SUNDAY: Professor Emeritus at MIT and 1987 Nobel Prize laureate in Economics, Robert Solow turns 96… South Florida car dealerships owner and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Norman Braman turns 88… Retired South African hotelier, Sol Kerzner turns 85… Owner of Paper Capers in Livingston, N.J., Leslie Haupt Mayesh turns 73… Former MLB player, he was the first designated hitter in MLB history and was the manager of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox in the Israel Baseball League, Ron Blomberg turns 72… History professor at Hebrew University specializing in pre-modern Islamic civilization, Reuven Amitai-Preiss turns 65… General counsel of Eastern Savings Bank, Richard Zeskind turns 63… Former member of Knesset, Eitan Cabel turns 61…
Owner of A&A Wholesale, Bracha (Benita Amedeo) Radin turns 58… Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kimberly Merle Schrier turns 52… South African-born entrepreneur, Errol Damelin turns 51… ESPN and ABC sportswriter, Jeremy Schaap turns 51… Founder and director of the Jewish Family Enrichment Project, Rabbi Josh Kohl turns 50… Former NBA head coach, now president of Basketball Operations for the LA Clippers, Lawrence Frank turns 50… Media editor of BuzzFeed, Craig Silverman turns 43… Israeli supermodel, born in Haifa, Mor Katzir turns 40… Senior manager in the hospital and healthcare practice of Accenture, Avigail Goldgraber turns 36… Senior advisor for policy and speechwriter for President Donald Trump, Stephen Miller turns 35…