👋 Good Tuesday morning!
In today’s Daily Kickoff, we look at potential Senate candidates in the Old Line State following Sen. Ben Cardin’s announcement that he will not seek reelection, and talk to Semafor’s Ben Smith about his new book out today. Also in today’s Daily Kickoff: Anna Kaplan, Barbra Streisand and Ben Platt.
Addressing the Israeli Knesset yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that he will establish a House-Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group, “so we can continue to strengthen our bonds, build mutual understanding as elected representatives, and work better together – democracy to democracy.”
McCarthy brought with him to the Knesset the bipartisan resolution passed in the House last week expressing support for the U.S.-Israel relationship and the Abraham Accords in honor of the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding. “It states in absolute terms that the US stands with Israel, supports the Abraham Accords, and upholds that Israel has every right to defend itself. My friends – Congress stands ready to work with Israel to broaden and deepen those Accords – working for a sustainable peace with all of Israel’s neighbors.”
The House speaker praised collaboration between Israel and the U.S. on military technology, but cautioned that Beijing could threaten further progress. “We’ve seen the success of technological cooperation in so many areas,” McCarthy said. “Today, however, our innovation is at risk from a new threat: the Chinese Communist Party. While the CCP may disguise itself as promoters of innovation, in truth, they act like thieves. We must not allow them to steal our technology. In the United States, we are working to protect innovation and the prosperity it brings with renewed focus. We have a review process called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. I am glad that Israel has also put into place a process to review foreign investment. I strongly encourage Israel to further strengthen its oversight of foreign investment – particularly Chinese investment – building on the steps it first took in 2019. If we cooperate, then I am confident we meet the challenge and ensure a brighter future for both our nations.”
Referring to Iran, McCarthy said that “as long as I am speaker, America will continue to support full funding for security assistance in Israel,” adding that “together, we will defeat Iran’s precision-guided missiles, drones, terror tunnels and cyberattacks. And as we stand shoulder to shoulder against Iran’s regional aggression, we must also remain resolute in our commitment that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons.”
Spotted in the wings of the Knesset during McCarthy’s speech: Miriam Adelson and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (h/t Jerusalem Post reporter Lahav Harkov).
Speaking at a press conference after the address, McCarthy responded to a question about Israel’s proposed judicial reforms, which are on ice while the government and opposition meet for talks facilitated by President Isaac Herzog. “Israel is their own nation, only it can decide what it wants to do. In a democracy you want checks and balances and a separation of powers… but we leave it up to you how to decide that,” the speaker said.
Responding to a question by a Russian state news agency reporter, McCarthy issued a sharp rebuke of Moscow and emphasized his support for aid for Ukraine. “I do not support what your country has done to Ukraine; I do not support your killing of the children either,” he said. “And we will continue to support, because the rest of the world sees it just as it is.”
On Monday afternoon, McCarthy spoke to President Joe Biden, who invited the House speaker to a meeting at the White House next Tuesday that is also expected to be attended by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
In an interview with Israel Hayom over the weekend, McCarthy had quipped that he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, neither of whom has received an invitation from the White House, were in similar positions. “President Biden hasn’t talked to me about the debt ceiling for the last 80 some days, so I think he, the prime minister, might be in good company if [Biden] treats me the same way,” McCarthy said.
During a break during this week’s Anti-Defamation League conference in Washington, JI’s Josh Kraushaar and Marc Rod spoke with the group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, on everything from the state of antisemitism to Donald Trump’s campaign for a second term.
Greenblatt on criticism from conservatives that the ADL hasn’t focused enough on antisemitism on the far-left: “It’s reasonable to say, yes, we could do more to fight antisemitism on this side or that side. But I think we work very hard to call it out whenever and wherever it happens, irrespective of the political office with which it might be associated… The anti-Zionism that we see from some on the fringe left, they shouldn’t get a pass for it because of how they politically affiliate.”
On the Biden White House’s plan to release a national strategy against antisemitism: “While we’ve presented them with some very concrete ideas, I don’t know where it’s going to land. I haven’t seen a draft.”
On the line he draws between free speech and restricting hate speech: “Look, hate speech is the price of free speech. We need to acknowledge that in this country we have to hear things we don’t like. The question is, when I tune into the channel, open up the paper, I see things that are so offensive, so rank that it’s going to make me wince… The basic rudiments of journalism is that the content you see is one that falls within certain guardrails. The only place that’s not true is social media. It’s not because of an overarching commitment to free speech, it’s because of a loophole in the [Federal Communications Commission] law known as Section 230.”
On how he approaches his role criticizing celebrities who make antisemitic comments: “Frankly, I would rather address these issues out of the spotlight because you’re usually able to get more done that way. Once it’s out in the open, it can be a lot harder.”
On Trump: “There’s a lot of reasons why I had great concerns with Donald Trump as a candidate and Donald Trump as a president. And you know, the truth is we never hesitated to call him out then. We won’t do it now. If he gets it right, we’ll praise him like the Abraham Accords. When he gets it wrong, we’ll call it out as well.”
on the horizon
Rice: White House hopes to release antisemitism strategy this month
Susan Rice, the outgoing director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said on Monday that the White House is “aiming to release” its national strategy on antisemitism later in May, Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod reports.
Strategy preview: Rice, speaking at the Anti-Defamation League’s National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., yesterday, said that the strategy will focus on “actions we all can take throughout society to raise awareness and prevent antisemitism, to protect Jews and to build allyship across communities.”
Commitment: “The Biden-Harris administration is deeply committed to this work because we are alarmed by the rise of antisemitism in the United States and the fact that shockingly, it’s becoming normalized,” she said. “Antisemitism is an affront to our Constitution. It threatens our country’s most essential ideals, including freedom of religion. Antisemitism undermines and corrodes our democracy… and thus it threatens our very way of life.”
Looking back: Rice has been a leader on the White House’s newly formed task force for combating antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate, but, in her ADL speech, she traced her connections to the Jewish community back much further. “Washington’s Jewish community shaped so much of my upbringing,” she said, growing up in a mixed black-Jewish neighborhood in Shepherd Park, in a home once owned by the Israeli Embassy with a mezuzah on its door.
Cardin’s retirement sets off scramble for open Senate seat
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced on Monday that he would not seek reelection to a fourth term, kicking off what is set to be a competitive and expensive Democratic primary campaign for a rare open Senate seat in the heavily Democratic state, Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and Marc Rod report.
Core values: In an emotional video announcing his retirement when his term ends in 2025, Cardin spoke with his wife Myrna about how the Jewish values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) have guided him in his nearly six decades in elective office. The 79-year-old Cardin, who is generally not viewed as a partisan firebrand, has a reputation as a staunch advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship. The race to replace Cardin may be a test of whether the next wave of Democratic legislators in Maryland will be as reliably pro-Israel as their predecessor.
On deck: No one has officially announced an intention to run for Cardin’s seat. But among those considering it are Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who has hired political staff for a potential run, and Rep. David Trone (D-MD), who has reportedly told people close to him that he would spend up to $50 million of his own money on the race. Other possible candidates include Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a progressive who led the second impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump in January 2021; Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando; former Congressman John Delaney; and Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski.
Temperature check: “I haven’t heard any serious statewide candidates about whom I have concerns about the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told JI. In Congress, Trone and Raskin are both vocal about Israel, but approach the matter differently. Trone is closely aligned with AIPAC, while Raskin is more in tune with J Street.
Close contacts: Alsobrooks has led the majority-Black Prince George’s County since 2018. The county, Maryland’s second largest, has a much smaller Jewish population than Montgomery County or Baltimore County. But she has a good relationship with Jewish advocates in the Washington metropolitan area. In December she spoke at the D.C. JCRC’s annual legislative breakfast, and shared how her parents and grandparents worked alongside Jewish activists during the civil rights movement. Alsobrooks traveled to Israel in 2019 with a delegation organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a nonprofit associated with AIPAC.
end of an era
The buzz is gone: Ben Smith and the end of social media-driven journalism
The day before BuzzFeed announced, in mid-April, that it was shuttering its news division, Ben Smith, the intrepid journalist and digital media pioneer, was seated in a Manhattan coffee shop and waiting for a tea that would never arrive as he contemplated the rise and fall of the social web, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel reports. As the founding editor of BuzzFeed News, where he lent institutional authority to a media site known for viral quizzes and cute animal photos, Smith had sought to balance a need for clicks with a focus on scoop-driven reporting that won a Pulitzer Prize while ruffling the feathers of the legacy media class.
Unsustainable: The proposition, largely dependent on referral traffic from social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, was never as tenable as it may have seemed at BuzzFeed and competitors of its ilk, which have struggled to stay afloat or no longer exist. “It has not ended particularly well for that generation of companies,” Smith, 46, told JI during a recent interview in Little Italy, not far from the offices of his new media venture, Semafor, which launched last fall.
Traffic signal: But even Smith, who co-writes a dishy weekly newsletter on the media industry and was previously a media columnist for The New York Times, acknowledges that he had not anticipated the sudden demise of BuzzFeed News, which he left in 2020 after a decade-long run. “I had no idea,” he said in a brief email to JI days after the closure. In many ways, however, Smith had already written its epitaph in his richly reported and somewhat rueful first book, Traffic: Genius, Rivalry and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral, which was published on Tuesday.
‘Untold story’: It chronicles the trajectory of the media startup craze in New York City through the prism of two storied websites and the people who created them: Jonah Peretti, the idealistic data whiz who founded BuzzFeed in 2006, and his acid-penned foil, Nick Denton, the British-born reporter who had launched Gawker, the now-defunct gossip blog, four years earlier. “It’s sort of an untold story,” Smith explained. “It was a real moment of dynamism and interesting stuff happening. And it was all right around here. It was right here.”
Belated reckoning: The book, he suggested, was an opportunity to get some distance from the industry he is currently navigating while coming to terms with a previous era that has long been of interest to him. “What I was trying to do,” he explained, “is really give insight into the origins of where we are now, where this all came from, and how these people in this part of Manhattan were thinking about it when they were sort of toying around with all these forces 20 years ago.” And how it ended? “We were all here,” he said, “for the ending.”
Read the full story here.
Saudi ministers tout shift to investment from fossil-fuel dependence
Amid warnings of more U.S. bank closures and a world economic slowdown, Saudi Arabia is looking for new opportunities to pour the kingdom’s petroleum wealth into international investment. Two Saudi cabinet ministers, accompanied by representatives of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, traveled to Beverly Hills, Calif., this week for the annual Milken Institute Global Conference, where the world’s top bankers and investors are discussing global financial predictions, The Circuit’s Jonathan H. Ferziger reports.
Diversifying the economy: The Saudi minister for economy and planning, Faisal Alibrahim, spoke on Monday about his government’s eagerness to “leapfrog away from oil” and diversify the economy through investing abroad in technology companies and developing commercial industries at home. Fueled by its $620 billion Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia is distributing venture capital and promoting the desert kingdom as one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations.
Gloomy forecast: Alibrahim and his fellow cabinet member, Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih, joined panel discussions at the Beverly Hilton after a parade of bankers and world financial figures painted a gloomy picture of the coming months. The day had started with news that U.S. federal regulators had seized the offices of First Republic Bank and engineered its acquisition by JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Elsewhere at Milken: Apollo CEO Marc Rowan said concentrated losses are expected for the commercial real state market.
Bonus: Laura Lauder called for the tens of billions of dollars “sitting in cash” in donor-advised funds in the United States to be used for socially constructive impact investments, saying this represents “the biggest opportunity for philanthropy in America,” during an onstage panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, eJewishPhilanthropy reports.
Saudi Arabia in the spotlight
Following Saudi Arabia’s resumption of ties with Iran in March, the Gulf nation is poised to play a critical role in American foreign policy, Israeli political calculations and China’s efforts to expand its influence across the region. Yesterday, three close observers of the U.S.-Saudi relationship wrote their own independent analysis of the state of play.
From Riyadh to Washington: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Bradley Bowman, Orde Kittrie and Ryan Brobst map out a potential path forward for U.S.-Saudi relations. “Many of America’s partners in the Middle East, including the Saudis, now believe the United States is a strong power acting like a weak one and that Washington is interested in little more than finding the nearest exit,” they write. “Meanwhile, even as American security assurances seem less reliable, Iran is advancing toward a nuclear weapon, doubling down on its decades-long asymmetrical strategy of terrorism, and bolstering its drone and missile arsenal. These twin perceptions of increased threat and a less reliable United States are heightening Saudi Arabia’s sense of insecurity.” FDD’s Mark Dubowitz also suggests eight steps the U.S. could take to build a strong, long-lasting relationship with Riyadh.
Picking priorities: In a report released Monday morning, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Rob Satloff argues that the question of when Riyadh might normalize relations with Israel misses the point. “The more appropriate question to ask is ‘As Saudi leaders prioritize the critical and potentially controversial reforms necessary to achieve the kingdom’s strategic objectives, where do they place the idea of a high-profile breakthrough to normalization with Israel?,’” Satloff writes. “Absent an intensive presidential-led effort to negotiate U.S. incentives for Riyadh and thereby change the Saudis’ balance of risk and gain, in all probability the answer to that question is ‘Not that high.’”
Biden’s bet: Capstone’s Daniel Silverberg looks at how the Biden administration is addressing the role that China plays in Washington’s foreign policy decisions. “Diluting Chinese inroads in Saudi Arabia is key to President Biden’s approach,” Silverberg explains. “The Saudis control oil that is needed in the short term to power the green transition, and they bring extensive capital to the table to compete against Chinese bidders on African mines, help build solar projects in Angola, and fund power generation in Zambia… This approach could yield direct security benefits. It allows the administration to keep the Saudis in the US camp on issues of dire consequence to the US. Administration officials are pushing for Saudi engagement precisely because they can help the US with critical minerals mining, 5G, and global infrastructure — the drivers of the global green transition and diversification from China.”
🗳️ Kentucky Conundrum:The New York Times’ Nick Corasaniti spotlights the Republican gubernatorial primary in Kentucky, where former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft and state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are battling for the chance to take on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. “The Republican primary on May 16 is pitting two pillars of the state’s party apparatus, Mr. Cameron and Ms. Craft, against each other, with a third, well-liked Republican, Ryan Quarles, the agricultural commissioner, acting as an amiable wild card. Polling has been scant, though the few public surveys suggest that Mr. Cameron’s once-dominant lead is shrinking. This churning political mixture has largely frozen the party and its major supporters in place. No one wants to be on the wrong side of the Craft family, collectively one of the biggest Republican donors in the country. And few are eager to damage Mr. Cameron, with his ties to Mr. McConnell, his early endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump and what some in the party view as his potential to rise to powerful positions within the G.O.P.” [NYTimes]
🗺️ Wandering Jew, No Really: Tablet magazine’s Nomi Kaltmann interviews lawyer Daniel Herszberg, who by the age of 30 had visited every country in the world. “While traveling, Herszberg has seen some amazing sites including the lava lakes of the Congo, the great dunes of the Sahara Desert, and Lake Baikal in Siberia. His journey has also taken him to active war zones in Syria, Yemen, and Somalia. However, Herszberg, who was raised in an Orthodox family in Melbourne, has a specific interest that differs from other world travelers: Jewish history. In each location he goes, Herszberg actively seeks to document anything Jewish that he can find. ‘There are two sides to the Jewish story of the world,’ he said. ‘The living side, where communities still exist and are flourishing, and the other side, where you see the world that was lost. Centers of former Jewish civilizations in countries we left behind.’” [Tablet]
Around the Web
📺 Lights Out: Leaders of the Writers Guild of America voted unanimously to go on strike for the first time in 15 years. The dispute will bring production of many TV shows to a halt.
📄 On the Hill: Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), as well as Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and 24 co-sponsors reintroduced legislation seeking to repeal the sunset provisions on the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996.
🎤 Lemon Out, Trump In: Former President Donald Trump will be participating in a CNN town hall next Wednesday in New Hampshire — his first appearance on the network since the 2016 campaign.
🏃♂️ All In: Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) is planning to launch a Senate campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
👍 Backing Barbara: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is backing Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in the race to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in California.
🏃♀️ In the Race: Former New York State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat, filed to run for Congress in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. George Santos (R-NY).
📢 Caucus Creation: State lawmakers in Pennsylvania announced the creation of the lower chamber’s Black-Jewish Caucus.
🏥 RBG Hospital: The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital will open on Sunday in New York’s Coney Island neighborhood, replacing the Coney Island Hospital, which was torn down after suffering damage during Hurricane Sandy.
👩 ‘Jewish Nobel’ Winner: Barbra Streisand was announced as the recipient of this year’s Genesis Prize.
📽️ Schrader in the Spotlight: The New Yorker’s Alex Abramovich profiles filmmaker Paul Schrader, whose latest film “Master Gardener,” will be released later this month.
🤰 B’Sha’ah Tovah: Model Karlie Kloss announced at the Met Gala last night that she and her husband, Josh Kushner, are expecting their second child.
📰 Media Matters: Viceis looking for a buyer as it prepares to file for bankruptcy.
⛏️ Digger’s Disappointment: An excavation in a Dutch town believed to be the location of hidden Nazi treasure following the declassification of a trove of WWII-era documents turned up empty.
👋 Brain Drain: The state-run Israel Innovation Authority cautioned that the government’s judicial reform proposals are spurring high-tech firms to move abroad.
🏢 Tech Trouble: Israeli startups are struggling to raise funds, amid internal political turmoil and global economic downturn, The Wall street Journal reports.
🚑 Hunger Striker Dies: A Palestinian prisoner who was arrested on suspicion of involvement in Palestinian Islamic Jihad died in an Israeli prison after an 87-day food strike. Following news of his death, three rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel this morning.
🇸🇾 Syria Strike: One Syrian soldier was killed and seven people injured in a strike on Aleppo International Airport that Syrian officials blamed on Israel.
Pic of the Day
Actor Ben Platt, wearing a Magen David necklace, attends the 2023 Met Gala celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art last night in New York City.
Running back for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, A. J. Dillon turns 25…
Former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, he funded the visitors center at the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., John Langeloth Loeb turns 93… Former Lord chief justice and president of the Courts of England and Wales, Baron Harry Kenneth Woolf turns 90… Retired professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir turns 86… Author and activist, Alan Merril Gottlieb turns 76… U.S. senator (D-VT) as of earlier this year, Peter Welch turns 76… Former member of the Texas Senate, she was born in NYC to Holocaust survivor parents, Florence Shapiro turns 75… Former USAID contractor imprisoned by Cuba from 2009 to 2014, Alan Phillip Gross turns 74… Co-founder and president of NCH Capital, he has supported the establishment of hundreds of Chabad Houses at universities throughout the world, George Rohr turns 69… Former under secretary of state for public diplomacy following his stint as managing editor of Time magazine, Richard Allen “Rick” Stengel turns 68… Member of the New York State Assembly since 2010, David Weprin turns 67… Former U.S. secretary of commerce, Penny Sue Pritzker turns 64… Partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Jodi J. Schwartz… Admiral in the IDF (reserves), he served as the commander of the Israeli Navy, Ram Rothberg turns 59… Director of the Chabad Center in Bratislava, Slovakia, Rabbi Baruch Myers turns 59… Founder and CEO of Shutterstock, Jonathan E. Oringer turns 49… Israeli writer known for his novels, essays and philosophical work, Yaniv Iczkovits turns 48… SVP of Drumfire Public Affairs following four years as deputy chief of staff to then Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Stephen Schatz… D.C.-based CBS News correspondent, Julianna Goldman turns 42… Podcast host and founder and president of ETS Advisory, Emily Tisch Sussman… Judicial law clerk at the USDC in Seattle, Gabe Cahn… Deputy executive director at Cornell Hillel, Susanna K. Cohen…