Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Trump touts accomplishments in address meant to woo Jewish voters and bolster support in Florida

Dec 08. 2019
File Photo: Donald Trump Holds A
File Photo: Donald Trump Holds A "Welcome Home" Rally In South Florida SUNRISE, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 26: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a homecoming campaign rally at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. President Trump continues to campaign for re-election in the 2020 presidential race. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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By The Washington Post · Josh Dawsey

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - President Donald Trump pitched his administration's record on Israel while slashing into political opponents in front of a packed beachfront ballroom here Saturday night, seeking to convince Jewish voters that they should vote for him in 2020 even if they don't like him or his tactics.

n a 45-minute speech to the Israeli American Council that hewed to a script more than many of the president's rally jeremiads, Trump crowed of pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2017, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and eliminating funding for the Palestinian Authority as consequential achievements that made him deserving of a second term.

The president dismissed the lack of a Middle-East peace plan by his administration, which he has vowed to create since taking office, calling it the hardest deal ever to strike.

"If Jared Kushner can't do it, it can't be done," Trump said of his 37-year-old son-in-law and adviser.

The ballroom address, coupled with a private speech to GOP activists a few miles away, were designed to buttress his support in Florida, highlight his popularity among conservative Jewish voters and pay homage to Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate and megadonor to Trump. The president regularly mentioned Adelson throughout his remarks. "How did that happen, Sheldon?" Trump said at one point, with Adelson offstage. Adelson is a regular adviser to the president and a major supporter of the GOP.

The president's approval rating is 29 percent among Jewish voters nationwide, according to a Gallup survey from the summer, but was far higher in the room, where he was regularly interrupted by chants of "Four More Years." 

Trump's argument was two-pronged: He had delivered for Jewish voters, and even those present who did not like him needed to vote for him because other candidates would be far more deleterious.

He said that some Jewish Americans needed to love Israel more, however, remarks that drew some immediate criticism. "You have Jewish people that are great people, they don't love Israel enough," he said. 

He described Democrats' rhetoric and policies as a reason to vote for him, joking that many in the room might detest him but would not want to pay a 100 percent wealth tax - a false characterization of Democratic policies. He attacked Democrats such as Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, and slammed former president Barack Obama, whom he said did not support Israel enough.

"You're not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that much," he said, referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential contender, using an insult he has regularly deployed against her.

"You're not going to vote for the wealth tax," he continued. "Even if you don't like me, some of you don't . . . you're going to be my biggest supporters because you'll be out of business in about 15 minutes." 

Besides a vague mention to his "oppression" and accusing government bureaucrats of "trying to do a subversion of government," the president spoke little about the impeachment inquiry or his political problems in Washington. He called for Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, to stand up. It was unclear why Jordan, who regularly defends the president on television and has pleased Republicans during impeachment, was present.

Trump's comments on immigration were limited to a short riff, in which he talked of Mexico's "problems" and his administration's efforts to block migrants from entering the United States. He recounted the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a U.S. military operation, saying he watched it, and added that the caliphate is 100 percent destroyed. It is not.

Briefly, the president mentioned the 266,000 new jobs announced Friday and the release of a U.S. citizen kept for three years in Iran as part of a hostage swap.

But he spent much of the night in a sometimes comical, detailed recitation of his record on Israeli issues.

The president gave long, impossible-to-factcheck riffs on his behind-the-scenes work on Israeli issues, detailing what he said was a range of foreign leaders he rebuffed who wanted him not to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. They were littered with "sirs" and people praising Trump - from fellow construction people to Adelson to other politicians.

The president, drawing guffaws from the crowd, said he ignored calls from "countries you've never heard of," along with powerful kings, queens and prime ministers, when deciding to move the embassy in 2017. "What's that country all about," he said he wondered about some of the calls.

Eventually, after making the decision to follow through on his commitment, he said he returned calls to the disappointed leaders and played dumb.

"What's up, king?" he said to the audience, describing a call.

Later, he accused CNN without evidence of positioning cameras in the street to show more violence in Jerusalem after the move. "I said, that's a strange angle, I've never seen that angle," he said. 

The president seemed particularly fond of touting his pull as president.

He described Sheldon Adelson on the phone, with the president seeking affirmation about his accomplishments. He described former friends, such as Steve Wynn and Richard LeFrak, now immediately returning phone calls and calling him "sir" to show respect. "It used to take a day," he said.

The president boasted of making a pronouncement on the Golan Heights after a 30-second pitch in the Oval Office. "I go bing," he said, describing sending a tweet. "And it's done." 

He seemed comfortable, ticking off Florida municipal and political leaders in the audience that he seemed to know.

"How we doing, Joe? I think we're doing pretty well, Joe," he said about his polling to the GOP leader for the state.

"We're doing good," he said, answering his own question. "We're all doing good together." 

 

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