Trump: If I win, it will be incredible news for Israel
In an exclusive interview with Israel Hayom, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says: “If the Republican establishment stops me from running, it would be a disaster for America” • “Hillary Clinton has always failed,” he says of his rival.
No more than 10 minutes’ drive from each other, and almost at the same time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave their victory speeches Tuesday. The two have yet to be named as their parties’ presidential nominees — the idea that Trump may actually be the nominee has just barely entered the Republican establishment’s realm of possibilities — but after “Super Tuesday II” this week, they are both well on their way.
Clinton, the Democrat, who spoke at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in Florida, and Trump, the Republican, who spoke at his private Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, both demonstrated that they are thinking ahead. They are already jumping head-first into the true battle, the one that awaits them after the primaries, the most insane and exhausting primaries in the political history of America. Florida and Ohio, this week’s main battlegrounds, will be returning to the headlines in November. Clinton and Trump will likely have a score to settle then.
But if Clinton’s nomination appears all but guaranteed, for the ever-popular Trump, that is not the case. He may have grossed all of Florida’s 99 delegates, and he may have also won in North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois, but his defeat to John Kasich in Ohio complicates things for him. His path to the Republican convention with the highest number of delegates seems certain, but achieving the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination at the Republican Convention in July does not. To him, gaining 1,237 delegates is like an entry ticket into the promised land.
Trump is concerned that in the event of a brokered convention in Cleveland this June, the Republican Party will play a trick on him to keep him from clinching the nomination. Clinton, for her part, has her own problems. Beyond the fact that she is having trouble generating enthusiasm among her voters, she has another irritating issue to deal with: her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders. Sanders may be behind in the polls, but he is the darling of the liberal media, beloved by young voters and popular among those who feel that incumbent President Barack Obama is not left-wing enough. The Vermont senator has already announced that he is thinking about the future, planning for the primary in California in June. He appears to be hearing his young supporters chanting “run, Bernie, run.” So he runs. Where to? Perhaps to cement his title as the leader of the opposition — not the institutional opposition but the opposition on the street. Unless, that is, he clinches a deal with Clinton first.
Falling for Trump’s charms
It is important to understand that Trump’s success this week, and throughout the entire campaign, has worried everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike. It is quite obvious that the Republican establishment is alarmed at the prospect of Trump becoming the nominee. He is not the nominee they had hoped for. But neither is the kid trailing behind him, Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The establishment’s favorites have failed the Florida test: Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, who wanted to mimic Obama’s trajectory to the White House but conceded Tuesday that “it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever,” and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who watched Tuesday’s votes from the sidelines.
In Florida, which I visited this week, only one name could be heard: Donald Trump. Jewish pensioners, white Americans, doctors, homeless people, merchants, contractors and even expatriate Israelis have all fallen for Trump’s charms. Even Latinos told me that for the sake of a better future, they are willing to overlook “the nonsense that Trump says about Hispanics.”
But Trump knows very well that it is not going to be easy. He understands that if he doesn’t get the necessary number of delegates, the GOP will hold a brokered convention (also known as an “open” convention) where loyalties and commitments can shift dramatically on a dime. It is precisely this kind of convention that Ohio governor Kasich is hoping for. Kasich defeated Trump in his home state. But this week, Trump warned against such an eventuality, saying that his and Cruz’s supporters, who make up the majority of the Republican voters, may get even by staying home in November.
“For the sake of our children, I am willing to vote for Trump,” says Maria, a clerk at a CVS drugstore in Miami. “Dignity is important, but so is making a living. Without a livelihood there is no dignity, and that is exactly where we are headed. I would rather give my vote to someone who has already made something of himself. Now he can make something of me.”
The Democrats have caught the bug too
The Democratic establishment has also caught the Trump bug. David Plouffe, who successfully managed Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 and later served as his adviser, has warned the Democrats not to underestimate the mogul. On Tuesday evening, while America was following the results of the primary votes, Plouffe explained that Trump is a more dangerous rival for Clinton than Cruz.
“We’ve never seen anything like this in politics,” he told Fox News. “Democrats should not be popping champagne corks since Donald Trump is doing so well.” Plouffe’s analysis should set off warning bells for Clinton as it expresses her failure to enthuse voters. Plouffe predicts that the coalition of young voters, minorities and women that put Obama in the White House twice will not unite behind Clinton. He advised her not to assume that it will.
But with all due respect to the Democrats, the big story of the week was on the Republican side. That is precisely why, after visiting Nevada and Texas, I sought out Trump supporters during my stay in Florida. They are everywhere. At first they were hesitant to reveal themselves, because the media has a tendency to portray them as ignorant (Likud voters in 1977 know that feeling), but now they don’t care anymore. Trump goes after the media without inhibitions, and his supporters lap it up and ask for more. On Tuesday, Trump did not hesitate to call reporters “disgusting.” It would be interesting to find out how many votes that comment earned him.
Trump is angry at the media for making him out to be a racist. Recently, the media generated controversy over Trump’s failure to distance himself from former KKK leader David Duke, who voiced his support for the Republican front-runner. Last week, when a Trump rally in Chicago was called off amid violent protests, the media tried to portray him as a riot instigator.
Even his rivals from within the party, like Kasich, spoke about the toxic atmosphere he generates. But this week the pundits conceded that it was not Trump who instigated the commotion in Chicago. He just canceled the event because they came looking for him. Suddenly everyone was talking at length about the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Suddenly everyone realized that the protesters were organized, that the violence wasn’t spontaneous. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that four days after the riots in Chicago, Trump won the primary in Illinois. At this rate, we may become convinced that it wasn’t Sanders who sent the protesters, as Trump alleged, but rather Trump himself. After all, every attack against him only makes him stronger.
In his victory speech in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, Trump assessed that more than $40 million have been spent recently on negative ads targeting him.
“Nobody has ever, ever in the history of politics received the kind of negative advertising that I have. Record, record, record. By the way, mostly false. I wouldn’t say 100%, but about 90%,” Trump said. “You explain it to me, my numbers went up. I don’t understand it. Nobody understands it.” He admits that it is a little embarrassing to see ads denigrating him while watching golf, but immediately afterward he won at the polls.
There is no doubt that no other candidate would ever face the kind of criticism that Trump faces. The character of the current era contributes quite a bit: Americans are angry at Washington, at the establishment, and at the faltering economy, and they love Trump. In 2012, negative advertising killed Mitt Romney’s campaign. In 2016, negative advertising is only making Trump stronger. Vive la difference.
There’s never been anything like this
The first time I met Trump was four years ago, after Romney lost the 2012 presidential election. Trump was fuming in the VIP lounge. I’m not sure he stayed until the end of the night. The initial results were enough for him. He never liked Obama, to say the least, and he was convinced Obama could have been defeated. Romney wasn’t up for the job, even though he was a worthy candidate. Trump was furious.
Last December, we met again before the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. Trump was already ahead in the polls, but no one was taking him seriously yet.
“They thought I wouldn’t run,” he said to me. “Then they thought I would drop out in August, then they thought that the people who supported me in the polls wouldn’t actually vote for me. You’ll see that they will.”
He may not be a polished politician, but Trump certainly has good instincts. Several weeks ago, I interviewed him again, after his victory in Nevada. Once again he sounded sure of his victory. He was annoyed that his commitment to Israel had been questioned. “I am your greatest friend among all the candidates,” he told me then.
This Tuesday, I arrived at the luxurious Mar-a-Lago. The club is an old and magical mansion, built in 1927, with more than 100 rooms. In 1985, Trump bought the estate for a relative song, $10 million. Today, the going price would be closer to $150 million to $200 million. This was where Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley spent their honeymoon.
This week, I was there, along with 300 American members of the press. Contrary to the other candidates, who just go home after every victory or concession speech, Trump has introduced a new element: After the votes, he usually holds a press conference. This time, he decided to forgo the press conference — perhaps he was exhausted, or maybe he is still angry with the press. Maybe it’s a little of both. I wanted so badly to ask him: If you win the lead but fail to achieve the necessary number of delegates, will any attempt on behalf of the Republican Party to oust you in June be tantamount to GOP suicide? I stood there, shoulder to shoulder with Trump’s supporters and representatives of countless media outlets, when suddenly Trump started talking about “disgusting reporters.”
“Some are nice, some are nice,” he added. The reporters were not offended; they’re used to it. They play a game of cat and mouse — they criticize him, he fires back, and so on and so forth. But behind the scenes, they love him. He gets ratings. The American public has never followed an election as closely as they are following this one.
The race is starting to resemble a reality program on television. And it is no coincidence: The leading candidate is famous, and these days being famous is better than having a master’s degree. It’s just the way it is. The reporters may level criticism, but it was television that created these monsters. There is a lot of hypocrisy in the media’s coverage of Trump.
Either way, the press conference that wasn’t, ended. I bid farewell to the ABC correspondent. In 2000, she witnessed the recount in Florida when George Bush went up against Al Gore. And still, she thinks that what we are witnessing this year is “unprecedented.”
I left the exclusive club. On my way out, I encountered revelers in formal wear drinking champagne. A Hispanic worker explained to me in Spanish where the exit was. I went up the stairs, and whom should I bump into? Donald Trump himself. He was just telling his guests that he had had enough and was tired. I patted him on the back and he turned around.
Q: Mr. Trump, I’m the reporter from Israel who interviewed you two weeks ago. Remember?
“Boaz,” he replied. “Of course I remember. So? How did people in Israel respond to my interview? You know, I also have ties in Israel. You know that some of my family members are Jewish [Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism after marrying a Jew], and I know that they love me in Israel.”
I told him that on Shabbat, at my synagogue, he was all anyone could talk about. “Great,” he said.
I asked if I could ask him a few questions. He took my notepad, my phone and my iPad. (Speaking of iPads, that night Trump said in his speech that if he wins the presidency, Apple will manufacture its products only in America, not in China or in Vietnam.) “Shoot,” he said. “Let’s do this right. Make yourself comfortable.”
His many guests, many of whom were longing for one minute with him, looked at the two of us with
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