The big story as the Nevada Republican caucuses take place is, What is Sheldon Adelson is up to? Where’s the $100 million he spent against President Obama in the last election cycle? Who will be his horse in this race? A spate of recent reports pose these questions without any definitive answers, except to say that: Adelson appears to be sitting on the sideline so far; or he is for Marco Rubio but his wife Miriam Adelson likes Ted Cruz; or he got burned the last time by his pratfalls with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney; or that he is secretly pouring money into the Rubio campaign through a political action committee.
One good thing about all this coverage is that it baldly states that Adelson cares most about Israel. The press used to prevaricate about that factoid, even as Adelson was calling on the president to nuke Iran and saying he wished he’d served in the Israeli army, not the U.S. one.
The Wall Street Journal says that Adelson has been laying low in Vegas, and not meeting the candidates, as he usually does. But Rubio keeps up the patter:
“Aboard his campaign plane Monday night, Mr. Rubio said he speaks regularly with Mr. Adelson but won’t meet with him during his Nevada campaign swing. “We talk to him quite a bit on the phone and different things like that,” Mr. Rubio said Monday. “I won’t see him tonight or tomorrow, but we’ve got a longstanding relationship and friendship. And I’m sure we’ll continue to communicate. He’s interested in politics beyond southern Nevada.”
The Guardian reports that even Trump is performing courtship rituals. But meantime Rubio and Cruz are scampering after Adelson and talking up Israel.
[Rubio] and Adelson met frequently last year including dining in Washington ahead of Netanyahu’s highly controversial address to Congress which he used to attack Obama’s negotiations with Iran.
Ted Cruz, the deeply conservative Texas senator, is also in the frame for Adelson’s backing, in part because he was at the forefront of Senate opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Donald Trump, the only candidate who doesn’t need his money, who won in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and is ahead in the polls in Nevada, has tried to woo Adelson by promising that no other candidate “will be a bigger friend to Israel”.
Jon Ralston, the Nevada political expert, tells the Guardian’s Chris McGreal that Adelson “wants to be with someone who can win a general. He likes Rubio, but he wants to see if Rubio can win.” Something Rubio hasn’t done so far. The Guardian notes, “It is considered unlikely Trump will win the fellow billionaire’s backing, at least until the primaries are settled.” And it reports that Bernie Sanders lately attacked Adelson for his billionaire influence, but apparently left out the Israel agenda. Not a surprise.
Politico has a long story on the Adelson primary, raising the possibility that Adelson is already in for Rubio and we don’t know it because Adelson doesn’t want the attention after his very public failure in 2012. Kenneth Vogel and Isaac Arnsdorf report:
Most of Trump’s remaining rivals for the GOP nomination have flown to Las Vegas to woo the Adelsons, and sources say Rubio continues to call Sheldon Adelson with regular campaign updates.
An Adelson endorsement of Rubio and a huge super PAC check had been expected as far back as October.
“If you had told me months ago that he would not have made a major play in the presidential race by this point, I would have been shocked,” said a Republican fundraiser who has met with Adelson.
Rival campaigns speculate that Adelson may have quietly funneled millions into a non-profit group supporting Rubio that isn’t required to disclose its donors. The group, Conservative Solutions Project, has aired at least $7.1 million worth of ads supporting Rubio, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Conservative Solutions wouldn’t comment on its donors, but sources who work with Adelson insist he hasn’t donated any big money ― disclosed or otherwise ― to groups playing in the presidential race.
Gawker has nothing to add to that speculation, though its headline is cute: “We Need to Talk about Sheldon.”
On to the Trump news. It would seem Trump’s interest is to keep Adelson on the fence so that no clear rival to his domination emerges. That means saying nice things about Israel so that Adelson doesn’t feel the need to stop him.
Maybe just a coincidence, but Jewish Insider (from which I’ve gotten several links for this story) got an interview with Donald Trump’s national political director Michael Glassner, a dedicated Zionist who worked for George W. Bush’s campaign and has spent the last few years running the American Israel Political Affairs Committee’s southwest branch. That’s AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby. Glassner says Trump is committed to preserving the special relationship with Israel, notwithstanding some of the cold water he’s thrown on that love affair. Glassner:
He has said, in general, that he recognizes that Israel is our top ally and he will do everything in his power to protect Israel. He said that, and I think he will continue to say that publicly.
Jewish Insider also reported on a Trump appearance on Sean Hannity’s show yesterday. Here’s Trump’s protest that he loves Israel:
I have so many friends, Jewish friends, and they have supported Obama, and they are so disgusted. They can’t understand what happened; what went wrong. I think that President Obama has been the worst thing that has ever happened to Israel — the worst thing. I don’t understand it. And Netanyahu — a good guy…
I am a great friend of Israel. I was the Grand Marshal of the Israeli Day Parade… I have so many friends. In fact one of them, one of my great friends — where is Jared, my son-in-law? Where is he? My son-in-law is Jewish, and he’s fantastic — a very successful guy in the New York real estate…. So, there is nobody closer — and Bibi Netanyahu asked me to do a commercial for him, for his campaign. I did a commercial for him.
Bear in mind that Adelson is very close to Netanyahu.
At the Jewish Journal, Shmuel Rosner counsels friends of Israel not to worry about Trump’s vow of neutrality in the conflict, issued during several recent appearances. Trump won’t be neutral, Rosner says.
I think Israel should be nervous about a Trump presidency for many reasons – one of them is the unpredictable nature of his policies. But is it likely that Trump will side with the Palestinians and pressure Israel into making concessions that will put its security in danger?
To put it another way: what’s more likely, that Trump was just blabbering his way through a question for which he did not have a handy and articulate answer – or that he prepares to follow the Obama-Kerry script and pressure Israel into compromise?