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Election Watch 2016

In second debate, Trump says Syrian regime is not worth confronting

(JTA) — Donald Trump said the U.S. focus in Syria should solely be on the Islamic State terrorist group, arguing that the Assad regime is not worth confronting because its allies, Russia and Iran, effectively control the country.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, in the second presidential debate held Sunday night at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, turned a question about what he would do to end the carnage in Syria into an extended attack on his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He said that she had advised President Barack Obama to back down in 2013 from his “line in the sand” threat to attack Syria if it uses chemical weapons and Clinton corrected him, noting that she was no longer secretary of state at the time.

He then described the situation as he saw it in Syria, but offered no specific prescriptions. He suggested that the Bashar Assad regime, principally responsible for the nearly half million lives lost since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, was not all bad because it was targeting the Islamic State terrorist group, along with its allies, Iran and Russia.

“Iran now and Russia are now against us,” he said. “So she wants to fight. She wants to fight for rebels. There’s only one problem. You don’t even know who the rebels are. So what’s the purpose? And one thing I have to say. I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”

One of the moderators, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, pressed him for a policy answer, noting that his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said that if Russia continues to back Assad with air strikes on civilian targets, the United States should hit Assad’s military targets.

“He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree,” Trump said, referring to Pence. “I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who she made strong and (Secretary of State John) Kerry and (President Barack) Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.”

Trump was referring to the sanctions-relief-for-nuclear-rollback deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers led by the United States. Clinton, who set the stage for the deal by helping to set up the sanctions regime that induced Iran to join the talks, says it has effectively kept Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.

Israel is wary of most of the likely outcomes in the Syrian civil war, but one of those it fears most is effectively conceding part of a failed state to Iran, allowing its deadliest enemy in the region to remain indefinitely on its doorstep.

Clinton advocated during the debate confronting both ISIS and the Assad regime through training rebels, creating no fly zones and allying with Syrian Kurds. She noted that the Assad regime and its Russian ally have mostly targeted non-ISIS rebel targets.

She aimed fire at Trump as she has in the past, alluding to the mutual admiration he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have expressed for one another, and to U.S. government allegations that Russia is intervening in the U.S. elections by hacking and releasing embarrassing emails related to Clinton’s campaign.

“I want to emphasize that what is at stake here is the ambitions and the aggressiveness of Russia,” she said. “Russia has decided that it’s all in, in Syria. And they’ve also decided who they want to see become president of the United States, too, and it’s not me.”

The debate, in a town hall format, was unusually bitter, with Trump at one point threatening to jail Clinton over the controversy of her use of private email while she was secretary of state, should he be elected president.

It came on the heels of a bombshell video released Friday in which a 59-year-old Trump is heard bragging to an entertainment reporter about groping women and getting away with it because he is a “star.” In discussing the tape and the Republican politicians who rescinded their endorsements of Trump in the past 48 hours, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, Clinton said Trump’s campaign was “exploding.”

 

Mindy Finn named running mate for independent presidential candidate

(JTA) – Independent U.S. presidential candidate Evan McMullin has named a Jewish running mate, Mindy Finn.

McMullin announced his running mate on Thursday, Sept. 6, although her name will not appear on several state ballots including California, Texas and Alabama since the announcement came too late for many filing deadlines. The placeholder name Nathan Johnson, a friend of McMullin’s appears on many of those ballots and likely cannot be switched out.

Finn, 35, is president and founder of Empowered Women, a nonprofit that aims to foster discussion of feminism. She has also worked on digital operations programs for Mitt Romney and George W. Bush and previously worked at Twitter heading up strategic partnerships in DC and specializing in business development.

Finn has opposed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump since the primaries.

“I’m a lifelong Republican,” she wrote in January for the voices.neverTrump.com website. “But more importantly, I’m an American, a Mom, and though I don’t wear it on my sleeve, a committed Jew. When I see an authoritarian decide who are winners and losers as if he were picking race horses to bet on, habitually equate people to animals and mock their looks and mannerisms, I see the antithesis of leadership. When I see a man equate strength with an ability to erect tall buildings in their name while threatening to banish entire religions from our country, I don’t merely shake my head in disgust. I’m afraid.”

McMullin, 40, who is running as a conservative alternative to Trump, is a former undercover operations officer for the CIA who once studied in Israel. He also was a senior national security and policy adviser in the House of Representatives.

McMullin studied in Israel while an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU) as a David L. Boren Scholar with the Department of Defense’s National Security Education Program. He called his studies in Israel “a perfect capstone” to his work at BYU.

 

Republican leader in Israel says he, daughters will still vote for Trump

(JTA) – The head of Republicans Overseas Israel said he and his family continue to support Donald Trump following an uproar over the GOP presidential candidate’s demeaning comments about women captured on videotape.

“I have five daughters and they will all, all, vote for Trump,” Marc Zell told Army Radio Sunday morning.

Trump’s unaired remarks were from an “Access Hollywood” segment hosted 11 years ago by Billy Bush that was published Sept. 7 on The Washington Post’s website. In response, leading Republicans have withdrawn their support for Trump. Trump discusses in the video sexually assaulting women and trying to have sex with a married woman while he was married to his current wife, Melania Trump.

“I’m saying he doesn’t need to [resign]. He did what he did. His comments are disgusting and absolutely unacceptable, we are against it,” Zell said. “He said he’s not perfect, he apologized.”

Likud Knesset member Yehuda Glick, who was born in the United States, on Saturday night withdrew his support for the party’s candidate, and expressed disgust with him.

“At every corner you see that the man is a savage. I tried to ignore and believe despite it all. I was wrong!” Glick tweeted in Hebrew. “Mr. Trump go home. Enough is enough!” he wrote in English, ending in Hebrew with an expression that needs no translation, “echs.”

 

Daughter of Jewish pol says she was not a plant at Clinton event

(JTA) – The daughter of a Jewish state senator in Pennsylvania denied that her question at a Hillary Clinton town hall was arranged with the presidential campaign.

Brennan Leach, 15, had appeared at a town hall with Clinton in Haverford, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, on Sept. 4, accompanied by her parents. Her father, Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat, represents suburban Montgomery County, which has a substantial Jewish population, and has campaigned for Clinton in the swing state.

Leach and her father appeared on CNN on Sept. 8 to deny the allegations that the question was prearranged. Brennan Leach said she asked her father to review the question, as any teen would ask of a parent.

“In no way was I approached by Hillary’s campaign or asked to ask a question,” she said. “She didn’t know I was going to ask a question, she didn’t know what I was going to say at all.”

Brennan Leach’s question was about girls’ body image and the damage that could be caused by statements by Clinton’s rival, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Afterwards, Brennan Leach told reporters she had consulted with her father about the question, leading to a flurry of speculation in conservative media that she was a plant at the town hall asking a softball question. Town hall events with a single candidate generally attract followers and not skeptics, and questions tend not to be confrontational.

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