(Dec. 3, 2015)– All roads to the GOP presidential nomination led to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, as more than a dozen candidates took turns courting faith-based support at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
The hopefuls mostly kept to the script — Ben Carson seemed to read word-for-word from his — as they promised to guard the future of Israel and, in most cases, move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina wished the audience a “Happy Hanukkah,” while Rick Santorum bragged of “fighting radical Islam before it was fashionable to fight radical Islam.”
There were, however, more than a few awkward moments during the day-long cattle call. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the weirder ones.
Donald Trump: Just “like you”
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump told the audience, “I’m a negotiator like you folks, we are negotiators.”
On the Iran nuclear deal: “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”
And then this: “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.”
In his defense, the Anti-Defamation League later issued a statement saying “context is everything” and said they do not think “Donald Trump’s intention to evoke anti-Semitic stereotypes.”
Ben Carson has a theory
On Revolutionary War-era Jewish businessman Haym Salomon: “Salomon gave all his funds to save the U.S. Army and, some say, no one knows for sure, that’s the reason there’s a Star of David on the back of the one dollar bill.”
You’ll have to judge for yourself if the six-pointed star is actually there. The one dollar bill on its back features a collection of five-pointed stars that together loosely resemble the Star of David — if you look very closely.
Carson also inspired ribbing for repeatedly pronouncing “Hamas” as “hummus.”
John Kasich’s Mom’s friendly advice
The Ohio governor recalled some maternal advice: “My mother told me one time, she said, ‘Johnny’ — when I was a very young man — she said, ‘Johnny, if you want to look for a really good friend, get somebody who’s Jewish.’ And you know why she said that? She said, ‘no matter what happens to you, your friend, your Jewish friend will stick by your side and fight right with you and stand by you.'”
Jim Gilmore was prepared!
To start: “Last night I was watching ‘Schindler’s List. Everybody here has seen Schindler’s List.”
The former Virginia governor then spoke about some pre-speech Googling he did.
“In preparation for this very significant meeting today I did a little looking at the Internet, and it turns out there’s a fellow named Ron Kampeas, who wrote a little article in the Jewish telegraphic agency and he said … we had to come here today to pass the Kiskus test… Kiska? (Audience: “Kishka!”) Kishka test! Kishka. Well I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t know what that was, so I looked it up. The definition is : ‘a beef or fowl intestine stuffed into a mixture as of flour, fat, onions and seasonings and roasted…’ and I thought, that’s the Republican campaign for the nomination! That’s right, that’s what it is.”
Rick Santorum worked with Joe Lieberman
Santorum invoked a prominent Jewish lawmaker who he had in fact worked with before.
The former Pennsylvania senator described his “work on the Armed Services Committee, where I worked with Joe Lieberman, trying to transform our military from a Cold War force to one that was going to deal with — we called it at the time — asymmetric threats, now called terrorism.”
Lindsey Graham jobs program
Not to be outdone, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested, “I may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America.”
George Pataki says goodbye in style
The former New York governor bid farewell in Hebrew: “Chazak, Chazak, V’Nitchazek”
(Translation via Google: “Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!”)