It was hard to keep track of the number of times Donald Trump stereotyped Jews in a speech Thursday — to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“You just like me because my daughter happens to be Jewish,” Trump announced to open his speech, remarking that he can never reach her on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath. (Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism to marry real-estate developer Jared Kushner.)
“I’m a negotiator, like you folks,” Trump said. “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals?” he said later. “Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
“I don’t want your money, therefore you're probably not going to support me,” Trump said. “Because stupidly, you want to give money. Trump doesn’t want money. Even though he's better than all these guys... even though he’s going to do more for Israel than anybody else.”
The reaction at the crowded forum was uncomfortable laughter as the 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner — introduced by an RJC board member as a “mensch with chutzpah” — typecast his audience as bunch of wealthy business dealers.
Many of them are political donors, just not to Trump. And he didn’t try to win them over. Instead, he claimed his campaign is self-funded, though most of his money has come from outside contributions.
“You want to control your own politician — that’s fine. Good,” Trump said, noting he too was once a prolific donor. “Five months ago, I was with you!”
Trump was even booed when he didn’t commit to backing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital instead of Tel Aviv. (“Who’s the wise guy?” Trump asked. “Do me a favor: Just relax, OK. You’ll like me very much, believe me.”)
In a day characterized by candidates’ not-always-successful pandering — Ben Carson repeatedly mispronounced the name of the Islamist Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip, Hamas, as “hummus”; former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said, “Last night, I was watching Schindler’s List” — Trump didn't back away from a statement he made to the Associated Press suggesting Israel might have to “sacrifice” to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
He did slightly soften his tone, arguing Israel has a “public relations” problem: “Israel has given a lot but hasn’t been given a lot of credit for what they’ve given,” he said.
The real-estate mogul was once a prominent “birther” who questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States and is a Christian, and he seemed to revert to that position in a brief mention of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Trump said it might be an example of “radical Islamic terrorism” the president won’t yet acknowledge.
“There’s something going on with him that we don’t know about,” Trump said cryptically. The White House declined to respond.
Trump held up former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a presidential rival “totally controlled by the people who gave him money” and boasted about branding Bush as “low-energy.”
“It’s become so defining, it’s like he has it written on his forehead,” he said. “It’s sad!”
Bush later told the RJC that the GOP nominee needs to be “a person with a heart, a person with a brain, and a person with a backbone.” “If you don’t have the humility to know what you don’t know, you’re going to be a horrible president,” he said.
Trump made no mention of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who at the RJC earlier had swiped Trump, without naming him.
“Some in our own party actually call for more sacrifice from the Israeli people,” Rubio said. “They are dead wrong, and don’t understand the enduring bond between Israel and America.”
Mazzei reported from Miami.