Tevi Troy, an Orthodox Jew, currently serves as a campaign strategist for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign, Bush-Cheney '04. Before serving in this capacity, Dr. Troy served a dual role in the White House as both a liaison to the Jewish community and as Deputy Cabinet Secretary. In 2001, Troy authored "Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters or Technicians," which discusses how presidents can benefit from seeking the advice of intellectuals. Following a stint as policy director for then Missouri Senator John Ashcroft, Dr. Troy served as deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Labor. Dr. Troy spoke to The Commentator on September 6th, four days after the President addressed the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden.
Commie: What issues should Jewish college students be thinking about when they vote this November? How does George W. Bush best represent those issues?
Tevi Troy: There are three key issues facing Jewish college students. The first is Israel, which has endured a very difficult period during the last three years. We must be cognizant of the fact that the Intifada has claimed the lives of more than 1000 Israeli citizens. The second issue is the rise of global anti-Semitism, as in France, where, for example, the rabbinate feared for Jews' safety to the point where it instructed Jews not to wear skullcaps in public. The third issue is the war on terror. It has been widely reported in the media that al-Qaeda specifically targets Jewish sites in America.
President Bush is very focused on all of these issues. Simply put, he is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. He sent (former New York City Mayor) Ed Koch to head a delegation to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), which explored constructive ways of combating anti-Semitism. To begin with, George W Bush pushed for this conference to take place. On the terror front, the President has played a leading role, along with America's allies, in fighting global terror. He is defending all Americans, not to mention American Jews.
Commie: Inside the Jewish community, President Bush has often been spoken of as the most pro-Israel figure ever to serve in the presidency. Does the President identify with the label "pro-Israel"? Which policy decisions on Israel is he most proud of?
Tevi Troy: I wouldn't want to put a label on the President. At the same time, the facts speak for themselves. If asked, the President would likely say that he is simply doing the right thing by supporting Israel, which is facing the same (terror) threats that we are.
To illustrate the President's support for Israel, I would point to a number of policy decisions. First, his May 2002 speech in the Rose Garden (of the White House), in which he spoke of the need for a Palestinian State, led by responsible leaders that are sensitive to Israel's security needs. Secondly, the President has been adamant about the fact that Israel has a right to defend itself. He sees the fence (the security barrier Israel is erecting near the Green Line) as a defensive measure, not a political boundary. And third, which occurred most recently, when Prime Minister Sharon came to Washington in April, the President acknowledged that the right of return for all Palestinians is unrealistic.
Commie: During the campaign, Republican strategists have repeatedly emphasized the President's record on the war on terror. Assuming George W. Bush wins the upcoming election, will Republican strategists, four years from now, be able to speak as highly on his domestic record? Which domestic issues will the President prioritize in a second term?
Tevi Troy: First of all, the President already has a very strong record on domestic issues. In particular, his No Child Left Behind educational program. I think this is something that will be talked about for generations. He is guaranteeing that American school children from grades K-12 will have every opportunity to succeed.
In terms of health care, the President ushered the Prescription Drug Benefit program through the Congress. This is a key part of medical practice that will be a long term benefit to the entire Medicare program, as it allows patients to be treated with medications outside of hospital visits, thereby cutting costs. Then there are the tax cuts, job growth, and the overall rebounding of the economy.
In a second term, the President has said that he will prioritize reforming Social Security and the tax code. Long after the war on terror is over, I think the President will be remembered as not only a strong leader on foreign policy issues, but also on the domestic front.
Commie: As a prominent Orthodox Jew in the public sphere, you have often said that your colleagues have shown great flexibility in the face of time constraints that ritual observance sometimes places on your ability to work whenever the job necessitates. With that reassurance in mind, what advice do you offer Yeshiva students who aspire to reach similar positions in governmental service?
Tevi Troy: While I've been very fortunate in my experience in government, I must say that I've had colleagues who have had some trouble with this issue. I think it is important to be up front about your situation. It's important to say to your employer at an early stage, 'I can't work on these days (Sabbath and holidays).'
The best employment opportunities I've had have been with observant non-Jews, as they understand the conflict between job and observant commitments. Outside the campaign context (Bush-Cheney '04 staffers typically work seven days a week), it's much easier to avoid work conflicts because most people work five days a week.
In general, it's been very rewarding to have people that don't know me very well approach me and say that they really respect my commitment to religious observance. For me, it's about fulfilling my religious obligations, while putting forth the best effort I can in the workplace.