Bernie Marcus didn’t hesitate to stand up for Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, despite silence or opposition from national Jewish organizations, so it was no surprise when the Republican Jewish Coalition board member issued a statement Tuesday, Nov. 15, in support of the president-elect’s newly named chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
The selection of Bannon, already controversial for allowing extreme-right articles on news site Breitbart.com before taking over Trump’s campaign this summer, was criticized by groups ranging from the Anti-Defamation League to the American Jewish World Service to Bend the Arc.
In a statement reported by Time magazine, Marcus said the personal attacks on Bannon saddened him and did not reflect the man he has known for many years.
“I have known Steve to be a passionate Zionist and supporter of Israel who felt so strongly about this that he opened a Breitbart office in Israel to ensure that the true pro-Israel story would get out,” the Home Depot founder’s statement reads. “What is being done to Steve Bannon is a shonda.”
The statement came a week after Trump won the presidential election and six days after Marcus celebrated the electoral surprise during a special lunchtime appearance at the monthly AJT-sponsored Jewish Breakfast Club at the Buckhead offices of Greenberg Traurig.
Marcus praised Trump for being supportive of Israel and said he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know each other well, going back decades.
Trump was not his first or even 10th pick for the Republican nomination, Marcus told the more than 70 attendees, but once the party selected the New York businessman, Marcus embraced him as preferable to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air,” Marcus said, and he poses a threat to government employees standing in the way of economic growth. “Every bureaucrat in Washington is a monster.”
Marcus, the father of AJT owner and Publisher Michael Morris, has no interest in a formal role in the Trump administration but said he will make himself available whenever the new president wants his advice.
Trump’s biggest strength and weakness in Washington are the same, Marcus said: He’s a businessman, not a politician.
On the plus side, he won’t accept nonsensical spending, Marcus said. “He’s going to walk in like a businessman, and he’s going to say things I would say. ‘We spend money on that? No more.’ ”
On the negative side, Marcus said, Trump will face an endless line of “imbeciles” trying to prevent change.
The Internal Revenue Service is corrupt, Marcus said, and now he’s worried about the fairness of the FBI and the Justice Department for the first time in his life.
He’s not so worried about Trump, whom he called rational.
“He’s an egotist; you have to be an egotist to become a politician. He’s a little ADD, but I am also,” Marcus said, adding that Trump has a fast-food diet and “eats like a slob.”
Marcus said he had three meetings with Trump during the campaign, including a lengthy private flight to Colorado, and found him to be a personable guy. One thing that impressed Marcus is that Trump listened and let him do 80 percent of the talking.