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Sizing Up Shmuley

A profile of Boteach the candidate

Adam Chandler
August 22, 2012
(The Record)
(The Record)

David Weigel at Slate has written a profile of congressional candidate Shmuley Boteach, who is famous for about a thousand other things than his pursuit of public office in New Jersey. He has a couple of great podcasts for Tablet on Jesus as a Jew and his congressional run.

Boteach, as you may know, recently received a campaign cash infusion via Super PAC of $500,000 from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (as Weigel notes, one-third of his opponent’s previous entire budget). In addition to sizing up Boteach’s chances (as well as clarifying that no one calls him Boteach), the profile successfully puts into context a lot of the issues that are defining the 2012 election from both within and outside of a Jewish context. It’s also chalk-full of some Boteach trivia you might not know about. I’ll leave it to readers to comment on how unfairly Weigel handles the Boteach material:

Shmuley rubs his temples. “President Obama broke my heart,” he says. “I’d expected that an African-American president would continue the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., but this time with the powers of the American presidency. That he’d be the foremost advocate and champion of human freedom and human rights in the world.”

The disappointment ran so deep that Shmuley—whose relationship advice and advocacy had never been really partisan—became a Republican candidate. His economic plan is straightforward—a flat tax and a tax credit for businesses that close on a Sabbath day.

“There are times when the government needs to be big, like during the Second World War,” says Shmuley. “But the rest of the time, we should go back to what the Founders believed—an entrepreneurial citizenry, a government that is large enough to facilitate those opportunities but no larger.” This is a slight departure from what he’d just said about moments of great national purpose, but it’s the sort of libertarianism you hear from Tea Partiers all the time. As is the Shmuley spiel about regulation. “I’m at the lake with my son, and a water cop comes up to me on a jet ski and gives me a ticket because I’m not wearing a life vest. In two feet of water. That’s a nanny state!”

While the tone of this profile is rough, the toughest line of all comes from the Cook Political Report, which Weigel quotes in sizing up Boteach’s chances in a heavily Democratic district:

“If Joe the Plumber’s bid in OH-09 is a pipe dream,” says Cook’s disturbingly pun-conscious David Wasserman, “Rabbi Boteach’s run in NJ-09 has even less of a prayer.”

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.