At the 2009 Republican Jewish Coalition winter quarterly meeting in Fort Lauderdale, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Ohio State Representative Josh Mandel.
Notice the donation button on his site. It is not there for decoration. Please help him.
I have met Josh Mandel at previous RJC functions. He is a rising star in the GOP and a source of great pride for the Jewish community. I initially met him in California in 2008 at the Reagan Library. Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing him again when he came to Los Angeles.
His remarks from the Los Angeles event were off the record, but my interview with him in Florida was more than enough to tell his story.
1) What is the Josh Mandel story?
JM: “I am the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. I went to Ohio State University, where I became Student Body President. Inspired by my grandparents, I joined the Marine Corps in 2000. I ended up going to Law School at Case Western Reserve. I went to Iraq in 2004, to Anbar Province. I was part of the First Light Armor Reconnaissance Battalion. Mostly I was stationed on the Syrian border.
I returned home, and in 2006 was elected to the Ohio legislature. I knocked on 19,679 doors, and wore out three pairs of shoes. I led the fight on Iranian divestment in Ohio.
In 2007, I went back to Iraq as part of the surge, again in Anbar province. I came home in 2008 and was reelected to my seat. I am now contemplating a run for Ohio State Treasurer. On the personal front, I got married a few months ago.”
Josh was modest in his description of himself. He actually had to make some hard choices. In 2007, while he was in the legislature, the marines wanted him back for a second tour of duty. He made the tough but right decision. As he explained, “I didn’t join the marines so that I could say no to my country.”
When he returned to Ohio in 2008, his Democratic opponent actually accused him of neglecting his constituents by leaving Ohio during the legislative session! The voters of Josh Mandel’s Ohio visit were not fooled. Serving in Iraq was a noble endeavor, and the voters rewarded Josh with a second term.
2) What have we gotten right and what have we gotten wrong regarding Iraq and the overall War on Terror?
JM: “What we got right was that we recognized the serious threat that America and worldwide democracies face from Muslim extremism. The only language the terrorists understand is strength and force. The American military is why Iraq has turned around. As for what we got wrong, I am not going to play Monday morning quarterback.”
3) If you had five minutes to talk to President Bush or Vice President Cheney, what would you say to them or ask them?
JM: “I would thank them for recognizing the threat we face with Muslim extremism, and for giving the needed resources to the soldiers fighting abroad.”
4) What role if any has Judaism played in your military career?
JM: “I am a grandson of a survivor. I looked up to him. He had a level of toughness I couldn’t imagine. That toughness and belief in God will stick with me as I try to be a leader in our country.”
5) How would you like to be remembered 100 years from now? What would you want people to say about Josh Mandel the person?
JM: “I would like to be remembered as a man who loved his country, and his family, and who was dedicated to making us strong economically and militarily into the future.”
It was a genuine joy to get to know Josh Mandel better. As Senator Norm Coleman remarked to me in front of him that weekend, pointing to him, “Eric, this is our future.”
I will probably run into Josh many times in the future at various functions, since we associate with many of the same people. Yet while I honor his service and marvel at his accomplishments, I also take great pride in knowing that Josh Mandel also lets the world know that he is a proud Jewish Republican.
I wish him well always, and the people of Ohio are lucky to have him.