A number of former top Trump campaign officials and prominent Democrats say that their trip last week to Israel helped them dial down the bitter partisanship of current-day Washington.
Trump campaign alumni Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, former Obama White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, and Paul Begala were among the participants in the seven-day trip that ended Saturday.
Bossie called the trip “a welcome respite from the day-to-day action here in Washington” and said it “was an incredible experience to be able to go to Israel to see along with everyone else, what the state of Israel has to do on a day-to-day basis just to exist.”
“We really got in a chance to enjoy some fellowship and some time together that we normally wouldn’t have had” with Democrats, Bossie said. “We learned about each other’s families and backgrounds so it was a very welcome thing to do in this current political atmosphere.”
The trip was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation and organized by AIPAC political director Rob Bassin; other trip-goers included Juleanna Glover, Corry Bliss, Trey Nix, Brad Todd and Jeffrey Pollack.
“It was really eye-opening to have human interaction with people that we’re usually just firing TV ads at,” said J. Toscano, a partner at Democratic ad firm GMMB, that worked for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns. On the trip, “You’re actually on a bus for a couple hours and you’re talking about your career, your job, the company that you work for, the things that you’ve done in your past, your kids. It really made some strong connections.”
Burton added: “You can have appreciation for the shared humanity that exists across party lines and I think experiences like that would do all of Washington pretty good and help get people out of their partisan corners.”
He noted the “stark contrast” between all the security challenges that Israel faces and “then you come home and see the abject stupidity in the debate over Shakespeare in the Park in New York City.”
The 16 American political and Washington operatives traveled the entire country from the border of Lebanon to the Gaza Strip and also spent time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, meeting with government officials in the Knesset, entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“The fact," Toscano said, "that you can drive from one border line with an area that’s controlled by Hamas to another border line with a region that’s controlled by ISIS in the same time that you can drive from D.C. to New York really gives you a deep sense of the security challenge that the country faces and that the region faces.”
One of the moments that most stood out for some participants was when they learned on the trip bus that the GOP congressional baseball practice had been attacked Wednesday morning.
“Paul [Begala] led a very heartfelt and wonderful prayer for Steve Scalise and the others wounded,” on the outskirts of the Sea of Galilee, said Bossie, who noted that this was the first time he had gone to Israel.
“Let’s hope that maybe, just maybe, the hate, the Trump derangement syndrome that some people seem to be afflicted with maybe goes away a little bit.”