Gary Ginsberg’s new book “First Friends” chronicles claimed relationships that afflicted the White House.
Aficionados of the U.S. admiral can acquisition books on aggregate from “first spouses” to “first pets” and “first chefs.” For Gary Ginsberg, a above advocate in the Clinton White House and acquaintance of John F. Kennedy Jr, a bigger allure was the abstraction of “first friends” – the powerful, unelected association who allege the bare accuracy to the U.S. President, both on the golf advance and in the Oval Office.
Ginsberg is accustomed with the corridors of power, both as a communications controlling (NewsCorp, Time-Warner, SoftBank) and adviser to Michael Bloomberg, the Prime Minister of Israel, and others. Ginsberg took advantage of the Covid arrest to columnist a arresting attending at presidential friendships, Aboriginal Friends, landing on the New York Times’ best-seller list.
Ginsberg batten with Aish.com from his home in Manhattan.
Author Gary Ginsberg
Aish.com: Full disclosure: We’re adolescence accompany from Buffalo, New York, home to two US presidents (Grover Cleveland and Millard Fillmore) and the armpit of William McKinley’s assassination. What aboriginal sparked your absorption in the U.S. Presidency?
Ginsberg: I bethink vividly as a third grader at elementary school, watching the sixth-grade date the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It’s somewhat analytical why the agents advised this the best addition to the American admiral for an 8-year-old. Yet I came aback from that comedy bugged by the appearance of Lincoln. From that point advanced I started account aggregate I could about presidents, which developed a constant fascination.
Aish.com: Many kids dream about acceptable the aboriginal Jewish president. Were you counted in that group?
Ginsberg: Yes, and as a jailbait I absurdly articulate that absorption aback actuality interviewed about a scholarship I’d won. The bi-weekly banderole was, “Ginsburg wants to be aboriginal Jewish president.” I anticipation it was affectionate of cool, but anybody abroad anticipation I was out of my mind. I never actually lived that down, nor did I anytime alive up to acceptable the aboriginal Jewish president. But I was advantageous abundant to assignment for a president, and now I’m autograph about presidents.
Aish.com: Aboriginal Accompany is arranged with alluring and analytical relationships – whether Richard Nixon spending amaranthine hours of blackout with his acquaintance Bebe Rebozo, or Abraham Lincoln administration a bed for four years with Joshua Speed. How did you baddest which belief to tell, and what did you acquisition to be the axial capacity of a acceptable friend?
Ginsberg: I approached the book as a fan of the presidency. I aloof advantaged my interests, and begin new things that affiliated to artifice me. JFK’s babe Caroline Kennedy gave me the abstraction to contour David Ormsby-Gore. I advised autograph about Eisenhower, who had accumulated titans as friends, but those relationships were mostly transactional. I was attractive for deeper, richer friendships that accomplished that Aristotelian level, with accord of interests and values. Aback addition body has your best absorption at heart, that makes us added complete and whole. Presidents who accept abutting accompany are about bigger for it, and so is the country. Our own lives are bigger for it, too. I actually wouldn’t be area I am today afterwards the abutment and accompaniment of my abutting friends.
1995: Ginsberg (center) and John F. Kennedy Jr. account Alabama’s George Wallace.
More than any added “first friendship,” a arresting archetype of admission is Eddie Jacobson in 1948 boot into the Oval Appointment unannounced and about acceptable Harry Truman to admit the new Accompaniment of Israel. Aboriginal Accompany capacity the amazing circle of contest spanning decades, acute them both to acceleration to the moment:
In 1903, 19-year-old Harry Truman became a coffer agent in Kansas City. He addled up a accord with a boyish customer, Eddie Jacobson, who formed at a bounded dry appurtenances abundance and would consistently arrangement the coffer with a bag of banknote to deposit. The two became trusted friends, administration a pragmatic, up-from-the-bootstraps attitude. Yet aural a few years, Truman confused abroad to tend his family’s acreage and it appeared absurd their lives would bisect again. Greater forces, however, conspired:
In 1917, Truman volunteered to action in Apple War I and was fabricated aboriginal abettor in the Second Field Artillery. Jacobson additionally enlisted and was assigned to Truman’s unit. Jacobson was a consecutive administrator and awash Abettor Truman on the abstraction of a fundraiser to buy the troops bigger aliment and supplies. The action succeeded, earning Truman a advance to captain. Aboriginal Accompany reports:
“I accept a Jew in allegation of the canteen by the name of Jacobson,” Truman wrote, “and he is a crackerjack”…
Bolstered by the advantage of the canteen operation, Truman and Jacobson… hatched a plan to go into business together. With Jacobson’s all-encompassing acquaintance in the apparel industry, the men absitively to accessible a haberdashery in city Kansas City, their alternate assurance so abundant that the affiliation was fabricated carefully with a handshake.
The flush store, Truman & Jacobson Haberdashery, specialized in ties, shirts, hats, and belts. But in 1921, a collapse in atom prices formed the Midwest economy, a augury of the Abundant Depression. The haberdashery bankrupt its doors, never to reopen. Truman was affected to acquisition a new band of work, ambience him on a aisle to the U.S. Senate and ultimately the White House.
Eddie Jacobson (left) and Harry Truman at their accouterment store, Kansas City, 1920.
Truman and Jacobson backward in blow over the years, affair for cafeteria and at Apple War I reunions. An ardent outdoorsman, Jacobson generally arrive Truman on hunting and fishing expeditions on the Missouri River. While his buddies roamed the dupe with their guns, Truman would breach aback in the berth account a assemblage of books.
A adherent Baptist who’d apprehend the Bible cover-to-cover as a teenager, Truman was able-bodied acquainted of the anecdotal of the Jewish homeland:
The plight of Jews beat from Nazi Germany had admiring Truman’s absorption during his time in the Senate. In a 1943 accent in Chicago, Truman proclaimed, “Today – not tomorrow – we charge do all that is humanly accessible to accommodate a anchorage and a abode of assurance for all those who can be grasped from the easily of the Nazi butchers. Free acreage charge be opened to them.”
Fast advanced to the bounce of 1948. British troops would imminently abjure from the Holy Land, and Ben-Gurion was accepted to affirm Israeli independence. The White House began accepting cards and telegrams by the hundreds of bags in abutment of a Jewish state. Yet Admiral Truman was torn: acknowledging Jewish statehood in principle, yet adverse angry opposition:
Truman’s own Accompaniment Department, led by General George Marshall, a Apple War II hero and a man about universally revered, adamantly adjoin the abstraction of administration Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, assertive it would advance the Arab apple into the Soviet sphere. Marshall additionally argued that such a move would imperil American admission to Arab oil, and about actually crave the attendance of US troops to accommodate the violence.
Aish.com: Amidst this pressure-cooker, Jacobson’s absolute affair with Truman is the acme of acclaimed serendipity. What was activity on in Jacobson’s mind? What was affective him at the core?
Ginsberg: Jacobson was the son of Lithuanian Jews who’d appear to America in the backward 19th century. His ancestor was a shoemaker and Eddie was a aerial academy drop-out. He wasn’t decidedly religious, but he acutely acquainted amorous about the Zionist cause. On his own initiative, he’d brought a brace of groups to see Truman in 1946 and ’47, to antechamber on account of an absolute Jewish state. He acutely acquainted it in his kishkes.
Aish.com: For months, Truman had been abnegation to accommodated with Zionist Organization admiral Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a septuagenarian in declining health. What were the dynamics abaft that?
Ginsberg: Truman accepted the accent of a Jewish state, yet was annoyed by the advancing admission of Jewish leaders. Clergyman Abba Hillel Silver formed his anchor on Truman’s board and shouted at the President. Addition Jewish baton displayed abounding of banknote in an advance to allurement government officials. Truman was put off the ceaseless hectoring. Aback the accountable of the Zionists came up in a Cabinet meeting, Truman bidding frustration: “Jesus Christ couldn’t amuse them aback he was on the earth, so how could anyone apprehend that I would accept any luck?”
So affectionate of like the Esther story, with amazing admission to the ability broker, Jacobson takes it aloft himself to go bear for the Jews.
Aish.com: So why did Jacobson anticipate he could change the situation?
Ginsberg: Accepting been accompany for 45 years, and accepting fought a war together, and actuality ally in a store, and all the hunting trips and commons together, Eddie Jacobson was one of the few people, if the alone person, who could get Harry Truman out of his own head, and see the above affair at play. Eddie knew of arguments to breach this logjam, and acquainted that he alone he could do it. So affectionate of like the Esther story, with amazing admission to the ability broker, Jacobson takes it aloft himself to go bear for the Jews.
Eddie Jacobson (right) and Harry Truman adequate a airing in Missouri.
Aish.com: Acquaint us about that moment in March 1948. The conditional government of Israel is atrocious for American political support, and Jacobson flies center above the country to accommodated with Truman.
Ginsberg: At the advance of Frank Goldman, civic admiral of B’nai Brith, Jacobson flew to Washington afterwards alike accepting an arrangement beforehand. On the morning of March 13, he traipsed up the White House driveway and into the West Wing appointment of Matt Connelly, Truman’s accessories secretary and gatekeeper, who knew Jacobson and accepted him actual entry.
[In the Oval office,] Jacobson paused while attractive his acquaintance beeline in the eyes. To Truman, the abeyance seemed interminable: “I assuredly said, ‘Eddie what in the apple is the amount with you. Accept you at aftermost appear to get article from me – because you never accept asked me for annihilation aback I’ve been in the White House and aback we’ve been friends.’”
Finally, Jacobson broached the affair Truman atomic capital to confront: “You charge see Dr. Weizmann; you charge abutment an absolute Jewish state.”
In an instant, Truman’s face accustomed and his abode changed. Jacobson had never apparent or heard Harry Truman acting this way. He appeared brusque, about unreachable. He didn’t appetite any chat on the matter, whether pertaining to a Weizmann affair or annihilation accidentally connected. Jacobson persisted, reminding Truman of the admire in which he captivated Weizmann, employing every altercation he could anticipate of, from the plight of refugees to the biblical roots of a Jewish homeland.
Truman remained unmovable, hectoring Jacobson about how “disrespectful and mean” assertive Jews had been to him.
Aish.com: So how did Jacobson breach through? What ultimately afflicted the President’s mind?
Ginsberg: Jacobson is continuing in the Oval Office, attractive about the room, aggravating to amount out the best way to abode to Harry’s heart. He spots a brownish equestrian bronze of Andrew Jackson. Truman reveres Jackson. So Jacobson invokes that adulation to bear the band that afflicted history: “Harry, amuse see Chaim Weizmann. He’s my hero. My Andrew Jackson.” Knowing what was abaft that little bronze was built-in of years of friendship. Nobody abroad could accept pulled that off.
When Jacobson had accomplished his appeal, Truman began boot his fingers on his desk. Afterwards what seemed like an aeon of silence, Truman swiveled his armchair around. “You win, you bald-headed SOB,” Truman declared. “I will see him.”
Aish.com: Five canicule later, Weizmann was at the White House for a secretive, off-the-record affair in which Truman common his support. Take us to that moment of final decision.
Ginsberg: Two canicule afore the British Mandate was set to expire, Truman convened an Oval Appointment affair to apprehend final arguments on whether to admit the new Jewish state. Secretary of Accompaniment Marshall adumbrated that Truman’s action was to defended the Jewish vote and the banking abetment of arresting Jewish businessmen. Marshall alike threatened to vote adjoin Truman in the accessible presidential election. Truman was beneath massive burden to accept to his Accompaniment Department and go the added way.
Truman became the aboriginal baton to admit Israel, 11 account afterwards Ben-Gurion declared independence.
Aish.com: In the end, Truman became the aboriginal baton to admit Israel, 11 account afterwards Ben-Gurion declared independence. What is the acclaimed acceptation of that recognition?
Ginsberg: What it conferred on Israel was legitimacy, and it gave added countries authorization to abutment the new state. It silenced all the doubts that had been advancing out of adept and aggressive channels that the U.S. government did not abutment the state. At the end of the day, Truman was apprenticed beneath by accustomed political arguments and added by a faculty of benevolence and justice.
On May 14, 1948, as celebrating Israelis danced in the streets of Jerusalem, Jacobson acclaimed in Kansas City. Three canicule later, he was greeted at the White House as Israel’s temporary, actionable ambassador. The afterward year, Jacobson spent a ages in Israel as a claimed agent of Truman’s, area he was feted by Ben-Gurion and Weizmann…
Isaac Halevi Herzog, the arch clergyman of Israel, visited the White House and told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s abyss so you would be the apparatus to accompany the activation of Israel afterwards 2,000 years.” The words brought tears to Truman’s eyes.
Truman greets Chaim Weizmann at the White House.
Aish.com: It’s amazing that in all their years together, Jacobson had never asked Truman for anything.
Ginsberg: That makes Jacobson’s altercation that abundant added powerful. He’s not a lobbyist. His job is not abased on it. His accord is not abased on it. He’s activity there because he knows it’s the appropriate affair – not for Eddie, but the appropriate affair for Harry. Jacobson knows what motivates Truman. He knows what’s in his heart. He knows the benevolence that he has for the Jewish people, and he aloof has to get over this faculty of aggrievement because of the blame that he acquainted accountable to by Zionist leaders.
Truman afterwards wrote: “When the day came aback Eddie Jacobson was abiding to abandon his accustomed abhorrence to abode me, and he came to allocution to me about the plight of the Jews… I paid accurate attention.”
Aish.com: Truman seems an anomaly. He had a abutting Jewish acquaintance and accurate Jewish sovereignty. On the added hand, he had a affection for antisemitic animadversion and lived with his wife, Bess, in Missouri with her mother (Madge Wallace), whose austere ancestors action was to never host a Jew.
Ginsberg: Let’s aloof put it on the table: Truman’s ancestors were basically antisemitic. Eddie Jacobson never went central the Wallace home area Truman lived, because his wife Bess and his mother-in-law would not let a Jew above the porch. So while Truman was admiring of Israel, there was a absolute to affection for the Jews.
[In 1955, Jacobson died of a affection advance at age 64.] Harry Truman visited the Jacobson ancestors as they sat shiva in their Kansas City home. He was so affected with affect he could almost speak… “Eddie was one of the best accompany I had in this world,” Truman said later. “He was actually trustworthy. I don’t apperceive how I am activity to get forth afterwards him.”
[At a consecutive canonizing account for Jacobson, Truman said:] “I don’t anticipate I’ve anytime accepted a man I anticipation added of, alfresco my own family, than I did of Eddie Jacobson. He was an atonement man. He’s one of the finest men that anytime absolved on this earth, and that’s accoutrement a lot of territory.”
Aish.com: Michael Oren’s book, Ally, speaks about your captivation as a speech-writing adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, accidental to some acclaimed speeches, including his UN abode in 2012 which pushed the affair of nuclear Iran to the advanced of the all-around agenda. What was that action like?
Ginsberg: I flew into Israel a anniversary afore the UN address. We’re sitting in the backyard on Balfour Street, aloof the two of us, and the Prime Minister is laying out his cerebration on the issue, talking about the assorted stages of accessory and the abstraction of not acceptance Iran to cantankerous the “red line.” As he’s talking, I’m starting to anticipate it, so I chock-full and said, “Wait a minute.”
Starting in 2010, every year we’d use a gimmick to dramatize his UN speech. One year it was 45 abnormal of silence; addition year was a diagram of absorption camps. Netanyahu is a appealing acceptable artist, dating aback to his canicule belief architectonics at MIT. So I said, “How about if you draw out what you aloof described, assuming a bomb with levels of accessory and a fuse.”
Bibi was anon intrigued, and we spent the abutting hour designing the bomb and wordsmithing about it. In the end, the agents produced a bomb that was a bit cartoonish, but it became amid his best defining moments.
Netanyahu at the United Nations 2012: “red line” on Iran.
Aish.com: What are your thoughts about the approaching of the U.S.-Israel relationship?
Ginsberg: No question, it’s a awkward moment. I anticipate the better blackmail is from the accelerating left. Israel has become a political football in a way it wasn’t before. Fortunately, some choir are arena an more arresting role in acquainted that a bipartisan accord is acute to the able-bodied U.S.-Israel relationship.
As a Democrat, I admit how important it is that the affair not veer too far to the left, area we lose that bipartisanship. I’m adequate there are some able choir emerging, like Richie Torres and others, who admit how important this accord is to the U.S. So I’m worried, but additionally hopeful that it’s a abiding accord that will affected some of the strains of the aftermost few years. It’s a ambiguous time and a lot of assignment needs to be done.
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