On March 7, 2019, I entered the Oval Office for the first time in my life.
Vice President Mike Pence, a friend since 2012, and I had just had lunch in the White House Mess. We had discussed the administration’s Middle East peace plan, which was then still in development, and my recent private meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
“Have you ever met the President?” Pence had asked as we finished our meals.
I had not.
“Follow me,” he said.
The next thing I knew, I was shaking hands with President Donald J. Trump, who smiled broadly as Pence introduced me as a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, an author of novels and non-fiction books about the threat of radical Islamism, and an Evangelical.
“Great to meet you, Joel, welcome to the White House.”
Trump asked me to sit down, then took his seat behind the Resolute desk. To my right was the Vice President. To my left was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also a friend, and then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, whom I’d also known for years.
To my surprise, rather than tell me what he was thinking about, the President kept asking me one question after another. Where are you from? Why did you move to Jerusalem? How can you be an Evangelical with a Jewish name like Rosenberg? What’s your latest novel about? I had brought him a copy of The Persian Gamble, and I explained it was about an Iranian regime taking the $150 billion that President Obama had given them for the nuclear deal and secretly going to North Korea to buy a half-dozen fully operational nuclear warheads off the shelf and get them back to Iran.
“Wow – that’s pretty scary,” Trump said, turning to look out the window.
After a moment, he turned back to me and said, “How do you know they’re not trying to do that in real life?”
“Well, Mr. President,” I said, looking at Pence, Pompeo and Bolton and then back at Trump, “I’m counting on you and the men in this room to make sure The Persian Gamble never comes true.”
We shared a laugh, and then Trump asked me another question.
“So, tell me something else about yourself.”
I paused for a moment, then decided I ought to say it.
“Well, sir, I should probably tell you that I…well….I was a Never Trumper until four days before the election.”
The room went silent.
I cannot tell you how often the term “Never Trumper” is used in the presence of the President himself. By the look in his eye, I would say not that often. He did not, however, throw me out of the room. Rather, he picked up on the last phrase.
“What happened on the Thursday before the election?”
“My wife came to me with an absentee ballot and Fed-Ex envelope,” I said. “Hers was already filled out, but she insisted that I fill out mine right then because she had to send it that day from Israel in order for it to get back to the State in time. And she said to me, ‘You’ve got to make a decision.’ But I told her I was still agonizing. ‘You’re not going to vote for Hillary, are you?’ she asked. ‘Of course not,’ I said. ‘Then you have to vote for Trump.’ I told her wasn’t sure if I could. I’d spoken out strongly against you during the primaries. But my wife wouldn’t let the issue go. ‘Look,’ she said, ‘do you believe that Hillary is going to keep her liberal campaign promises?’ Of course, I replied, that’s why I can’t vote for her. ‘Exactly, but the problem is that you don’t trust Mr. Trump to keep his conservative promises, right?’”
I looked directly at the President. He said nothing. So, I continued.
“Right, I said. ‘So, here’s what you need to do,’ my wife told me. ‘The only way to stop Hillary from being elected is to vote for Mr. Trump and hope that he wins and hope that he keeps at least some of his promises. That’s it. That’s your only option.’”
You could hear a pin drop.
“So, Mr. President, I voted for you that day,” I continued. “And I just want to take the opportunity to thank you in person for keeping so many of your promises.”
I listed a dozen specific examples, including that the President had:
- Moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem
- Dramatically strengthened the U.S.-Israel alliance in myriad other ways
- Was dramatically strengthening America’s alliance with the Arab world
- Withdrew the U.S. from the insane Iran nuclear deal
- Crushed the ISIS caliphate, ending genocide against Christians and Yazidis
- Massively increased defense spending to rebuild the American military
- Pushed NATO to spend more of its own money on its own defense
- Gotten tough against the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, contrary to the allegations that were being made that he was “colluding” with Putin and weakening U.S. national security
- Signed the biggest tax cut and tax reform bill in U.S. history, creating millions of new jobs and powerful and sustained economic growth
- Made America energy independent
- Appointed hundreds of conservative, pro-life, originalist federal judges
- Appointed two originalist, Scalia-esque Justices to the Supreme Court
“Sir, if you accomplish nothing else for the rest of your term, you will go down in history as the most pro-life and pro-Israel president in the history of the country. And I just want to say, on behalf of my wife and me, thank you.”
The President seemed moved. Then I noted the Bible commands believers to “pray for kings and all those in authority.”
“I want you to know, sir, that I have prayed for you and your family every day since you took the Oath of Office.”
“Thank you, Joel,” Trump replied. “That means a lot to me.”
Since then, the reasons I support the President and Vice President have grown significantly. Together, Trump and Pence have:
- Presented a creative and compassionate plan to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians
- Brokered an historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates
- Brokered an historic peace treaty between Israel and Bahrain
- Brokered an historic peace treaty between Israel and Sudan
- Gotten tough on China
- Built a security wall to protect America’s southern border with Mexico
- Mobilized the biggest government and private sector mobilization since World War II to protect the American people from COVID-19, the worst pandemic in 100 years, and re-opened the U.S. economy to allow for the creation already of 10.5 million new jobs
- Appointed Amy Coney Barrett, a third originalist, Scalia-esque Justice to the Supreme Court
Are there some policies Trump pursues that I disagree? Yes. Am I happy with his first debate performance? No. Do some of his Tweets and public comments baffle, frustrate and deeply disappointment. Absolutely.
Still, I am deeply grateful that Trump and his team stand strongly against socialism, against abortion-on-demand, against riots and lawlessness, against shutting down oil and natural gas exploration, against radical left-wing plans to expand the number of Justices on the Supreme Court, against re-starting a policy of appeasement towards Iran, against going soft on the corrupt communists of China, against shutting down the American economy and ignoring the rights of the American people to live their lives in freedom, even in days of risk.
I used to be a Never Trumper. Not anymore.
Last month, I flew from Israel to the United States to stand in line for three hours to vote in-person for the re-election for President Trump and Vice President Pence.
I hope wherever you live, if you’re an American citizen, you will vote for them, too.