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It’s Not Rocket Science, But It Could Take a Rocket Scientist

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Rosenthal with Grand Marshall Kathie Lee Gifford at the Israel Day Parade in New York City, 2016
Phil Rosenthal is not your typical politician. After graduating summa cum laude from Yale and completing a PhD at Caltech, Rosenthal led an illustrious career as an astrophysicist, businessman, and lawyer. But now, Rosenthal is vying against incumbent Jerrold Nadler for New York’s 10th district in the House of Representatives.

Rosenthal was always interested in politics, but his fascination with political workings heightened when he was involved in the Pluto Project in 1991. The project involved a lot of advocacy, to try to get students interested in space technology. He wanted a legal background to help his efforts, so he went to Harvard Law School and became a lawyer. After working a few years at a prestigious firm, Rosenthal started a company called Fastcase, an online law library, with a dual mission to democratize the law and make legal research smarter. He combined big data analytics with legal research and achieved great success for sixteen years.

Rosenthal’s heightened interest in social justice – and by extension, Israel and America’s well-being – began through law, when he realized that millions of Americans are placed at a huge disadvantage in the criminal justice system because they cannot afford a lawyer. He became passionate about alleviating these inequalities. This interest in law and social justice eventually brought him to Israel advocacy, when he was offered a position on the board of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a nonpartisan think-tank. There, he learned about the incredible hypocrisy of how Israel is treated in the news and through the current administration. The physicist in him couldn’t stand the double standard that was to Israel, so he felt compelled to act.

“Moral clarity is the biggest thing we are losing. When you intentionally kill a civilian, we should not be excusing the murder, and when a society declares terrorists and murderers to be martyrs and name schools after them and send funding to the families how do you put that on the same moral plane as the victims – the civilians just trying to live their lives.” – Phil Rosenthal

Rosenthal was in Israel in 2014 when the Gaza War broke out, which had a lasting impact on him. He followed the media reports of what was happening and resented their efforts to “show both sides” when one side was bombarding the other with rockets and the other simply defending. He says, “[The U.S.] is forgetting its greatest ally and losing moral clarity. When thousands of rockets are raining in from Gaza, when random civilians are stabbed, you don’t ask all sides to show restraint.” The US alliance with Israel wasn’t only moral and just, but also important for national security. Rosenthal expressed his concern that the US may be abandoning its allies. Israel is the front line of defense against Islamic terror.”

The tipping point was when he learned of the Iran Deal, and his opponent Jerrold Nadler’s enthusiastic support of it. “When Nadler announced he was going to support it, which I remember to this day in August, I felt someone had to hold him accountable. It was the first time I seriously thought that if it was necessary I was going to run.”

After he read the deal, he realized it was far worse than reported in the media and it became a moral imperative for him to run. He noted that “according to the deal, we have to help Iran prevent sabotage of the nuclear facilities. Are we then helping Iran defeat the US and Israeli militaries if we need to sabotage them one day? Are we working against ourselves?” His conclusion was yes.

He believes that Nadler supporting the Iran Deal represents a weakness of character: “A dangerous deal like this could only have been passed by deception,” he claims, “what does that say about him if he blindly followed Obama for personal gain, and went against national security experts and the vast majority of the general public?” Indeed, the Iran Deal made the notorious regime 150 billion dollars and made it a regional superpower, which deeply alarms Rosenthal.

He is also worried about the next generation. He wants to bring back “core constitutional values.” He expressed concern about the culture of safe spaces that are shielding students from differing opinions, citing a case where students at Yale signed a petition to abolish the first amendment. Indeed, a recent poll showed that 40% of university students oppose free speech. Other trends he found alarming were segregated dorms for people of color, and the recent decision of Oberlin that declared egg rolls as “offensive.” To him, political correctness has gone from going the extra mile to accommodate feelings, to totally out of control.

Rosenthal is not anti-immigration, despite his national security concerns. “Historically the best and brightest around the world have come to the United States. We want that to continue. Caltech was such an amazing international community. And we want the best scientists and engineers around the world to make their discoveries and advancements right here in the USA. It’s critical for our standard of living and national security, keeping our technology far ahead of the rest of the world.” In his opinion, in order to do that, we need to bring in the best of the best.

He has spent decades volunteering to help the homeless, a matter close to his heart, serving with organizations such as The Dwelling Place. He supports more funding for comprehensive solutions. “You need to provide the homeless with the full sweep of what we need – not just food and a bed – they might need medical treatment to fix the root cause. The beautiful thing is that if we do it right, not only will it save their lives but it will also even cost less in the long run. Helping people get on their feet breaks the vicious cycle of poverty.”

As is evidenced by his assortment of views across the political spectrum, Rosenthal says he is committed to working “across the aisle,” believing that political deadlock resulting from animosity across party lines is causing a lot of the problems we have getting important things done and making important changes. Rosenthal, with his diverse experience in a wide variety of fields, feels that he is the one who can make these changes America needs.

About the author

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Lex

Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.
Picture of Lex

Lex

Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.
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