In 1988, fifty-five year old, recently divorced, Sheldon Adelson took his first trip to Israel. He was wearing the shoes of his deceased Lithuanian–born Jewish father.
By 1988 Sheldon had come a long way from Dorchester, MA. He was the creator and owner of COMDEX, a successful computer trade show business in Las Vegas and he had just purchased the Sands Hotel and Casino, former hang out of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack.
Adelson was a successful guy by any standard but not yet a big-time Las Vegas Operator and a non-entity in national politics. The Israel trip changed all of that.
The symbolism of wearing his father’s shoes and going back to the homeland that his father had never gotten to see needs no explaining. It speaks for itself.
When he returned he told friends he fell in love with the place and wanted to meet some Israeli women. A blind date was arranged with an Israeli Doctor, Miriam Ochshorn, who was studying in New York. They bonded over drug abuse (Sheldon had lost a son to addiction) and Miriam was studying drug treatment. They married in 1991.
And then what?
If you measure Sheldon’s record of accomplishment in the first 55 years off his life and compare it to the next 30 years it’s almost insane. In the Las Vegas Casino Business in 1988 Adelson was, at best, a second level operator. The biggies of that time were Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian. And, in terms of political power, Adelson was not a factor.
Now, with the aid and assistance of his wife Miriam, Adelson is the biggest casino operator in Las Vegas and China and the World. Meanwhile, his net worth hovers around $40 Billion (as Sheldon likes to say “who’s counting”) and he is the single most powerful and influential private citizen in Israel and the United States. All the while remaining not particularly well known.
How did he get to such an exalted position? He has applied to the political arena one of his favorite maxims for business…”do something different and success will follow you like a shadow…you can’t get rid of it.”
How does he do things differently? In Israel, he was unhappy with then Prime Minister Olmert who was making peaceful overtures to the Palestinians and talking about a two state solution and so forth. Adelson’s response: Start a newspaper with an online edition, Israel Hayom, and ensure it will be the most widely circulated newspaper in the country by giving it away. Have your newspaper criticize Olmert daily and boost the candidacy of your buddy Netanyahu.
Result: Within 11 years of his first trip to Israel, Adelson owned the most widely read newspaper in the country and had defeated the existing prime minister and helped elect his choice, Netanyahu.
In the US, Adelson became a huge funder of AIPAC. They named their new building after him. When AIPAC started talking about a two state solution with the Palestinians, Adelson split with AIPAC and has let it be known that anyone wanting financial support from him should button their mouth about a two state solution.
Result: In Republican politics the words “two state solution” are never heard. Adelson has moved the party to the right because he gives at a level that is above and beyond what has been done in the past.
Next challenge for Sheldon Adelson is Iran. The indicators are, based on the statements in the paper he owns in Israel and the organizations he supports in the US, Adelson has been convinced that Iran represents an intolerable threat to Israel and, therefore, must be dealt with by military force…presumably by the USA.
Who is there to take the other side of that argument? There is no Iranian equivalent to AIPAC. Since the draft ended decades ago, there is no such thing as an organized Peace Lobby.
How about the Press? Isn’t this where courageous reporting could actually investigate whether the “Iran Is A Bad Actor” case is real or, like the “weapons of mass destruction” claim for Iraq, an illusion?
Don’t count on it.
Our last best hope is to hold out to January 3, 2019 when the Democrats armed with Committees, Chairmanships, and subpoena powers will take control of the House of Representatives and, assuming the Democrats don’t do something totally stupid, Nancy Pelosi will occupy the office of Speaker of the House.
Hang in there Nancy Pelosi. We need you. This is your time.
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