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Presidential Candidates Make Their Cases Before AIPAC


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, is the largest and most important Jewish lobbying organization in the United States. It's members are active, and when they fill a sports arena for their annual conference in Washington, presidential candidates also show up. And yesterday, much of the focus was on Donald Trump. Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Donald Trump was working from a script and a teleprompter - something he rarely does at rallies.


DONALD TRUMP: But I didn't come here tonight to pander to you about Israel. That's what politicians do - all talk, no action. Believe me.

GONYEA: On each topic, he'd start with the prepared text before adding extra lines. There's the Iran nuclear deal. First, Trump said he'd dismantle it. Then he said he'd enforce it better than any deal has ever been enforced, adding...


TRUMP: I've studied this issue in great detail. I would say, actually, greater by far than anybody else. Believe me. Oh, believe me. And it's a bad deal.

GONYEA: Trump was also looking to clear up some confusion over his past statements that raise concern among Jewish voters. Call it damage control. He said he'd be neutral in Mideast peace negotiations, something Republicans simply don't say. Then there's his recent hesitation to endorse moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now...


TRUMP: We will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

GONYEA: And there was this.


TRUMP: Discussions have been swirling about an attempt to bring a Security Council resolution on terms of an eventual agreement between Israel and Palestine. Let me be clear; an agreement imposed by the United Nations would be a total and complete disaster.

GONYEA: Senator Ted Cruz followed Trump. He opened his speech with a jab at language used by Trump moments earlier. Trump had referred to negotiations between Israel and Palestine, when such talks are actually with the Palestinians. Here's Cruz.


TED CRUZ: I'm thrilled to be here with you today. And let me say at the outset - perhaps to the surprise of the previous speaker - Palestine has not existed since 1948.

GONYEA: Cruz's point - that Donald Trump simply doesn't know enough about these things to effectively handle them as president. Earlier in the day, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke. She too attacked Trump without actually mentioning his name. She referenced things like violence at campaign rallies, calls to deport millions of immigrants and a proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.


HILLARY CLINTON: If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him.

GONYEA: She's describing in part the scene at Trump's campaign rallies. But it was a more subdued and somewhat more scripted Trump in this venue. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.