Jewish Former Navy Seal Becomes 1st Jewish Governor of Missouri
“Tonight, we did more than win an election; we restored power to the people and we took our state back!” Greitens, a Republican, told supporters at a hotel in Chesterfield, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Greitens, 42, grew up in the Maryland Heights suburb of St. Louis and attended the town’s Reform synagogue. He attended Duke University, where he become a Rhodes scholar. After earning a degree at the University of Oxford, he joined the Navy SEALS and won seven military awards, including the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He later launched The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that offers veterans volunteer opportunities.
The Post-Dispatch reported that Greitens is likely to make Missouri a “right-to-work” state by decreasing the power of its unions. A key tenet of his campaign was promising to “clean up” corruption and “bad ethics” in Jefferson City, the state’s capital.
Tablet Magazine reported that “in some respects, Greitens is a refreshing counterpoint to some of Tuesday’s Trump-driven discouragement, someone who Americans can be proud to see in elected office. He’s a Rhodes Scholar and Bronze Star recipient with a decorated record of national service and civic engagement. Greitens is the founder of The Mission Continues, a widely respected organization that connects veterans to community service opportunities, partly to provide them with an ongoing source of purpose and motivation as they return to civilian life. The governor-elect is a subtle and original thinker as well.” His 2015 book Resilience is structured as a letter to a fellow Navy SEAL struggling with his transition out of the military, and incorporates hundreds of literary, artistic, and philosophical references to trauma and warfare spanning nearly the full breadth of human civilization. As a Free Beacon profile noted, the principals of “The Great Jewish Hope” are “rooted in Seneca and Cato, rather than Buckley or Von Mises.”
But Greitens hasn’t been immune from the less savory aspects of Trump-era American politics. He positioned himself as a “conservative outsider,” repudiating a raft of previous liberal positions and masking the fact that he had been a democrat just a few years earlier—commonalities he shares with president-elect Donald Trump. In August, Greitens infamously aired a commercial in which he did little more than load and fire a machine gun, a blunt and—one would think, unnecessary—pitch coming from someone who had served four tours of duty in Iraq.
On November 7, Trump himself offered his endorsement of Greitens on Twitter. Greitens thanked Trump for his backing, and declared that his democratic opponent, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, was a “crooked career politician just like Hillary Clinton.” The embrace of Trump, who Greitens stuck with even through some of the ugliest controversies of the election, was a politically prudent decision, given that the New York businessman ended up winning Missouri by 19 percentage points. But such a trade-off seems all the more glaring and unseemly in light of the rest of Greitens’ background.
Even so, Greitens now ranks as one of the most intriguing elected officials in the nation—an author, scholar, SEAL, and advocate for veterans who successfully coped with the year’s rising political force, however ugly the results could sometimes be. And he’s only 42. It’s not out of the question that Greitens could eventually add “first Jewish president” to an already impressive resume, especially given the success of a certain other ideologically flexible political newcomer.