Progressive activist confronts Buttigieg at Ames town hall


Pete Buttigieg speaking on Jan. 29 in Ames. The presidential candidate spoke about foreign policy and health care.

Amber Mohmand

Pete Buttigieg returned to Ames five days ahead of Iowa’s caucuses to try to finalize support for the crucial first-in-the-nation contest.

Buttigieg’s event took place at noon on Wednesday at the Gateway Hotel and Conference Center and featured a brief but heated exchange between an audience member and the presidential candidate.

Elias Newman, an organizer for the IfNotNow Jewish progressive activist organization according to his Twitter, who also canvassed for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, was in the audience and spoke at the town hall.

Newman asked Buttigieg why he goes back on some of his “progressive policies” regarding Israel.

Buttigieg said if a country is composing a deal, all sides of the deal must be informed before making it public.

“If you’re asking me to commit to withdrawing our support for Israel, the answer is no,” Buttigieg said. “What I will say, in my administration, the Israeli government will get the message that we are not going to support those kinds of steps. In my view, they’re bad for Israel, they’re bad for Palestinians, they’re bad for Americans. […] I stand by what I said.”

Newman said Buttigieg had contradicted his answer with a previous one several months ago at the University of Chicago.

“Just now or a couple of months ago?” Newman said. “[…] Why’d you go back on your plan?” 

“If you would like to get into a debate with me, I’m not sure if this is our best format for that; thanks for joining us,” Buttigieg said. “I respect your activism, and I appreciate you joining us.”

Speaking with the Daily, Newman said he is “horrified” by President Donald Trump’s actions regarding the relationship between the United States, the Palestinian Territories and Israel.

Newman said he visited a family in the village of Susya in the West Bank and witnessed the demolition of their homes.

In addition to foreign relationships, Buttigieg also spoke about helping Americans afford medical costs, including abortion.

Eileen Sambos, a visitor at the town hall, said she wants the president to address poverty in the United States. 

Sambos said she is pushing for the Poor People’s Campaign, which is a movement organized by marginalized communities, religious and moral leaders and advocates, according to the website.

Along with poverty, Matthew Biebrach, a junior in industrial technology, said he wants to see how candidates hold themselves and push for new ideas. 

“I guess there’s that feeling of someone that feels presidential, the way they speak — kind of hold themselves,” Biebrach said.  “I don’t know, there’s ideas that I’d like for them to push for […] I value schooling a lot — I mean, that’s why I go to college. Not more sore restructuring of schooling but just a broadening of knowledge of it; I feel like people get forced down into college really fast.”