Donald Trump – Prescript
Tom Friedman, a leading columnist at the New York Times, has suggested the Republicans should have gone into bankruptcy protection instead of allowing Donald Trump to succeed in his unfriendly takeover of the party. For the GOP had become morally bankrupt. It had allowed Tea Party extremists to dictate a non-engagement in the politics of dialogue and compromise in favour of political blackmail and extremist rhetoric. Existing representatives who did not toe the extremist line were attacked mercilessly in primaries.
The Republican Party had become a movement intolerant of dissent and differences, whether the issue was gun control, climate change or the nuclear deal with Iran. It is now reaping what it has sown. This was a direct challenge to Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, who declared that Donald Trump is “not going to change the Republican Party” or “the basic philosophy of the party.” Ironically, he may have been correct because the GOP no longer seems to have a basic philosophy.
It once did. It was a party that stood for fiscal conservatism, that is, only spend what you take in from taxes and try to reduce the tax burden, But Ronald Reagan destroyed that trademark, though the principle continued to persist rhetorically. Conservatives, especially Ronald Reagan, were committed to Pax Americana and America as the leading policeman of the world, George W. Bush practiced the principle in excess and destroyed the brand. Trump has buried that principle for he believes in bludgeoning allies and not just retreating from alliances, in making deals and toadying up to tyrants in a world sewn together by money rather than trust and relationships that promote security and world order. Conservatives were committed to limited government and emphasized individual liberty; Donald Trump has demonstrated that he respects might and bullying not rights and respect. Further, he has openly advocated spying and reporting on neighbours you regard with suspicion. If people do not do this, they should be penalized.
The GOP was committed to moral conservativism, upholding traditional values and reinforcing the centrality of the family as the core of Republican virtues. Narcissism is not a conservative virtue. Competing for boasting rights is not a conservative virtue. Donald Trump with his irreverence for any establishment, with his shatter gun attacks on individuals, with his appeals to fear rather than any sense of honour or dignity, with his malicious malignancy, is in the process of incinerating this last foundation of Republican conservatism. Donald Trump is the dancing champion of all champions, a Muhammad Ali, but of mendacity rather than courage and truth.
Now fiscal and traditional conservatives have a hard time grasping and even supporting Donald Trump as their presumptive candidate, someone who attacks both free trade and minorities with his populist ethnic nationalism – or really, anti-ethnic nationalism – while promoting a foreign policy that, at one and the same time, lauds a strengthened America but agrees with President Obama that America should abandon its role as the world’s policeman as he encourages nations in troubled areas to assume responsibility for their own self-defence. Together, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have destroyed the vision of Pax Americana that has governed American foreign policy for the last sixty years. Obama preaches the policy cautiously. Trump does so recklessly, but even then few notable Republicans – Mitt Romney and David Johnson, an Iowa state senator – can be counted among the few exceptions to show the emperor has no clothes.
But the largest acts of self-destruction have come in domestic policy as a blowback from President Bush’s invasion of Iraq as a response to the 9/11 Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on American soil. A news item published by Arutz Sheva this morning (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/213567#.V1-1J_krJyE) was headlined, “Canadian PM ignores Islamic identity of Orlando shooter.” It began, “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an official statement condemning the ‘mass shooting’ in Orlando, but avoided mentioning the fact that the terrorist was a devout Muslim who apparently had ties to terrorist organizations.” Of course, it is not a fact that Omar Mateen was a devout Muslim, though he did attend his local mosque fairly regularly. Interviews with friends and acquaintances on CNN indicated that, in many senses, he did not seem to be devout at all. Further, it is also not a fact that he had ties to terrorist organizations, even though he declared his loyalty to ISIS and ISIS took responsibility for the slaughter. The Orlando investigation thus far suggests that there is, “No clear evidence that he was directed externally.” Early indications point in the direction that he was a lone wolf, perhaps inspired by radical Islam, but a definitive answer will await the full investigation.
Trudeau called the attack a “domestic terror attack targeting the LGBTQ community.” It was domestic in two senses. The attack took place on American soil rather than overseas. The attacker was born in the U.S. By avoiding the reference to Islam (both Trudeau and Obama), these leaders want to avoid the equation of terrorism with Islam and reinforce the view that the vast majority of Muslims are law abiding citizens. Their message also has a foreign policy dimension. They both recognize that both Muslim moderates and Muslim dissidents who aspire to achieve democracy and rights for millions of Muslims offer the best defence against Islamic extremists. Dissidents and moderates only desire to practice their faith without being threatened by non-Muslims who would paint the whole community with an extremist brush. The same members of the Muslim community do not want to be led down the pathway of destruction of both their community and fellow-citizens by bowing before the dictates of Muslim fanatics.
Even though I do not avoid the phrase, “Islamic radicals,” I understand why a political leader might do so, particularly when one candidate for the presidency of the United States blatantly justifies keeping all Muslims out of the United States because some are terrorists and, even more, insists that Omar Mateen was foreign-born in spite of the widespread news already out that he was born in New York. He also promotes neighbour surveillance of Muslims. As Michael Oren, a current Kulanu member of the Knesset and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., has said, the LGBTQ club massacre will be used to strengthen and reinforce Donald Trump’s anti-Islam message even though the LGBTQ movement and Muslim organizations were allies in fighting bigotry and hatred in Orlando.
Yet Trump used his twitter postings to reinforce the threat of Islamic immigration because it could permit Islamic terrorists to get into the U.S. In doing so, he attracts the support of leftists like George Galloway in Britain, who calls Trump a monster but declares Hillary Clinton to be the bigger monster. Trump also attracts rightists like Donald Duke in the U.S., who is less ambivalent than Galloway in his praise. Both Galloway and Duke, like Trump, are strong supporters of the big lie and the politics of fear.
When Begin and Shamir (both future Prime Minsters) were very active terrorists in attacking the British in Palestine in 1947, how would you feel if international news organizations referred to those events as acts of “Jewish terrorism”? And some did describe them that way at the time. Shamir’s men even killed the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN-appointed mediator, on the grounds that they believed (erroneously as it turned out) that he was a British spy. Begin and Shamir they were right-wing terrorists who happened to be Jewish, not Jewish terrorists.
The question of equating a larger group as a whole (Muslims, Arabs, Jews) with terrorism because of the actions of a few became acute for me in a discussion I had Sunday morning with a very old friend when I attended a Bat Mitzvah on Shavuot. She (this old friend) responded to a remark made by my beginning an attack on Trump’s position. It quickly became apparent that this individual might be a strong Trump supporter. She certainly seemed sympathetic to his plan to ban entry to the U.S. of Muslims and expressed her deep worry that Muslims, who have been brought up and taught to hate Jews according to her, would pose a dire threat over the long run to the Jewish community in the future. Even if most members of the Muslim community were not terrorists themselves, she might admit, it seemed that she was also sympathetic to Trump’s actions and strategy of reinforcing fear.
Trump claimed that, although many people thought the Orlando mass murderer was freaky, “They knew that something like this would happen. The Muslim community does not report these people.” The immigration of Muslim refugees into the US is described by Trump as the “all-time Trojan horse.” Trump blasted local Muslim leaders for not exposing “bad apples” with inclinations towards radicalism. “They don’t report these people,” said Trump during an interview on Fox News. “The people know who the bad apples are, where the bad seeds are. And they don’t report them.”
The fact is that the FBI investigated Omar Mateen at least twice and, given current U.S. law, could not even prevent him acquiring an assault rifle. This simple fact was a matter of indifference to Trump. He still supports current gun legislation and, instead, would take away the rights of law-abiding Muslims and Muslim foreigners. Trump insisted, “Believe me, the community recognizes the people that have the potential to explode.” Why anyone would believe Donald Trump given his record of serial lying is almost beyond understanding. The evidence thus far indicates that a few acquaintances did recognize Mateen’s explosive and angry personality, but never linked that with potential terrorism. Perhaps more data will come out in the investigation that might alter this initial judgement, but so far the investigation offers no evidence to support Donald Trump’s claims.
The only fact that seems absolutely clear is that even before the victims of America’s worst mass shooting have been buried, a war has broken out over how to understand and narrate what happened. The act was an expression of Muslim radicals. The other camp, “The attack seemed to be an attack by a deranged individual who happened to be Muslim and referred to radical Islamicists to justify his actions. He certainly seemed to have harboured a long-standing antipathy towards the gay community. And it is not clear whether or not he was possibly at war with his own repressed homosexual proclivities.
After all, there have been radical Islamic-inspired attacks, such as the slaughter in San Bernardino last December in which two radicalized Muslims murdered 14 civilians. On the other hand, of the 155 mass shootings in America this year alone, the overwhelming number have been killings by a lone gunman with easy access to automatic weapons and with no connections to Islam. But somehow the shooting in Orlando is claimed as falling into a totally separate category from the attack on school children in Newton, Connecticut. Or the attack by a white racist, Dylan Root, on a Black southern church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, a young white racist who, coincidentally was arraigned yesterday.
Most observers agree that the attack served the Trump campaign, reinforcing his narrative in spite of it being based on outright lies. At the very least, it took the heat away from Trump because of his outlandish criticisms of a judge of Mexican heritage, Gonzalo Curiel, who was in charge of a trial of fraud, breach of contract, negligent representation and bad faith of the now defunct Trump University, all of which charges could be directed at Donald Trump himself. Was Trump going on the attack to deflect possible deeper criticism of his shenanigans? There was virtually no chance that the judge could or would be removed.
Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian being tried for immigration fraud because she had not included in her application for immigration that she had been charged with terrorism and spent time in an Israeli jail. She tried to get Paul Berman, the Jewish judge assigned to her case, removed because of presumed bias. Of course, on the principle of judicial independence and the principle of impartiality he was not. Nor will Curiel be removed. In Donald Trump’s logic, no judge of any background or any ethnicity or any decent belief should be able to try him given his shotgun approach to those who disagree with him. Any judge who belonged to a group could be accused of bias against him given that his attacks have been so wide. A woman judge, on his logic, could not try him. Certainly no Hispanic judge could. If he goes on with his political campaign founded on insult, he could make himself immune to any prosecution – which may have been his forlorn hope all along.
Thomas Friedman had written that, “Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education – an ethically challenged enterprise that enriches and perpetuates itself by shedding all pretense of standing for real principles, or a truly relevant value perspective, and instead plays on the ignorance and fears of the public.” The Republican party’s mess of incoherent policies bear no relationship to “where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century.” As such, Donald Trump is the appropriate standard bearer.
Did the massacre in Orlando serve to stem the outflow of Conservatives who could no longer stomach the idea of voting for someone so antithetical to both the value of truth and the U.S. constitutional provisions protecting human rights, to a candidate so utterly ignorant of foreign policy and so racist in his mentality? House Speaker Paul Ryan, a presumptive supporter of Trump, admitted as much although Trump may perhaps not be racist in his practices. Nevertheless, his proposals to erect walls to protect America are so impractical that they could only be offered as metaphors for stirring up fear. For Trump, in the aftermath of Orlando, there was no sympathy expressed for the victims, only news that he had been supposedly prescient while insisting that it did not matter whether he was right. The incident “proved” the need to make America strong again. The leaps in illogic are impossible to fathom.
There is no reason to separate Omar Mateen’s motives and determine whether his actions were propelled by Islamic extremism or by hatred of gays. (His father: Omer’s rage was excited when he observed two men kissing – he would have observed many given his frequent visits to the Pulse Club. In either case, it does not matter whether the prime motive was radical Islam and/or his attraction/revulsion toward the gay community. The reality is that there is no need to choose between the two motives since ISIS throws suspected gays off rooftops.
It was very noticeable that Hillary Clinton called Mateen’s crime a “terror” attack and not a hate crime as she tacks right to cut off Donald Trump, just as she tacked left to cut off Bernie Sanders and, thereby, added weight to the distrust directed at her.
Donald Trump now claims he is the only candidate trying to protect gays and that he is the best friend gays could ever have because he is committed to protecting them as Americans. Almost all gays seem not to have taken this bait and continue to recognize that any attack on any minority is a threat to them. First the Muslims. Then Mexicans. Then gays. And then once again Jews? The failure to recognize the latter is an important part of my distress at my old friend’s sympathy for Trump’s Muslim exclusionary rhetoric at the Bat Mitzvah.
Of course, the real fear is of any minority being attacked and maligned because of the behaviour of some. This does not mean that the behaviour of the small number of mass murderers that are Islamic has no connection with Islam any more than the claim that Begin’s and Shamir’s acts had nothing to do with Judaism or Jews as an ethnic group. Of course they did. So do the slaughters of radical Islamicists. But a whole community should not be singled out because of the acts of a few. With the many ethnic slurs, Trump attacked the new Islamic mayor of London, who, coincidentally, happens to be a friend and supporter of the British Jewish community. Canada’s best current mayor, Naheed Nenshi in Calgary, could be Trump’s next target.
In the pre-WWI period, when there were very large numbers of Jewish immigrants, President Theodore Roosevelt welcomed them with open arms. One hundred years later, the Twenty-First Century began with so much optimism. The era quickly went down the wrong path with the Iraq War and with the near collapse of the American economy. America tried to reverse consolidating that misguided route. However, as the candidate for the Republican Party assaults the fundamental values of pluralism and immigration, of democracy and the rule of law, of free trade and America’s responsibility to and for the global world, one does not so much fear extremist Muslims as fear for America.
With the help of Alex Zisman
t’s also worth recalling that the Russian pogroms that sent those thousands of Jews to Teddy Roosevelt and Clifford Sifton’s arms were justified by Tsarist authorities as retaliations against “Jewish terrorists” who happened to be anarchists after the assassination of Alexander II. One of the accomplices, Gesya Gelfman, was born in a Jewish home. True. The rest were self-identified atheists (as was Gelfman). That did not stop the wanton anti-Semitism.
Then, when Jewish self-defense organizations started to pop up, Alexander III unleashed three years of sustained assault, especially in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders in Berlin, London, and Paris were slow to speak out — for fear that they would draw out more anti-Semitism in the Pale and at home. Eventually they did speak. But it took time, and what they said was often muted.
Things got even worse in 1903 — with the same cycle: blame Jews as terrorists so you can rape, slaughter, and remove them. When they try to defend themselves, mow them down. In public, before shooting squads if at all possible.
October 17, 1905, Tsar’s Nicholas II “Manifesto” unleashed even more reprisals, especially where Jews worked in factories and ports, as the government used the promises to reform as cover to restore order with a mailed fist.
At a Bat Mitzvah, this history should be told.
Dear Howard I read your article very carefully. I recently spent some time in the USA and took part in many Current events discussions. I have never seen the United States so divided. Whether we like it or not, every attack in the US gives Trump another Million Voters. During the few month I spent there, I noticed a definite change from a huge lead by Hillary to almost even. The real problem —the American public has to choose the lesser of two evils. I was asked to speak several times and people asked why are you as a Canadian interested in the US elections. My answer? Whoever Sits in The White house is not only The president of the United States, but should also be the Leader of the Free World. This has not been the case. Leaders cannot lead from behind. That is one of the reasons why TRUMP is now so popular. Every new attack on the USA will help Trump and almost make it certain, like it or not, that Trump will be President of The United States. My best wishes
Everything Howard says I can agree with and we have heard political analysts who have said the same thing…at times in more detail of Trump’s quotes and Hillary’s change of tactics. But when I come to the last line…”fear for America”, I feel a sense of rejecting that notion. In the darkest of times, war, civil war and untold challenges to civil rights and a great Depression, there have been those who spelled doom and gloom that America could never recover or even survive. True, there are people…Americans….who doubted before and doubt again the survival of the principles that founded America, that the experiment was or is coming to be over in failure, that collapse was and is imminent. And that “fear for America” seems justified to be considered as real. I totally disagree.
This country has an inherent will to survive. A stubborn, illogical sense not to surrender. A steadfast faith with no evidence to make it so that faith in the unique, complicated system, and faith in the founders who still live in the ideas and principles, will endure. That this optimism I state here can see its darkest days, true, but there will always be the faith that it will survive and prosper and inherently lead the world as a light in the dark…not for countries but for mankind to be free. So we must fight enemies from abroad and fight enemies from within over and over again and again….as if to redefine and prove it again and again…to prove the idea of America.
All this optimism….all this blind faith….all this intangible stand for the right against the wrong….is built into the fiber of this country. And so we will win. If ISIS attacks again and again…we will find a way to win. If Trump is elected and in his insanity works to unravel the character of this country…we will find a way to restore and have it be right again. And to win is to shut the door on threats. To win is to discover ourselves and like to establish a course, a foundation…to debate again the meaning of this idea…this country called America.
So the last line of Howard’s dissertation…..should not be fear, but a path to rebirth that is inevitable.
Robert and Wendell