Dealing with the canard that President Trump is an anti-Semite.
Strange, but in the final editing of my book, which is much concerned with the American conservative movement, I cannot find a single mention of the “alt-right.” I don’t know what the alt-right is, or anyone in it. Perhaps it supplants the “New Right” — which was more aggressive than the “Old Right”?
I’ve never liked the term “right”; it reinforces the mythology that conservatism is even remotely aligned with fascism and Nazism. Such regimes, in their expansive power, have more in common with the Big Government of so-called “progressives.” And nationalism is inconclusive; FDR was no shrinking violet, and it was JFK who urged “what you can do for your country.”
Jake Turx is a correspondent for Brooklyn-based Ami Magazine. The orthodox Jewish reporter is one of many little-known journalists now permitted to participate in White House press briefings and news conferences. This is an affirmative action program hugely disfavored by the mainstream media. That’s because it’s real diversity.
Here’s the background: Over last weekend vandals toppled headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis. Recently there were reports of bomb threats to 48 Jewish centers. These reports prompted Mr. Turx (pen name) to ask President Donald Trump what Turx thought was a friendly softball question about the president addressing anti-Semitism.
In response, it would have been both desirable and appropriate, and expedient, for President Trump to condemn anti-Semitism and racial and religious hatred. He should have done so, then. Instead President Trump called the question “repulsive” and “insulting”; but he might have added “demeaning.” (A) The president’s generic is not to reply to an attack, not yield even one inch to an unacceptable premise. (B) The president’s specific is that associating him in any way with anti-Semitism is outrageous. (C) The president saw the question premised on the political correctness of Jewish victimhood, and the thing Jews in the U.S. are victims of, is… political correctness.
President Trump likely (and incorrectly) felt that responding properly would dignify the rap against him and his team and perhaps even be patronizing. He likely wanted to avoid a headline like “Trump Denies Anti-Semitism” or “Trump Finally Condemns Hate.” But his rhetorical diversion to the Electoral College convinced conspiracists the president had a sinister agenda. He supposedly did not want to disillusion his presumed anti-Semitic base.
“I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” President Trump responded. His inelegant syntax, Bill Buckley would say, enabled CNN talking heads to conclude, as they did, that if President Trump is the least, then he is somewhat anti-Semitic. That may not qualify as Fake News; it is Fake Analysis.
The controversy has its roots in the relentless character assassination of candidate and now President Trump. First, there was the canard that he is an anti-Semite. That became implausible given, for example, his love for his daughter and his proximity to his son-in-law, both Orthodox Jews who raise Trump’s grandchildren in that rigorous observance. In much greater detail I explained this and more to a vitriolic Trump hater who happens to be Jewish; he responded, “But some Jews supported Hitler.” There seems the inevitable comparison of Trump to Hitler, encouraged by CNN, which keeps replaying that neo-Nazi creep, who has almost no following, chanting “Heil Trump.”
Candidate Trump might not hate Jews, Trump’s detractors said, but Trump’s campaign is full of “dog whistles” because his campaign ads were coded to appeal to anti-Semites. That became implausible since only the liberal Jewish complainers deciphered the code. In reality, the only “dog whistle” to the anti-Semites is each time President Trump appoints to a major position someone who happens to be Jewish.
But if you accept the premise that Trump and his team are evil, the explanation is always ominous, and that helps explain the reaction on January 27, when the White House issued President Trump’s statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The statement inexplicably and inexcusably failed to mention the Jewish victims; it was worse than insensitive. It sounded like Barack Obama; had President Obama issued the same statement, I would have criticized it.
Trump’s adversaries had a theory: Presidential Senior Counselor Steve Bannon is a historical revisionist. Allegedly Bannon aligned with the alt-right and its anti-Semites who want to minimize the extermination of Jews.
It turns out the author of the statement was Boris Epshteyn, an assistant to President Trump. Epshteyn was born in in 1982 in Moscow, then in the Soviet Union; in 1993 he emigrated to the U.S. In 1979, when I visited communist-ruled Leningrad (St. Petersburg), the Red hosts insisted on a cemetery commemoration for the quarter of the city’s population killed by the Nazis. The communists played down the genocide of Jews. If you visited Auschwitz when the communists controlled Poland, the exhibit and tour guide alluded to the victims — Polish opponents of the Nazis, communists, gypsies, and, almost parenthetically, Jews; in fact, Jews were overwhelmingly the carnage at what evolved from a concentration camp into a death camp. After Poland became free of communism, the Auschwitz exhibit and guides properly emphasized that Auschwitz was dedicated overwhelmingly to the annihilation of Jews. In other words, it was the communists — the Left — that minimized the Holocaust.
Perhaps before 11-year-old Epshteyn emigrated to the U.S., the Soviet education system had inculcated the party line — World War II, not the Holocaust. In any case, Boris Epshteyn is no anti-Semitic lackey. Like many Jews from the former Soviet Union, Epshteyn is proud of his Judaism and his political conservatism.
For leftists born into a Jewish family, anti-Semitism is not about people who hate Jews. It’s about people that the Jewish leftists hate, notably President Trump and, guilt by association, his advisers.
Rabbi Marvin Heir of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles prayed at the Trump swearing-in. A few days ago a reporter asked Heir about President Trump’s “failure to condemn anti-Semitism.” Rabbi Heir replied that the president would pick the time and place. And so it was yesterday, at the end of a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, that President Trump said the venue showed “why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”
About reports of increased anti-Semitism, he said, “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
After reporting this, CNN interviewed one Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. My question to him: Do you think Anne Frank was murdered because of a lack of “mutual respect”?
Asked on CNN if he was satisfied with Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism, Goldstein said absolutely not. To prove his good faith, Goldstein emphasized, Trump must fire Steve Bannon, supposedly (and with no evidence) an anti-Semite. Trump used to complain that in repudiating hatred and prejudice, he could never satisfy his critics. And Goldstein proved Trump correct.
So who is Steven Goldstein? Like Boris Epshteyn, Goldstein lived in New Jersey; both started in politics with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg. That’s where the resemblance ends. Goldstein epitomizes the Dark State of philanthropy, using tax-free dollars for political polemics. Goldstein’s Anne Frank Center “is a progressive voice for social justice, fighting hatred of refugees and immigrants, anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, Islam phobia, homophobia, transphobia…” Did Goldstein leave anything out? Is the legacy of Anne Frank now reduced to this potpourri of political correctness?
Steven Goldstein reminds me of a variation of a current cartoon. A man says, “Women and gays should have no rights. Jews are pigs.” Goldstein, gay and Jewish, would likely reply, “You must be one of those alt-right creeps behind Donald Trump!” The man might respond, “No, actually these are my religious beliefs. I’m a devout Muslim.” And Goldstein, who presumes to judge Trump and demands that Bannon be fired, would likely respond, “I apologize. I hope you don’t think I’m Islamophobic!”