Now we all know that many of those who are hating on Donald Trump are doing so because he is threatening the cozy-crony-politico-predatory-capitalist system that has made so many of them fat and rich. He is intending to break their rice bowls as the Chinese would put it or, in a more American vernacular, the gravy train might be ending. To be sure The Donald is warning that he will do just that, even if he will find in practice, if elected, that turning the ship of state around might well be a task beyond the ability of any aspirant to the presidency.
But while pure self-interest might well be driving many of the chattering nonentities that populate our congress and the senior political appointee ranks in government there is something nevertheless extraordinary in the level of venom and sheer hatred that is being spewed at random about a potential Trump administration. It is not uncommon to read or hear that Trump is seeking to overturn the Constitution of the United States and establish a dictatorship that will promote his allegedly warped views of what must be done to correct America’s domestic and foreign policies, suggesting that our form of government is so fragile that it can be subverted by one man.
The anger directed against Trump is unique, one might note, as it also includes demands to somehow overturn the popular will expressed in primaries and caucuses to obtain a candidate that is more in tune with what the Republican establishment is seeking to promote as the “national consensus.” That Trump is voicing an overwhelming American middle class perspective on the evils of mass illegal immigration matters not a whit to the Mandarins whose only concerns on that issue center on the availability of a supply of cheap labor to clean their McMansions and swimming pools.
The anti-Trump effort is being well funded, has included notable defections to the Democratic Party, has led to lists of Republican politicians who will not accept a Trump nomination or support a President Trump, and has even produced calls for a third party neo-Republican entity to run against him. Some other reactions are stupid, including Canadian neocon Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, calling for even more immigrants to the U.S., while talk radio extremist Glenn Beck has tweeted that if he had a knife and were able to get close to Trump he would have to keep on stabbing him.
To be sure, Trump has provided considerable fuel for the fire through his extraordinary ad libs about banning Muslims from the U.S., killing the families of terrorists and using torture. But mainstream politicians have already recommended and even done that much and more without the level of censure that Trump is receiving. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush have engaged in widespread killing of civilians, torture and assassinating families of suspected militants, to include American citizens, without any of the invective being leveled at Trump.
Indeed, Trump would appear to have a more sensible foreign policy in mind, consisting of avoiding unnecessary wars and “regime changes,” honoring the multilateral negotiated agreement with Iran, engaging diplomatically even with heads of state that we consider to be adversaries and encouraging Russia to fight ISIS. His three current opponents have recommended “carpet bombing” areas controlled by ISIS, fusing Syrian sand into nuclear radiating glass, provoking wars with both Russia and China, arming Ukraine, punching Vladimir Putin in the nose and sending in thousands of American soldiers to the Middle East. They are not in the least bothered by fattening up the already fat national security state with trillions more dollars while domestic needs go unaddressed. So who is the crazy one?
But there is one significant difference between Trump and the “establishment,” be they Democrats or Republicans that has not been highlighted. I would suggest that quite a lot of the depth and intensity of what we are experiencing is actually about Israel. Trump is the first high level politician aspirant within living memory to challenge the notion that the United States must stand by Israel no matter what Israel does. Even while affirming his affection for Israel, he has said that Washington must be even handed in its efforts to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, implying that Tel Aviv might have to make concessions.
Trump has also added insult to injury by delinking himself from the blandishments of Jewish political mega-donors, who largely call the tune for many in the GOP and among the Democrats, by telling them he doesn’t need their money and can’t be bought. His comments have challenged conventional interest group politicking in American and have predictably produced a firestorm reaction in the usual circles. Robert Kagan announced that he would be supporting Hillary, who famously has declared that she would immediately call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon taking office as a first step in moving the relationship with Tel Aviv to “the next level.” It is to be presumed that Kagan and his fellow neocons will be experiencing a welcoming vibe from at least some of the Democrats as the neoconservatives have always been liberals at heart on nearly all issues except foreign policy, rooted by them in the “unshakable and bipartisan bond” with Israel.
It is my opinion that the “I” word should be banned from American political discourse. Ironically, many American Jews are themselves uneasy about the place occupied by Israel in ongoing political debates, recognizing that it is both unhealthy in a democracy and reflective only of the extreme views of the hardline members of their own diaspora community. It is also unpleasantly all about Jews and money since the Republicans and other mouthpieces now piling on Trump are motivated largely by their own sinecures and the Sheldon Adelson type donations that might be forthcoming to the politically savvy candidates who say the right things about the conflict in the Middle East.
Slate’s Isaac Chotiner has noted a particularly odd speech by Senator Marco Rubio in which he spoke of his single electoral triumph in Minnesota before immediately jumping to the issue of Israel, as if on cue or by rote. It is a tendency that is not unique to him. I read through the transcript of the GOP debate that preceded Rubio’s sole victory, which in part reflected a competition to see who could promise to do most for Israel. Senator Ted Cruz stated that he “would stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel…and the alliance with Israel.” Governor John Kasich declared that he’s “been a supporter of Israel – a strong supporter of Israel longer than anyone on this stage.” Senator Marco Rubio indicated that “I will be on Israel’s side every single day because they are the only pro-American, free enterprise democracy in the entire Middle East.” Ben Carson called Israel not only a strategic partner but also an element in America’s “Judeo Christian foundation” that can never be rejected.
Quite a few assertions about Israel made by politicians are, of course, nonsense. It is not in alliance with the United States and is not a democracy for starters, but the real question becomes why is Israel part of the debate at all? It is because of concerns that the deep pocketed donors like Sheldon Adelson will join his good friend Haim Saban in funding Hillary if candidates do not say what he expects to hear. Saban has referred to Trump as a “clown” and attacked him because he would be “dangerous for Israel.”
And then there is the recent attack of the Beltway Midgets, a “a strongly worded letter” orchestrated by Eliot Cohen, a former Condoleezza Rice State Department appointee whose attachment to Israel might well be regarded as demented, that attracted the signatures of more than one hundred self-described GOP foreign policy “leaders,” declaring that “We are unable to support a party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head.” Quite a few of the signatories are well known neocons, including Max Boot, Robert Zoellick, Michael Chertoff, Eric Edelman, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, Kori Schake, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Ray Takeyh and Philip Zelikow. Boot has vilified Trump as “emerging as the number one threat to American security.” All the signatories were passionate supporters of the Iraq War, which Trump has correctly disparaged as a catastrophic foreign policy failure, and all of them are describable as strong supporters of Israel.
The friends of Benjamin Netanyahu in the United States rightly fear that someday the American people and government will come to their senses and regard Israel as just another friendly foreign state, without any “special relationship” attached. To counter that possibility, the lashing out against any public figure who dares to criticize Israel is both immediate and visceral. Note, for example, the fate of former President Jimmy Carter who was virtually excommunicated by the Democratic Party after he condemned Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.
But what the neocon subset of Israel’s powerful lobby fears most is something quite different – becoming irrelevant. They have weathered being wrong about nearly everything but what they particularly fear is finding themselves without a major political party whose foreign policy they can manipulate because that would cut off their funding from defense contractors and pro-Israel zealots. They will have to give up the emoluments that they have accumulated since hijacking the GOP under Ronald Reagan. They might have to abandon their corner offices and secretaries and could even have to find real jobs. And what would the Sunday morning talk shows be like without the Cheshire cat grin of Bill Kristol?
The end of the hypocrisy driven neocon ascendancy in foreign policy will be welcomed by many. Dan McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute has described the Trump hating neocons as “…soft skinned and well-perfumed keyboard warriors who eagerly send America’s sons and daughters to be slaughtered in wars that achieve nothing but the ascendance of new ‘bad guys’ used to justify ever more wars. And all of it pays very nicely for them.” Exactly.