The key bit comes in the last 30 seconds of the clip, following a few minutes of criticism of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. We’re about to embark on an exciting news cycle of “To whom does Trump believe Jews owe ‘loyalty,’ exactly?”
President Trump on Rep. Tlaib: "Yesterday, I notice for the first time, Tlaib with the tears. All of a sudden, she starts with tears. I don't buy it…I've seen her in a very viscous mood at campaign rallies…I saw a woman that was violent and vicious and out of control." pic.twitter.com/4j2GgG5Ksn
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 20, 2019
Does he mean loyalty to Judaism? We don’t normally let politicians lecture members of a religious group on what makes them good or bad members of their own faith, especially when the politician in question isn’t a member of that faith. Presumably Jews themselves know best what makes a loyal Jew; given that 71 percent of them voted for Hillary three years ago and a heavy majority will vote for the Democrat again next year, most would disagree with his theological pronouncement here. Note that he’s not even saying that Jewish Democrats who specifically support Omar and Tlaib are bad Jews, he’s saying that Jewish Democrats who support the Democratic Party writ large in the age of Omar and Tlaib are, never mind that Omar’s BDS resolution was crushed in the House by a bipartisan vote a few weeks ago. He’s actually doing the same thing here that various lefties have tried to do to his own supporters when they claim that only racists would support the Trump-era GOP, imputing the worst motive to voters on the other side even though people choose to support a party for complicated reasons, and with various misgivings. Trump’s duplicating that but adding a fraught element of religious authenticity to it.
Or does he mean loyalty to Israel? That’d be worse since it would mean he thinks American Jews owe some duty of loyalty to a foreign country, a weird position for an American nationalist to take — and needless to say, waaaaay too close to the “dual loyalty” stereotype that Omar rightly got in trouble for when she claimed earlier this year that U.S. supporters of Israel evince “loyalty” to Tel Aviv. People threw a fit over that because of how it connected admirers of the Jewish state to the anti-semitic belief that Jews can’t be trusted to show loyalty to their home country the same way everyone else can. Trump’s pushing the same idea here but he seems to be endorsing it. American Jews *should* show more loyalty to a foreign state and one way to do that is to rethink their support for the opposition party here at home.
This isn’t the first time he’s suggested in passing that American Jews are subjects of Israel somehow, by the way:
Donald Trump referred to Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, as "your prime minister" in an address to a group of Jewish-American supporters on Saturday in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/w2TXPkDBNn
— Robert Mackey (@RobertMackey) April 7, 2019
Trump has said other … colorful things about Jews that jibe with anti-semitic stereotypes but he never seems to mean them in an unflattering way. Skilled with money, practiced at haggling, loyal to Israel — he appears to mean all of these things as compliments, notes Josh Barro. Yair Rosenberg compared Trump’s attitude to the one satirized here. It’s of a piece with the new strain of global nationalism that David Frum wrote about a few weeks ago, in which an authoritarian leader comes to power vowing to bar the foreigners who are invading and corrupting the country — but makes an explicit exception for Jews, who are welcome and valued. They’re still different, not quite like all the rest of us, but in their case it’s okay. Their differences are to be admired.
I don’t think either of those interpretations of what he meant by “disloyal” are going to fly, though, so the White will probably settle on something like this as the spin:
disloyalty to themselves….by definition any Jew who supports known antisemites is being disloyal to themselves.
— Matt Brooks (@mbrooksrjc) August 20, 2019
We don’t typically think of loyalty and disloyalty in terms of oneself. Loyalty by definition is a duty one owes to another, again raising the question of who the other is in this case. But since all of the other answers are uncomfortable, Brooks’s read on it will have to be the party line.