Via the Examiner, my sympathies to the MAGA diehards who spent last night spinning his comments in the Oval Office about the alleged “disloyalty” of Jewish Democrats. Usually he leaves enough room for ambiguity in the things he says that hairs can be split later in the name of defending him. In this case, it could have been argued that he didn’t mean Jewish Democrats owe loyalty to a foreign power, Israel, but merely loyalty to their own faith.

Which itself wouldn’t have been great. “If he was trying to say Jews would be disloyal to their faith by voting Democrat, he needs to shut right the heck up, because he is in no position to criticize somebody’s relationship to their faith,” wrote Philip Klein yesterday.

But this morning, as you’ll see below, he left no doubt that he had loyalty to Israel, not just to Judaism, in mind when he said what he said. Some of his closest friends had already understood him to mean that, in fact:

Normally it would go without saying that an American citizen owes no loyalty to any country except this one. Normally, in fact, nationalists would insist upon it. (America First!) Normally righties are rightly defensive on behalf of Jews when it’s suggested that “supporters of Israel” harbor a dual loyalty, as Ilhan Omar did a few months ago. But now here’s Trump suggesting that people — maybe not just Jewish Democrats either, although they were the targets of his criticism yesterday — do owe a certain loyalty to the Jewish state.

How our ostentatiously nationalist president came to endorse the idea of dual loyalty confounded me yesterday but I think Jay Michaelson cut to the heart of it. I’ve said before that Trumpian nationalism is really just tribalism in patriotic attire. Exactly, says Michaelson, so it makes sense that Trump would believe that a different “tribe” owes loyalty to a different country:

In the nationalist mind, nation equals ethnicity equals race equals language equals (more or less) religion. Jews should put Israel first, and fight for our group’s interests (as defined by the nationalist Right, of course), because that’s what groups do. Judaism isn’t a system of ethical values that, among other things, condemns the oppression of foreigners and marginalized people (see Exodus 22:21-22). It’s a volk, a national-religious-ethnic people, in competition with others for dominance and power.

The same is true for Britons, (Hindu) Indians, (Jewish) Israelis, Russians, (non-indigenous) Brazilians, and other national groups now governed by nationalists. The Steve Bannon-Vladimir Putin world is one in which selfish national groups compete against one another externally and purify themselves internally. That’s how they make their countries great again…

What’s anti-Semitic in Trump’s latest remark isn’t its invocation of Jewish disloyalty. What’s really anti-Semitic is the worldview it reveals, in which nations are defined monolithically by their majority groups.

We all owe loyalty to our own tribe. Many large tribes have evolved into nations. America is a tribe of mainly white Christian Europeans, at least to Trump; Israel is a tribe of Jews. Ergo, the American Jewish minority naturally would owe loyalty to Israel. You can see why that logic makes supporters of Israel nervous: Sure, Trump is speaking in Israel’s defense, but at the heart of his argument is the idea that Jews aren’t really American the way other Americans are. That idea is uncomfortable even in the hands of someone who’s friendly to them, as Trump is. In the hands of someone who isn’t, it’s poison.

By the way, he’s been on quite a tear today on the subject of Jews and Israel:

The “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God,” huh? He also said this today in the context of the trade war with China:

The “second coming” and “the chosen one” on the same day! If he starts speaking Aramaic, all bets are off. Here he is talking about Israel and loyalty.