Leave it to this guy to take a topic on which Trump absolutely deserves criticism and make a giant Godwin-y mess of it.
I do not think it’s “resonant of what you might see in the Third Reich” for a country’s leader to be boasting about how much he’s done for Jews or touting himself (in the words of an admirer) as the “King of Israel.” Not much of a Hitler vibe in that sentiment. I do think Yair Rosenberg is on target in identifying the problem with Trump complaining about Jewish Democrats’ supposed disloyalty to Israel. Trump isn’t anti-semitic — he seems to bear no animus towards Jews, if anything the opposite — but he does occasionally rely on the same stereotypes about them that are propagated by people who *are* anti-semitic. The difference in Trump’s case is that he doesn’t think those stereotypes are necessarily bad. American Jews harbor dual loyalty to the United States and Israel? Well, what’s wrong with that?
To Trump, the belief that Jews are foreign interlopers who use their wealth to serve their own clannish interests is not a negative — as it is for traditional anti-Semites — but rather a positive. He wants Jews to be his attorneys and manage his money, so that he, too, can be rich. He wants them in his political corner, so that he, too, can be powerful. He wants to buy politicians, just like they do. As a man who has always stood solely for his own naked self-interest, Trump does not see the anti-Semitic conception of the self-interested Jew as a complaint, but rather a compliment. He prioritizes his needs ahead of the national interest, and so he sees the idea that Jews might do the same with themselves or with Israel as entirely natural. He is the human embodiment of the Onion article “Affable anti-Semite Thinks The Jews Are Doing Super Job With The Media.”
This understanding also helps explain the most confusing aspect of Trump’s most recent anti-Semitic outburst. The president claimed that Democratic Jews are “disloyal” to Israel. But this is an inversion of the traditional dual loyalty trope, which charges that Jews are more loyal to their fellow Jews or Israel than to their home countries. Trump, by contrast, was arguing that Democratic Jews were insufficiently devoted to other Jews or to Israel — that they were not strong enough dual loyalists. In other words, he criticized American Jews for not conforming to the anti-Semitic stereotype. That’s because, as we’ve seen, he thinks such stereotypes are praiseworthy.
Read Rosenberg’s piece for specific examples of Trump nodding at Jewish stereotypes. The risk here is that, whether one means well or ill in embracing a stereotype, that embrace serves to mainstream it. If it becomes conventional wisdom in U.S. politics among allies of Jewish Americans that they rightly owe dual loyalty to Israel and America then the enemies of Jews have already won half their battle. “We all agree that Jews aren’t as loyal to the United States as the rest of us are; now all we need to do is decide whether that’s good or bad.” That’s not a hypothetical either: Rosenberg notes a particular case in South Korea, where admiration for Jewish culture turned almost overnight into cartoons about hook-nosed interlopers when American investor Paul Singer got involved in a merger involving Samsung. Trump meant well in his own way in his comments about “disloyalty,” I think, but he unwittingly made it a bit easier for less well intentioned people to press the charge of “dual loyalty.”
But is any of that “resonant of the Third Reich”? Ah, no. The problem with the Nazi leadership was not that their misguided but warm feelings towards Jews were exploited by other malefactors towards evil ends. That’s Beto for you, though: Why offer a measured and effective critique of demagoguery when you can turn the rhetorical speakers up to 11?
Exit question: What did he mean here in framing this as another attack on “immigrants”? Not all Jewish Americans are recent arrivals, buddy.
“I can think of nothing more un-American, more resonant with what you might see in the Third Reich, than what the president said. And if we're unwilling to see this for what it is…then we're going to lose this country,” O’Rourke says of Pres. Trump's comments on disloyalty pic.twitter.com/pZ5X3IfQOk
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 22, 2019