Trump: Jewish Americans Who Vote For Democrats Are Either Ignorant Or Disloyal
President Trump just tossed a hand grenade into the firestorm that American politics.
In response to yet more arguments over his attacks on Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the President suggested today that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are disloyal:
President Trump said Tuesday that Jewish people who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal as he railed against two congresswomen who have been critical of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
“I think Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump told reporters during an Oval Office meeting with the president of Romania.
Trump and the GOP have sought to win over Jewish voters from the Democratic Party by criticizing statements by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Both have criticized Israel’s government.
Trump last week urged Israel to block Tlaib and Omar from visiting the country, saying in a tweet that allowing the visit would show “great weakness.” An hour after Trump’s tweet, Israel denied the congresswomen entry.
But in stating that Jewish people who voted for Democrats were disloyal, Trump appeared to step into the same verbal quagmire about Jewish loyalty to the Israeli state that had drawn criticism to Omar earlier this year.
The Washington Post has more:
It’s not clear how many Jewish people there are in the United States in part because it’s not clear how one should properly define “Jewish.” The Post’s Emily Guskin explored the complexity of the issue last year, estimating that the number of Jewish people in America likely ranged from 5.7 million to 7.2 million — or, under a more expansive definition, up to 12 million.
And on Tuesday, President Trump told reporters that any members of that group who vote for Democrats, which is most of them, either “lack knowledge” or are “disloyal.”
The context for Trump’s comment was a reporter’s question about Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who were barred from entering Israel earlier this month following comments critical of the nation — and following advocacy for the ban from Trump. Tlaib was eventually granted entry to see her elderly grandmother, but she declined to go because of restrictions Israel placed on a visit.
Trump has repeatedly and expansively described both Omar and Tlaib as anti-Semitic, leveraging controversial comments Omar made about American politicians who support Israel (for which she apologized) and, more broadly, the pair’s criticisms of the country. Trump’s habit, though, is not to present a case for why an opponent is bad but, instead, to paint with a massively broad brush.
“You should see the horrible things that Tlaib has said about Israel,” Trump said, without identifying any such things. “You should see the things that the four of them have said about Israel over the last couple of years,” he continued, referring also to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). It would indeed be interesting to see what the four had said, since if they’ve all made repeated anti-Semitic comments, they have not risen to public attention. (Trump’s claimed to have a list of horrible things the four have done in the past but has never presented anything substantive.)
Specifically, Trump was asked about reducing aid to Israel as a result of Omar and Tlaib being barred from entry. Trump feigned shock.
“I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation. Where has the Democratic Party gone?” Trump said. “Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
There’s a remarkable irony here. Omar was criticized for a tweet which was interpreted as suggesting that American politicians had conflicting loyalties to the U.S. and Israel. “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress,” she wrote in a tweet following criticism for a similar comment she’d made in a speech. This was the brunt of the anti-Semitism charge against her earlier this year.
Trump’s comments are an explicit invocation of the primacy of Israel over other domestic politics. How could any Jewish American be so “disloyal” as to vote Democratic, he says, prompting the obvious question: Disloyal to whom?
Where has the Democratic Party gone, he asks, that it defends elected members of its party over Israel? The answer, of course, is that the party exists to defend its members, even in cases that are more obviously problematic than the scenario that Trump’s referring to with his expansive, overheated rhetoric. Trump expects the Democratic Party to put Israel’s concerns over its own in criticizing Omar’s positions? There’s the aforementioned irony, in case you hadn’t spotted it.
Here’s the video:
It was just yesterday, of course, that I noted the extent to which the relationship between Israel and the United States was becoming a partisan issue. This comment by the President goes far beyond that, though, and essentially questions the loyalty of any Jewish American who doesn’t vote for him and the Republican Party in the future. It’s unclear if Trump meant that they are disloyal to their Jewish faith and heritage, the United States, or Israel. Whatever the answer to that question is, though, doesn’t really matter. In making this argument Trump is essentially making the same anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” argument that Congresswoman Tlaib was forced to apologize for earlier this year.
There is no possible defense of this comment, of course. It’s as bigoted and stupid as the President’s comments about the “squad,” about Congressman Elijah Cummings and the City of Baltimore, and CNN anchor Don Lemon. It’s also accurate to state that this statement is as Anti-Semitic as anything that Congresswoman Tlaib and Omar have said since coming to Washington n January. It not only turns religion, faith, and ethnicity into a partisan issue, but it raises memories of the same “dual loyalty” argument that was made in France during the Dreyfuss affair, in Germany during the rise of the Nazis, or in Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe for centuries. If Trump thought that a statement like this would cause Jewish Americans to rally to the Republican Party he’s likely to find that he’s mistaken and that this is will likely reinforce the extent to which that particular voting block has been loyal to the Democratic Patty for decades now. It is offensive, it is un-Presidential, and itis un-American. It’s also classic Trump, and that’s just pathetic.