Last week, during a live interview on a station that does little to hide its pro-Israel/Jewish leanings and on which I am privileged to appear occasionally, I was called a “globalist.” In the moment, I thought it was funny rather than insulting. This was only partially due to the fact the guy I was ostensibly debating was using a Trump version of Mad-Libs to answer questions and was dressed as such that he likely couldn’t cut it at rodeo clown school. My co-panelist exists in the ever-shrinking pool of “pundits” whose sole expertise is a willingness to go on TV and defend President Trump. I understand why bookers and producers have him on: He’s willing to say things most people find embarrassing, if not vile. But at the end of the day, I find that it’s hard to be insulted by someone who is essentially a caricature.
Nonetheless, while I could feel my blood pressure rising, it does not appear that I actually lost my temper on air. After the interview ended, I gleefully told friends that I’d been called a globalist as if I expected a new merit badge or a gold star.
That was on Thursday. Writing now, after the horrific events in Pittsburgh, I no longer see the humor. The accused murderer, Robert Bowers, accused President Trump of the same thing my interlocutor did a few night ago—calling the president a globalist (which is curious given Trump’s self-declaration of being a nationalist). But the term “globalist,” one I’m relatively certain Robert Bowers (or Chuck Boom) didn’t know before Donald Trump came down that golden escalator, has had me obsessing over an otherwise forgettable interview.
This is not about guns. This is not about having more people (professional and volunteer) running security at houses of worship. It is certainly not about both-siderism or what-aboutism – because yes, there are without a doubt people on the left who say and do atrocious things. This is about a climate in which 80 percent of voters “say they are concerned that the negative tone and lack of civility in Washington will lead to violence or acts of terror” and a plurality of voters (42 percent) say that President Trump is to blame.
Bowers is a hate filled monster. He hates Jews, so he decided to kill some. It’s that simple. That it took place at a period of time in America that’s seen a resurgence in the kinds of things that Jews through the generations have learned to worry about is tragically ancillary.
Would this have happened if Hillary Clinton were president? Perhaps. But that’s not a useful counterfactual road to go down. Did Bowers (or accused mail-bomber Cesar Sayoc) do this because he thought Donald Trump wanted him to? Reportedly, Bowers was no Trump supporter, although he apparently believed some Trump-spread conspiracy theories. He just hated Jews. But was he enabled because his putrid kind feels they’ve been given license to emerge from the shadows they’ve been hiding in? Almost certainly. Undeniably, Trumpian comments like “fine people on both sides” and dog-whistling campaign adscontributed to that feeling of freedom.
What we know is the reality we live in: A reality in which Donald Trump’s endless and undeniable corrosive rhetoric, the (elected) Republican Party’s unwillingness to say anything to stop him, Fox News’ unyielding support, and Trump’s embrace of and support from the alt-right has created an environment where this was nearly inevitable. Sadly, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, correctly tweeted: “Re: Trump’s comments just now [“you wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age”]: It’s fair to say that most Jews believe that these sorts of acts are imaginable and even predictable.”
During the campaign and even at the start of the administration, I was willing to attribute the miserable things President Trump was saying to his being ill-informed, uninterested and unaware or being taken advantage of by the likes of Steve Bannon or Stephen Miller. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because the idea of someone occupying the Oval Office saying and doing the things he was saying and doing it maliciously was too unnerving to take seriously, let alone recognize as reality. Maybe he really wasn’t anti-Semitic—after all, he has Jewish grandchildren.
The tragic reality is that Trump is too ill informed, lazy, misguided, distracted, self-absorbed and pitying, reckless, fatuous, and consumed with avarice to understand what is happening or that his words have any meaning besides getting angry people to applaud for him at rallies. At this point all he craves is the love of his base and Fox News. If the people who happen to be adulating him are racists, xenophobes and anti- Semites, what difference could that make to him? They’re clapping and cheering. The president himself said he has no intention of toning down the rhetoric; he knows it is a necessary tool to mollify his ever-shrinking base. To paraphrase Andrew Gillum, “the racists think he’s a racist”—and Trump uses that to his advantage, because it’s the only political lifeline he has. He knows the power of the Bully Pulpit so excusing him for all of his tragic faults is just not feasible.
While many in Israel and too many Jewish voters in the United States continue to act like fanboys and come up with excuses for Donald Trump, I’m unwilling to forgive him for the fetid climate he has created because he nominated Nikki Haley or moved the embassy 40 miles or walked away from the Iran Deal.
Not a day has gone by since November 8, 2016 that I haven’t been happy and thankful that I voted for Hillary Clinton. I don’t know how I’ll explain this four (to eight) year time period to my offspring. I can only hope the path we’re currently on as a country veers back towards the realm of decency and we can wash ourselves of the stink we’ve all acquired. The first thing we can do is recognize reality and stop making excuses. The second thing is go and vote and elect people to office who will work to get us on a better path. Because if we don’t, we can see the direction this president is taking the country.