The Feds and the Pittsburgh Killer
The murder of eleven people at a Pittsburgh synagogue has been widely reported in the media as the worst attack on the American Jewish community in U.S. history. This is not necessarily true, but it enhances the media meme that the right-wing nutjob who committed the act was encouraged by President Trump's rhetoric. In fact, evidence suggests that the killer despises Trump, whom he evidently believes is a Jewish-influenced globalist. The attack has nothing to do with Trump, but as usual, it is being politicized by the left anyway. So the president's actions, personally addressing the scourge of anti-Semitism, ordering in federal authorities to prosecute the killer, and calling for the death penalty, are correct both morally and as a practical political matter.
The deadliest on the U.S. Jewish community was on 9/11, when an estimated 270-400 Jews died. Jews were not the sole target of the attack, but the selection of New York City as center of action was no accident. New York is the most Jewish city in the world outside of Israel, a fact not lost on the terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers.
Nor was the synagogue in Pittsburgh the largest specifically Jewish target for domestic terrorism. The largest hostage crisis involving the U.S. Jewish community was the takeover of the B'nai B'rith in Washington, D.C. in 1977, where 100 hostages were taken and held and, fortunately, eventually released.
What these attacks have in common, and what the media obscures, is that radical Islamists were involved, not right-wing extremists. It is the left that regularly acts as apologist for Islamic radicals, some of whom are within its ranks or allied (e.g., the Nation of Islam)
Thus, the attack allows the mainstream media to avoid the less comforting fact that the greatest threats to the American Jewish community come from Islamic extremists and their helpmates on the left. But the situation is what it is. A crazy associated with the so-called Alt-Right committed the act, and Trump needs to act accordingly.
So I disagree with Andrew McCarthy, who writes at National Review that the federal government ought to stay out of the prosecution of the Pittsburgh murderer. There is a moral imperative confronting Trump vis-à-vis the extremist right. Federal action will help address that, and, bluntly, it is better politics.
An unfortunate ancillary consequence of the Pittsburgh attack is that it will drive many Jews farther to the left, toward a movement that fundamentally is hostile to their interests. This aligns with a persistent cultural feeling within the Jewish community that the Republican Party is endemically hostile to Jews, though in the modern United States, there is almost no evidence of this, and in fact, the opposite is mostly the case.
Republicans have been making modest inroads in recent elections against monolithic Jewish support for Democrats, but the recent attack will likely allow Democrats to regain ground.
Breaking off even small parts of the Democrat coalition of minorities and grievance groups can yield critical benefits to Republicans during elections, especially in purple states with significant Jewish populations, like Florida. Trump actually appears to be doing this among black Americans and Latinos.
Among Jews, Trump did no worse than Bush II, and better than Bush I and McCain, winning about a quarter of the Jewish vote in the last election. He might have been expected to improve upon that, given the booming economy, his strong support of Israel, his administration's position on affirmative action (which disproportionately hurts Jews as well as Asians), and his own Jewish grandchildren.
That's not to say doing so is easy. Many liberal Jews self-identify more as "social justice warriors" than supporters of Israel and take extreme positions on Trump. A few months ago, my sister told a woman at her synagogue that she'd voted for Trump. The woman snarled, "Well, if I'd known that, I never would have befriended you!" and stormed off. Such nastiness is not appreciated among Jews any more than in the general population. The woman my sister met was not representative of most in the synagogue, at least in obsessiveness. People like her, as with angry leftist agitators nationwide, actually help Trump. But now this woman will feel vindicated, and some who might have otherwise shunned her rudeness and hostility will now see it justified.
Liberal Jews, perhaps more than any other identifiable group on the left, are virtue-signalers. They do this because the left doesn't see them as an oppressed minority, as opposed to just a group of generally well-to-do white people. To make up for it, these liberal Jews give more money, try harder to earn their SJW stripes, and have made a cottage industry out of the "Jew critical of Israel" stance.
The Pittsburgh attack plays well into this mindset and will give justification in the minds of many more moderate Jews to reject moving rightward. It will give them the "victim status" that other segments of the left claim but that American Jews have been denied.
A strong federal response led by President Trump is not legally necessary. However, it is morally imperative to demonstrate the administration's rejection of anti-Semitism and politically wise.