NY Times' take on Trump's Jewish 'disloyalty' remark is disingenuous
Predictably, President Trump's remark "I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty" caused a firestorm of righteous indignation from every direction. But as most objections were boilerplate political correctness, they were just boring. The exception was a New York Times op-ed by Bari Weiss in which she tried to recreate Trump's thinking. It really excited my curiosity because she did a rather good job of reverse-engineering Trump's mind.
I've been around enough tables with pro-Trump Jews to strongly suspect that this is a riff on a theme Mr. Trump himself has overheard at many dinners with Ivanka and Jared, the favorite daughter and dauphin: dismay that even those Jews who have appreciated the president's Israel policies — moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, cracking down on Iran — will never pull the lever for him.
Ms. Weiss went on quoting from one such imaginary conversation:
Look how much you've done. More than any other president. They should be grateful. Why can't they see that? Why can't they see that the Democratic Party has abandoned them? Meantime, you're more pro-Israel than most American Jews!
Bari Weiss (YoutTube screen grab).
As her argument for voting for Trump was so reasonable — for, indeed, she raises an excellent question — I could not wait to see how Ms. Weiss would now be able to climb down the mountain of common sense she got herself onto, and how she would manage to present the Democrats as the better alternative and prove that American Jews shouldn't vote for Trump.
It took a while, but finally I got to it. The dilemma for Jewish voters, per Ms. Weiss, is this:
Vote for a party whose base seems increasingly in thrall with newbie politicians who are unapologetic supporters of the B.D.S. movement, a new face of old anti-Semitism, even as the party's leadership remains pro-Israel. Or vote for the party led by a man who is loyal to nothing but himself, who actively sets Americans against one other, and, more, genuinely seems to thrill at creating a disunited state of America.
Simply put, Ms. Weiss solved her problem by countering Trump's specific policy positions for which he should reasonably expect the support of the American Jewish electorate with a gratuitous ad hominem attack on Trump that she combined with the ad hominem apologetics of the Democrats.
This is eminently dishonest. The whole problem with ad hominem argument is that it compares apples with oranges; in this instance, Ms. Weiss juxtaposes President Trump's specific policy positions against her view of his moral compass. That her allegations against Mr. Trump are totally unproven, and her praise of Democrats as pro-Israel is factually false, is beside the point. What's important here is that, having started the honest debate, she felt a need to abandon it.
Because she couldn't win it. If she kept the debate honest, how would it proceed? How would she describe the actual policy alternatives faced by Jewish voters? Ms. Weiss would have had no choice but to say something like "Vote for a party that, by rejoining the so-called Iran deal will all but ensure that Iran gets an atom bomb, or for a party that will prevent this from happening." Or to put it more generally: "Vote based on your irrational emotional inherited loyalties irrespective of actual policies or base your vote on a rational evaluation of what a party plans to do."
Once she put the question that way, once she started comparing apples to apples and policies to policies, the conclusion she would have to reach would have been very different, indeed. Loyalty "no matter what" — like Jewish 80% loyalty to the Democratic Party — is irrational, and hence, disastrous; it already resulted in the Iran "deal."
When mentioning "loyalty," Trump talks like a normal, rational person. Of course, he expects gratitude for very great favors done for Israel. Of course, he expects that American Jews should not only appreciate his policies, but wish to continue them, and therefore vote for him in 2020. Of course, it must be frustrating to him that simple causality seems not to work in politics.
It does not work because politics is largely based on irrationality of the electorate, exploited and manipulated by demagogues. Still, one hopes that reason will prevail and that American Jews will, in 2020, switch their voting pattern to give the plurality of their votes to Trump.
Let's be honest, Ms. Weiss. He well deserves it.