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“The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error” — Hannah Arendt.
The quote above seems to explain a great deal about both President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The pair of leaders are scheduled to meet with representatives of the UAE and Oman at the White House today to sign a normalization agreement.
Events and revelations of the past few days have underscored how neither of these two men can admit to having made any mistakes. Netanyahu gave a press conference Sunday night, just one hour before he headed to Ben Gurion airport. The purpose of the press conference was to announce a curfew on Israel slated to begin Friday afternoon, right before the start of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.
The government had no choice regarding imposition of a second lockdown, as the Coronavirus infection rate in Israel is soaring; as Israeli hospitals are close to being overwhelmed. By all measurements, the need to reinstate a curfew points to a significant failure on the part of the government; failure which resulted from the reckless manner in which Israel reopened its economy after the first shutdown, together with the government’s inability to reimpose almost any restriction during the three months in which the numbers of those infected have been steadily going up.
At his pre-boarding press conference, Netanyahu not only refused to admit to making any mistakes in his handling of any aspect of the Coronavirus. instead, the Prime Minister explained that the reason Israel’s GDP decreased less than some other countries during this crisis was precisely because we opened our schools and economy’s so quickly — thus, proving it was the right decision.
After applauding his owns actions, Netanyahu ended his press conference, saying he “had a plane to catch,” leaving behind a nation about to go back into lockdown. Netanyahu is only the first among equals; in dozens of interviews over the last week, not one Israeli minister (Health, Education Finance, Defense, and more) would admit anyone made any mistakes in managing the Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Trump, Netanyahu’s partner in reaching agreements with the Gulf States, has taken infallibility to a whole new level. Even though the recent revelation of the tapes made by Bob Woodard makes it clear Trump knew of the deadly potential of the Coronavirus, the President told the American people that COVID-19 did not present a threat. Trump supporters acted accordingly, without doubt, resulting in thousands of needless deaths. However, instead of admitting he had been wrong about the disease, Trump has doubled down, holding indoor rallies — full of unmasked participants.
Normalization with the Gulf States is important for Israel and will bring forth long term positive impact on the country. For President Trump, forging this agreement is a clear foreign policy accomplishment, in a Presidency that has been devoid of many foreign policy achievements.
However, the primary issue on the minds of most Americans and a majority of Israelis these days is COVID-19. If our leaders could for once admit— “We are sorry, we made mistakes,” they might find a public more willing to afford them the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, At the moment, the hope that either of these leaders might see the error of their ways and publicly accept responsibility for their failures of the last six months seems like a pipe dream. Whatever foreign policy victory both Trump and Netanyahu achieve, it will be difficult to wipe away the stain of their collective failures when it comes to COVID-19.
Trump's voters will never admit they were wrong — even in the face of national catastrophe
By Amanda Marcotte
Published April 13, 2020 1:00PM (EDT)
Donald Trump (Getty Images/AP Photo/Salon)
In the age of the coronavirus, with most of us locked away in our homes, we turn to numbers to get a sense of what the hell is happening in this country. Number of diagnosed cases of the novel coronavirus: 555,371, though experts believe the real number is far higher due to under-testing. Number of deaths: 22,056, though experts believe the real number is far higher because of people who die at home or have their deaths misclassified. Number of newly unemployed: 17 million, though experts believe it's likely higher because so many laid-off workers were unable to file for unemployment. Unemployment rate: 13%, and there are concerns it could go as high or higher than the unemployment rate during the Great Depression.
There's one number that's holding steady, however, and it's the number that may very well decide if we are looking at four more years of this hellscape or if we'll get new leadership that actually takes competence in government seriously: Donald Trump's approval rating. That hasn't budged below its baseline of around 40 to 42%. The initial boost Trump got from the rally-round-the-flag effect during this crisis has pretty much evaporated. But so far, that baseline is as immovable as Trump is from a TV camera.
In a sane country, the president's approval rating would be cratering as people absorbed the should-be-indisputable fact that this crisis is his fault. The evidence for that is not exactly hidden! There have been repeated blockbuster reports laying out how Trump resisted taking any measures that would have slowed the spread of the virus for months, believing that people would never notice disease and death so long as he kept saying it wasn't real.
Just this weekend, there was another such report, a damning New York Times article that laid out Trump rejected or ignored warnings from health officials and blocked any useful response in favor of propaganda. Meanwhile, the coronavirus spread throughout the country, indifferent to Trump's apparent belief that lying about viruses make them go away.
And yet, that baseline approval rating doesn't budge, even as Trump voters cannot deny the soaring number of COVID-19 cases and the subsequent economic devastation.
The most apparent cause of this delusional behavior on behalf of nearly half of American voters is that these folks are encased in a Fox News bubble. Trump voters have been encouraged to reject legitimate news sources as "fake news," and instead to get all their information from Trump-worshipping radio and cable hosts who spent months minimizing the virus and then switched seamlessly to swooning over how Trump will single-handedly defeat it with his magical snake-oil cures. Of course, these folks also listen to Trump himself, a shameless liar who will declare victory no matter how badly he fails.
But that explanation only goes so far, in no small part because the propaganda Trump voters inhale is so transparently stupid. Trump voters are clearly smart enough to tie their shoes and find their way to a voting booth, so it's unlikely that they are lacking the baseline mental acuity necessary to see through the ham-fisted manipulations on offer from Trump and Fox News.
For instance, Fox News host Sean Hannity got all self-righteous on-air last week, accusing the mainstream media of downplaying the virus in January.
But it's unlikely that even the dimmest bulbs in his audience will forget that, in February and March — which, for those keeping track, are the months that come after January — Hannity himself accused the mainstream media of "fear-mongering" about the virus, falsely claimed that the seasonal flu is "much more dangerous" and repeatedly argued that Trump had everything under control. Hannity was obsessed with pushing this "don't worry" message, so that even the most casual Fox viewer received it.
Trump's own spin efforts are also comical, at least in how delusional and unconvincing they are. On Sunday, Trump actually tried to spin the declaration of a 50-state national emergency as if it were a testament to his leadership:
For the first time in history there is a fully signed Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 50 States. We are winning, and will win, the war on the Invisible Enemy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
This is, of course, similar to setting your own house on fire and, as you stand in the smoldering remains, declaring yourself a very stable genius for remembering how to dial 911.
Few people, if any, are actually stupid enough to fall for this. No, the ugly truth is that Trump voters are playing along with these obvious lies because they cannot accept the alternative, which is to admit it was dumb and bad to vote for Trump in the first place.
Back in 2017, I wrote a lengthy feature predicting just this: No matter how bad things get under Trump, his voters will stand by him rather than admit they were wrong to vote for him in the first place. The psychological experts I spoke with explained that admitting you're wrong is tough for anyone, because it's such a blow to the ego.
But what the past few years have shown us is that the already difficult task of admitting you are wrong is even harder for conservatives, because it will also require recognizing the unthinkable possibility that liberals were right. Just as Trump was warned for months about the coronavirus, conservatives were warned for literally a year and a half in 2015 and 2016 that voting for Trump — a dimwitted reality TV star who is all ego and no brains — would result in disaster. To face reality now would mean giving into the twin humiliations of admitting they were wrong and the liberals were right, a double humiliation that is clearly too painful to bear.
Trump, being a terminal narcissist, understands the importance of ego preservation implicitly, which is why he often reframes criticism of his own failures as attacks on the people who voted for him. During impeachment, this worked beautifully. Republican voters could see as well as anyone that Trump was guilty as hell, and that his blackmail scheme against the Ukrainian president was just the latest in a pattern of lifelong disregard for the law. But that 42% would rather deny the facts in front of their nose than admit that they were wrong and the Democrats were right.
Back then, it seemed the stakes couldn't get higher, but now they've been raised about as high as they can get, with the body count piling up and the economy in meltdown. In the face of all that, however, conservatives apparently continue to believe that saving face matters more than anything — more than saving American lives and more than rescuing the economy. You've heard the expression about a person who refuses to admit he's wrong: "This is the hill he'll die on." For the 42% or so who can't quit Donald Trump no matter what, that hill is starting to look less metaphorical and more literal every day.
Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.
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The Dark “Divinity” of Donald Trump
Axios reported this morning that the Trump administration is now arguing that the President cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice because the constitution declares he is the chief law enforcement officer of the land. Early in the Trumpian onslaught against our country last year, I began to liken him unto a god of sorts, a “dark” god who had a chthonic grip on a significant portion of the American population. This was best illustrated in his brazen declaration that he could shoot someone in the streets of Manhattan and not lose support. Trump and his handlers are very astute in grasping when he pushes the limits and immediately huddle together and discuss, “Now, how do we justify this?” Simple denial has worked faithfully for him as the base of his party believes everything he says and the rest of the party marches lamely in tow as they too have succumbed to the intoxicating siren song of power. The Republican Party has created a monster which many of them realize they cannot control but they cannot admit this because, like Trump, they cannot admit having made a mistake.
But this phenomenon is an expression of not just the Republican Party but of the American psyche. If we find the humility we will have to acknowledge that our nation has been, as the prophet Daniel put it, “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Our inherent arrogance and smugness is now egregiously apparent for all to see and many can respond only with a lame, “Oh, that is not true. That is fake news.” One historical example is in the Manifest Destiny theme in American history when we were consumed with the belief that God had brought us to this new world, had created us as a nation, and then given us the “manifest” task of carrying our “truth, justice, and the American way” westward to the Pacific Ocean. This “divine” mandate meant that the Native Americans were merely an obstacle and could be slaughtered in the interest of our goal being accomplished. “God is leading us,” we said, and how can one argue with God?
The attitude that was present then, and did bring these United States to the world stage, is now having the dark, daemonic dimension of that Manifest Destiny impulse exposed. Our task now is having the humility to let “self-awareness” dawn upon us, “self-awareness” being merely the light of day which any tribe always resists experiencing. This cultural blindness is not exclusive to our tribe by any means. It is present with all individuals and all cultures but now we are in the position where we could humbly acknowledge this human frailty and grow from the experience. But, as Auden told us, “When truth met him, and held out her hand, we clung in panic to our tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.” And it is very interesting to note that significant numbers of Christians in our country…especially evangelicals…adamantly remain ensconced in their arrogance as they too, just like Trump, cannot admit that they made a mistake.
Republicans' own actions reveal they're lying about why they want to acquit Trump
'Tis the night before his second impeachment trial, and all through the Senate, cowardly Republicans are still grasping for some way to let Donald Trump off the hook while not looking complicit in his attempt to violently overthrow the government by sending a fascist crowd to storm the Capitol. (Hint: It's impossible.) So Republicans are reaching for their most potent weapon in the battle to convince the D.C. cocktail party circuit that they're still respectable statesmen: the welcoming arms of Politico, the beltway media outlet always willing to lend a sympathetic ear to pathetic excuses and amplify the silliest of GOP spin in the name of neutrality.
"Where Democrats and Republicans agree on Trump," read a Monday morning headline at Politico. "Both parties want to be rid of him. They just differ on the means."
Even without reading the full piece, one can tell this is hoary nonsense, as even the conventional wisdom holds that Republicans always make it a point to disagree with Democrats, even on basic questions of fact. "Always be 'triggering' the liberals" has eclipsed any actual ideology as their main organizing principle. Still, we here at Salon buck the trends popularized by social media and make a point to actually read an article we deign to comment on. In this case, however, it does not improve the situation.
"Donald Trump's second impeachment trial in as many years has Democrats and Republicans in rare agreement: Most senators want to get it over with, and they want the former president to go away," writes Andrew Desiderio.
As is typical with the dumber of GOP talking points, this one appears to have originated with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was whining two weeks ago, "To coin a phrase, I think it's time to move on." (Fact check: Cruz did not coin the phrase "it's time to move on.")
One thing is true: Senate Republicans would like the D.C. press to believe they're eager to move past Trump.
But they do not actually want to move past Trump. We know this for a very simple reason: Senate Republicans refuse to do the one thing that would put Trump in the rearview mirror, which is to convict him in the upcoming impeachment trial. Convicting Trump would bar him from ever running for office again. That's as close to a clean slate as Republicans will ever get, even though they don't deserve it. Taking away that ability from Trump de-fangs him. Without the threat of running for office, he can't make good on his threat to start a third party — or won't, as Trump doesn't do anything that isn't centered on himself and his ego. Without the ability to run for office, the playing field opens up for all those other Republicans with dreams of running for president in 2024.
Here is the excuse that was given to Politico: "Republicans, particularly those nervous about Trump's continued stranglehold on the GOP, just don't want to poke the bear." As an anonymous GOP senator told Desiderio, "If he were to be convicted, there would be an uproar among his supporters. And it would probably energize them."
This senator supposedly wanted to remain anonymous "to candidly address the internal party dynamic." Likelier, they just don't want to sign their name to such a stupid argument. After all, who cares if Trump's biggest fans are "energized"? What can they get energized around, if Trump can't run for office? Tweeting abuse at feminists? Making more dumb costumes to wear at their mask-free fascist getdowns? Whining on family Zoom calls about Black athletes taking a knee?
We know one thing they can't get energized around if Trump is convicted: Another Trump run for the White House. Because that ain't happening if he's legally barred from office — hence one of the main points of an impeachment trial.
It's true Trump's fans could have another violent revolt — though it would be harder with so many of the most fanatical in jail — but again, this underscores the idiocy of this argument. Trump is a socipathic monster whose fan base rejects democracy and is all ginned up on violent rhetoric. Giving Trump and his followers what they want is a terrible idea. What actually needs to happen is for Trump to face consequences, which is the only thing that history shows tends to slow him down.
"I think he's going to be a viable leader of the Republican Party," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said of Trump to Politico. "He's very popular. And he's going to get acquitted."
Graham is leaning heavily on the passive voice as if he and his fellow Senate Republicans are merely conduits for the will of Trump's base. But Trump's popularity and future as a Republican leader depends on that acquittal. Without it, he's nothing — even to his own base.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: Trump's base is not here for Trump. There really aren't millions of Americans whose purest political desire lies in a short-fingered wannabe mafioso clad in a fake tan and an ill-fitting suit. What they like about Trump is that he's a naked racist and has access to power. Without the latter, Trump is little more than another flavor of David Duke, a washed-up bigot, except a billion dollars in debt and living in a dilapidated and overpriced country club. Trump isn't even a very good pundit. His followers have Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh, if they want people expressing the same ideas but with a little more talent and flair.
If Trump doesn't provide an avenue to power for his followers, they will find some other leader who speaks to their white supremacist yearnings. And we, as a nation, will have a whole new set of problems, but at least they won't be Trump-shaped problems.
Don't let Senate Republicans fool you with these pantomimes of powerlessness in the face of the almighty "base." They have the power to turn Trump's already dimming light completely off. The man isn't a wizard. He's not even a successful businessman. His coup failed. He is on the precipice of total irrelevance, and only needs the gentlest of pushes to fall into the abyss, reduced to shilling fake cancer cures on his email list.
No, the reason Republicans don't end Trump's political relevance here and now is because they don't want to. They, not the voters, are the ones who can't quit Trump, even though Trump's insurrection directly threatened the lives of congressional Republicans along with their Democratic colleagues. After all, Trump's efforts to simply overturn democracy were simply a bolder and more direct version of the years of voter suppression Republicans have engaged in. Republicans can't quite bring themselves to punish Trump for inciting an insurrection because, even if they can't admit it to Politico reporters, they support his actions and are only making excuses because he failed. Anything else they say is just a cover-up for their complicity.
Netanyahu's Trump-style campaign to stop Israel's transfer of power
On the verge of being replaced after 12 years in power, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a desperate, Trump-style campaign to de-legitimize the incoming government and accuse its leaders of perpetrating “the fraud of the century."
Why it matters: The situation has become so tense — with members of the Israeli Knesset facing death threats and demonstrations from angry Netanyahu supporters outside their homes — that the director of Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency issued a rare warning of potential political violence.
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The backstory: Netanyahu failed to form a government after Israel's fourth consecutive election in March, after which Naftali Bennett — a right-wing former Netanyahu protege — cut a power-sharing deal with the "anti-Netanyahu bloc" to become the next prime minister.
Netanyahu's best hopes of sabotaging the new government involve convincing members of Bennett's Yamina party to abandon the alliance before it can be sworn in.
But some members of Netanyahu's base appear to be taking that pressure to an extreme. Yamina members were given full security details after — in addition to the death threats and protests outside their homes — one member was followed by a suspicious car for a full day.
What they're saying: Netanyahu initially refused to condemn the incitement against Bennett and his allies, but on Monday afternoon he condemned the violent rhetoric on "every side" and falsely claimed that the media had refused to cover similar incitement against his family.
He said the accusations of incitement were a biased attempt to silence the right, and complained that Facebook and Twitter had suspended the accounts of his son and several of his supporters.
The speech drew comparisons to the video Donald Trump released during the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, calling for the protesters to "go home" while also praising them and repeating his false claim that he won in a "landslide."
In Monday's speech, Netanyahu also doubled down on his attacks against Bennett and said his power-sharing government with opposition leader Yair Lapid was “the biggest election fraud in history."
Netanyahu was referring to the fact that Bennett had promised during the campaign not to join forces with Lapid.
Although the incoming government will include mainly centrist and right-wing members, Netanyahu called it “a dangerous left-wing government” and told his party members, "don’t be afraid to go after them."
The other side: Bennett responded with a speech of his own during the evening news, echoing the tone used by Joe Biden on Jan. 6 and calling on Netanyahu to commit to a peaceful transition of power.
“Mr. Netanyahu, don’t leave scorched earth behind you," Bennett said.
While Bennett was speaking, Netanyahu appeared live on the Israeli equivalent of the right-wing One America News channel and called Bennett a "liar" and a "fraud."
Netanyahu's Likud party has also claimed on Twitter (in English) that Bennett and Lapid would turn Israel into a "dark dictatorship" akin to North Korea.
What to watch: Bennett and Lapid need to survive a confidence vote in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, to ensure they take power.
Knesset speaker Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, was caught on a hot mic saying he would schedule that vote when it "serves us best," rather than following the tradition of scheduling it as soon as possible.
Levin announced on Tuesday that the vote would be Sunday, forcing Bennett and Lapid to submit their final coalition agreement two days before the vote rather than one, because they can't submit it on a Saturday.
That gives Netanyahu's Likud party more time to scrutinize and criticize the agreement in hopes of convincing right-wing members of the new coalition to abandon it.
What’s next: If the confidence vote succeeds, the swearing in of the new government will take place on Sunday at 9am ET. Netanyahu is expected to give a speech beforehand attacking the incoming government.
On Monday morning, Bennett is expected to enter the prime minister’s office in an official ceremony. Usually the outgoing prime minister attends to congratulate his successor, but it's unclear whether Netanyahu will do so.
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The Defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu
In 2002, three years after losing the Israeli premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu went on a popular television show and spoke of a political comeback. His interviewer was a telegenic broadcaster with gelled black hair named Yair Lapid. “When you left,” Lapid began, “there were people who cried and said they would kill themselves, and there were others who said they would leave the country if you were ever elected again. Do you know why you elicit such strong reactions in people?”
“In some, yes,” Netanyahu replied. He first took office in 1996, a year after a Jewish extremist assassinated the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, for spearheading the Oslo Accords. A month before the assassination, Netanyahu took part in a demonstration, in Jerusalem, in which protesters chanted “Death to Rabin.” In his interview with Lapid, he allowed that he might have had a hand in the rising tensions, calling Rabin’s murder a “terrible trauma.” There was, in his answer then, a rare modicum of self-reflection that he would have done well to revisit in recent days, as similar forces of incitement and violence reëmerged.
At one point in their interview, Lapid asked Netanyahu, “Do you intend to be the next Prime Minister of Israel, yes or no?” “The answer is yes,” Netanyahu said. It took him years to position himself as the undisputed leader of an increasingly hawkish and nationalist Likud. A key moment came in 2005 when, while serving as finance minister in a government headed by Ariel Sharon, also of Likud, Netanyahu publicly quit his position over Sharon’s decision to pull Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip. By 2009, Sharon had suffered a major stroke, and his replacement, Ehud Olmert, mired in corruption investigations, had announced that he was stepping down from the Prime Minister’s seat. After elections that year, Netanyahu returned to the premiership and felt immediate pressure from the Obama Administration to renew peace negotiations with the Palestinians. He did so reluctantly, at one point making a landmark speech in which he expressed support for a two-state solution. But his heart never seemed to be in it. With time, he turned his back on the issue and instead focussed inward, on perceived “enemies from within”: human-rights groups, N.G.O.s.
By whipping up populist rage against so-called Israeli élites—of which he was decidedly one—Netanyahu presided over an increasingly sectarian and divided country. He managed to cling to power for twelve years, becoming Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister. But four inconclusive election cycles in the past two years have led to political gridlock and increasing public fury. Last week, Lapid—by now a seasoned centrist politician with hair as white as Netanyahu’s—announced that he had managed to form a working coalition with Naftali Bennett, the pro-settler leader of a small ultranationalist party, and six other parties. On Sunday, this new government was set to be sworn in after a vote in parliament. Bennett, who was once Netanyahu’s chief of staff, will serve as Prime Minister, with Lapid set to replace him in 2023.
Their coalition is one of extremely unlikely allies. In many cases, they are united only by their disdain for Netanyahu. The group includes a nationalist party led by a Russian émigré a hawkish new right-wing party two decidedly left-wing parties, respectively headed by a woman and an openly gay man and, for the first time ever in an Israeli coalition, an Arab party. To form what is known in Israel as the “change government” required a leap of faith on the part of all the party leaders. It also meant that Bennett broke his campaign promise that he would not strike a deal to form a unity government with Lapid, or participate in the establishment of a government headed by him. And so, Bennett, who will serve as Israel’s first religious, kippa-wearing Prime Minister, has become something of a pariah among the ultra-Orthodox, who have had representation in most coalitions since the late nineteen-seventies. In response, a flyer began to circulate in right-wing circles depicting a Photoshopped Bennett in an Arab kaffiyeh, with the words “The Liar” written above—an image eerily reminiscent of doctored posters of Rabin in the days leading up to his murder.
Despite his earlier reflections on Rabin, Netanyahu has fuelled many of the threats against the incoming coalition members. Anshel Pfeffer, the author of “Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu,” told me, “He can’t accept the fact that the Israeli public has turned him down, and he personally believes that without him Israel is destined for disaster.” In a Facebook post on June 4th, Netanyahu railed against homespun “spies”—a thinly veiled attack against Bennett and another lawmaker, Ayelet Shaked, who, like Bennett, had served as his close aide. A day later, Israel’s head of internal security services issued a stern and extraordinary warning against inciting political violence. He did not mention Netanyahu by name, but the implication was clear. A day after the warning, Netanyahu went on the airwaves and called Arab politicians serving in the new government “supporters of terrorism.” Several right-wing lawmakers have now received a security detail as protesters made death threats against them and their families for joining the new government. Olmert, who served as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2009, told me, “The division of Israeli society, the fact that rabbis, acting on Bibi’s orders, are calling Knesset members traitors, the incitement against Arabs—that’s a situation I don’t recall ever happening in the history of Israel.”
For all of Netanyahu’s dismissal of the new coalition, it was formed as a direct result of his governance. Under a government that delegitimized any form of dissent, traditional concepts of left and right have become somewhat meaningless. Lapid himself hinted at these changing political terms when I interviewed him back in 2018. When I pointed out the apparent paradox between his growing popularity in Israel and the country’s right-leaning turn, he did not see a contradiction. “When people ask about my party, I say that we’re a national-liberal party,” he said. “That defines us much more than left, right, or center.” He went on, adding, “The real political fight is between populists and responsible leaders.”
That Netanyahu and his supporters have taken to branding hard-right politicians in treasonous terms once reserved for peacenik leaders shows the rightward drift of Israeli politics under his governance. It also exposes the extent to which fealty to him has become synonymous with fealty to the country. During his years in power, Netanyahu oversaw a flourishing economy, led by a booming high-tech sector, and made Israel a world leader in coronavirus vaccinations—two unequivocal accomplishments. (It is worth pointing out the rising levels of inequality as a consequence of the former, and the country’s robust socialized health system as a key factor in terms of the latter.) But by consolidating a right-wing majority—and using it to incite a backlash against entire segments of the public and to attack the legitimacy and independence of democratic institutions, chief among them the judiciary and the press—he has done damage to Israeli democracy that may be long-lasting. Netanyahu “created three Jewish peoples in a single country—one in the territories and two, traitors and rightists, inside Israel,” Zvi Bar’el, a columnist for the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote last week. The country’s political culture has become one that virtually excludes its Arab citizens, who comprise an estimated twenty per cent of the population. This became evident with the passing, in 2018, of a law enshrining Israel’s status as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”—not one of all its citizens.
Yet perhaps nothing has been more momentous than Netanyahu’s abandonment of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For years, Israeli leaders spoke of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as a temporary reality, an uncomfortable step on the path toward a two-state solution. Netanyahu has not only stopped talking that way but, under his rule, Jewish settlements in the West Bank have flourished: there are now nearly half a million settlers living there, not including East Jerusalem, according to some estimates—roughly three times the number when Netanyahu first took office. This reality makes drawing a contiguous Palestinian state extremely difficult. With Israel’s recent signing of normalization agreements with countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, Arab countries no longer demand an independent Palestinian state as a precondition for diplomatic ties with Israel. Because of Netanyahu, “The vision of a two-state solution is clinically dead,” Aida Touma-Sliman, a lawmaker from the Joint List alliance of predominantly Arab parties, told me this week. “If you measure a politician by their ability to implement a vision, he succeeded—and that’s what makes him so dangerous.”
Will the Covert War Against Iran Go Overt?
Being that the media is in lockstep on reporting only a handful of issues (Pandemic, Trump is bad, Social Justice), most have missed the fact that almost daily now, a highly sensitive and/or strategic sites in Iran have mysteriously gone up in flames…or more precisely, in explosions. The highly coordinated fashion at which these sensitive Iranian sites were attacked has all the hallmarks of state level sponsorship. Iran no doubt knows this and by this time has identified the sponsors behind the attacks as Israel and the United States. Even if this was a false flag by a third-party actor, the result will be the same. Iran must decisively retaliate. When it does, it very well may trigger the war Israel and their Deep State allies in Washington have sought. Further, the Trump Administration needs an issue more than ever to refocus the nation from the current domestic issues. A war with Iran would certainly do it. Unfortunately, any war with Iran will be disastrous for all parties. Iran will be smashed, but the cost to the United States doing it will make it a Pyrrhic victory at best.
A quick summary of sites hit in Iran include the Natanz nuclear facility, a missile facility, a power plant, a medical facility, industrial sites, and now the Port of Bushehr with seven ships aflame. The incidents happened all within approximately a month timeframe making any argument of random bad luck ludicrous. This is a deliberate campaign being covertly waged to cripple Iran. My point is not to justify or condemn the attacks, but rather, to warn that there are always consequences. In fact, I do not find it coincidental that just days after the USS Bonhomme Richard was engulfed in flames and is currently burning to the water line while at port in San Diego, seven Iranian ships in port at Bushehr went up in flames today. Through the lens of covert tit-for-tat, this is no coincidence. In addition, it is only a matter of time before there is a showdown between the United States and Iran over its oil tankers supplying Venezuela. President Trump has gone so far as to hint that major action against Venezuela, an ally of Iran, will occur soon without elaborating. My guess is the two issues…Iran and Venezuela, will be jointly addressed in whatever action President Trump orders.
5 epic failures of Donald Trump that illustrate the U.S.’s decline
By Richard Phillips
Published August 29, 2020 10:31AM (EDT)
Trump hugging the American flag, Colin Kaepernick kneeling, and US troops in Afghanistan (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on The Globalist.
For all of his bombast, under the leadership of Donald J. Trump the United States has actually grown more and more to resemble a developing nation.
As it happens, the onset of the pandemic tore the mask off all of the rot that had been festering just below the surface of U.S. politics and society. Donald J. Trump, backed by his Republican Party, is the very face of this decline, which manifests itself in five epic failures.
Failure 1: The great giveaway to the rich
The first reason that the United States is rapidly transforming itself into a developing nation is that its President has made one particularly well-calculated move: He has been able to harness the rapacious greed that is at the heart of Republican politics and simultaneously trample on the tepid moderation that is inherent in Democratic politics.
This had already fully manifested itself prior to the extraordinary fiscal interventions related to the pandemic. Soon after Trump took office in 2017, the United States already embarked on a course of fiscal profligacy.
It successfully enacted tax cuts that baked trillion-dollar deficits into the U.S. economy for as far as the eye can see.
As a consequence, U.S. federal debt has become unsustainable without the Fed's printing press — which has pushed past the limits of rational monetary policy.
More and more, the United States' fiscal and monetary accounts have come to resemble those of poorly managed developing nations.
Instead of following long-accepted socio-economic practices, President Trump uses lies and illusion to create a febrile web of illicitness — part oligarchy, part plutocracy and part kleptocracy — that is characteristic of so many developing nations.
Living from paycheck to paycheck
This has manifested itself more and more in income disparities that leave the vast majority of Americans barely able to hang on from paycheck to paycheck, while a privileged few reap the rewards of a system rigged in their favor — again a characteristic of developing nations.
In fact, if the United States were a developing nation and did not play a central role in the governance of the world's multilateral institutions, it surely would have come under scrutiny by the International Monetary Fund for pursuing policies and practices that have in the past forced intervention.
Failure 2: Police it like it's Baghdad
This past summer, the United States was literally torn apart by racial strife that often resulted in rioting. The root cause of this strife was the pervasive level of systemic poverty that besets so many Americans living in inner cities.
But if poverty was the cause, an out-of-control police force, facile in the use of strongarm tactics, was the spark. Simply, the United States' inner-city police forces often stop just short of the tactics used by police in many developing countries.
Forget for a moment that African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be killed by a policeman than an American of European lineage. The reality is that American cities are being subjected to a form of policing that cannot be found in any other developed country in the world.
Supporting police brutality
And, here's the kicker. President Trump, with broad support from his Republican party, comes down squarely on the side of police brutality.
More importantly, Trump has managed to cadge together an extra-legal police force from units connected to the Department of Homeland Security, which for various reasons seems doggedly loyal to the President.
Under his "law and order" mantra, the most lawless of U.S. Presidents mimics the actions of tinpot dictators cracking down on civil unrest in places like Azerbaijan or Cambodia.
Failure 3: A failing U.S. healthcare system
And then there's the Trump Administration's handling of COVID 19. Suffice to say that President Trump presides over a nation reeling from the physical, emotional and economic trauma of a raging pandemic by virtue of promoting snake oil — in this case hydroxychloroquine.
But aside from the President's mindless antics, the coronavirus has unmasked a new reality for all Americans to see. The so-called "greatest health care system in the world" is proving to be every bit as inefficient and ineffective as health care systems in the world's poorest countries.
Despite all the vast amounts of money spent, the U.S. health care system leaves millions of Americans unserved or underserved.
One need only look at the substantially higher COVID 19 death rates among people of color in the United States' largest cities. It constitutes a callous disregard for human life that aligns more closely with Kinshasa than with Berlin, Paris or even Beijing.
President Trump has not only failed utterly to take the steps necessary to repair the system, which he had so stridently promised in the last Presidential election, he has use the office of the President to chip away at key elements of the existing system.
Gutting the Affordable Care Act
Amazingly, he is in the courts trying to eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions, a popular facet of the Affordable Care Act that he promised to protect.
Again and again, while doing nothing to improve the plight of the United States' disenfranchised, the President callously focused on tearing the system further apart.
Meanwhile, as in so many developing nations, wealthy Americans are completely unfazed. They have access to some of the world's best research hospitals.
Failure 4: The extraction economy
The United States' National Weather Service is currently predicting the possibility of approximately 20 named storms coming ashore in the United States this hurricane season.
Such a violent hurricane season does not come as a surprise to anyone who closely follows the impact of global warming on the U.S. ecosystem.
Devastation from climate events, whether brush fires in California, heat waves in the Southwest, inundations in states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and tornadoes sweeping through the Southeast, has become a staple of U.S. news reports.
Death and physical deprivation have become commonplace — with victims of climate change largely left to fend for themselves.
So far, 2020 is on track to become the hottest year on record in the United States, with dozens of U.S. cities setting all-time records for high temperatures. But then, nine of the 10 hottest years on record globally have occurred in the past ten years.
Denying the undeniable
There is no longer much ambiguity in these weather patterns. Nor is there any ambiguity in the statistics that measure them. They dovetail precisely with the direst of climate predictions.
And yet, the current President of the United States, with the full backing of the Republican Party, denies climate change and presses forward in promoting the unrestricted extraction and use of fossil fuels.
Within the Trump Administration, environmental problems are not confined to climate change. Since taking office, the Administration has orchestrated a systematic gutting of environmental regulation overall.
Favoring extraction industries every step of the way, Trump — again with the full backing of the Republican Party — has placed the country's water systems, wetlands and wilderness areas at extreme risk.
It puts in place an environmental infrastructure common to developing rather than developed nations.
This pattern of denial and deceit puts the United States on track to increase rather than reduce its dependence upon natural resource development, making the United States a target for all the corruption that extraction industries bring with them.
The United States aside, environmental degradation at the hands of extraction industries is a characteristic common in many developing nations, which base their ongoing development on the exploitation of their natural resources.
Failure 5: Crumble in the infrastructure jumble
Extraction is one side of the coin. The other side is the state of the United States' infrastructure.
As is the case in so many developing nations, U.S. infrastructure has been widely neglected, despite President Trump's extravagant campaign promises in the last election.
The lack of adequate infrastructure became most evident with recent storms — Hurricane Isaias in the northeast and the derechos in the Midwest — when above-ground power grids were devastated along with crops.
Few if any developed nations maintain above-ground power grids as the United States still does.
And the decrepit state of the U.S. electrical grid does not even address the jumble of problems with crumbling roads, bridges, rail lines and waterways.
Maintaining a sound infrastructure is a collective national endeavor. It is therefore especially telling — and tragic — that any sense of nationhood has been totally abandoned by President Trump and his Republican cohort in the U.S. Congress in favor of prosperity for the privileged few.
Instead of pouring precious federal resources into national restoration, money in the form of tax cuts is channeled to a new made-by-Trump kleptocracy overseen by legions of lobbyists.
Corruption in Washington
Corruption in Washington, D.C. is akin to the kinds of corruption one finds in places like Lagos or Kabul — albeit on a more sophisticated level.
Instead of foreign entities bribing local officials as happens in developing nations, U.S. companies bribe U.S. officials in the U.S. federal capital city, as well as state capitals.
In the meantime, the United States' crumbling infrastructure looks more and more like what one would find in other developing countries.
The transformation is underway
The five epic failures of the contemporary United States under the Trump regime are:
1. Out-of-control U.S. fiscal and monetary policies
2. The rise of the police state
3. An inadequate and ineffective health care system
4. A rapidly degrading environment and
5. A deteriorating infrastructure.
These failures are also among the classic characteristics of a developing nation. It cannot satisfy any American, regardless of partisan stripe, that they constitute five epic failures for the Trump Administration.
Failure 6? Shredding democracy
These five epic failures are bad enough. But they would exclude one more characteristic of developing countries that actually represents the Trump Administration's biggest failure — or rather deliberate act of brazenness: It is Donald Trump's assault on democracy itself.
The fact is that the President seeks to put in place a form of government that is no longer anchored in the basic principles of democracy. It has become detached from the tenets that shape duly elected governments in other developed nations.
Like despots in so many developing countries, Trump governs more and more by decree in the form of executive orders. In so doing, he bypasses almost entirely the people's elected representatives in the Congress, which itself has grown increasingly dysfunctional.
Attacking the election
And as the next presidential election approaches, Trump busies himself casting doubt on its legitimacy and throws up impediments within the U.S. Postal Service that are aimed at suppressing the vote, a tactic common in the most corrupt developing nations.
In fact, the polarization that one currently sees in U.S. politics and society, which is stoked to a fever pitch each and every day by a President determined to hold onto power at any cost, inches the United States toward a potentially cataclysmic level of civil strife, the contours of which already became evident this past summer.
And yet, a large cross-section of the U.S. electorate seems content to tag along for this ride in reverse toward a Great Leader — the very notion the founding father of the United States wanted to avoid.
Most astonishingly, like pre-pubescent children sitting in the back seat of the car during a long ride, they happily ask one question over and over: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
This article is republished from The Globalist : On a daily basis, we rethink globalization and how the world really hangs together. Thought-provoking cross-country comparisons and insights from contributors from all continents. Exploring what unites and what divides us in politics and culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter . And sign up for our highlights email here.
Mr.Trump goes to Jerusalem and Mr. Netanyahu’s predicament
The fantasy world delusions of too many in the Israeli Right Wing about Donald Trump and Israel are coming to an end in a fast and furious manner. So, the Iran sanctions are lifted, no revision of the Iran nuclear deal, the one which Trump himself daubed as the ”worst” in history[he doesn’t remember this statement…], and what is far worse for them, is the attitude to the Palestinian issue. Here , the volte face is complete. The ”greatest ever friend of Israel in the WH”[not G.W. Bush and R.Reagan]],simply accepts the classic and totally unrealistic Arab argument, that this issue is THE key to a stabler Middle East, so no Embassy move, no settlements, no recognition of the Kotel as part of Israel, in short, God Forbid we antagonize the Palestinians.Antagonizing Israel goes, as they will understand, and look at their wall, to see how walls work, as we all heard in the press conference with President Santos of Colombia, and this was the only ‘pro Israel” statement he made in the last month or so.
Context is in place here. Politicians may be considered by many to be the most cynical, mistrusted and disbelieved lot of people, but as a generality it is , of course, a mistake. Some of them, maybe most, do have a core set of values and beliefs which guide them and may be behind a lot of their decisions . Obama was one such politician-with the ideological guidance of Rashid Khalidi, Bill Ayers and Reverend White. As for Trump, I simply do not know, but I happen to recall his statement from early on in the campaign, to the effect that he was” neutral ”between Israel and the Palestinians, and I believed it then and believe it now, as it seems perfectly in line with the ”art of the deal” approach. A concept bereft of ideology, other than what bring about a success. Success for Trump is anything which can be attributed to his political and diplomatic acumen, and anything means exactly that. It is not pro or anti Israel and the Palestinians, it is what can be defined on American TV as being ”great”, the word which Trump cannot do without.
That said, there still is ”something” which altogether works against Israel. This is , in fact, a big ”something”. There are more Muslims than Jews, more business opportunities to the US, there is Russia which can be a partner for all kinds of deals with , most , if not all will not be in Israel’s favor, and there are those American Jews , mostly die hard opponents of Trump. Put blatantly- where can America gain more and with whom. Add up to this THE Trump card of Donald Trump-the UN, more precisely the UNSC and the American veto. Israel, and this is a reminder to the pro-Israel community, is not off the hook with regard to UNSC NO.2334.At any given time, Mr. Trump can order even our great friend Nikki Haley to abstain when this resolution will be represented again. So, PM Netanyahu is constantly and subtly reminded as to the narrowness of his scope of diplomatic maneuverability.
That brings us back to the Israeli leader who must be fully aware of the reality of Trump the President, not Trump of the later stages of his campaign. To start with, how do you negotiate with a visibly impatient President, with a driven and vindictive leader, and on top of all that, with a politically besieged leader as Trump is these days. The wheels of possible impeachment are already in motion, and while it is far too early to predict any final result, it is time to make a comparison with another besieged President, Richard M. Nixon. American foreign policy did not stop when he was declining politically, and he himself was playing the game of showing off and being in full mastery of his foreign policy, but in actual terms he was not. The dominant Kissinger on the one hand, and Congress , on the other hand, were at the helm. Congress now is very pro Israel still , and not pro deals at all costs with the Palestinians, but there is no kissinger, and the professional echelons of the foreign and defense policy establishment are not favorable to us. Kris Bauman alongside McMaster in the NSC are just one example. They may be counterbalanced by Greenblatt and others, but as of now, their impact seems to be dominant. Netanyahu is clearly aware of all that, as he has to be, and he is also aware of the Bennetts in his government, who day in day out, work hard to prove that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic one. Who really want to be in Netanyahu’s shoes these days?. Clearly, some Israeli politicians do, but Netanyahu is the one who has to make one of the greatest decisions of his political career-how to handle an American President who sets every day a new record of being unconventional, different, unpredictable .
Playing for time has always served Netanyahu well in his career, and it may be the case again, but this time he will find it impossible to get beyond this mine field of the visit, without leaving someone very irritated. The stakes are SO high, and as a final reminder, Donald J. Trump is SO impatient.
Is Trump Anti-Semitic? Here's What the Evidence Shows
Is President Donald Trump anti-Semitic? After a shooter killed 11 people and wounded six others at a synagogue on Saturday, many observers said there was a clear connection between Trump's own bigotry and the devastating massacre.
Others responded by disputing that Trump can reasonably be accused of anti-Semitism. So which conclusion is correct?
Here's the case that the president's rhetoric has often been — and knowably so — anti-Semitic and likely to stoke bigotry toward Jewish people.
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly used imagery and tropes known to be associated with anti-Semites and propaganda against Jews. On July 2, 2016, he tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David against a background of cash. When this was criticized, he deleted the tweet. The image originated on a neo-Nazi forum, according to Mic. (Trump also retweeted other neo-Nazis during the campaign, including an account called @whitegenocideTM.)
Trump quickly deleted the Star of David tweet. But later, he defended it, saying it was a "Sheriff's Star," not a Star of David. This implausible excuse actually makes the original offense worse, because it sounds like an obvious wink and nod to anti-Semites. Someone who made a genuine mistake by promoting Nazi content would sincerely and profusely apologize.
Later in the campaign, Trump used vague and ominous rhetoric to describe nefarious "banks" trying to undermine the working class. While it's of course not out of bounds at all to criticize the banking industry, Trump's use of global conspiracy tropes came very close to echoing racist myths about Jewish people. He said:
It's a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful large corporations and political entities. Just look at what this corrupt establishment has done to our cities like Detroit, Flint, Michigan, and rural towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and all across our country. .
We've seen this first hand in the Wikileaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks, to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global interest powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.
"The trouble is that—as has so often been the case this year—the language Trump has chosen to employ carries with it heavy cultural baggage," wrote historian Yoni Appelbaum at the time. "And whatever he intends, there are Americans who will find it frightening to hear these images revived—and others who will feel emboldened by their use to go where Trump himself did not."
Trump did not heed such warnings. He never seemed to take them seriously. When called upon to denounce figures like the former KKK leader David Duke, he did so with seeming reluctance and annoyance. He preposterously claimed that he didn't know anything about Duke.
And as author Jonathan Weisman pointed out Sunday, Trump's last ad of the campaign featured sinister images of Lloyd Blankfein, Janet Yellen, and George Soros — all Jewish — while warning of "global special interests." In reality, Trump has no objections to the Blankfein or Yellen, the chairman of Goldman Sachs and the former Fed chair, so it's hard to see why they would be singled out — except for the fact that their images play into the racist trope of a Jewish global conspiracy.
Before his entry into politics, there were also reports of Trump's anti-Semitism. A book by John O'Donnell reported Trump saying: "Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."
As president, Trump's disturbing behavior has continued. There have been the major press relations flops, such as former Press Secretary Sean Spicer distorting the history of the Holocaust and a Holocaust remembrance statement that neglected to mention Jewish people.
When white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlotteville, Virginia, in 2017, they chanted, among other racists screeds, "Jews will not replace us." Trump famously said of this group's clash with counterdemonstrators that there were "some very fine people on both sides."
In recent weeks, Trump has been stoking fears about the caravan of migrants in Central America, despite the lack of evidence that they pose any threat to the United States. On of the conspiracy theories Trump has touted about this group is that they might be receiving funding from Democrats or other shadowy actors, including, once again, George Soros.
This claim feeds into a pernicious theory on racist far-right which holds that Jews are driving immigration to the U.S. in an attempt to destroy the country's way of life. This theory appears to be the motivation behind Saturday's attack at a synagogue, and Soros was one of the targets of a series of mail bombs allegedly sent by an extremist Trump supporter this week.
Nevertheless, Trump laughed as his supporters chanted "lock him up" about Soros at a White House event this week.
Sunday night, the Anti-Defamation League called out this type of behavior: "If your candidate is attacking Soros or the 'globalists' or a member of Congress from your party is embracing Holocaust deniers, you must stand up and tell them to stop."
Defenders of Trump have offered several responses to this ample evidence of Trump's anti-Semitism.
First, they typically point out that Trump's daughter, Ivanka, is Jewish. She converted after marrying Jared Kushner, who the president also appears quite fond of.
However, this only speaks to a very specific kind of prejudice. Prejudice can manifest in many different ways, one of which is personal distaste for every and any member of a particular group. It's true that Trump does not appear to have this form of prejudice against Jews, since by all accounts he loves his daughter and son-in-law. However, there are other forms of prejudice.
Another factor defenders of the president bring up is his support for Israel and his friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But while this relationship appears genuine, it is, again, not proof against Trump's anti-Semitism.
As Les Field, an anthropology professor at the University of New Mexico, has pointed out, it has sometimes been in Israel's interest to ally with anti-Semitic forces.
"Ironically, strident anti-Semitism in the United States and Europe is increasingly cloaked by political and economic alliances with Israel, a seeming paradox the Israeli government under Netanyahu has been all too ready to facilitate," he writes.
Often, anti-Semites and other racists argue against any intranational diversity. In this way, they may value Israel's desire for a strong Jewish state because it serves to separate the Jewish people from the rest of the world.
Finally, some might point to the fact that the worst anti-Semites, such as the suspect in Saturday's massacre, criticize Trump for not being anti-Semitic enough. But this doesn't exonerate Trump from accusations of anti-Semitism any more than the existence of slaveholders vindicates the racists who "only" argued for "separate but equal" treatment of black Americans.
There's a long and clear history of Trump endorsing, using, playing into, and winking at anti-Semitic propaganda and bigotry. It's also clear that, even when this is pointed out, Trump efforts to distance himself from this form of hatred are half-hearted at best. The most generous reading of the evidence is that Trump carelessly spews hateful rhetoric and racist tropes against Jewish people and then fails to back down out of self-righteousness and arrogance. But even on this reading, Trump is guilty of careless disregard for bolstering racist propaganda, and he values his own pride over standing up to bigotry.