By Douglas Bloomfield
Donald Trump knows a thing or two about presidential harassment. He has been doing it to others for years, usually by spreading smears and lies about five of his predecessors as well as assorted foreign presidents, prime ministers, mayors and even the pope. Like the bully on the playground, he can dish it out but he can’t take it.
Now that he is in the White House and on the receiving end, he seems to think that criticism of his own policies is something akin to a federal crime, as it is in many of the autocratic regimes he admires. He complained that accurate reporting of his rabid attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color, who call themselves “The Squad,” before a largely white audience in North Carolina recently was “fake news” and “presidential harassment.”
Those terms are his euphemisms for criticism and truthful reporting that he doesn’t like. Rather than turn the other cheek, he prefers to double down and hit back harder.
Envious of Other Glorious Leaders
He has spoken of how other leaders that he admires don’t have to put up with such insults.
Criticism of North Korea’s Kim Jon Un, who Trump professes to “love,” can be fatal. Just ask his half-brother, his uncle, his former army chief and his defense minister. Oh, wait, you can’t, he had them killed.
Trump’s good friend and mentor, Vladimir Putin, has left a trail of dead journalists and imprisoned critics.
American intelligence agencies have given him overwhelming evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Sultan was behind the murder in Istanbul of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but Trump is willing to overlook that because Prince “Bone Saw” is such a good customer of American defense contractors.
Imprisonment or worse is a common response for those who criticize the glorious leader in countries like Kazakhstan, Egypt, China, Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, Lebanon and Cuba.
Criticism In Israel
Not in Israel, where a freewheeling press always makes it open season on politicians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted his friend Trump’s phrase “fake news,” but his way of trying to get better coverage could land him in prison. He is facing criminal charges for attempting to trade favorable government regulation for more flattering media coverage.
In trying to form a government earlier this year, Netanyahu reportedly was offering to trade Cabinet ministries for promises to vote for legislation immunizing a sitting prime minister from indictment.
Trump doesn’t have to do that. He already has immunity from his Justice Department plus an attorney general acting like his personal defense lawyer. He also has a revolving door for staff between Fox News and the White House, and the kind of sweetheart coverage Netanyahu gets from Sheldon Adelson’s newspaper.
Enter “The Squad”
Trump has been waging a vicious public war on “The Squad,” all women of color: Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, also Trump’s birthplace.
All four have diverse and often critical opinions about Israel. Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, have been particularly harsh, and many feel their criticism has bordered on anti-Semitism.
Trump been particularly strident in his attacks on Omar, who is a naturalized citizen born in Somalia, saying (falsely) she married her brother, called Jews “evil” and is an Al Qaeda sympathizer.
Pot Calls Kettle Black
He has said all four — the other three are native-born Americans—are not very smart, racist, troublemakers, inexperienced, weak, insecure —words that could more easily fit the ultra-thin-skinned president.
He goal is to make them the face of the Democratic party, which he wants to portray as extreme anti-American, socialist, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
Trump told reporters that he is enjoying the feud and thinks it’s good politics for him. His aim is to excite his angry white nativist base to boost turnout for the 2020 election.
I don’t believe he’s just using racism just to rouse his base; I believe it is genuine. He may claim that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, but the evidence contradicts that.
Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) wrote in The Hill, “For the first time in modern American history, we have a president who has made a calculation that projecting racism is a winning political strategy, that he can conquer by dividing the United States.”
Jews As Pawns
At the core of Trump’ hate campaign is Trump is using the Jews to justify his attacks on the four women and through them the Democratic Party. In doing so, he is further endangering a Jewish state he claims to love by associating the pro-Israel cause with his brand of American racism and xenophobia, social ills most American Jews abhor.
“They have made Israel feel abandoned by the U.S.,” said the president, who pivots in another breath to claim to be the best friend Israel ever had and that no one has done more for the Jewish state.
When Democrats and others hit back, Trump cries “presidential harassment.” This from the head cheerleader of the racist birther movement that claimed Barack Obama was born in Africa and ineligible to be president. He demanded Obama publish not just his birth certificate but also his college transcripts, but Trump ordered his lawyers send threatening letters to all the schools he attended warning them not to release any of his grades. So far all we’ve had is from a former professor who called Trump, the self-proclaimed stable genius, the “dumbest goddam student I ever had.”
For years and as a candidate Trump fired the kind of barbs at Obama, both presidents Bush and Clinton that he now brands “anti-American” and “presidential harassment” when directed at him.
Will It Work?
187 House Republicans sided with Trump when Congress voted on a resolution to condemn his racist attacks on the four women of color. Most Republicans also embraced his attempt to paint the Democratic party as anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic as well.
Attempts to use The Squad and charges of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel as a wedge issue to divide Jews and the Democrats won’t work. It failed in 2016 when he laced his campaign with anti-Semitic tropes and it failed last year in Congressional elections when, both times, Jews voted three-to-one or more Democratic and, with or without Netanyahu’s ringing endorsement, they’re likely to do so again next year.
Trump repeatedly says the congresswomen should “go back” to the “crime infested places” they came from, and he demands they apologize to Israel. Wrong, Mr. President, it is you who must apologize for trying to drag Israel and Jews into your nasty race war and then hiding behind the Jews and spreading the lie that you are trying to protect us.
Fears Of Violence
JTA reported that just over a recent past week Trump “invoked Israel in his Twitter attacks no less than 11 times, along with a few more times in public appearances.”
Recently, he re-tweeted the remarks of a racist British columnist, Katie Hopkins, supporting his attacks on the four women. Earlier she had blamed the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that killed 11 Jews on the temple’s rabbi for “his support for mass migration across the Med.”
A Louisiana police officer writing on Facebook called one of the women a “vile idiot” who should be shot, and they’ve been the target of death threats and an Illinois GOP organization called them “The Jihad Squad.”
How long before the presidential harassment of these four women and his incendiary rhetoric lead to violence?