The Forward »

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Has Abdicated His Moral Responsibility

July 26, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

I’ve never met Jonathan Sacks. But his writing has had a deeper impact on my life than any other rabbi’s.

I first came across it in a London synagogue in November 2010. Stapled together was Sacks’s commentary on the week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayetzei, in which Jacob — after tricking his brother and father — flees to the house of his uncle. Read more…

The Atlantic »

The U.S. Needs to Face Up to Its Long History of Election Meddling

July 22, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last Sunday morning, CNN’s Jake Tapper interviewed Kentucky Senator Rand Paul about Russian interference in the 2016 election. At 7:40 AM, a CNN analyst named Josh Campbell tweeted some of Paul’s comments. He quoted the senator as declaring that the Russians “are going to spy on us, they do spy on us, they’re going to interfere in our elections. We also do the same … We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected.” He also quoted Paul as labeling Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian interference with the 2016 election a “witch hunt.” Read more…

The Atlantic »

Donald Trump Is No Patriot

July 19, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

In 1945, George Orwell distinguished between “nationalism” and “patriotism.” Nationalism, he argued, is the belief that your nation should dominate others. It “is inseparable from the desire for power.” A nationalist, Orwell argued, “thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige … his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations.” Patriotism, by contrast, involves “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one … has no wish to force on other people.” Orwell’s explanation of patriotism is brief. But his implication is that while nationalism is about the relationship between your country and other countries, patriotism is about the relationship between your country and yourself. It derives from the Latin pater, meaning “father.” Just as devotion to family requires placing its well-being above your own, devotion to country—patriotism—extends that principle to the nation as a whole.

Orwell’s dichotomy has its critics. But it helps to explain Donald Trump, the most nationalistic, and least patriotic, president in American history. Read more…

The Atlantic »

The ‘To Be Sure’ Conservatives

July 13, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Donald Trump’s brazen violation of principles American conservatives were once thought to cherish—from free trade to family values to a hard line against America’s foes—has split right-leaning pundits into three camps. At one extreme are the pure sycophants. For them, conservatism is whatever Trump says it is. Many, like Sebastian Gorka, were unknown until Trump’s presidency, which means they can applaud whatever he does without worrying that people will notice they’ve abandoned principles they formerly held. At the other extreme are anti-Trump conservatives like George Will, Bret Stephens, and David Frum, who frankly acknowledge that Trump has desecrated conservative principles—along with liberal democratic ones—and as a result denounce him in the harshest of terms. Read more…

The Atlantic »

What’s the Point of NATO, Anyway?

July 12, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

In his repeated attacks on the Western alliance—culminating in a head-spinning morning with reports of Trump threatening to “go his own way,” followed by his declaration that “I believe in NATO”—Donald Trump has raised an important question: What’s the point of NATO anyway? Today, even asking that question places you on the outer fringes of American foreign-policy debate. But that wasn’t always so. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan’s former UN ambassador, has a chair named after her at the Council on Foreign Relations. But in 1990, she declared, without regret, that “NATO will not survive the current reconfiguration of Europe.” Every year the American Enterprise Institute gives out an award named for Irving Kristol, the “godfather of neoconservatism.” But in 1993, Kristol wrote that NATO is on the “way to becoming moribund” as America embraces “a renascent nationalism.” This, Kristol added, “is something that most conservatives have long wished for.” Read more…

The Atlantic »

NATO Doesn’t Need More Defense Spending

July 11, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Donald Trump makes everyone else look mature. So it’s easy to forget that, sometimes, he’s not the only one who’s wrong. His establishment critics are, too. Read more…

The Forward »

Furious About Family Separation? You Should Also Care That Israel Is Razing Bedouin Villages

July 5, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

American Jewish groups have, for the most part, condemned the Trump administration’s policy of separating parents from their children at the border.


So why can’t they condemn the Netanyahu administration’s policy of destroying villages like Khan al-Ahmar? Read more…

The Atlantic »

The Left and the Right Have Abandoned American Exceptionalism

July 4, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Barack Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have a lot in common. They’re both courteous, charismatic and wonky. They’re both people of color who rose from modest means in part because their mothers fought to get them a decent education. They were both community organizers. And at tender ages they both challenged older, entrenched House Democrats, though Obama—in his 2000 race against Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush—lost. Read more…

The Forward »

Trump Is Turning America Into An Idol

June 28, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

There are many reasons for American Jews to reject Donald Trump’s inhuman treatment of the undocumented families who cross America’s borders. The Torah emphasizes the value of all people. (It doesn’t begin with Jews. It begins with Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel and Noah, who hail from no nation or tribe). The Torah repeatedly stresses our responsibility to the stranger. And, in modern times, Jews have often needed the very refuge that Central American migrants seek today. Read more…

The Atlantic »

Why Joseph Crowley’s Defeat Should Scare Joe Biden

June 27, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

There are plenty of reasons to downplay the ideological significance of 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset win yesterday over House Democratic powerbroker Joseph Crowley. Even by the standards of congressional primaries, turnout was low. In a district of roughly 650,000 people, Ocasio-Cortez won with only 16,000 votes. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory can also be chalked up to ethnic succession. Crowley is an Irish American representing a district, in Queens and the Bronx, that was once filled with white ethnics. Today it is less than 20 percent white and almost 50 percent Latino. Ocasio-Cortez exploited that shift by emphasizing her Puerto Rican roots. Finally, Ocasio-Cortez is a woman running in a year in which the #MeToo movement and the backlash against President Trump has palpably boosted Democratic women candidates. Read more…