The Atlantic »

When the Staff Can’t Tell the Candidate What’s Wrong

November 13, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

What the Ukraine scandal reveals about Donald Trump is by now well known: He elevated his political interest above the national interest and demanded foreign interference in an American election. What’s received less attention is what the scandal reveals about Joe Biden: He showed poor judgment because his staff shielded him from hard truths. If that sounds faintly familiar, it’s because that same tendency underlay Hillary Clinton’s email woes in 2016. Clinton and Biden differ in many ways. But beneath each candidate’s marquee scandal lies the same core defect: insularity.

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The Atlantic »

Elizabeth Warren Couldn’t Be Luckier

November 8, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Imagine you’re Pete Buttigieg. You had the best October of any candidate in the Democratic presidential race. On September 15, you trailed Joe Biden in Iowa by more than 20 points and both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders by at least 10. Kamala Harris was beating you, too. Now, by some measures, you’re in second place, a few points below Warren. You’re effectively pounding her on health care, because most Democrats prefer your comparatively modest reforms to her more radical ones. And you’re finding creative ways to imply that she’s unelectable—an attack that’s been buttressed in recent days by alarming high-profile polls about her weakness against Trump in battleground states.

Things are looking up. Until Michael Bloomberg comes along.

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The Atlantic »

The Utter Emptiness of Trump’s Populism

November 5, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

President Donald Trump is a big fan of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, which, like him, demonizes immigrants and the press. Trump traveled to Warsaw to meet the party’s leaders less than six months after taking office, before he visited Britain, Germany, or France. In September 2018, one day after the European Commission sued Andrzej Duda’s government for undermining the Polish judiciary, Trump praised the Polish people for “standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.” And when Duda visited the White House this June, Trump offered what The New York Times called “an elaborate show of support,” including “a rare and showy F-35 jet flyover.” What Duda’s government has done “over the last five years,” Trump effused, “has been something that the world has watched and the world has marveled at.”

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The Forward »

Democratic Party Split Over Military Aid To Israel

October 30, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

This week at the J Street Conference, Bernie Sanders said he’d tell the Israeli government that, “if you want military aid you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza.” Pete Buttigieg promised to ensure that American “funding is going to things that are compatible with U.S. objectives and U.S. law” rather than “promoting this settlement construction.” And Elizabeth Warren, in a videotaped message, said that America must find “ways to apply pressure and create consequences for problematic behavior.”

Using American aid as a lever to change Israeli policy has become a mainstream Democratic position almost overnight. To understand how dramatic that is, it’s worth revisiting recent history.

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The Forward »

What The AJC Poll Gets Wrong About American Jews And Zionism

October 24, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Wednesday, the American Jewish Committee released a survey of American Jews’ opinions about anti-Semitism. It’s a case study in how to obfuscate what American Jews actually believe.

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The Atlantic »

Democrats Are Hypocrites for Condemning Trump Over Syria

October 18, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidates vied with one another to offer the harshest condemnation of President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria. Joe Biden called it “the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history … in terms of foreign policy.” Elizabeth Warren said Trump “has cut and run on our allies,” and “created a bigger-than-ever humanitarian crisis.” Kamala Harris announced, “Yet again Donald Trump [is] selling folks out.”

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The Atlantic »

The Two Psychological Tricks Trump Is Using to Get Away With Everything

October 7, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last Thursday, Donald Trump said something that, on its face, seemed inexplicably self-defeating. Already under attack for having asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, he publicly asked China to do the same. This time there was no whistle-blower forcing Trump’s hand. Having already transgressed the once-sacrosanct principle that foreign powers shouldn’t meddle in American elections, Trump—for no apparent reason—brazenly violated it again.

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The Atlantic »

Trump’s Fantasy World Got Him Into This

October 3, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

If Donald Trump and his supporters weren’t so fond of conspiracy theories, the Ukraine scandal would never have unfolded as it did. In a now infamous July 25 phone call, Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look for evidence that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike had hidden the Democratic National Committee’s server in his country, perhaps to conceal evidence that Russia hadn’t actually hacked the 2016 election—a right-wing media fantasy that Trump’s own former homeland-security adviser has called “completely debunked.”

And over the past week, Trump’s defenders have spread one conspiracy theory after another about the intelligence-community insider who exposed the call. Stephen Miller, Breitbart, and Fox News have all called the whistle-blower an agent of the “deep state”—a phrase, popularized by Alex Jones, suggesting that a cabal of spies secretly run the government. (The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer once likened this notion to believing in the tooth fairy.)

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The Forward »

With Anti-Semitic Attack On ‘Shifty’ Foe, Trump Shows Off The Mechanism Of His Racism

October 3, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Wednesday, Donald Trump again referred to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “shifty Schiff.” If you think that sounds vaguely anti-Semitic, you’re right. And it’s likely only the beginning. As the impeachment inquiry escalates, Trump’s anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too.

It won’t escalate because Trump is any more hostile to Jews than he is to other religious or racial minorities. It will escalate because Trump thinks in terms of stereotypes. Thus, when challenged by an adversary, he often invokes bigoted tropes about their race, religion or gender. And for the next few months, as Trump’s presidency hangs in the balance, one of his biggest adversaries will be Adam Schiff, a Jew.

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The Forward »

No, Israeli Democracy Is Not ‘Fine’

September 26, 2019 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last week, Bret Stephens penned a New York Times column entitled, “Israel’s democracy is doing just fine.” With their “rebuke” of Benjamin Netanyahu at the polls, Stephens declared, “Israelis showed that demagogy doesn’t work.”

This week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the opportunity to form Israel’s next government. Netanyahu could fail to do so, in which case his center-right rival, Benny Gantz, would likely get the chance. But there’s a real possibility that Netanyahu — a man so racist that Facebook shut down one of his chatbots for violating its hate speech rules this month, and so authoritarian that the president of Israel’s supreme court this spring compared his attacks on judicial independence to the Nazi era — will remain Israel’s leader well into the future.

Israeli democracy is not doing fine.

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