The Atlantic »

Trump’s Peculiar Sympathy for White South Africans

August 24, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Donald Trump, who generally admires dictators and ignores their victims, has finally found a human-rights issue he cares about: the plight of white South Africans. On Wednesday, he tweeted a demand that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “closely study” the South African government’s “seizing [of] land from white farmers.” Read more…

The Atlantic »

Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt

August 22, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On Wednesday morning, the lead story on was not Michael Cohen’s admission that Donald Trump had instructed him to violate campaign-finance laws by paying hush money to two of Trump’s mistresses. It was the alleged murder of a white Iowa woman, Mollie Tibbetts, by an undocumented Latino immigrant, Cristhian Rivera.

On their face, the two stories have little in common. Fox is simply covering the Iowa murder because it distracts attention from a revelation that makes Trump look bad. But dig deeper and the two stories are connected: They represent competing notions of what corruption is. Read more…

The Forward »

I Was Detained At Ben Gurion Airport Because Of My Beliefs

August 13, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Like many Jewish parents, I try to create memorable Jewish experiences for my kids. Last weekend I can say, with some confidence, that I succeeded. Read more…

The Atlantic »

We’re All Michael Cohen

August 1, 2018 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

For years, Michael Cohen delighted in doing an awful job. He cleaned up Donald Trump’s messes. Cohen first came to President Trump’s attention more than a decade ago when a group of apartment owners in Trump World Tower, a glass skyscraper across from the United Nations, accused Trump of “financial impropriety.” Cohen, who was the treasurer of the board, took Trump’s side against his fellow owners and helped quell the revolt. Since then, Cohen has taken pride in declaring himself “the fix-it guy,” and “the guy who would take a bullet for the president.” Read more…

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…