Friday, August 17, 2018

Bret Stephens, Anti-Semitism, and Anti-Trumpism

Before Wall Street Journal columnist recorded a video for PragerU about the economic and cultural woes of the Arab world, he had written an article about it.

Bret Stephens, neoconservative with some social conservative leanings, exposed how throughout the Arab World, the reason for ongoing moral, political, and economic decline all traces its origins to Anti-Semitism.

In fact, almost verbatim he reads his editorial for PragerU audiences.

Click here for the video.

Here's the contents of the article:

An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal.

If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.

That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine , where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.

Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.

As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed.

Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.

These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process.

In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution.

Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.

Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’ i.

Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.

Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs.

This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran.

That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.


Bret Stephens rejects the dangerous irrationalism of anti-Semitism.

His psychological and historical exploration of this topic is informed and precise.

And yet ... he is a NeverTrump conservative (?) who still would have preferred Hillary Clinton as our next President.

He had declared that the country couldn't survive Trump, but could survive Hillary.

Trump did win, and the country has survived.

With Stephens, I beg to differ: this country could NOT have survived Hillary Clinton, because she was so corrupt.

Stephens has diminished Trump's interest in "America First" as nativism. He refers to his brand of leadership as "Sovereign democracy". To compare Trump and Putin as ideological allies is quite suspect. It's simply untrue that Trump does not support classical liberalism, i.e. free markets, free enterprise, free speech.

But Stephens is still opposing Trump.


Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris [Climate Accords]. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.

This is an excellent yet incomplete list of Trump and the Republican Congress' accomplishments in the last year and a half.

And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. What, for a conservative, is there to dislike about this policy record as the Trump administration rounds out its first year in office?

In one word: nothing.

And yet ...

That’s the question I keep hearing from old friends on the right who voted with misgiving for Donald Trump last year and now find reasons to like him. I admit it gives me pause. I agree with every one of the policy decisions mentioned above. But I still wish Hillary Clinton were president.

How does that make sense? Can I still call myself conservative?

You really can't, Bret, or at least you need to be honest about the ulterior motive for disparaging Trump.

How can this conservative intellect justify this argument?

The answer depends on your definition. Here’s one I’ve always liked: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” said the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. To which he added: “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

Conservatives used to believe in their truth. Want to “solve” poverty? All the welfare dollars in the world won’t help if two-parent families aren’t intact. Want to foster democracy abroad? It’s going to be rough going if too many voters reject the foundational concept of minority rights.

And want to preserve your own republican institutions? Then pay attention to the character of your leaders, the culture of governance and the political health of the public. It matters a lot more than lowering the top marginal income tax rate by a couple of percentage points.

So he doesn't like how Trump behaves before the public. He doesn't like the direct, striking remarks which he makes against world leaders. He doesn't like that Trump is not essentially, extensively, perhaps excessively diplomatic.

This is the fatal mistake of conservatives who’ve decided the best way to deal with Trump’s personality — the lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness — is to pretend it doesn’t matter. “Character Doesn’t Count” has become a de facto G.O.P. motto. “Virtue Doesn’t Matter” might be another.

The fact that Stephens writes "G.O.P." instead of "GOP" indicates his writing platform: the New York Times. I suspect that like many columnists, Stephens would be out of a job if he spoke favorably of President Trump.

But character does count, and virtue does matter, and Trump’s shortcomings prove it daily.

Maybe you think the Russia investigation is much ado about nothing. Yet Trump brought it on himself every step of the way, from firing James Comey after the former F.B.I. director wouldn’t swear fealty, to (potentially) admitting to obstruction of justice with that tweet about Mike Flynn’s firing. Or maybe you regret the failure to repeal Obamacare. But that had something to do with the grotesque insults Trump lobbed at John McCain, the man whose “nay” vote sank repeal.

No, it had to do with the fact that John McCain is a thin-skinned child in an adult body who doesn't like the fact that his budget-busting internationalism is no longer in vogue, much like the neoconservative agenda attributed to Bill Kristol, Bret Stephens, Charles Krauthammer, and the like.

Look at every other administration embarrassment (Scaramucci) or failure (the wall, and Mexico paying for it) or disgrace (the Charlottesville equivocation). Responsibility invariably lies with the president’s intemperance and dishonesty. That puts Republican control of Congress in play. It also risks permanently alienating a millennial generation for which the G.O.P. will forever be the party of the child-molesting sore loser and the president who endorsed him.

The fact that Stephens lost his poise over Charlottesville shows that like main editorial elites, he is more interested in being liked by the rest of the Chattering Beltway class than caring about what is best for the rest of the country. He then leads unfounded credence to the lie that Judge Roy Moore was a child molester. There is simply no truth to those frauds. None. In fact, one of the accusers even admitted that she forged his signature (the date next to it specifically) in her yearbook.

These would-be accusers were beyond shameless. Since Moore's unprecedented loss last December, he has filed lawsuits against the accusers for defamation of character. Stephens, Mona Charen, and other "conservative" editorial writers haven't been able to shake this fundamental snobbism, this need to be liked by the glitterati.

Now look at the culture of governance. Trump demands testimonials from his cabinet, servility from Republican politicians and worship from conservative media. To serve in this White House isn’t to be elevated to public service. It’s to be debased into toadyism, which probably explains the record-setting staff turnover of 34 percent, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution.

Trump doesn't demand much of anything from the conservative press. They offer it to the President gladly because he is governing in a conservative manner. Trump isn't interested in getting nice headlines. He is interesting in accomplishing conservative goals--and he has gotten more done. The elitist journalists like Stephens can't handle the fact that Trump, who is not "one of them", has gotten more done on their list of goals.

In place of presidential addresses, stump speeches or town halls, we have Trump’s demagogic mass rallies. In place of the usual jousting between the administration and the press, we have a president who fantasizes on Twitter about physically assaulting CNN. In place of a president who defends the honor and integrity of his own officers and agencies, we have one who humiliates his attorney general, denigrates the F.B.I. and compares our intelligence agencies to the Gestapo.

What universe does these people live in?

Stephens has "Anti-Trumpism", another highly infectious disease which overtakes dispossessed intellectuals who still want to think that they are "better than others" and are just "more educated" than the rest of us little people.

It's too bad that Stephens has descended into this myopic hatred of the President. For all the thinks for which he faults the President, he sure carries on with similar behaviors himself.

Trump is normalizing all this; he is, to borrow another Moynihan phrase, “defining deviancy down.” A president who supposedly wants to put a wall between the U.S. and Latin America has imported a style of politics reminiscent of the cults of Juan Perón and Hugo Chávez.

Is communism on the rise? Has he shut down the press? Has he locked up opponents? What has not occurred to many of these second-hand intelligentsia is that the everyday people across the country, the ones who don't spend their days filling up the press corps and fulfilling the inane wishes of wannabe conservative academia.

Conservatives may suppose that they can pocket policy gains from a Trump administration while the stain of his person will eventually wash away. But as a (pro-Trump) friend wrote me the other day, “presidents empower cultures.” Trump is empowering a conservative political culture that celebrates everything that patriotic Americans should fear: the cult of strength, open disdain for truthfulness, violent contempt for the Fourth Estate, hostility toward high culture and other types of “elitism,” a penchant for conspiracy theories and, most dangerously, white-identity politics.

The contempt for the Fourth Estate is embodied in that very phrase "estate". The corporate media has viewed itself as the final arbiter of truth, of what constitutes news and what does not. The press corps has routinely gotten world events wrong. They predicted a Hillary win, but Trump took the Electoral College on Election Day.

The liberal media have filters that insist on how the world should work, and write stories which reflect this bias. The work-a-day readers, consumers of news are starting to realize how much is narrative, spin, and fraud. The so-called Fourth Estate which Stephens esteems has become despised, descending into anti-Trump self-parody.

This won’t end with Trump. It may have only begun with him. And Trump’s supporters may wind up proving both sides of Moynihan’s contention: not just that culture is what matters most, but that politics can still change it — in this case, much for the worse.

Politics is downwind from culture.

The culture is changing, though, as more people have stopped reading the New York Times and have started reading Breitbart and watching other Independent media sources. The more that that individual readers realize that the mainstream media has not been honest, that they have no right to claim the perfect mantle of objective, the more that they struggle and attack the President.

The press, the corporate media for which Stephens works, does not want to learn from their mistakes. They want the world, the stability of their narrative, to stay the same. That's just not going to happen anymore.

And that's what drives these elites crazy. That is the source of Anti-Trumpism.

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