Alan Zendell, August 21, 2019
By any reasonable standard this would be an insane week, but it’s a perfect microcosm of the Trump administration. This was the week of Greenland, guns, and anti-Semitism. If it had occurred two years ago, we’d have raged at how incompetent and ignorant our president was, but in 2019, we know better. We know that not one word uttered by Donald Trump this week was anything but intentional
Greenland – Whether you believe that the idea of purchasing Greenland occurred to Trump on the spur of the moment, or that he’d been floating it for weeks, it’s impossible to view this debacle as anything but a deliberate diversion to distract attention from troubling economic forecasts and discouraging poll numbers that suggest Trump could lose badly in 2020. This week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that people saying they’d vote for a Democrat outnumbered people who said they’d vote for Trump, by 52-40%.
The United States Air Force has had a base in Thule, Greenland since 1943. It’s location on the Arctic Circle is of strategic importance for detecting long range missile launches from Russia and intercepting communications between Russian naval vessels. But with the Thule base already under our control for seventy-six years, it’s not clear what owning the world’s largest and coldest island would accomplish.
Trump is said to consider Greenland just a big piece of real estate, but that’s part of the diversion – make Trump sound like a bumbling fool and no one will take him seriously. Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen took him very seriously and called Trump’s comments absurd. Trump then “postponed” his scheduled meeting with her, whereupon Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced that she would be skipping Vice President Pence’s visit to her country due to “prior commitments.”
Does Trump care about alienating three strategic allies? Students of history will recall that Denmark, Greenland, and Iceland, all of which might be overlooked as critical military partners today, played critical roles in the Allies’ defeat of Germany.
Guns – In the aftermath of the murderous acts of domestic terror In Dayton and El Paso, the president gave a tortured, televised speech to the nation. He said White Nationalism had to be obliterated and that universal background checks for all gun purchases were his priority. Of course, almost no one believed him; if you’re still not sure, keep reading.
Yesterday, the Washington Post, citing several sources close to the president, reported that Trump phoned National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre to assure him that universal background checks were off the table. Following angry pushback from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump, as is his wont, did an about face today and claimed he never said it, as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced that there were a number of bipartisan efforts to draft legislation to limit gun ownership by people with criminal records and serious mental health issues. Manchin made it clear that by remaining on the sidelines, rather than publicly giving cover to Republican Senators, Trump was effectively scuttling any real effort to pass anything.
Anti-Semitism – Trump has spent this week attacking “any Jewish person” who is considering voting Democratic in 2020. He claimed that any vote by a Jew for his Democratic opponent would be against the interest of Israel and disloyal to the country that Israel depends most on for defense. What? Cries of anti-semitism arose from many quarters, as in political speak, terms like “disloyal” are viewed as Jew-hating tropes. It’s notable that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to remain silent.
Why would Trump risk offending American Jews, many of whom make sizable political contributions, and a large percentage of whom live in suburban areas critical to his re-election hopes? While 80% of American Jews traditionally register as Democrats, wouldn’t Trump be risking losing the other 20% along with any hope of changing the minds of those who voted Democratic in the past?
As with everything Trump does it’s all about weighing what’s good and bad for his self-interest. With his standing among independents shrinking, he can’t afford to lose a single vote from his base. We don’t have to dig very deep to see what he’s up to.
Jewish people make up about 1.3% of our population. Twenty percent of them account for barely a quarter of one percent. Compare that to the number of people in Trump’s base who stand up and cheer every time he fails to condemn White Nationalism and Nazi-like hate groups. No one knows exactly how many there are, but is there any doubt that Trump has more to gain by solidifying their support than he has to lose by offending the Jewish community?
I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us to celebrate Labor Day.