Who the Hell is Stephen Miller?

Alan Zendell, January 29, 2019

Like most people whose ethnic or religious heritage is associated with groups that tend to be the targets of bigotry and hate crimes, I’m extremely sensitive to actions by people with a background similar to mine that exacerbate the situation. When Bernie Madoff was unmasked as a thief who robbed thousands of people of their savings and retirement nest eggs, people were angry and disgusted, but my reaction went much deeper.

I felt an intense mix of rage and embarrassment. It was bad enough that Madoff was a crook, pure pond scum, but he was also a New York Jew of my generation. That made him a poster child for anti-Semitism and fodder for the Alt-Right/Neo-Nazi movement, something I took very personally.  

I’m sure Italian-Americans cringed every time an Italian Mafia boss was indicted.  Likewise, every law-abiding African American when black faces appear on local television news as perpetrators of rapes and murders, and the vast majority of Hispanic Americans when an illegal immigrant with a Spanish surname is implicated in drug or human trafficking.

I experience the kind of anger I felt toward Madoff whenever I see the name Stephen Miller. If you’re not sure who he is, let’s ask his uncle, David Glasser, a neuropsychologist and retired professor from the Boston University and Jefferson Medical College faculties. Last August, Doctor Glasser published an article with Politico entitled: “Stephen Miller is an Immigration Hypocrite.”

The article speaks of Glasser’s shame over his nephew’s history as a right-wing anti-immigration extremist, which the doctor believes helps embolden people like the Nazi marchers in Charlottesville. “I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.”

I feel Glasser’s pain because the story of his family’s flight to freedom from persecution in Czarist Russia mirrors that of my own and my wife’s families. We understand what America symbolized to our grandparents, and we know the fate of those left behind when the hatemongers destroyed their villages.

If you’re wondering what Stephen Miller did to cause such angst among his own family, consider that he is the chief architect of Donald Trump’s hateful, racist immigration policy, and the author of some of Trump’s most offensive speeches. He was also the chief proponent of making the Wall the cornerstone of the Trump presidency.

I cannot fathom how an intelligent young man living a life of relative privilege based on three generations of antecedents prospering from living the American dream can have his mind twisted the way Miller’s is. His Wikipedia page quotes Miller attributing his conversion to what he describes as a committed Conservative based on the writings of Wayne LaPierre.

There is no definition of modern era Conservatism that includes isolationist paranoia about immigration. Nor is there any reference to religious intolerance or replacing truth and integrity with lies and hyperbole. The advantages and opportunities Miller grew up with were attributes of a free society built on the backs of immigrants. For someone like him to espouse the immoral, offensive attitudes he whispers in Trump’s ear is unconscionable.

When the Grim Reaper, aka Steve Bannon was fired by Trump, many of us hoped that represented a repudiation of his take-no-prisoners assault on the courts, the press, and truth in general. We didn’t realize that in every way that mattered, Miller was a Bannon clone, albeit one who appeared more civilized and urbane, at least on the surface. That was because when the administration sent out its surrogates to spout favorable talking points, they kept Miller under wraps. Most of us had no idea who he was.

When Trump started running out of surrogates and Miller briefly made the rounds of the talk shows, we saw why. Unlike the president, whose insults and belligerent attitudes were often borderline inarticulate, Miller was eloquent and seemed to know his subjects well. But he was insolent and rude during every appearance. Barely into his thirties and clearly full of himself, he mostly came off as a nasty little twerp. Every time I heard him speak, I thought God, I wish he wasn’t Jewish.

Like a canary in a coal mine, Miller actually has positive value. His demise as an administration official, when it comes, will signal the death of the most vile attitudes that have come out of the Trump White House. If the president wants to improve his approval ratings, getting rid of Stephen Miller would be a brilliant first step.

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