No Longer Funny

Petulance is not pretty. Pettiness is not pretty. But they’re too often confused with pride and dignity, with refusing to deal with fools. But who’s the fool? That’s what the Washington Post reports:

President Trump on Tuesday abruptly called off a trip to Denmark, announcing in a tweet that he was postponing the visit because the country’s leader was not interested in selling him Greenland.

The move comes two days after Trump told reporters that owning Greenland, a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark, “would be nice” for the United States from a strategic perspective.

Okay. They wouldn’t sell, but the Post’s reporters, Felicia Sonmez and Anne Gearan and Damian Paletta, provide context:

The episode was a rare window into secret White House national security planning – albeit with a Trumpian dealmaker’s twist and an element of the surreal. Trump touts his real estate background as a primary job qualification, promising voters he can negotiate better than his predecessors and spot a good deal. But the notion of buying a part of another country was widely met with surprise and bafflement when news broke last week of Trump’s interest in the island.

In his tweet, Trump said that while Denmark is “a very special country with incredible people,” he is postponing his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen based on her statement “that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland.”

“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump added. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”

But for now, there’s nothing to talk about. You won’t sell? That’s fine, but I ain’t dropping by now at all – your loss – because you’re stupid:

Over the weekend, Frederiksen had visited Greenland and told reporters there that Trump’s idea of buying the island was “absurd.”

It was not clear whether Trump will still go to Poland, as he had been scheduled to do for two days ahead of his trip to Copenhagen in early September.

Perhaps the folks in Poland have some big chunk of land to sell to Donald Trump and the United States. No? They too can wait, but at least Trump unified enemies:

Greenlanders, many of whom chafe at Danish rule, reacted with scorn to word last week that Trump was keenly interested in making an offer.

Both Danish and Greenland officials have said in recent days that the island is not for sale.

“Greenland is rich in valuable resources such as minerals, the purest water and ice, fish stocks, seafood, renewable energy and is a new frontier for adventure tourism,” Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday in a tweet. “We’re open for business, not for sale.”

Greenlanders no longer chafe at Danish rule. Trump fixed that, but the cost was high:

Trump had planned to dine with Denmark’s queen before meetings in Copenhagen with Danish political leaders. Before news of Trump’s interest in Greenland, his visit was seen as an offbeat thank-you to a small country that has been a stalwart NATO member and that supported U.S. military actions.

“This is no longer funny. Danish troops fought alongside the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. 50 Danes died,” Brookings Institution Europe specialist Thomas Wright tweeted Tuesday. “The president dishonors the alliance and their sacrifice. On the same day he sought to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin by supporting his return to the G8.”

Trump earlier Tuesday renewed his call for Russia to be allowed to rejoin the Group of Seven industrial nations whose annual meeting he will attend this weekend in France.

Denmark now knows what Trump thinks they’re worth – nothing much – and we lose another ally.

The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison addresses that:

Some of this is Trump’s usual pettiness towards any foreign leader that doesn’t flatter and praise him, but it is also an example of how the president intensifies his support for obviously stupid things when he is challenged. The Danish prime minister dismissed Trump’s Greenland fantasy as “absurd,” and so he thinks she has to be punished.

Trump’s behavior towards one of our best European allies is the usual childish petulance that we have come to expect, but it is remarkable all the same because there is absolutely no cause for a quarrel with Denmark. There is no serious underlying policy disagreement or clash of economic interests at stake. There is no excuse at all. Trump is simply showing contempt for an allied country because their government refused to bow and scrape in response to his offensive suggestion that the U.S. buy up part of their kingdom.

This more than a bit offensive:

What he wants is using other governments to enhance his own reputation and status. Wanting to purchase Greenland to give him a presidential legacy is a good example of this.

It will never happen, and he will actually harm U.S. relations with Denmark by harping on it, but because he sees it as a way to make himself seem more important he will keep pursuing it. He does not realize that in doing so he will make himself seem very small and silly, and the people that he thinks he is overawing with the power of his office will never stop laughing at him.

So he’s the fool here, and Kevin Drum has questions:

Can we finally start talking publicly about Trump’s mental state? This is the action of a child, not an adult in full control of his faculties. Everyone aside from Trump understood that his Greenland compulsion was a sign of cognitive regression in the first place, and this episode demonstrates that it was no passing fantasy. Trump took it seriously enough to treat Frederiksen’s comments as just another incitement to a feud with a political enemy.

The man is not well. I don’t care what you want to call his condition, but he’s not well.

Others have begun to notice that. Eugene Robinson sees that:

Trump is flailing. He berates his handpicked chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, for not cutting interest rates fast enough to goose the economy. He practically begs Chinese President Xi Jinping for a meeting to work out a trade deal – any trade deal, apparently – and is met with silence. He threatens more tariffs but then backs down, at least for now. According to published reports, he sees himself as the victim of a conspiracy to exaggerate the growing economic anxiety in order to hurt his chances of winning a second term.

He entertains grandiose almost-Napoleonic fantasies – purchasing Greenland from Denmark in what he calls “a large real estate deal,” perhaps, or imposing a naval blockade to force regime change in Venezuela. He apparently spent much of this past weekend fuming about not getting credit for how his New Hampshire rally broke an attendance record for the arena that had been set by Elton John.

But there’s more:

Trump can’t seem to stop railing against a recent Fox News poll that showed him losing to four of the leading Democratic contenders. The president seems to consider Fox News his administration’s Ministry of Propaganda – indeed, that is the role the network’s morning-show hosts and prime-time anchors loyally play – but the polling unit is a professional operation.

“There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it,” Trump told reporters Sunday. He added a threat, saying that Fox “is making a big mistake” because he is “the one that calls the shots” on next year’s general election debates – the implication being that Fox News might not get to broadcast one of them if it doesn’t toe the party line.

Petulance is not pretty. Pettiness is not pretty. They are not pride and dignity, so Robinson sees this:

The astonishing thing is that the president of the United States is – let’s face it – raving like a lunatic – and everyone just shrugs.

The nation is still reeling from two mass shootings. The financial markets are yo-yoing by hundreds of points. A bomb in Afghanistan, where we’re still at war, killed 63 revelers at a wedding. Tension between the United States and Iran continues to mount. North Korea keeps testing new missiles. India is playing with fire in Kashmir. Hong Kong has been convulsed for months by massive protests seeking to guarantee basic freedoms.

And Trump obsesses about buying Greenland.

The truth is that we don’t have an actual presidency right now.

No, we have this:

President Trump on Tuesday said that any Jewish people who vote for Democrats are showing “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” prompting an outcry from critics who said the president’s remarks were promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes.

But context matters and this was the context:

Trump made the comment in an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Trump began by lashing out at Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), questioning the sincerity of her tears at a news conference where she talked about her decision not to travel to Israel to see her elderly grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank.

“Yesterday, I noticed for the first time, Tlaib with the tears,” Trump said. “All of the sudden, she starts with tears, tears… I don’t buy it for a second, because I’ve seen her in a very vicious mood at campaign rallies, my campaign rallies, before she was a congresswoman. I said, ‘Who is that?’ And I saw a woman that was violent and vicious and out of control.”

He then went on to attack Democrats more generally over the views of Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.). Both women have long been fierce critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. They support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a global protest of Israel.

“Where has the Democratic Party gone?” Trump asked. “Where have they gone, where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

This was no more than carelessness. He could have stopped with his question. Where has the Democratic Party gone? That’s a good question. Democrats ask that question too. But he makes a quick odd leap. American Jews must hate being Jewish because they hate Israel, because they disagree with Netanyahu on so many things, and he is Israel, and he loves Trump. They’re either stupid or they hate Israel and hate being Jewish and – next step – maybe they’re not really Jews at all? They are disloyal.

That’s the problem here:

Critics on both sides of the aisle as well Jewish organizations immediately pointed out that Trump’s use of the word “disloyalty” echoed anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of dual allegiance.

“American Jews – like all Americans – have a range of political views and policy priorities,” David Harris, CEO of the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee, said in a statement. “His assessment of their knowledge or ‘loyalty,’ based on their party preference, is inappropriate, unwelcome, and downright dangerous.”

Harris wasn’t alone:

Former congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke shared a video of Trump’s comment and declared, “The Jewish people don’t need to prove their loyalty to you, @realDonaldTrump – or to anyone else.”

Omar was roundly criticized by members of both parties for saying during a town hall earlier this year that she wanted to discuss “the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Some conservatives criticized Trump on Tuesday, arguing his statement was equally offensive.

“This is a disgusting comment that indicates Trump has no idea why many of us have been so sickened by the anti-Semitism of Omar & Tlaib,” tweeted Philip Klein, the executive editor of the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner.

Omar responded to the president’s remark with a two-word tweet. “Oh my,” she wrote, followed by a face-palm emoji.

That made sense:

Some on Tuesday also noted that the overwhelming majority of American Jews have long voted Democratic. In 2016, for instance, 71 percent of Jewish voters voted for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, while only 23 percent voted for Trump, according to exit polls.

J Street, a liberal Jewish group, said that the “vast majority” of American Jews are “loyal to the Jewish and liberal democratic values of tolerance, equality, social justice and the pursuit of peace- not to the far-right agenda of this president.”

“It is dangerous and shameful for President Trump to attack the large majority of the American Jewish community as unintelligent and ‘disloyal,'” J Street spokesman Logan Bayroff said in a statement. “But it is no surprise that the president’s racist, disingenuous attacks on progressive women of color in Congress have now transitioned into smears against Jews.”

Yes, one thing does lead to another, but this was a long time coming:

Tuesday was not the first time that Trump’s remarks about Jewish people have prompted criticism that he is invoking dual-loyalty tropes. During an April speech to the RJC, the president told the crowd that he “stood with your prime minister at the White House.”

At another point, Trump warned that Democrats’ “radical agenda” in Congress “very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”

But they’re Americans!

Philip Klein addresses that:

“Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Was he talking about disloyalty to America? Disloyalty to Trump? Disloyalty to Israel? Disloyalty to Jews? No matter which way one wants to interpret this comment, it’s sickening coming from an American president — all the more bizarre coming as he has been unleashing a barrage of attacks on Tlaib and Omar for anti-Semitism…

Accusations of dual loyalty have been at the center of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews for centuries. Yet here is Trump throwing out the “disloyalty” charge.

One potential interpretation is that he was suggesting it would be disloyal to Israel to vote Democrat. But American Jews are first and foremost American, not Israeli. Suggesting that Jewish votes should be determined primarily by U.S. policy toward Israel is in fact to suggest divided loyalties.

If he was trying to say Jews would be disloyal to their faith by voting Democrat, he needs to shut right the heck up, because he is in no position to criticize somebody’s relationship to their faith.

Klein has had enough of this nonsense:

As a conservative, I have found it difficult to get behind Trump despite supporting a number of his policies, and a big reason is the manner in which he speaks about many minority groups. He has up to this point avoided turning his wrath on Jews, but given his history of flipping on people he views as “disloyal,” his comments make me wonder what would happen if, as is most likely, Jews overwhelmingly vote against him despite his pro-Israel policies.

They would be punished. Ovens work, but Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has other ideas:

To be sure, claims that “outsiders” and “others” can never be loyal to America have swept in Catholics and Muslims over time, but they will always have a special salience for Jews, dating back to the original fake news that was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, used to cast doubt on Jewish “loyalty” for decades.

So when Trump claims that Jews have not just dual loyalties, but that, in fact, their primary loyalty lies elsewhere, it’s hard to ignore…

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, again attempting to decipher what exactly Trump was talking about, while knowing it was nothing good, told the Hill: “At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have increased – due to the president’s emboldening of white nationalism -Trump is repeating an anti-Semitic trope. If this is about Israel, then Trump is repeating a dual loyalty claim, which is a form of anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being ‘loyal’ to him, then Trump needs a reality-check.”

Fine, but then Trump seems to think that American Jews actually owe primary loyalty to Netanyahu and only secondary fealty to himself, and then maybe to God and then to their religion, and then to their family, and so on, moving down the list. That’s his reality, and Lithwick finds that dangerous:

This emphasis on Jewish primary loyalty is even more pernicious than the dual loyalty claims that have been directed at Jews for generations. It is what Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 – the folks whom Trump once described as the “very fine people” on one side of the Unite the Right protest – were arguing for as well. They think Jews don’t belong in America because they have their own ethno-nationalist state.

Trump has been trying mightily to bring Jewish voters home to the GOP, but according to a Pew study, 79 percent of Jewish voters broke for Democrats in the 2018 midterm. So Trump’s charge that any Jews who vote for any Democrats are “disloyal” is an accusation against … the vast majority of American Jews.

And not only is he imputing ill motives and un-Americanism to vulnerable minorities again, he’s doing so amid a climate of unprecedented personal fear and insecurity.

There has been a surge in anti-Jewish violence and threats across the country and the world. These remarks come just days after a pickup truck accelerated into Jewish protesters outside an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Rhode Island. The driver, an ICE employee, sent several protesters to the hospital. Trump didn’t tweet about this attack. But Fox News’ Lou Dobbs did weigh in to say that the protesters “had it coming.” Which is of course, the terrifying other side of the coin: Jews who are not loyal, well, they deserve whatever they get.

These are the times in which we all live, and Lithwick says what needs to be said:

This is a slur and a scandal in which the president of the United States is invoking an age-old, blood-soaked, anti-Jewish trope. And, ever the narcissist, Trump is also warning all American Jews that he will not protect them if they are disloyal to him.

And that’s how these things start. Listen at Trump’s next Nuremberg Rally. Of course we don’t want the Sudetenland. We want Greenland. We took no for an answer, but this may not be over. And it’s no longer funny.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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