Hitler was elected, too — Down with Trump

Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

There need to be millions of Americans in the streets shouting “Not my president” and more. “Impeach Trump,” “Down with Trump,” “Fuck Trump,” whatever works. There can be no recognition of his leadership. He has the legal right to be president, he doesn’t have the moral right to show his face in public. He’s an evil creature, personally and politically, and there can be no reconciliation with evil.

His presidency, his ability to act as president, has to be fought by every non-violent means that can only be imagined. Mass protests, general strikes, shut-downs of college campuses and any other public institutions that can be shut down – all this should be on the agenda (and at least with college campuses, I’m pretty sure it will be).

Because of who he is and what he stands for, Trump would be illegitimate as president even if he won 100% of the vote. But the fact is that most Americans rejected him and a plurality of them voted for Hillary Clinton. As of this writing, she’s leading him in the popular vote by about 200,000. And the legendary Nate Silver (who this time around got it much less wrong, at least, than the other election-data analysts) says that once all the votes are counted, Hillary “should eventually win the popular vote by 1 to 2 percentage points, and perhaps somewhere on the order of 1.5 million to 2 million votes …”

1.5 million to 2 million votes. That would be three to four times as big a margin as Al Gore had over George W. Bush in 2000. This is mind-boggling. The miserable U.S. electoral vote system says Trump gets to be president, but he’s an imposter. Many more Americans voted for Hillary than for him, and most of those Hillary-voters, it’s safe to assume, are sickened and terrified by him. A mandate to lead? He has a mandate to shrivel up and disappear.

After the 2000 election I, like probably most Democrats, thought the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court robbed Gore of the presidency. But once Gore conceded, Democrats from top to bottom very grudgingly but decisively accepted Bush as the new president. Democrats have accepted the legitimacy of every Republican president-elect, no matter how much they disliked him.

This, however, is different, and it’s not because of Hillary winning the popular vote. It’s because of Trump. He is way, way, way beyond the pale, like no big-party American presidential candidate, let alone winning candidate, ever was. He is the worst major contender for power in a genuinely democratic country since Hitler in 1932 – and if you think that’s an exaggeration, name somebody worse. And now this individual is headed into the White House.

That’s his legal right. His 60 million opponents, meanwhile, have the legal right to try to impeach him, to go in masses into America’s streets and shout their fury and absolutely justified hatred of the president-elect at the top of their lungs, to shut down as much of America as they can shut down, to paralyze Trump’s ability to govern – and beyond their legal right, they have the democratic right to civil disobedience, to break the law non-violently in this cause.

Let it happen in the streets, and let it happen in the Senate, the House of Representatives and every level of U.S. government.

Everyone’s asking, What will the new face of the Democratic Party be? Let it be this.

Remember Trump’s multi-year campaign to wrest the presidency from Obama on the racist lie that he was born in Africa? Remember the alt-right’s monstrous conspiracy theories and verbal violence against Obama from the time he became a candidate for president – and against Hillary Clinton for the last 20 years? We are no less enraged today; the difference is that we don’t need conspiracy theories, we have the truth. It is time to pour out our wrath.




Message to Jill Stein and her supporters: ‘Lunatics, get down off the roof!’

Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.
Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.

Toward the end of the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were running neck and neck, an ad hoc group calling themselves “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” asked their former candidate of choice, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader, to withdraw from the race. “It is now clear that you might well give the White House to Bush. … We urge you to ask your supporters, as we do now, to honor your ideas and to vote for the man who is most likely to put them into action – Al Gore,” read their open letter.

But it did no good; Bush won the election by 537 votes in Florida, where nearly 100,000 votes were cast for Nader. Diehard Naderites still refuse to take responsibility, blaming the Supreme Court and pointing out that there were a lot more Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, than there were who voted for Nader. Fine. The Supreme Court was to blame. And the Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, were to blame. AND the 97,421 Floridians who voted for Nader were to blame.

But what makes the Nader voters (or anyway the huge chunk of them who knew in their hearts that Gore was the better choice than Bush) more galling than these other culprits is precisely that: They knew that by voting for the candidate they considered the best, even though he had no chance of winning, they risked actually electing the one they considered the worst. Which is what they did.

This brings me, naturally, to Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate in the current presidential campaign. With less than two months to go before the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t running as closely as Bush and Gore did, but that’s the direction they’re headed. Clinton’s lead is narrowing by the day. On Friday, the benchmark RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Clinton ahead in the popular vote by 1.1% over Trump in the four-way race that includes the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and Stein.

The Stein effect 

But what counts, of course, is the winner-take-all statewide contests for electoral votes, with 270 needed to win – and here the RCP average of polls shows Clinton leading Trump 200 to 164 in the states where one or the other has a clear lead. Among the “toss-up” states, there are four – Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18), Georgia (16) and Nevada (6) – in which Trump is leading Clinton by tiny percentages that are smaller than the percentages supporting Stein. In Arizona (11), Trump’s percentage lead and Stein’s percentage of support are the same – 2.2%.

In North Carolina (15), RCP showed no poll results for Stein, but Clinton’s lead there is only 0.6%.

Stein’s name is on the ballot in 45 states including Washington DC, and in three other states her name can be written in. Here’s my proposal (and I’m sure it’s not just mine): She doesn’t have to drop out of the race nationally, she just has to drop out in the “battleground states” mentioned above (and any others that turn into battleground states) where her candidacy could mean the difference between Clinton and Trump winning the state and, very possibly, the White House. And in those battleground states, she has to throw her support to Hillary.

Ralph Nader on campaign trail in 2008.
Ralph Nader, independent candidate for president in 2008, speaking at campaign stop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Photo: Sage Ross

If Stein doesn’t do that, and if she and her supporters end up nuking this election like Nader and the Greens did the one in 2000, it will be so much more of a malicious act than the one before. Sixteen years ago, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, there was no war in Iraq, no “war on terror.” Plus, Bush was running as a moderate Republican, a “compassionate conservative,” so it wasn’t entirely irrational to think that the difference between him and Gore wasn’t so tremendous, and to see that election as an opportune one to vote for “the best,” as Naderites saw their man, even if he couldn’t win.

But today, between Clinton and Trump? I’m not going to go into the differences between them, or how large they are, or how much larger they are than the ones between Bush and Gore in 2000; it’s not a serious subject.

One other thing I don’t get about Stein’s supporters is why they would risk a Trump victory for the sake of voting for a third party. What have third parties accomplished in modern America except to distort a presidential election or two? What was the lasting effect of George Wallace’s third party? Or John Anderson’s? Or Ross Perot’s? Or Ralph Nader’s? Zero. After the election’s over these parties have nothing to do; their causes may continue, but they’re pushed forward by other movements. A third party exists to run a glorious, hopeless electoral campaign, and that’s it. America has a two-party system, plain and simple, and third parties have no useful place in it.

The horror

In July, Stein told Truthdig.com, “I will be horrified if Donald Trump is elected. And I will be horrified if Hillary Clinton is elected. And I think the greatest terror of all is that we have a political system that says to us, here are two deadly choices: Now pick one.” But that was before, when people on the Left didn’t take seriously the possibility of Trump getting elected president. Everybody takes it seriously today.

There’s a famous line spoken in the ‘70s by an Israeli politician trying to talk sense to his intemperate, overly demanding colleagues: “Lunatics, get down off the roof!” This is what left-leaning Democrats and independents ought to be shouting up at Jill Stein and her millions of supporters. Maybe the folks on the ground will be more successful than “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” were in their time. After all, now we know the consequences of the 2000 election. And this time, the man who must be stopped isn’t anyone’s idea of a compassionate conservative.


Further reading:

“Truthdig sits down with the Green Party’s Jill Stein,” Truthdig.com, July 11, 2016

“Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2000,” Wikipedia.com

“Nader’s Raiders for Gore,” BlackElectorate.com, October 26, 2000

“Nader elected Bush: Why we shouldn’t forget,” Politico.com, May 31, 2016

Remembering Blair, Bush, Iraq War – the wrong way

Tony Blair and George W. Bush
Blair and Bush after White House press conference, November 4, 2004.

From the beginning, the Iraq War was a horrible idea. It was the product of post-9/11 hysteria in America, which spread to many in Britain, notably Tony Blair, as the Chilcot report on the war, released Wednesday, pointed out to the roars of vindication and vengeance from much of the country.

But even though it was a horrible war, two weeks after it began something very good happened: Saddam Hussein, his sadistic sons Uday and Qusay, and the rest of his Nazi-like regime ran for the hills. One of the most murderous, demonic governments in modern history was kicked out for good.

Why can’t the tens of millions of people screaming for Blair’s head today, like the billions who’ve been screaming for his and George W. Bush’s heads for years, acknowledge that ridding Iraq of Saddam was a great achievement?

It didn’t make up for the horrors of the war – hundreds of thousands of people killed, millions turned into refugees, a country of over 30 million devastated, with the killing and chaos still going on 13 years later,  spreading into Syria and spawning ISIS, and with no end in sight. But that doesn’t change the fact that Saddam Hussein and his regime are history; that the Iraqi governments which followed, whatever their faults, have been an infinite improvement, operating in a whole different moral universe from the one Saddam inhabited; and that this is all thanks to Bush, Blair and the U.S., British and other allied soldiers who fought the Iraq War.

That’s just a fact. And an obviously important one. Without appreciating it, how can you try to understand the Middle East and the West today, how can you make an honest judgment today on matters of war and peace?

Ask the Kurds their opinion

There’s one other historic achievement of the war, also overlooked by Blair’s and Bush’s fiercest opponents: freedom and independence for over 5 million long-suffering Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan has become a model for the Middle East. And the Kurds are the most deserving people in the world, as the Peshmerga forces are reminding everyone with their incredible bravery against ISIS.

Tom Robinson, head of an NGO that aids refugees in Kurdistan, just wrote this in the International Business Times:

As an old Kurdish Peshmerga fighter on the Bashiqa front line overlooking Mosul told me recently: “Amrika good, Britania good!” On any front line of the current war against Islamic State (Isis) these are often the only words, complimented with a strong thumbs up, that a Brit such as myself may hear in English. For those that serve in the Peshmerga, the UK has been a source of strength and support. Over the years I have made many friends, from privates to generals who have only ever had a positive reaction to my own admission to being British.

Why do the Left and the isolationist Right put the creation of Iraqi Kurdistan and the ouster of Saddam out of their minds when judging the war, Bush and Blair?

The question of motive

Also, why do they find it impossible to believe that Bush and Blair, as misguided as they were, as blind and reckless as they were, had a decent motive for fighting the war: the desire to protect their countries from jihadists? Here’s one of the things Blair said in his press conference on Wednesday; what’s so improbable about it?

I ask people to put themselves in my shoes as Prime Minister – back then barely a year from 9/11, in late 2002 and early 2003 you’re seeing the intelligence mount up on WMD, you’re doing so in the changed context of mass casualties . . . you have at least to consider the possibility of a 9/11 where in Britain and your primary responsibility is to protect your country. These were my considerations at the time . . .

The Iraq War never should have been fought, the human cost has been far too great – but it was a mistake, a mistake born of excessive fear followed by excessive self-confidence; it was not an immoral war. Masses of Iraqis really did cheer the American soldiers when Saddam fell. Why wouldn’t they? Millions upon millions of Iraqis had been his victims.

Saddam was not Ho Chi Minh or Mohammed Mossadegh or Salvador Allende. Multitudes of decent Iraqis supported the war to get rid of their tormentor. Many of course turned against it when just about everything – as widely predicted – went wrong. But that doesn’t mean the war was evil. And it doesn’t mean that nothing good came out of it. Acknowledging that may get in the way of a good hate fix off of Bush and Blair, but it still should be acknowledged.

Americans’ fear of Islamist terror exaggerates danger

Omar Mateen and scene of Orlando attack.
Orlando mass murderer Omar Mateen and scene of attack.

In the wake of Orlando, Americans are feeling helpless against the threat of “lone wolf” Islamic militants like Omar Mateen, and can’t figure out how to stop the next ISIS-inspired loose cannon from going off. It’s a legitimate fear, of course. But it’s way out of proportion to the actual danger.

Islamic militancy, lone-wolf or organized, is far down on the list of motives that figure in the murders of Americans, and it is in no way a threat to the basic security of American society like it could conceivably become in Western Europe.

Moreover, America is not helpless against global jihad; the U.S. is fighting it very hard – militarily and on the intelligence front – and is hurting ISIS badly, as Obama reminded everyone in his address on Tuesday.

In the 15 years since 9/11, a few brainwashed American Muslims have committed atrocities in the name of their ideology (in Mateen’s case, also in the name of his raging homophobia and penchant for violence). But the American Muslim community, unlike pockets of Europe’s Muslim population, is not a breeding ground for militancy. It is, rather, a success story of American immigration, sort of like the Italians even with their past anarchist bombers and Mafiosi, or the Jews even with their past gangsters, Communists, thrill killers (Leopold and Loeb) and atomic spies (Julius Rosenberg).

America has been doing a very good job against jihadism, especially at home. So instead of Donald Trump’s recommended course of action – to panic about every Muslim in their midst or beyond their borders because of the unsolved threat of lone-wolf jihadists, Americans should calm down and let their country go on doing what it’s been doing. As a first step, they should put the threat of jihadist killers in perspective.

Christian white guys

If you go down the list of names and photos of America’s worst mass shooters, and even more so of America’s serial killers, what you see is almost nothing but Christian white guys. Mateen killed 49 people; Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered 14 people in San Bernardino last December – but in America last year there were 372 mass shootings (those with four or more deaths or injuries), and all told over 13,000 people in the U.S. were killed by guns, not counting suicides. So Americans have many other kinds of murderers to worry about before they get to freelance ISIS disciples.

And for those who have the feeling that America is weak, that it’s given up in the Middle East, that it’s too “politically correct” to fight Muslim radicals, I’ll refer them to Obama’s statement that the U.S. has launched some 13,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Let’s not forget U.S. drone warfare in Pakistan and Afghanistan, either.

As for maintaining surveillance on militant Islamists and suspected ones at home and abroad, ask Edward Snowden if America is doing nothing. George W. Bush’s anti-terror Patriot Act is not only still in force, Obama is a real champion of it.

No U.S. jihadist subculture 

Finally, Americans should learn that the Muslim community in America, which makes up 1 percent of the country’s population, does not have a jihadist infrastructure, a jihadist subculture, like some Western European countries do. As Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer wrote this week, “It lacks neighborhoods like Molenbeek in Brussels and the poor suburbs of Paris, Marseille and Toulouse, where young Muslims grow up, disconnected from the wider society, and radical imams preach without being disturbed.”

America’s 3.3 million Muslims are a well-integrated, successful community. Their average level of education, professional standing and income is equal to and by some measures better than the nationwide average, according to a 2007 Pew Research Center study. Those surveyed say they have about as many non-Muslims among their close friends as they do Muslims. And in their political, religious and social views, including their attitudes toward homosexuality, they have made a striking departure from the Muslim Middle East.

America’s Muslims are not the enemy within. The rare jihadists among them are not expressing a significant sentiment in their community, like those in Western Europe do. Omar Mateen was not only a lone wolf, he was also, truly, a “wild weed.”

So this is no time for Americans to succumb to fear, at least not of Islamic militancy. Its mark on the horror in Orlando notwithstanding, there are much greater dangers at home – such as the proliferation of guns, an entrenched habit of violence and the rise of neo-fascism – for Americans to be afraid of.

Published originally as “Don’t Feed Trump’s Scaremongering: America Is Still Doing a Great Job Against Jihadism” in Haaretz.com, June 16, 2016. 


Sanders’ foreign policy worries me less than Clinton’s, but irks me so much more

Sanders-Clinton debate.
Sanders and Clinton debate on MSNBC, February 4, 2016.

The Western left in general is wrong about America, wrong about the world, and wrong about the morality of their politics.

On foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, I lean closer to Bernie Sanders’ hands-off instincts than to Hillary Clinton’s interventionist ones. Americans do not have the will to fight another Iraqi or Afghan war in Syria, or Libya, or Yemen or anyplace else around here, and I don’t blame them. These wars tend to be futile, bloody, and cause more harm than good. And because Americans so clearly do not want to get stuck in another long-term Mideast war, it becomes very dangerous for U.S. leaders, like Hillary, to think they can intervene “surgically” and safely, that they can drop a few bombs, get rid of the bad guys and go home, mission accomplished. If that’s all you’re willing to do – and that is all America is willing to do – it’s generally safer all around to do nothing. So Sanders’ foreign policy worries me less than Hillary’s.

But it irks me so much more. This week Sanders said of the Hillary-Trump exchange of accusations over foreign policy:

I think frankly they both make a point. I think that her support for the war in Iraq was not just an aberration. I think that her willingness to push President Obama to overthrow [Libya’s Muammar] Qadhafi and lead to the kind of instability we’re seeing now in Libya, not inconsistent with her views on Syria, where she wants a no-fly zone. … Bush’s era, Clinton’s era has caused us incalculable harm.

Sanders implied Hillary was no better than Trump on foreign policy, and explicitly lumped her policies together with those of the George W. Bush administration. The comparison to Trump is beyond ridiculous, while the Hillary-W. equation is just crude, especially since she’s publicly regretted her support for the Iraq War over and over.

But beyond distorting Clinton’s policies, Sanders’ remark shows the kind of automatic rejection of any use of American military power abroad, and the self-righteousness that goes with it, that plagues the Sanders campaign and the Western left in general. They’re wrong about America, wrong about the world, and wrong about the morality of their politics – again, in an irksome way.

Cold War is over

America has changed since the end of the Cold War. It doesn’t support leaders like Augusto Pinochet against those like Salvador Allende anymore, it doesn’t kill masses of Vietnamese fighting for their independence because it wants to lick the Commies. America’s enemies are no longer people like Ho Chi Minh or Mohammed Mossadegh, popular left-wing figures trying to throw off foreign domination.

No, since the Cold War ended, America’s enemies have been people like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadhafi and Bashar Assad. Leaders whom the locals, or most of them anyway, experience as monsters. So America’s involvements in Syria, Libya and yes, Iraq, have been on a whole different, much higher moral level than the policy of supporting fascists against Communists and socialists that the U.S. pursued during the Cold War. But the Western left doesn’t recognize this.

For months I’ve been debating Sanders supporters on Facebook, most recently about foreign policy, and the most common view of Hillary is that she’s simply a war-monger. Few of them seem to see any respectable argument for fighting the Middle East’s monsters, few are ready to say that Hillary’s approach, while mistaken, is honorable – no, it’s rotten, not to say evil. She can’t be motivated by any desire to save innocent people, it’s just power, glory, American triumphalism (some also mention oil and arms sales), she’s no better than the worst Muslim-hating GOP hawk.

I have a hard time getting these people to acknowledge that as terrible as the Iraq war has turned out, ousting Saddam was a historic achievement, as was the Kurdish autonomous zone in the north. I get the same resistance when I suggest that no matter how bad the situation in Libya has gotten, helping get rid of Qadhafi before he could take his revenge on his opponents  was not an immoral act, certainly not at the time. It’s the same story in the debate over Hillary’s support for a no-fly zone in Syria. And these are obviously not fringe views in the Sanders camp – they’re endorsed by the candidate himself.

Not good vs. evil

I don’t see what is so morally superior about watching passively while the likes of Saddam, Qadhafi and Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of people. I agree that for America to intervene militarily to stop them is probably a bad idea – but it should not automatically be ruled out, which is the instinct of the left. American military power is not always futile; for instance, it got Saddam out of Kuwait in the first Iraq war and cut him down to size, another historic achievement. (Even though the postwar sanctions were a humanitarian catastrophe, American power at its worst.)

American military intervention in places where people are under attack by genocidal dictators is not immoral. It may well be a bad decision, even a reckless one, but evil it’s not. Immoral is when you’re fighting on the side of the bad guys against the good guys. America used to do that a lot; it doesn’t anymore.

Unlike what the Western left in general and the Sanders campaign in particular thinks, the foreign policy challenges facing America are no longer  about good vs. evil, like they were in Vietnam and Latin America; they’re about the lesser evil vs. the greater one, like in Iraq, Libya and Syria. I prefer Sanders’ choices to Hillary’s. But they’re nothing to cheer about, and Hillary’s are nothing to boo. The left should learn a little humility, especially in the face of the Middle East’s tragedies.