Clinton or Trump? Vote and WIN
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton presented these alternatives in their remarks on Monday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is the biggest pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Its membership is overwhelmingly Jewish, and that’s the angle Trump chose to play. He pointed out, as he has in debates and in a previous speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, that his daughter married a Jew and converted. He kvelled over his Jewish grandkids. Trump often mentions the “massive contributions” he has made to Israel and to Jewish organizations, the awards he has received in thanks, and a pro-Israel parade in which he served as grand marshal. He says his father was a big Israel backer, too. Jews are his people. It’s a family thing.
This pitch works not just on many Jews, but also on conservative Christians who think of Israel as, in Trump’s words, a “cultural brother.” As Ben Carson put it last month: “We have a Judeo-Christian foundation, and the last thing we need to do is to reject Israel. … It’s like when you have a child. You know, you want to be fair to all the children around, but you have a special attention for your own child.”
From this point of view, outreach to other faiths is treachery. Sen. Marco Rubio, for instance, says President Obama “betrayed Israel, because he believes that if we create separation from Israel, it will help our relations in the Islamic world.” Trump, too, casts Obama as disloyal. “Radical Islamic terrorism,” the GOP front-runner complained in his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “We have a president who refuses to use the term. He refuses to say it. There’s something going on with him that we don’t know about.”
In a question-and-answer session at the RJC, Trump was asked whether Clinton was “a friend of Israel.” He replied that she “doesn’t have the strength” to help the Jewish state. Israel is up against “dirty fighters,” Trump explained. To defeat that enemy, he argued, “We need tough. We need Gen. George Patton. We need Gen. MacArthur.” He praised Patton as a “vicious, horrible, brilliant” general and pledged to “knock the crap out of” the enemy. When tribalism is your only guide, reluctance to use extreme measures is weakness.
Clinton, in her speech to AIPAC, offered a different approach. She described a U.S.-Israeli friendship based on “shared democratic values,” not kinship. “We are both nations built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom—nations built on principles of equality, tolerance, and pluralism,” she argued. Clinton cited Israel’s free-wheeling political debates and its gay pride parade. She concluded: “Let’s defend the shared values that already make America and Israel great.”
In a shared-values framework, foreign peoples and faith traditions aren’t necessarily your enemies. They can be objects of empathy. Clinton drew an analogy between Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims and an infamous U.S. exclusion of Jewish refugees: “We remember the nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the St. Louis who were refused entry in 1939 and sent back to Europe. … If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him.”
In a shared-values framework, everyone, including you and your cultural brother, has to meet moral standards. “Today, Americans and Israelis face currents of intolerance and extremism that threaten the moral foundations of our societies,” Clinton warned. Without using Trump’s name, she condemned his behavior: “encouraging violence, playing coy with white supremacists, calling for 12 million immigrants to be rounded up and deported, demanding we turn away refugees because of their religion, and proposing a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.”
The values approach requires tough love. If we support Israel for its democracy, not for its Judaism, we have to speak up when it threatens to become undemocratic. A two-state solution is “the only way to guarantee Israel’s long-term survival as a strong Jewish and democratic state,” Clinton told AIPAC. To facilitate peace, she added, “Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements.” She portrayed outreach to the Palestinians as strength, not weakness: “America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges, and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.”
The argument against a foreign policy of shared values is that it can blind you to personal loyalty and the importance of alliances. That’s what Trump, in his remarks to AIPAC, said of Obama: “He constantly applies pressure to our friends and rewards our enemies.” But a foreign policy of tribalism carries a more insidious risk: The real enemy is barbarism, and it can infiltrate your soul.
Trump is a chilling illustration of this corruption. He says we should relax our human rights protections and military ethics “so that we can better compete with a vicious group of animals.” He advocates retributive torture and the deliberate targeting of family members of terrorists. To defeat religious conflict, he would ban a particular religion. To punish protesters at his rallies, he e
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