Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the recent disclosure that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump was working for Russia after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey. In reading the story, it struck me that the emerging picture from early 2017 looks increasingly like a study in cognitive bias. Indeed, it raises a rather intriguing possibility that both sides may feed each other in reaching the wrong conclusions.
Here is the column:
The New York Times has published another bombshell with a story that President Trump was named as a possible national security threat in a counterintelligence operation that was launched after his inauguration.
If true, this is likely the only time in history that the FBI has investigated whether a sitting president was either a knowing or unknowing agent of a foreign power. However, the real benefit of the investigative story may not be the original suspicion, but rather how it could explain the course that both sides have taken into our current quagmire. What if there were no collusion or conspiracy but simple cognitive bias on both sides, where the actions of one seemed to confirm precisely the suspicions of the other?
There are now two possibilities. The first of those is that Trump really was some “manchurian candidate” placed in the Oval Office by Russia and controlled from afar by Vladimir Putin. Many are unlikely to ever accept any other possibility, though the New York Times story does not suggest that this counterintelligence operation found any basis for the original allegation. Indeed, the problem arose when part of the operation was made public. Such inquiries are usually completed and never disclosed. In this case, various forces led to a partial disclosure that Trump associates were investigated and that Trump himself might have been compromised.
Now to the more intriguing theory that is more consistent with known facts. We have a clear picture of what the two sides saw at the start of the Trump administration. At the FBI, investigators, including then director James Comey, actively considered the unthinkable possibility that the president was controlled by Russia. At the White House, Trump believed that his associates and campaign had been placed under investigation by federal officials with close ties to Democratic figures. What happened next could be a lesson in cognitive bias, and it could indeed explain a lot.
At the start of the Trump administration, the FBI has a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and opposition research firm Fusion GPS, alleging a myriad of suspicious financial and personal connections between Trump and Russia. It also had an investigation into the Russia connections of Trump adviser Carter Page. There was Trump encouraging Russia to locate the hacked emails of Hillary Clinton and some evidence of Russia internet trolling and hacking operations. There also was the curious refusal of Trump to criticize Russia, an anomaly within Republican politics.
Soon after the inauguration, Trump started to counterpunch against what he saw as a deep state conspiracy. He asked Comey if he would be loyal and to go easy on resigned national security adviser Michael Flynn. He eventually fired Comey. He lashed out on social media against the FBI. He said in an interview that he had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey. He met with Russians the very next day in the Oval Office and told the diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That is taken of.”
No charges were ever brought against Page, who appears to have been pursuing business interests in Russia. Moreover, investigative journalist Michael Isikoff, who broke the dossier story, admitted recently, “When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and, in fact, there is good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false.” Even the New York Times bombshell now reports that “no evidence has emerged publicly that Trump was “secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.”
However, the FBI back then did not know all of that. From the perspective of the counterintelligence operation, every one of those moves confirmed the concern that Trump may have been working for Russian interests. They understandably began an investigation into whether Trump was acting not erratically but by design to conceal his Russian influence.
Now go back to the same period after the inauguration. Trump had just won an unwinnable election against the establishment. He had expected much of the government to be hostile to his administration. He soon learned that the FBI secretly investigated some of his aides. Then the dossier story hit. The Clinton campaign first denied funding the dossier but later admitted that it funded the effort at a considerable expense, with the money hidden as legal costs by its lawyer and his firm.
From the perspective of Trump, it all fit pattern of a deep state conspiracy of Clinton operatives and establishment officials. Soon, Trump witnessed events that confirmed his suspicions. Key FBI officials like Andrew McCabehad Democratic connections and his wife, Jill McCabe, received roughly $700,000 from a close Clinton ally and the Virginia Democratic Party in her campaign for the state legislature. Then emails surfaced, showing sentiments of clear bias against Trump from relevant figures like McCabe and lead FBI investigator Peter Strzok, including discussion of “insurance policies” against his election and resistance against his administration.
Trump also learned that the dossier was given to the FBI by the wife of Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who worked closely with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Nellie Ohr was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Everything that Trump was seeing confirmed the theory of a conspiracy of Democratic operatives and deep state figures against his administration.
The result is two separate narratives that fed off the actions of each other. There likely was bias in the initial assumptions, with a willingness at the FBI to believe Trump would be a tool of the Russians, and a willingness by Trump to believe the FBI would be a tool of the Clintons. Every move and countermove confirmed each bias. Trump continued to denounce what he saw as a conspiracy. The FBI continued to investigate his obstructive attitude. One side saw a witch hunt where the other saw a mole hunt.
Of course, neither side can accept at this point that they may have been wrong about the other side. In economics that is called path dependence. So much has been built on the Republican and Democratic sides on these original assumptions that it is impossible to now deconstruct from those narratives. In other words, there may have been no Russian mole and no deep state conspiracy. Moreover, the motivations may not have been to obstruct either the Trump administration or the Russia investigation. Instead, this could all prove to be the greatest, most costly example of cognitive bias in history, and now no one in this story wants to admit it.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
264 thoughts on “Witch Hunt or Mole Hunt? The Times Bombshell Could Blow Up Both Sides”
Kurtz you focus a lot on anti-Semitism so I thought you and some others might be interested in this. I think it even includes a writer you brought up in the past in discussion with DSS. It might explain to some why their personal statements might appear anti-Semitic, even the ones that have changed their earlier aliases. Democrats have to contend with their new found anti-Semitism and folklore about terrorists and their associates who they fantasize about.
The New, New Anti-Semitism By Victor Davis Hanson
Old stereotypes resurface among today’s woke progressives.
The old anti-Semitism was mostly, but not exclusively, a tribal prejudice expressed in America up until the mid 20th century most intensely on the right. It manifested itself from the silk-stocking country club and corporation (“gentlemen’s agreement”) to the rawer regions of the Ku Klux Klan’s lunatic fringe.
While liberals from Joe Kennedy to Gore Vidal were often openly anti-Semitic, the core of traditional anti-Semitism, as William F. Buckley once worried, was more rightist. And such fumes still arise among the alt-right extremists.
Yet soon a new anti-Semitism became more insidious, given that it was a leftist phenomenon among those quick to cite oppression and discrimination elsewhere. Who then could police the bigotry of the self-described anti-bigotry police?
The new form of the old bias grew most rapidly on the 1960s campus and was fueled by a number of leftist catalysts. The novel romance of the Palestinians and corresponding demonization of Israel, especially after the 1967 Six-Day War, gradually allowed former Jew-hatred to be cloaked by new rabid and often unhinged opposition to Israel. In particular, these anti-Semites fixated on Israel’s misdemeanors and exaggerated them while excusing and downplaying the felonies of abhorrent and rogue nations.
Indeed, evidence of the new anti-Semitism was that the Left was neutral, and even favorable, to racist, authoritarian, deadly regimes of the then Third World while singling out democratic Israel for supposed humanitarian crimes. By the late 1970s, Israelis and often by extension Jews in general were demagogued by the Left as Western white oppressors. Israel’s supposed victims were romanticized abroad as exploited Middle Easterners. And by extension, Jews were similarly exploiting minorities at home.
Then arose a relatively new mainstream version of Holocaust denial that deprived Jews of any special claim to historic victim status. And it was a creed common among World War II revisionists and some American minorities who were resentful that the often more successful Jews might have experienced singularly unimaginable horror in the past. The new anti-Semitism that grew up in the 1960s was certainly in part legitimized by the rise of overt African-American bigotry against Jews (and coupled by a romantic affinity for Islam). It was further nursed on old stereotypes of cold and callous Jewish ghetto storeowners (e.g., “The Pawnbroker” character), and expressed boldly in the assumption that black Americans were exempt from charges of bias and hatred.
Anti-Semitic blacks assumed that they could not be credibly charged with bigotry and were therefore free to say what they pleased about Jews. Indeed, by the 1970s and 1980s, anti-Semitism had become the mother’s milk of a prominent post–Martin Luther King Jr. black-activist leadership, well beyond Malcolm X and the Black Panthers — even though Jews had been on the forefront of the civil-rights movements and had been recognized as such by an earlier generation of liberal black leaders.
Soon it became common for self-described black leaders to explain, to amplify, to contextualize, or to be unapologetic about their anti-Semitism, in both highbrow and lowbrow modes: James Baldwin (“Negroes are anti-Semitic because they’re anti-white”), Louis Farrakhan (“When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know what they do, call me an anti-Semite. Stop it. I am anti-termite. The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a great name. Hitler was a very great man”), Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”), Al Sharpton (“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house”), and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (“The Jews ain’t gonna let him [Obama] talk to me”).
Note that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both ran as Democratic candidates for president. Sharpton officially visited the Obama White House more than 100 times, and Wright was the Obamas’ longtime personal pastor who officiated at the couple’s wedding and the baptism of their daughters and inspired the title of Obama’s second book.
In the past ten years, however, we have seen an emerging new, new anti-Semitism. It is likely to become far more pernicious than both the old-right and new-left versions, because it is not just an insidiously progressive phenomenon. It has also become deeply embedded in popular culture and is now rebranded with acceptable cool among America’s historically ignorant youth. In particular, the new, new bigotry is “intersectional.” It serves as a unifying progressive bond among “marginalized” groups such as young Middle Easterners, Muslims, feminists, blacks, woke celebrities and entertainers, socialists, the “undocumented,” and student activists. Abroad, the new, new bigotry is fueled by British Labourites and anti-Israel EU grandees.
Of course, the new, new anti-Semitism’s overt messages derive from both the old and the new. There is the same conspiratorial idea that the Jews covertly and underhandedly exert inordinate control over Americans (perhaps now as grasping sports-franchise owners or greedy hip-hop record executives). But the new, new anti-Semitism has added a number of subtler twists, namely that Jews are part of the old guard whose anachronistic standards of privilege block the emerging new constituency of woke Muslims, blacks, Latinos, and feminists.
Within the Democratic party, such animus is manifested by young woke politicians facing an old white hierarchy. Progressive activist Linda Sarsour oddly singled out for censure Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, saying, “I’m talking to Chuck Schumer. I’m tired of white men negotiating on the backs of people of color and communities like ours.”
In attacking Schumer, ostensibly a fellow progressive, Sarsour is claiming an intersectional bond forged in mutual victimization by whites — and thus older liberal Jews apparently either cannot conceive of such victimization or in fact are party to it. With a brief tweet, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dismissed former Democratic senator Joe Lieberman’s worry over the current leftward drift of the new Democratic party. “New party, who dis?” she mocked, apparently suggesting that the 76-year-old former Democratic vice-presidential candidate was irrelevant to the point of nonexistence for the new progressive generation.
Likewise, the generic invective against Trump — perhaps the most pro-Israel and pro-Jewish president of the modern era — as an anti-Semite and racist provides additional cover. Hating the supposedly Jew-hating Trump implies that you are not a Jew-hater yourself.
Rap and hip-hop music now routinely incorporate anti-Semitic lyrics and themes of Jews as oppressors — note the lyrics of rappers such as Malice, Pusha T, The Clipse, Ghostface Killah, Gunplay, Ice Cube, Jay-Z, Mos Def, and Scarface. More recently, LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend, tweeted out the anti-Semitic lyrics of rapper 21 Savage: “We been getting that Jewish money, everything is Kosher.” LeBron was puzzled about why anyone would take offense, much less question him, a deified figure. He has a point, given that singling out Jews as money-grubbers, cheats, and conspirators has become a sort of rap brand, integral to the notion of the rapper as Everyman’s pushback against the universal oppressor. The music executive and franchise owner is the new Pawnbroker, and his demonization is often cast as no big deal at best and at worst as a sort of legitimate cry of the heart from the oppressed.
Note that marquee black leaders — from Keith Ellison to Barack Obama to the grandees of the Congressional Black Caucus — have all had smiling photo-ops with the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, a contemporary black version of Richard Spencer or the 1980s David Duke. Appearing with Farrakhan, however, never became toxic, even after he once publicly warned Jews, “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”
Temple professor, former CNN analyst, and self-described path-breaking intellectual Marc Lamont Hill recently parroted the Hamas slogan of “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” — boilerplate generally taken to mean that the goal is the destruction of the current nation of Israel. And here, too, it’s understandable that Hill was shocked at the ensuing outrage — talk of eliminating Israel is hardly controversial in hip left-wing culture.
The Democratic party’s fresh crop of representatives likewise reflects the new, new and mainlined biases, camouflaged in virulent anti-Israeli sentiment. Or, as Princeton scholar Robert George recently put it:
The Left calls the tune, and just as the Left settled in on abortion in the early 1970s and marriage redefinition in the ’90s, it has now settled in on opposition to Israel – not merely the policies of its government, but its very existence as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people.
In that vein, Michigan’s new congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, assumed she’d face little pushback from her party when she tweeted out the old slur that Jewish supporters of Israel have dual loyalties: Opponents of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, which targets Israel, “forgot what country they represent,” she said. Ironically, Tlaib is not shy about her own spirited support of the Palestinians: She earlier had won some attention for an eliminationist map in her office that had the label “Palestine” pasted onto the Middle East, with an arrow pointing to Israel.
Similarly, Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) — like Tlaib, a new female Muslim representative in the House — used to be candid in her views of Israel as an “apartheid regime”: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” On matters of apartheid, one wonders whether Omar would prefer to be an Arab citizen inside “evil” Israel or an Israeli currently living in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
Sarsour defended Omar with the usual anti-Israel talking points, in her now obsessive fashion. Predictably, her targets were old-style Jewish Democrats. This criticism of Omar, Sarsour said, “is not only coming from the right-wing but [from] some folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.” Again, note the anti-Semitic idea that support for the only functioning democracy in the Middle East is proof of lackluster support for democracy and free speech.
The unhinged Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) has derided Trump as a Hitler-like character, and Trump supporters as a doomed cadre of sick losers. He had once wondered whether too many U.S. Marines stationed on the shores of Guam might tip over the island and capsize it, so it was not too surprising when he also voiced the Farrakhan insect theme, this time in connection with apparently insidious Jewish destroyers of the West Bank: “There has been a steady [stream], almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself.”
Out on the barricades, some Democrats, feminists, and Muslim activists, such as the co-founders of the “Women’s March,” Tamika Mallory and the now familiar Sarsour, have been staunch supporters of Louis Farrakhan (Mallory, for example, called him “the greatest of all time”). The New York Times recently ran a story of rivalries within the Women’s March, reporting that Mallory and Carmen Perez, a Latina activist, lectured another would-be co-leader, Vanessa Wruble, about her Jewish burdens. Wruble later noted: “What I remember — and what I was taken aback by — was the idea that Jews were specifically involved, and predominantly involved, in the slave trade, and that Jews make a lot of money off of black and brown bodies.”
Progressive icon Alice Walker was recently asked by the New York Times to cite her favorite bedtime reading. She enjoyed And the Truth Will Set You Free, by anti-Semite crackpot David Icke, she said, because the book was “brave enough to ask the questions others fear to ask” and was “a curious person’s dream come true.” One wonders which “questions” needed asking, and what exactly was Walker’s “dream” that had come “true.” When called out on Walker’s preference for Icke (who in the past has relied on the 19th-century Russian forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in part to construct an unhinged conspiracy about ruling “lizard people”), the Times demurred, with a shrug: It did not censor its respondents’ comments, it said, or editorialize about them.
These examples from contemporary popular culture, sports, politics, music, and progressive activism could be easily multiplied. The new, new anti-Semites do not see themselves as giving new life to an ancient pathological hatred; they’re only voicing claims of the victims themselves against their supposed oppressors. The new, new anti-Semites’ venom is contextualized as an “intersectional” defense from the hip, the young, and the woke against a Jewish component of privileged white establishmentarians — which explains why the bigoted are so surprised that anyone would be offended by their slurs.
In our illiterate and historically ignorant era, the new, new hip anti-Semitism becomes a more challenging menace than that posed by prior buffoons in bedsheets or the clownish demagogues of the 1980s such as the once-rotund Al Sharpton in sweatpants. And how weird that a growing trademark of the new path-breaking identity politics is the old stereotypical dislike of Jews and hatred of Israel.
Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. @vdhanson
It’s hard to see the FBI investigation of the president as legitimate because
(1) they acted with zero oversight from ANY elected official.
(2) they based the investigation on what they knew were paid for muck-raking by Clinton
(3) they lied to the FISA court
(4) leaked the investigation to humiliate the president, then refused to ever back down when it quickly became apparent there was nothing there
In addition there are general hints of corruption from
(1) Sey Hersh reportedly fingering Brennan as the creator from nothing of the entire fraud
(2) the fact that everyone in Washington fears the investigative services because they are known to pull shit like this
(3) they do it all the time in foreign countries
(4) Brennan on TV last night saying he thinks it’s fine for the intelligence services to overturn a president if the president had real bad foreign policy policies.
So I just cannot see how the investigation could ever have been seen as legitimate by those involved, except in as much as they really believe they have the authority and duty to veto democracy in this country.
well said David!!!! rock on
Tard Takei mocked Donald for buying football players big macs. I’ll bet geoge takei would have wanted to give them Sulu Sausages eh>? LOL
Allan, the question posed in the following comment is intended for you.
Who have the dictators been?
You will have to copy the entire comment in order for me to render an opinion or answer.
Guantanamo has been used by which administrations?
Guantanamo Bay was started after 911 so it would be in 2002. The initial prisoners had to do with 911 since then others have enterred. Since then more have been added and most have been removed. I am not sure who remains or what their charges were.
I will be glad to advocate their release in your home and let you deal with them in your own way. None are US citizens.
Guantanamo has been used by which administrations to hold prisoners without trial?
Holding people without trial is a hallmark of an authoritarian government. From where I stand all such are way off over on the far right.
Those aren’t American citizens and they are prisoners (terrorists) of a war not yet ended.
There is no state of war.
Who is in Guantanamo? ISIS. Whether you or anyone else recognizes it we have been in a state of war.
As for your question I believe that your answer is wrong; at least vastly incomplete.
OK, you tell me who is in Guantanamo. I’m not sure which ones are left.
Congress has to declares a state of war. Then the capturees have to be treated as prisoners of war.
Or else there is no rule of law.
We are in a partially lawless situation where the powerful do as they wish. The old name for that was tyranny.
This has occurred for decades. I don’t think it is the right way to handle things but that is what has been done by multiple parties. Yes, tyranny exists but it is relative. The left wants more government control over the individual, therefore they want more tyranny.
The last sentence is false. Discuss it in a new comment.
Actually, what the left wants is Gleichschaltung, the conscription of every institution into their silly social projects.
that’s right but as the nazis who coined the term realized, pretty much the only solution to wide reaching social and institutional penetration, is equally broad counter-organization
the American conservatives or whatever those outside the American left would call themselves have have been too restrained in their response, too tepid, too timid, and perpetually ineffective. By the grace of God, DJT is a real leader who has inspired real cooperation among the people in the best interests of our nation
The basis of the left is bigger government and more government control. If you don’t know that basic then you know nothing of the subject matter.
Ask yourself what the left wants and then see if that leads towards bigger or smaller government. As government power increases individual power decreases.
Seems like Obama kept them there too yes?
I would say that the detainees there were either POWs or criminals. if they were POWs then they should have had all the proper treatment due to them. if they were criminals they should have been tried by law.
also, there are more nobodies in America who get held a long time on charges without trial than you might suspect
then there is our crazy penal system that just adds more and more time for prisoners who do what they have to do in order to survive the rotten system and it makes them crazy with too much use of solitary. Democrats are just as much in favor of that over decades as Republicans have been.
Really just bringing back caning would be a better solution than the overuse of solitary.
Something that has been talked about before but no longer talked about. I believe many here supported the womens marches and didn’t believe in the complaints against their leaders and the way they acted. It took a long time but…
Democratic National Committee Ends Partnership With Women’s March
I guess the anti-Semitism and discrimination that many in the Democratic Party support got too much for the party so the party would prefer those sentiments to exist in the underground.
it’s an amusing split. feminism and jewish left wing activism have had a heavy overlap for a century
i think what has happened is that so much of “feminism” in previous generations is now mainstream that “feminist activism” is an utterly insane fringe now and the pantsuit hillary types in the Dem party want to part company and keep the marbles to themselves
oh and try and hold on to their waning share of white working class men who obviously see no good future in Democrat policies
here was a moment that marked a deep break between liberal Jews in America who retain some good sense and the previously held policies of the Jewish life pre 9/11. this was a signal essay from oct 1 2001 but you will see how it hits on topics that are still right before us now.
part of the context one needs to understand is that prior to 9/11 American jews were staunchly pro immigration, in my mind, to a fault. For a goy like me to say this, it was usually called antisemitism, that is, until Stephen Steinlight said it himself and made a persuasive case for the community to go in another direction.
“…In a rare experiment in candid public discourse about America’s changing demography, American Jewry needs to toss reticence and evasion to the winds, stop censoring ourselves for fear of offending the entirely imaginary arbiters of civic virtue, and bluntly and publicly pose the same questions we anxiously ponder in private. The community should stop letting the thought police of the more extreme incarnations of multiculturalism squelch it, feel compelled to genuflect in their direction, or unconsciously internalize or be guilt-tripped into validating their identity politics that masquerade as pluralism. By liberating themselves from these inhibitions we will unavoidably profane the altars of some of our own politically correct household gods, including the present liberal/ethnic/corporate orthodoxy on immigration. We will also risk upsetting not a few old friends and allies, and some of the newer ones we’re already cultivating.
To whom, one and all, we will need to explain our concerns with patience and empathy. But we should ask the hard questions no matter what, recognizing that only straight talk will get us anywhere. We cannot consider the inevitable consequences of current trends — not least among them diminished Jewish political power — with detachment. Our present privilege, success, and power do not inure us from the effect of historical processes, and history has not come to an end, even in America. We have an enormous stake in the outcome of this process, and we should start acting as if we understood that we do. A people that lost one-third of its world population within living memory due to its powerlessness cannot contemplate the loss of power with complacency. We rightly ask, “If I am not for myself who will be for me?”
It must be acknowledged from the start that for many decent, progressive Jewish folk merely asking such fundamental questions is tantamount to heresy, and meddling with them is to conjure the devil. But if we hope to persuade the organized Jewish community to adopt a new stance of enlightened self-interest with regard to the immigration debate, a debate that will surely become increasingly bitter, fractious, and politicized in the crudest partisan ways in the days ahead we have little choice. Of equal urgency, and inextricably linked to that debate, is the mission of finding ways to strengthen national unity and social cohesion in America by resuscitating patriotic assimilation under demanding, historically unprecedented circumstances.
This is emphatically not a time for expending much energy worrying about political good manners and seeking to anticipate each and every qualm of our hypersensitive current political allies (I hope soon-to-be former allies), not to mention the reactions of some of our own flock. And we can’t afford to continue putting our heads in the sand, appealing as that is. The problem — and there is a problem — is not going to go away. Unlike the case with earlier eras of immigration, there appears to be no hiatus in the offing. According to figures just pre-leased from the recent Census, the number of Mexicans who have come to the United States legally and/or illegally has doubled in one decade.
Leaving Inviolate the Historical Holy of Holies
It is critically important to state at the outset that this is neither to wax nostalgic (a culturally inconceivable stance) nor — Heaven forbid — to find redeeming features in the evil, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and Red Menace-based Great Pause in the 1920s that trapped hundreds of thousands of Jews in Europe. My then-teenage father and his brothers, escaping the widespread bloody pogroms taking place throughout the Russian Empire during the civil war that followed the Revolution, were very nearly stranded by it and left to the tender mercies of General “Pogromchik” Petlyura’s Russian and Ukrainian Nationalist army. They managed to ship out of Danzig, walking to that Baltic port all the way from a small village outside Kiev, and get in just under the wire before the door slammed shut. Anyone familiar with the national/ethnic quotas that formed the basis for U.S. immigration policy in the years that followed will note not only their vilely discriminatory attitude toward Eastern and Southern Europeans (Jews most prominently), but also that even the tiny quotas allotted these undesirables were rarely met. So extreme was the anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic restrictionist attitude.
America’s vast moral failure to offer refuge to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, a story told so powerfully by David S. Wyman in his two books and that of many subsequent historians, can never be forgotten. The story is told in the permanent exhibition of the United States Holocaust Museum, but with less prominence than it deserves, no doubt out of concern for appearing overly critical of the nation on whose national mall the museum stands. While the U.S. administration was fully informed how and where millions were being murdered in Europe, only a handful were grudgingly granted safety here. The story of the ship the St. Louis is perhaps the most poignant and widely known instance of this monstrous policy, but scores of Jews seeking refuge could tell equally appalling tales of grotesque treatment. Along with the trade in African slaves and the institution of slavery and the treatment of Native Americans, America’s abandonment of the Jews to Nazi annihilation is arguably the greatest moral failure in its history. This shameful, frightening history has formed, as it were, the sacred moral basis for mainstream Jewish support for generous legal immigration.
But Jewish memories of the failure of U.S. refugee policy and a national-origins immigration policy abandoned some 36 years ago should no longer, can no longer, serve as the basis for communal thinking on this issue. We are, in the first instance, not speaking here of refugees from tyranny or oppressed minorities, but of vast numbers of immigrants seeking economic betterment, and, secondly, we are not advocating an anti-immigration position — far from it — but rather a sensible one that is consonant with the American dream. Put simply, what we are advocating is a pro-immigrant policy of lower immigration.
Also, let’s confess it: It would be ridiculous to mistake the organized Jewish community’s hesitancy to address the subject of the great cultural transformation of America for genuine equanimity. We are, after all, standing on the edge of what is arguably the most profound social transformation in the nation’s history. It is a demographic transformation that, most experts believe, will result in a majority non-white population sometime before the end of the new century. A new American nation is coming into being before our very eyes, and many in the Jewish world are worried about it; some are even terrified.
For the most part we continue to mouth the traditional policy line affirming generous — really, unlimited — immigration and open borders, though our own constituency is deeply divided on the policy, supports it with diminished enthusiasm, and even our legislative advocates seem to do so without conviction. Doubt has been growing for some years now. For those familiar with the behavior of mainstream Jewish organizations within the landscape of Washington-based coalitions, or for anyone with any mother wit, it is a commonplace that Jews find themselves on the political right with regard to almost any issue one might name on cold days in hell. But this has been regularly the case for at least nearly a decade at meetings of the National Immigration Forum, the key lobbying group for large-scale immigration, a group in which the Jewish organizations present are often alone in opposing what is, in essence, a policy of open borders.
Yet, for the time being, as if on automatic pilot, Jewish organizations repeat the familiar mantras and continue with their uncritical “celebration” of diversity. (Diversity meaning, of course, diversity of race and ethnicity but not opinion.) Like sleepwalkers, we instinctively plod along the corridors in the familiar patterns and pursue old-fashioned attempts at “dialogue” with the new constellation of groups while we attempt to get our arms around the New America. (Dialogue frequently being a one-way street where we strive to please our partners at any price, often reinforce stereotypes of Jewish money-grubbing and privilege by promising entrepreneurs of color entrée to business insiders and frequently ask for little in the way of concrete support for our own agenda in return.) Sometimes it also seems as if we’re trying to look like value-free sociologists and not give the slightest outward signs of the intense vertigo we’re experiencing or the least hint that we may be prepared to reconsider policy. Though we undoubtedly appear green around the gills to those who know us well. For a community that has long advanced an ambitious and unapologetic public agenda, and not infrequently in a rambunctious, in-your-face style, this hesitancy is striking and does not go unnoticed. If unchanged, in the long run it may also prove dangerous.
Of course research and reflection are always necessary prerequisites to policy formation or revision, but does anyone seriously doubt that we also assume this meditative posture because it carries no immediate political risks? And this despite the fact that like Americans of all backgrounds, including a high proportion of fairly recently arrived immigrants, much now going on makes us profoundly uneasy, and we can’t remain quiet for much longer. Our concern with not giving offense, for not getting precisely the press we want, should not be allowed to strangle our willingness to speak. There are questions of great moment to which we do not have answers, and we shall never find them if we are afraid even to pose them.
Also, so long as we remain frozen in an attitude of unwise wise passivity, we treat the new realities as if they were inevitable. We fall into the trap of seeing the reconfiguration of the American sociological, cultural and, perhaps most important for us, political landscape as if it were being carved out by a glacial force of nature before which we were powerless.
The Anti-Democratic Nature of the Determinists
This tacit surrender to determinism — the belief that economically motivated, unceasing immigration on a vast scale is unstoppable because it is due to inexorable global market forces — makes us complicit in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such surrender also means, ominously, that we have, in effect, accepted the notion that something as momentous as immigration policy — and no public policy arena carries wider implications for the whole of American society — need not, indeed can not, be subject to the democratic will of the American people. Given the rising unpopularity of current policy on immigration and even reports of isolated violence against immigrants nationwide, cutting off democratic channels of redress raises the specter of serious social unrest.
Surrender to the alleged inevitable also makes a mockery of the rule of law, as evidenced by President Bush’s recent ill-conceived, transparently political, and ethnically divisive initiative to grant legal status to some or all of the three to four million Mexican illegal immigrants in the United States.
Predictably enough, now comes word the president may compound the error and extend a policy of sanctuary for lawbreakers to illegal immigrants of all backgrounds to satisfy disgruntled new arrivals from other ethnic groups who feel aggrieved. We have come to live within a culture in which illegal immigrants have joined the roster of victims demanding rights, recognition, and recompense; in effect they wish to join the ranks of the only just ethnic recipients of affirmative action: African Americans. Many of the traditional “people of good will” not only find this astounding act of collective social gall appropriate, but also view the satisfaction of the demands of illegal aliens as if they constituted moral imperatives. To make matters even worse, not to be outdone by the president’s deft pandering to Mexican-Americans, leading Democrats have proposed a significant extension “on humanitarian grounds” of family-reunification policy, a highly questionable approach to the selection of immigrants in the first place.
Where, pray, will all this end? Astonishing data drawn from the 2000 Census indicates that there may be something like nine million illegal residents in the United States. Most people on earth have nothing; if they manage to make it to America they will have something. But do we really wish to construct immigration policy on the catastrophe of global poverty and chaos, and the breakdown of nation-states around the world that threatens to overwhelm all notions of separate nationhood and erode all borders? An appeal based on global misery can know no boundaries and can make no distinctions. And we must continually bear in mind that the Republicans and Democrats pushing these agendas do not do so out of genuine compassion (where were they during the Rwandan genocide?) but in a shabby public relations battle for the Latino, especially Mexican, vote. And no one imagines that we could afford such compassion economically, or that the American people would stand for such a policy if one were explicitly presented…..”
“part of the context one needs to understand is that prior to 9/11 American jews were staunchly pro immigration”
Though I didn’t read the long included essay I don’t know that you are correct. I’m for immigration yet it might sound as if I am not for immigration. The question is what type of immigration. In fact I believe early last century established and well healed Jews were embarrassed by the Jewish immigrants that were coming in. You draw too many conclusions about Jews and perhaps other groups as well without enough knowledge. Lack of knowledge combined with ill conceived conclusions leads to racism, anti Semitism and all sorts of problems.
Steinlight is Jewish. Steinlight said what needed to be said. Jews have widely supported immigration into the US for various reasons but new reasons at hand mean that it’s foolish for them to do so anymore.
I welcome Steinlight’s candor on the topic.
Their support for that agenda is well known. it’s a little bit like Joe Biden thanking the Jews for bringing us gay rights. Well, Joe is not an antisemite, and putting aside who said it, was it fair to say or not? I don’t care too much about gay rights issue so I don’t know. Maybe so or maybe not.
I welcome the smart Jewish people who see the writing on the wall like Steinlight. He’s a veritable Daniel on this issue and you can see how things have changed since he wrote that essay little by little and it finds a result even in the thing that it was you who posted about the woman’s march thing.
I have some jewish lawyers I speak to from time to time who enjoy to visit with me on such subjects and don’t tell me I’m antisemitic but i have been called anti Jewish over the years a lot based on my writing. I am not going to bend the knee to try and make people like me however, liking me is irrelevant, I am not a candidate for anything. Only the subject at hand is of interest.
Back to the topic: i observe that Alan Dershovitz made a profound observation along the lines that feminism and other forms of liberalism have damaged Jewish prospects for survival, in his book “the vanishing Jew.” I recommend it.
As one of my Jewish friends said to me when I asked him if he thought Saint Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was an antisemite, he said, “of course! the jewish antisemites are the worst!”
kind of reminds me of jeremiah sometimes. “throw him down the well!”
“Steinlight is Jewish. Steinlight said what needed to be said. Jews have widely supported immigration into the US for various reasons but new reasons at hand mean that it’s foolish for them to do so anymore.”
I think this comment is too simplistic. I am for immigration and have always been for immigration as long as it satisfied the needs of America. My opinion hasn’t changed but with recent events I am more vociferous on this topic. Do you think Jewish opinion is much different when that person is conservative? I think the conclusion above has more to do with ideology than with religion. You seem to want to place Jews into specific pigeon holes. Do you wish to do the same with Baptists, Anglicans, etc?
The left practices tribal warfare much like we see in the MiddleEast and Africa. The opposite of that is nationalism. Feminism is just another tribe to the left as the left attempts to break down social norms and cultures so they can place the elite of the time on top to rule over the masses that they believe requires such rule. They don’t believe in individual life, liberty and property.
Hogwash from Allan.
“Hogwash from Allan.”
Stated without explanation by one who doesn’t even carry an alias. How much weight should that statement carry? None.
It’s good that Allan spends his time engaging in an activity that isn’t going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things. What a waste of time, energy and breath. At least he’s here, where he can’t do any damage. He’s one of those folks who is “all talk.”
Yes it is probably a waste of time but something not unpleasant and helps me understand people like you that have no insight on what is happening in the nation or the country. That is important. My political activities are quite different and none of your concern as are my business activities. You probably have done less in a week then I do in half a day so thank you for thinking of my welfare but don’t worry.
You’re all talk, Allan.
Diane produces oodles of wheel-spinning verbiage every day. What are you but talk, woman?
You understand Anonymous that I don’t care what you think. You don’t demonstrate any useful intellect and one might as well consider you material for a doggie bag.
I agree with that. However in tribalism there is a human instinct of togetherness that is also a partial antidote to their foolishness and schemes.
Of course what you say has truth attached but to be one nation means that we are not a nation of individual tribes.
If it makes you feel better Alan, you keep thinking that. In the end maybe you can explain to me your support for Trump. My guess is you will change your name on this site and say Trump who?
Fishwings: Does Alan go by other names?
“Does Alan go by other names?”
No. I stand by what I say and what I believe. When I have had to change my name I used the same name with a “.” at the end or stated in the following post who I was. I believe in complete honesty. I try not to spin and when one thinks I am spinning I am able and willing to explain why I believe what I say to be true. My name is actually Allan with two LL’s not Alan with one L.
I am even willing to back up my statements about Fox News by picking one or more programs to record so that one can replay what was said and make sure things are accurate. You are not that transparent Peter. You spend a lot of time writing spin and not infrequently that spin conflicts with spin you wrote before. You don’t mind being dishonest. Your entire goal is to prove your agenda not based on fact rather based on superficial spin. Your rhetoric is meant for those who are similarly inclined or the ignorant. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.
Alan, your comments are generally long-winded. What’s more they typically have a formula. Like the lectures of a nasty old boss. The boss you’re dying to quit! So if liberal commenters overlook the demands Alan posts each day, that’s the reason why. We’re used to Alan’s lectures so ‘of course’ we disregard.
Peter, you can tell me my comments are long winded but they are true and it takes a lot of time to dispell the distortion of events.
“. Like the lectures of a nasty old boss.”
At least you recognize our respective positions in life. You an incomplete person with an incomplete mind. You are the type of person I would fire with joy and then fire the employment director that hired you.
Alan, by the time you get around to firing me, I will stir up more trouble than you can possibly manage. Fire & safety issues, backpay for overtime, and hints to clients you’re uncool are just some of the tricks I’ll be orchestrating. And my Hollywood hipness will impress your Millennial employees. They’ll be laughing hardest when I imitate your lectures!
“Alan, by the time you get around to firing me, I will stir up more trouble than you can possibly manage.”
Peter, I already know you are an incompetent boob that is only good for stirring up trouble. Note how you say exactly who you are “some of the tricks”. They might laugh but in the end they will produce something I doubt you ever did.
The funny thing is that I have found a lot of people want the jobs you want to destroy. I wouldn’t hire anyone that wasn’t happy with the job and benefits offered. We can see the type of employee you make, envious, bitter and very annoying. Maybe you are a government employee. Not that government employees are bad, but you are the type everyone wants to fire but can’t due to government policies.
Gosh, you seem to get worse as time goes on.
Alan, your roster of ‘former’ employees reads like who’s who of sour apples. All your competitors know. They’ve all heard what a jerk you are. And now the clients are hearing. A ‘lot’ of them, I understand, are making inquires: ‘How to ditch their contracts with crabby old Alan’.
You are the typical envy laden bitter worker (most workers aren’t like you) that functions at a low level and lowers the standards of a business. You think everyone has to be fighting one another. We don’t work that way. I don’t have to worry about competition or someone stealing those that work for me. Your type of person has to worry about that type of thing because of who you are. I don’t have that type of worry.
Go ahead. Continue focusing on envy and you will never get to where you want to be. You will always be a failure.
And my Hollywood hipness will impress your Millennial employees.
No, they’ll chuckle at that.
In China they just lock people like that up for being a pain and throw away the key. And pretty much any of these other countries where all these migrants come from do the same.
the irony is they come here and meet Americans who are so obtuse and onery, and cleverly calculate how they can take advantage of the troublemakers to gain entry into the Golden Mountain and all its perks. They laugh at us and our tolerance for all our own troublemakers and think we are fools. We have a lot to learn from these migrants I agree.
Alan, your comments are generally long-winded.
Says the man who stuffs text walls cribbed from the Bezos Birdcage Liner in every thread.
Tabby, this might be the time for you to tell us about ‘your’ favorite news sources. You know mine. Let’s hear your’s.
I look at the Wall Street Journal and British papers online. You can make use of NPR and PBS with a critical filter that takes account of their tricks. Jim Lehrer is missed.
Your sources are fine. But why hate The Post and Times? Sounds like you appreciate good writing.
The vast majority of what is written by the WaPo and NYSlimes is left wing opinon rather than news. Aside from quotes frequently out of context a long article might produce only a couple of lines of real news and if that news is something they don’t like it is generally towards the end of the column. Therefore those that get their news from these sources are learning left wing talking points. That is it. That is why they cannot defend their arguments. The do not have an adequate supply of information.
I decided to just place the name Trump into my search engine and then find the first article I could in the WaPo. The title: Trump is teaching Democrats how to win
Is that news? No. Read from top to bottom. All opinion and mentions the tax cut but fails to give credit to other domestic policies Trump has been involved in. Why? Those opinions don’t agree with WaPo. They say “has failed utterly to enact significant domestic policies”. That is opinion as well. He certainly has enacted significant domestic policies and one of them was reducing regulation but the WaPo doesn’t like that. The WaPo continues with opinion “The border-wall tantrum”. So far not one bit of news in the entire article written by David Ignatius. This article and most articles from the WaPo unless intelligently read are nothing more than propaganda fed to ignorant people.
This information is then regurgitated by people like you, Peter, Natacha, Enigma, and a whole host of others that are entirely ignorant of the world around them despite paying for a subscription and reading the newspaper.
“Sounds like you appreciate good writing.”
If you appreciate good writing read a book. If you like fictional political stories as produced by the WaPo, read a good novel.
Tabby, I look at about 10 news sites each day. And I can tell you this: ‘The home page of The Post changes most frequently’. Few papers produce that volume of stories. Because most papers lack the staff these days.
Papers are increasingly owned by hedge funds determined to cut jobs. The future of good papers is precarious right now. Too man many regional at the mercy of hedge funds.
The future of Gannet now hangs in balance. Gannet owns a chain of legacy newspapers across America. All these papers could be affected by a single hedge fund. That’s a lot of communities and local governments.
So it’s lame when conservatives rag on Jeff Bezos. Washington is lucky to have a rich paper. New York is lucky Carlos Slim owns The Times. L.A. and Chicago were unlucky in that regard. The same investor groups ruined their best papers.
oh please. citizen kane said it all. rich boss can use newspaper to push his own quirky agenda
cornelieu codreanu said something much the same but in a lot less nice way, so I’ll spare you guys the quote. yes he was a fascist
Re WaPo ” Few papers produce that volume of stories”
That is correct. They employ a lot of writers and want stories true or not preferably laden with left wing opinion. Peter, you look for quantity, not quality. You are a low quality guy.
“So it’s lame when conservatives rag on Jeff Bezos. Washington is lucky to have a rich paper. New York is lucky Carlos Slim owns The Times. L.A. and Chicago were unlucky in that regard.”
What conservatives are ragging on is the content of his newspaper which is mostly not news. The NYSlimes and WaPo soak up all the oxygen. Maybe if both disappeared we could have independent news media replace them where that media new how to separate news from opinion.
Allan, don’t reveal too much personal info. They are always collecting names to put on their S hit lists
Thanks, Kurtz, but I am not too worried.
Telling Peter my alias has two L’s instead of one is not a lot of information because this is an alias. Two L’s make it easier to separate from the normal spelling. I could choose another alias but I like to be honest and consistent something Peter doesn’t understand.
not peter per se but the ranks of paid staffers populating various “nonprofit human rights organizations” in the USA which scour the internet for thought criminals and assemble huge lists
not just lists of marks who are their fundraising suckers but lists of people they may defame if the chance arises and try and get fired and publically embarrassed if any opportunity arises
then there are the nutcase antifa who do much the same as unpaid staffers, in effect
Kurtz, I have been a thought criminal my entire life. I associate with loads of thought criminals the names of some whom you would likely know. That doesn’t mean I think in only one direction. My thoughts go in many directions though all anchored together by the Constitution.
OK FishWings I will do something you never do. I will provide reason and fact.
I support Trump because:
I like the fact that he improved our economy. Look at the GDP.
I like the fact that he reduced unemployment? Look at the U6
Those are just two of many reasons to like Trump. Now you can explain why one shouldn’t like him for those two reasons and we can proceed. But I expect you to bow out because there isn’t anything behind your inadequate rhetoric.
Same 2 things would happen irrespective of the prez. Look to the Federal Reserve.
Not so David. Even your Hero Krugman said the stock market would crash under Trump and your other hero Obama talked about a magic wand. Apparently Trump has the magic wand.
Paul Krugman took it back.
I mostly ignore Obama.
Good for him. He had no choice. I heard him debate and he could not hold up his side of the argument.
I suggest you reread a lot of his old stuff that tells you what will happen if Trump does X. Krugman is a dunce. He screws up on numbers as well. But, then again he works for the NYSlimes where spin and lies exist and are hidden by the placement of facts and the wording used.
krugman used to have a few good insights about economics and industrial policy but that all got swamped by his obsequiousness to his patrons
I seem to remember reading portions of one of his books on economics written I believe with his wife. Many statements he has made since then conflict with that book.
And I’m sure you have done everything in your power to correct the record right? Olly when it gets to hot and facts and truth get in your way you always come back that all sides do it. You may be right in the long term, but protecting Trump and the far right will come back to bite you in the ass. I understand you were in the USN, then you might remember the USMC saying….Stand the f**K bye……
Yes, shovels and picks will be waiting in the future reeducation camps in the desert, for the social parasites of today who only talk talk talk and break the nation down instead of help building it. a little hard work will do the fat arzed journalists and special studies professors and HR admins and NGO busybodies much good. Don’t worry, there will be sufficient thin soup, after a long day breaking rocks and digging ditches in the hot sun, to maintain basic health. Obesity among the detainees er I mean the trainees will however be a thing of the past!
a glorious future awaits left wing deviationists after they have been retrained to perform socially worthwhile activities instead of just complaining
as you say stand the F by.
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