Great Nixon’s Ghost! Donald Trump and the Jews

Oct. 26, 2020 

By ANDREW COHEN

In the last days of his embattled presidency, facing impeachment and removal from office, Richard Milhous Nixon was alone. He had been undone by Watergate, a byword for a regime of skullduggery, deception and criminality.

As he prepared to resign on Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon could rely on one unflagging loyalist. His name was Rabbi Baruch Korff, an émigré from Ukraine who had seen his mother murdered in a pogrom and had a history of incendiary behaviour.

Korff defended Nixon fiercely that summer. Claiming Nixon was a victim of a “carefully staged circus of hate,” Korff founded the National Citizens Committee for Fairness to the Presidency. Nixon called Korff “my rabbi.”

Oh, the cynicism. Audio recordings from the Oval Office released in 1999 and 2013 reveal the depth of Nixon’s antisemitism. His conversations illustrate a vulgar disdain for Jews, soaked in resentment and a sense of betrayal.

I recall the rabbi’s veneration of Nixon when I hear American Jews, a generation later, rush to the defence of Donald Trump. Like Korff, they rationalize the re-election of another corrupt Republican guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” – and a country club bigot, too.

One of Trump’s fervent apologists is Lauri B. Regan, who served on the Board of the National Women’s Committee of the Republican Jewish Coalition. In Hadassah Magazine, she calls Trump “the most pro-Israel president America has ever had.” She cheers the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal – all dear to conservative Jewry.

For American Jews who put Israel first, her argument is predictable. If you’re a one-issue voter, Trump is your man, particularly if you think he’s more Zionist than David Ben-Gurion.

Trump’s policies won’t advance Israel’s peace or security, but that’s not the point. For blinkered Jews who also lionize Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump is the man on horseback, much as Stephen Harper was for Canadian Jews.

Had Regan declared herself a one-issue voter and left the rest of her valentine undrawn, she would be more credible. Or, if she’d admitted that she’s really voting for Trump, as many Jews are, because he’s made them richer.

But Regan goes further: She hails Trump as “one of the most patriotic presidents in recent memory.” It isn’t enough that Trump is the savior of Israel – let’s all chant Dayenu – now, he’s the saviour of the United States, too!

Regan fears rising anti-Jewish sentiment on campuses, in the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the Democratic Party. This threat should make Jews “prioritize protecting themselves, not the social issues that traditionally sway their votes,” she warns.

Doesn’t Trump stand up for the military and the police to protect us “in their synagogues” from the mob? Isn’t keeping America great keeping Jews “safe”?

Curiously, Regan sees antisemitism everywhere but in the presidency. She finds a bipartisan soul mate in Andrew Stein, former president of the New York City Council and founder of Democrats for Trump. Donald Trump an anti-Semite? No, says Stein. Didn’t Trump “welcome Judaism into his family” when Ivanka married Jared Kushner? Didn’t he combat hate crimes against Jews with an executive order?

Forget the torch-bearing brownshirts of Charlottesville; Trump’s indifference to those white supremacists was a “media distortion,” claims Regan. On Trump’s embrace of the Proud Boys and QAnon while he attacks the judiciary, the military, the media and other institutions, Regan and Stein are silent. While Republicans of conscience abandon Trump – see The Lincoln Project – and Americans prepare to repudiate Trump, this pair peddles a fantasy.

They would find their reflection in Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. Smarter than everyone else, the wooly-minded Bengelsdorf fell so heavily for Charles Lindbergh that he missed the danger of Lindbergh’s antipathy toward Jews until it was too late. My late father called Bengelsdorf’s ilk “educated fools.”

Regan and Stein think nothing else matters to Jews but themselves, as if they are distinct or detached from society. To them, Jews ought not care – need not care – about the existential threat Trump poses to democracy, social justice, civil rights, and the rule of law.

Ironically, when he loses, Trump won’t appreciate the affections of Stein and Regan any more than he does the Vichy Republicans in Congress. Having privately ridiculed the evangelical Christians, he’ll reserve a scorn for Jews harsher than Nixon’s Jewish “bastards.” Eventually, we’ll know what he thought.

In the meantime, the charade unfolds. Rabbi Korff, meet Rabbi Regan and Rabbi Stein. They are your spiritual descendants and happy collaborators – as naive and embarrassing to their co-religionists today as you were then.


Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is a columnist for Postmedia News, professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism, and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.

We Should Denounce Jewish Bigots Too

Aug. 27, 2020 – By JOE SOLWAY

Normally, I’m pleased to see a fellow Jew succeed in the political arena, even if we don’t hold the same views. But not so in a recent primary in Florida.

That’s because the winner, Laura Loomer, is a self-described “proud Islamophobe.” She’s been banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Lyft, PayPal, GoFundMe, and Chase Bank, among others, for her bigoted views.

Laura Loomer
Laura Loomer

The rideshare services dumped her after she tweeted that “someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

There’s “no such thing as a moderate Muslim, Loomer has said. “They’re ALL the same.”

Even so, it seems that Republicans in Florida’s 21st Congressional District love her.

That’s the stretch of Florida coast that includes Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. On Aug. 11, Loomer defeated five others on the primary ballot to become the Republican nominee for Congress in this November’s election.

Loomer’s win came during the same week that Democrats held their convention, much of which focussed on calls for equality and social justice. In contrast, President Donald Trump praised his candidate’s win, tweeting, “Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” It’s worth noting that Trump himself is registered to vote in the 21st District.

Loomer has called Islam a “cancer on humanity” and its practitioners “savages,” adding that they should be disqualified from running for office. Where have we heard words like these before?

Dehumanizing a people or a race is something we as Jews know about first-hand. And we know what happens when those words turn to action. People are banned, persecuted and murdered.

When 51 Muslims were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a white supremacist, Loomer said she didn’t care, tweeting that she cared more about her free speech than what happened in that attack.

Yes, there are deep differences between some Jews and Muslims over issues in the Middle East, but when it comes to human rights and respect, Jews should be at the forefront of calling out hate, not fanning its flames.

Loomer has said she rejects being called part of the alt-right because of its links to antisemitism. That’s wonderful. But she’ll spout the same dangerous, hateful garbage they do: Inciting persecution and violence in the name of race.

Bigots like Loomer who sought elected office in Canada have been removed as candidates by their parties. But in the U.S., they’re now being embraced – at least by Republicans. Some of these same Republicans also embrace supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory who believe that Trump is working to save them from a global conspiracy of Liberal, Satan-worshipping pedophiles who are plotting against him.

Why does all this matter?

First, Canada is not a vacuum and what happens in the U.S. has a profound influence on life here. Thankfully, the anti-immigration People’s Party of Canada received little support in the last federal election. However, hate groups are on the rise here. An estimate by Barbara Perry of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism puts the number of hate groups in Canada at more than 300. Loomer herself has a connection to this country. During the summer of 2017, she was the U.S. correspondent for Rebel Media, the social commentary site headed by Ezra Levant.

Second, a recent survey found that more than 167,000 Jews live in Palm Beach County. There’s no breakdown of how many support Loomer. I hope it’s zero. Furthermore, (as of this writing) the Republican Jewish Coalition had yet to comment on Loomer’s primary win.

Loomer’s Democratic opponent in the district will be incumbent Lois Frankel, also Jewish, and a former mayor of Palm Beach, who garnered more than 62 percent of the vote to win in 2016. So far, I’ve yet to see any statements from Frankel about Loomer’s bigotry. Frankel has spoken out about antisemitism and other forms of hate in the past, including Islamophobia, and I hope it becomes an issue in November. (It’s worth noting that from 2011 to 2013, part of the district had been represented by another notorious Islamophobe, Republican Allen West. The district’s boundaries have since been redrawn.)

I believe as Jews, we have an obligation to speak out against the type of inflammatory rhetoric in which Laura Loomer engages, wherever we find it, and whoever it comes from. Especially when it’s from one of our own.


Joe Solway
Joe Solway

Joe Solway is a retired current affairs producer who worked for various Canadian media, including the CBC. He lives in Bowmanville, Ont., where he’s on the board of the Rotary Club.