Donald Trump spoke over the weekend to the Israeli American Council’s national summit, where the president did something oddly familiar: he once again used anti-Semitic tropes to a Jewish audience. From the official White House transcript:
“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. (Laughter.) Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. (Laughter and applause.) You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.
“ ‘Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away.’ No, no. Even if you don’t like me; some of you don’t. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. (Laughter.) And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes, if they get it.”
To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed a “wealth tax,” but Trump’s description of it wasn’t even close to being accurate.
More to the point, however, is Trump’s assumption that Jewish people are solely focused on acquiring and maintaining wealth, and that preoccupation will inevitably lead Jewish-American voters – who voted heavily against Trump in 2016 – to rally behind the Republican ticket in 2020.
Aaron Keyak, the former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, noted soon after, “Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community – even Jewish Republicans.”
It’s also true, however, that the familiarity of these circumstances is just as unsettling.
It was just four months ago, for example, that Trump used some highly provocative rhetoric about Jews and what he expects about their “loyalties.”
As regular readers know, this was not an isolated incident, Several months into his presidential campaign, for example, Trump spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition and said, “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians.” He added, “I’m a negotiator – like you folks.”
Several months later, the Republican promoted anti-Semitic imagery through social media. In the closing days of the 2016 campaign, Trump again faced accusations of anti-Semitism, claiming Hillary Clinton met “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers.”
As president, Trump and his team have managed to screw up recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day; he invited right-wing Christian pastors with a history of controversial rhetoric toward Jews to the opening of a new embassy in Israel; he praised the “very fine people” among the bigots in Charlottesville; and he used language the Anti-Defamation League described as “mind-boggling.”
And did I mention Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance with a “Messianic rabbi”?