In his inaugural address in Washington, President Trump used the term “America First.” As Joe Concha at The Hill reports, the term carries disgusting baggage from the 1930s. ABC’s Terry Moran in reaction explained:
“[…] it carries with it overtones from the 1930s, when an anti-Semitic movement [said], ‘We don’t want to get involved in Europe’s war. It’s the Jews’ fault in Germany!’”
In fairness, both The Hill report and Moran acknowledged that President Trump has explained his definition of the term as something much different from the anti-Semitism of the 1930s. According to a speech this summer, the President defines “America First” as applying to fighting unfair foreign competition.
But why does the President keep winking like this? Yochi Dreazen at Vox.com detailed many of these nods back in October. In one example, Trump, in a speech last October in Florida described a:
“[G]lobal power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
Then there was the vile treatment of Julia Ioffe after she profiled Melania Trump, and Mrs. Trump’s reaction that Ioffe had “provoked it.” There was the President’s retweet from the Twitter handle “@WhiteGenocideTM.”
None of this is to say that President Trump has himself acted in anti-Semitic ways or directly promoted anti-Semitic policies or rhetoric. In fact, he has called for the Iran nuclear deal to be ripped up, and he has said he will pursue moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. So why keep winking like this?
Josh Hammer this morning posted a stirring piece here at The Resurgent which called for all of us in the classically liberal, traditionally American conservative camp to stand on principle. He called for us to put away #NeverTrump, but not to adopt #AlwaysTrump at the cost of our principle.
Well, here’s one principle we must stand on: anti-Semitism has no place in a free American society; it has no place in the Republican Party; and it has no place in the conservative movement. I don’t doubt that President Trump’s intentions with the phrase “America First,” were pure. I don’t doubt that he truly wants to define a new American policy in which American economic, fiscal, defense, and sovereignty come, yes, first, over the interests of foreign countries. What better way to sum that up than “America First”?
And yet, in the classic (and hilarious) episode of HBO’s Veep in which Vice President Meyer goes to get frozen yoghurt, we get a glimpse into just how calculated, manufactured, and polished everything national politicians do publicly is. If (fictional) Vice President Meyer’s staff can analyze and overanalyze what message getting mint, swirl, or strawberry frozen yoghurt sends, someone on President Trump’s staff can catch when the President might be winking at people he ought not. That person needs to start doing a better job, and the President personally ought to see to it.