July 18, 2019

President Donald Trump is the Chemo During These Divisive Times 

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Editor’s Note: This week’s cover story was written in two parts and shares two perspectives on the topic of Donald Trump’s presidency. To read the other perspective click here.

Disruptive? Definitely. Messy? Frequently. Unpleasant? Of course.

President Donald Trump’s personality has injected intemperate and impatient bluster into our national life, and all the critiques and condemnations over how Trump conducts executive leadership are well-known and well understood.

But that’s only half the analysis. Trump also delivers toxic yet necessary measures to save the American body politic. His opponents believe he is killing democracy. His supporters believe he is saving our nation from a steep decline into defeatism.

In the medical field, unlike surgery or targeted radiation, doctors use powerful chemotherapy to attack rapidly dividing cancer cells in the human body. In the process of easing symptoms, controlling the spread of cancer or curing the patient through the elimination of tumors, healthy cells may be harmed along with malignant ones. While there is no guarantee cancer cells won’t return, chemotherapy has been extremely effective in saving lives.

Trumpism is an attempt to put into remission, if not cure, what clearly ails the United States.

A shared complaint of both the political left and right in the U.S. is a fear of bullying and betrayal by the federal government, which ignores whom Trump calls the “forgotten men and women” in favor of self-serving multinational corporations, Silicon Valley “masters of the universe” (as Financial Review terms them), elite business leaders plotting at Davos and K Street lobbyists in “The Swamp” — all who promote agendas beyond the common public interest.

In recent years, leftist activists have organized around Code Pink, Moveon.org, Occupy Wall Street, the Women’s March, Antifa and Black Lives Matter. 

Similarly, rightists seeking to reduce the dominance of Washington, D.C., have championed the Tea Party, the Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill, the libertarian movement and the call for an Article V Convention of the States.

Both older and younger citizens condemn U.S. political parties for ever-growing federal debt (now $22 trillion). Many Americans are concerned about IRS and FBI/DOJ bias and overreach. Others are anxious about perceived threats to their constitutional rights to religious liberty, freedom of speech, abortion (or fetal) rights, gun possession, and protection from illegal search and seizure (asset forfeiture).

Across the political aisle, too, U.S. workers feel squeezed. The rise of China, India, the Asian tiger countries and the liberated nations of “New Europe” after the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union has sharply increased economic competition. The U.S. share of global GDP has fallen from 50 percent to 25 percent of international output as young workers in developing economies produce goods cheaper than U.S. firms produce.

Globalism, mass immigration and a fear of declining sovereignty are causing Western citizens to rise up and ask, “Do you hear the people sing?” This question has startled government bureaucrats, politicians, media elites, the cosmopolitan cognoscenti and many academics throughout Europe.

By 2016, many GOP voters were looking for a dramatic rejection of then-President Barack Obama’s offenses against the American work ethic and spirit of self-reliance (“You didn’t build it”). They wanted a fighter who would reverse the anemic GDP growth rate under Obama — the worst recorded eight-year period since our national economy arose in the 1790s.

In his campaign, Trump focused on the manufacturing base in the Midwest. While coastal wealth had grown for tech workers in “the new economy,” wages had stagnated for decades in Middle America.

“Trumpism is an attempt to put into remission, if not cure, what clearly ails the United States.”

Therefore, Trump’s candidacy was a challenge to both Democrat and Republican establishments. Eschewing political correctness, Trump opposed illegal immigration and longstanding trade deals favoring foreign governments and globalist corporations.

Trump’s political appeal to Rust Belt workers has remained the biggest focus of his first term. For example, in his 2018 address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, he stated:

“For decades, the United States opened its economy — the largest, by far, on Earth — with few conditions. We allowed foreign goods from all over the world to flow freely across our borders.

“Yet, other countries did not grant us fair and reciprocal access to their markets in return. Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries, and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country. As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.”

Trump’s policies of economic deregulation, opening energy pipelines and making the U.S. corporate tax rate competitive have resulted in stronger economic growth and employment, especially for women and minorities, increased wages for workers, rising family incomes and net worth, new investments in the manufacturing sector, sustained consumer confidence and significant declines in welfare, poverty and the use of food stamps.

The administration’s domestic successes also have included confronting public universities (which receive federal funds) from limiting free speech, promoting and signing into law bipartisan criminal justice reform and securing the Right to Try Act, which allows terminally ill patients access to experimental drug therapies.

Trump increased research for childhood cancer, improved services at the Veterans Administration, reversed Obamacare’s insurance mandates and penalties, and launched a sustained multi-pronged effort to curtail the opioid drug epidemic. The Republican president has produced a successful domestic agenda.

Similarly, in his 2017 U.N. General Assembly speech, Trump confidently outlined his America First vision in trade and security policy, asserting that sovereign nations dedicated to serving the needs and interests of their own citizens first then could unite in alliance for peace and prosperity, stating:

“It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to impose our way of life on others. Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security and prosperity for all.”

On sovereignty: Trump withdrew the United States from the misnamed U.N. Human Rights Council, and will provide no support to the International Criminal Court, which he said is “violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process. We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy.”

On trade: Trump has reworked outdated relationships with Mexico and Canada. With rare bipartisan support, he also is confronting decades of Chinese intellectual property theft, corporate espionage and forced technology transfers. This tough negotiation favors the U.S., as companies value the U.S. market and capital tends to flow to transparent, rule-of-law economies.

On Russia: Trump has strongly confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin by imposing economic sanctions, verbally supporting Ukrainian independence, recommitting to missile defense in Central-Eastern Europe, increasing U.S. military support for Poland, and challenging Russian energy dominance through support of a Baltic pipeline and increased U.S. liquified natural gas exports. By challenging NATO countries to fulfill their own defense obligations, the president has reinvigorated European collective security, which is necessary to deter an aggressive Putin.

In the Middle East: Trump updated the Rules of Engagement for U.S. forces to decisively defeat ISIS, enforced Obama’s red line to confront Syrian use of chemical weapons, reversed the Iran Nuclear deal and reimposed isolating sanctions on the repressive Mullah regime, hampering Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps support for regional terror groups and proxy allies such as Hezbollah.

Trump also moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and defunded U.S. taxpayer support for the corrupt Palestinian leadership. These actions, as well as a resolute defense of Israel at the United Nations, have improved the security posture of Israel and the prospects for peace between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors, who share concerns over Iranian behavior, intentions and capability.

On security: The president challenged the North Korean regime over its nuclear tests and missile launches, and offered carrots in the form of improved relations and economic support if North Korea moves beyond the misbehavior and threats, which, for decades, have extracted Western concessions.

U.S. military budgets have increased to replenish our modern air, land and sea forces with more planes, tanks and ships. The U.S. finally is taking China’s ambitious plans seriously in the South China Sea. The president also is focused on U.S. leadership in space and cyber security.

Further, Trump helped secure the release of more than a dozen American hostages held abroad, and he authorized raids on MS-13 gangs terrorizing innocents on our streets.

The results of this extraordinary first-term performance are clear. Polls consistently show Trump receives higher ratings for his policy achievements than for his personal approval. 

Democrats realize Trump will be reelected if the 2020 campaign question is: Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Therefore, the left has focused on attacking the president’s character, blistering his business practices and his bombastic, bullying and unpredictable style. Of course, there is merit to many concerns about the president’s character and behavior, but for Democrats who want to regain the White House, there are problems with this approach.

“For many, Trump is an outsider bravely rejecting a post-nationalist vision in which America declines and U.S. trade and security policies are subservient to international elites.”

Democratic Overreach
At times, the “resistance” to Trump has been screeching, mob-like and violent. Revealing the home addresses of Republicans or disrupting their families in restaurants offends average citizens who increasingly are dismayed at the scenes of aggression from the campus left. From Madonna’s 2017 rallying cry of “I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House” and Robert De Niro’s 2018 “F Trump” Tony Award speech, to the recent public panic over the president’s Fourth of July speech (which was unifying and presidential), incessant left-wing vituperation has proved unappealing.

Capitol Hill Democrats lost the Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle in part because Sen. Dianne Feinstein played a last-minute trick instead of honorably working through her committee process. The idea that the nominee was assumed guilty of sexual assault, without evidence or corroboration, disturbed many as violative of our sacred assumption of innocence.

The long Russia investigations (FBI, House, Senate, Mueller) revealed as many legitimate concerns about Democratic collusion and misdeeds (the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded dossier, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorized surveillance on a political opponent, FBI/Department of Justice senior leadership covering for Clinton while plotting against Donald Trump) as from the 2016 Trump campaign.

The president repeatedly has rejected anti-Semitism and white supremacism, although you wouldn’t know it from the sustained meme of Democrats running for office and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The facts don’t bear out former Vice President Joe Biden’s opening campaign claim that Trump said there are good Nazis. Trump said there were good people on both sides of the debate over removing Civil War-era statues. As liberal public intellectual Sam Harris has soberly counseled, retelling this smear over and over doesn’t make it true. With so much to critique about Trump’s tweets (there now is a Museum of Tweets), why assert rebuttable fake claims?

Democrats are radicalizing at the policy level in response to their inflamed base, with proposals on the following:

On immigration: open borders, sanctuary cities, decriminalization of illegal entry, advocacy of increased health care entitlements, voting rights and driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and non-cooperation with or the elimination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On race: national calls for reparations (payments to those who were not slaves from those who were not slaveholders).

On economics: higher income taxes, a value added tax, new net-worth taxes, free college tuition and cancellation of student debt, “Medicare for All” to replace employer-based and private insurance policies, and a radical Green New Deal agenda that would transform our society altogether (with the goal of eliminating air travel).

Other radical proposals include voting rights for violent felons, the abolition of the Electoral College and the packing of the Supreme Court; government unregulated late-term abortion; a neutral posture between Israel and Hamas; and less than full-throated opposition to the socialist, anti-American Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has imposed misery on that nation.

All this does not make for a winning policy agenda.

The ever-increasing size and role of a bureaucratic, nanny state government means many citizens fear more for their future from congressional legislation, administrative regulations and judicial court rulings than they are concerned about the public rhetoric or reversible executive orders of a president whose term(s) in office is limited.

CHARACTER: The question of character itself is far more nuanced than is broadcast.

The left asserts Trump’s style and tone inflicts damage to our democracy by calling for a travel ban on unvetted Muslim migrants from war-torn nations (approved by the Supreme Court); by calling out “deep state” U.S. intelligence or law enforcement leadership as partisan; by labeling some members of the media as “the enemy of the people”; and by jawboning the Federal Reserve. But all these institutions will outlast this president’s coarse and undiplomatic language.

Criticisms of Trump’s bravado are valid but long ago were discounted. Yes, he is disruptive to the establishment. Everyone knows this. But the country was in crisis. For many, Trump is an outsider bravely rejecting a post-nationalist vision in which America declines and U.S. trade and security policies are subservient to international elites.

The more Democrats hate on Trump, the more many Americans will rally to a president they believe is fighting for them and showing success. He seems unnaturally indestructible.

The obsessive case against Trump as a thief who stole the 2016 election as a Russian puppet or, alternatively, as a white nationalist endangering civil society, has been analogized by author Victor Davis Hanson to the Democrats’ search for the Great White Whale:

“The Democratic establishment has become something like novelist Herman Melville’s phobic Captain Ahab, who became fatally absorbed with chasing his nemesis, the albino whale Moby-Dick. … Even if the quest to destroy Trump eclipses every other consideration and entails the destruction of the modern Democratic Party, it seems not to matter to these modern Ahabs.”

Name Calling
Smearing conservatives, Republicans and working-class white voters as racists, “bitter-clingers” to their guns and religion, or “deplorables,” doesn’t seem to be working. The problem with character attacks is that those who throw mud usually get dirty in the process.

Our nation’s first president, George Washington, the general who led the successful American Revolution and the indispensable advocate for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, deeply cared about his personal character, believing it mattered to our national destiny that he be seen as honorable and thoroughly decent in his treatment of others.

Unfortunately, many citizens today seem not to note the part of Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that stated: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

In fact, Democrats set the standard of measuring the character of our presidents not by their personal morality, but merely by their policy achievements.

Examples include Thomas Jefferson, who had slaves, and Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson, who were quite retrograde on race. Franklin Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans, promoted quotas on Jews at Harvard, serially turned away Holocaust refugees from Europe and opposed the establishment of the State of Israel in collusion with the Saudi king. Fellow Democrats John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton were disloyal spouses.

Republican Donald Trump joins a long list of presidents whom history likely will judge more for his public accomplishments and agenda for the people than for his widely critiqued character and personal flaws.

Yes, the chemotherapy Trump applies often has been ugly, unsavory and divisive. George Washington would not be pleased. But many Americans have learned to tolerate the failure of private virtue from mortal politicians. Instead, they judge political effectiveness in reviving American economic vitality and national pride, and the sense that America can, indeed, be great again.

Larry Greenfield is a fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

Milo Yiannopoulos Talks About His Jewish Identity, Trump and Zionism in Berlin

Photo by Colin McMahon

There might as well have been a red carpet leading to the Hopfingerbräu Beer Hall near the German parliament, where about 150 supporters of Germany’s populist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) waited eagerly for the fashionably late guest speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos. These days, as one of America’s most controversial, censored media pundits, he’d be lucky to get any welcome at all to most parties, conferences and government halls in the United States. 

Germans, unless they are conservative political junkies, may not have heard of the British-born “Milo,” as he’s known. The former tech editor of the pro-Trump outlet Breitbart, told the enthusiastic Hopfingerbräu crowd, “I’ve been called a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a homophobe, a pedophile apologist and a transphobe. Only Islamaphobe is true.” 

It’s that kind of in-your-face style talk that got the flamboyantly gay, platinum blonde banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, EventBrite, Shopify, Patreon, Mailchimp and Tumblr (to name a few).

As a Jew married to a black man, Yiannopoulos says he is amused by being called a homophobe, anti-Semite, and racist. The 34-year-old credits himself with being a game-changer during the 2016 presidential election when he famously called then President-elect Donald Trump, “Daddy.” The then sought-after speaker defied stereotypes of stodgy Republicans, coopting the entertaining language of the left to advocate for conservative issues and personalities. 

But his big mouth got him into trouble among conservatives, too. He was fired from Breitbart after discussing his teenage sexual encounter with his pastor. Claiming that he never intended to condone pedophilia, he said that sometimes such relationships have a consensual element. He also lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster but ended up selling a quarter of a million copies of his 2017 book, “Dangerous,” through his own publishing house. 

The morning after the AfD soiree, Yiannopoulos sat down at a hip West Berlin café to discuss Jewish identity and Israel, revealing a tortured relationship with his Jewish identity because of his tortured relationship with his mother, a Jew of German descent. 

“I had a really s—– childhood and because I hated my parents so much it had a consequence of me not learning much about my family,” Yiannopoulos said, a crucifix dangling around his neck. He was raised by his Greek-Irish Catholic paternal grandmother and considers himself Catholic. Yet when he speaks about Jews, he often speaks in the first person, including himself as a Member of the Tribe, even attributing his biting humor to his Jewish side. “I tend to only wheel it out to irritate people in arguments and whenever they’re accusing me of insane things,” he said.

He thinks the Jewish community and the “Jewish lobby” would be well served not to “throw a gasket” every time someone — even a politician — throws out what may appear to be an anti-Semitic trope. “Just like I don’t like left-wing political correctness about women and blacks and Muslims, I don’t like right-wing political correctness about Jews and Israel.” 

Citing freshman Democratic Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who tweeted that American support for Israel was  “all about the Benjamins,” Yiannopoulos said Jews could nail Omar on a lot more than a tweet. 

 “People claim that really stupid things are anti-Semitic that are not really anti-Semitic, or they make more of a fuss about it than they need to.”

According to Yiannopoulos, since Jews are disproportionately influential in media, publishing, entertainment and finance — “it’s not conspiracy, that’s a fact” — he said, Jews often are perceived as enforcing taboos quite ruthlessly. “So if somebody says something about Israel, even if we kind of know that it was just a criticism of Israel, we can say it’s anti-Semitic to win the argument, right? And I feel as though a lot of the times when the left and right say something is anti-Semitic, it isn’t.”

He also believes some Trump supporters and right-wing activists also resent Jewish groups that disproportionately push for mass Muslim immigration and so-called “progressive” values. “There is definitely something weird about why Jews, despite their social values, vote left wing,” he said. 

“Just like I don’t like left-wing political correctness about women and blacks and Muslims, I don’t like right-wing political correctness about Jews and Israel.” — Milo Yiannopoulos

Regarding Israel, Yiannopoulos calls himself a “paid-up Zionist” who believes Israel is a bastion of civilization in a region of Islamic tyrants, saying he’d be the first to advocate for a Jewish “super-state” in the Middle East. Still, he has “tough love” for Israel, where he’s partied in Tel Aviv.

“I’m perfectly happy with Israeli special forces and American intelligence and all the rest of it going in and assassinating every leader of Hamas tomorrow,” he said. “I would sign that as my first executive order as president, but I don’t think it aids the cause to overreact to things — as much pressure as there is to respond and to retaliate — especially when, for instance, no Israelis get killed or hurt.”

What he believes are Israel’s heavy-handed actions in Gaza he said, can make Israel come across as a “cry-bully. You can’t play the victim while actually having the biggest stick and you can’t pretend to be weak when everyone knows you’re strong, because you come across as disingenuous and you lose the moral high ground.” 

He thinks the real anti-Semites (including Omar), find their home in the radical, anti-Israel Democratic Party. Still, he said, Omar’s tweet wasn’t objectionable enough to justify such hysteria. “I’m a free speech fundamentalist. I think you should be able to say whatever the hell you want.”

He also said he loves to test what can and can’t be said in a public forum without crossing into what he believes is honest-to-goodness racism. Conservatives, he said, must not cry over being de-platformed. Social media are a game. They must eventually make a clean break from left-leaning Silicon Valley and find new ways of reaching out. He is planning his own, indie late-night online talk show, a mixture, he said, of Bill Maher and Johnny Carson. 

“I am perfectly happy to be a martyr, because it’s necessary,” he said. “And I’m perfectly happy to make that sacrifice because it’s necessary. I could perfectly, easily have had a television show by now if I had kept my mouth shut. There are plenty of people working in entertainment who have quite right-wing views who just don’t express them or who express the opposite. I can’t do that. It’s not in my nature to be able to lie for money.”

Yiannopoulos’ visit to Berlin might have lured him out of forced early “retirement,” with European populists granting him a fresh audience. “Given how systematically [conservatives are] being scrubbed out of existence in America, we’re becoming more readily available to Europe, which I think is probably where we’re needed most at the moment anyway, because we won the ‘Trump fight,’ and he’s going to have a second term anyway.”

At the beer hall, he told the populist Germans that urging them to rediscover the “heroic masculine virtues so mocked by today’s timid, weak, feminized German culture, isn’t a nostalgic appeal to darker times from our continent’s past. It is a reminder that without courage, confidence and strength, all that is good and decent about European civilization is at risk.”

And, according to him, among the greatest risk to European civilization is uncontrolled, mass Muslim migration. “Even the migrants’ hatred of Jews is overlooked,” he told the AfD crowd. “This is not the first time in Germany’s history that it has become a scary place to be a Jew.”

Even if Europe ends up rejecting him, Yiannopoulos said he has found unparalleled contentment in the New Jersey country home he shares with the “love of his life” and a llama.

“But I do get a little bit antsy not doing much around the house,” he said. “It’s probably a waste of talent for me to stop doing what I’m doing at this age and I think I can do a lot of good.”

Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Her second novel, “Underskin,” is a love story of Berlin and Tel Aviv.

Two Nice Jewish Boys: Episode 115 – The Liberal That Battles BDS on Campuses

The battle against BDS is a sort of David vs Goliath style fight. On one side you have the BDS supporters, heavily funded by foreign governments and NGOs, reinforced by celebrities, activists and an army of social media justice warriors. And on the other side you’ve got a handful of eloquent volunteers who stand as a human shield, trying to protect what’s left of Israel’s dignity in the world.

The battle is not an easy one at all. Ask Hen Mazzig. Hen is an Israeli Jew from Mizrahi descent (we’ll get to why that’s important later). After a meaningful service in the IDF, Hen decided he can’t stand on the sidelines any longer and watch as his country’s PR crumbles. While he’s a proud member of the LGBT community here in Israel and even critical of the right-wing government and its policies, Hen has been touring the world for years, giving lectures at extremely hostile campuses, and generally getting the word out there – BDS is bad, for everyone, especially the Palestinians.

Hen joins us today to discuss his life and the path that led him to fight BDS.

Hen Mazzig’s official website, his Facebook and Twitter.

For more Two Nice Jewish Boys, click here.

Two Nice Jewish Boys, Jewish news, Jewish journal, BDS, Campuses, Liberals, David vs Goliath, Hen Mazzig, LGBTQ

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Election: Jews Favor Israel, Oppose Trump

President Trump at the Suresnes American Cemetery and memorial outside Paris. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

American Jews headed to the polls on Nov. 6 spurred by concern over health care, gun violence and the predatory glances that Republican politicians have been casting at Medicare and Social Security. These voters, still burning with anguish over the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and concern over growing xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, profoundly rejected President Donald Trump and his policies.

Jewish voters chose Democratic candidates by a 76 percent to 19 percent margin, according to a new poll conducted by GBA Strategies and commissioned by J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace organization (full disclosure: I work with J Street as a Jewish Community Engagement Fellow). Voters connected the rise of racial and religious bias in the United States and the general deterioration of public discourse with the policies and actions of the Trump administration. A large majority made clear that they have been more concerned with anti-Semitism (81 percent), racism (79 percent) and right-wing extremism (79 percent) since the president took office.

Strikingly, 72 percent of those surveyed — and 66 percent of Orthodox Jews surveyed — state that Trump’s comments and policies are “very” or “somewhat” responsible for the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue.

When asked what issues most strongly motivated their vote in the congressional elections, the top issue for the most Jews from every denomination is health care. Most Jews surveyed said the two issues after that are gun violence and Social Security/Medicare. American Jews reported that domestic issues ranked highest in their consideration of which candidates to vote for, ranking Israel 12th on a list of 14 issues and ranking Iran last. When asked about the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program, 71 percent supported it, while 67 percent opposed Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement.

American-Jewish voters continue to care about the State of Israel, for which 65 percent report an “emotional attachment.” However, if Trump has been hoping that this attachment combined with his closeness with Prime Minister Netanyahu will win American Jews to his side, he should be disappointed. American Jews are not markedly fond of the Netanyahu — about a third of the respondents rated him favorably. Netanyahu’s policies, favored by Trump, are not popular with American Jews, 83 percent of whom support a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and 78 percent of whom support such a two-state solution based pre-1967 borders with land swaps, international peacekeepers and a Palestinian capital in the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Seventy-six percent of American Jews think that Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank should be fully suspended or restricted only to certain areas.

“Smart voters recognize Trump and Netanyahu are deeply out of step.”

Eighty-four percent of American Jews think that someone can be pro-Israel while being openly critical of the Israeli government’s policies. After all, these are voters who love the U.S. while being vocally critical of our current president — who criticize him because they love America and cannot abide the effects of his misrule on our country.

American Jews value a vigorous democracy that promotes healthy debate and curiosity about difference, not murderous hostility. They recall that we are commanded to care for the stranger, because we were strangers in Egypt. They value care for the sick, the elderly and young — for the widow and orphan as our prophets demanded. 

Whether it comes from Netanyahu or Trump, they dislike aggressive rhetoric and policies that promote social division and hatred. In Israel and in the U.S., they want to see security maintained and peace pursued, not through fear, but through diplomatic conflict resolution.

In the context of today’s political configuration, this means that American Jews solidly support Democratic Party candidates, and that is unlikely to change. American Jews are a small percentage of the population, but, increasingly, elections are decided by tiny portions of the electorate, and Jews are motivated voters. Smart candidates continue to recognize that Trump, Netanyahu and the voices that support them are deeply out of step with the American-Jewish electorate.

Rabbi Robin Podolsky teaches at Cal State Long Beach, writes for Shondaland, and blogs at jewishjournal.com/erevrav. 

Israel, the U.S. and Partisanship

There’s a trendy view these days that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has committed the grave sin of turning support of Israel partisan. This is the view of many on the Democratic left, who seem perturbed at Netanyahu’s close relationship with President Donald Trump. “Netanyahu refuses to even pretend that he cares what liberal American Jews think or feel about Israel,” sneers Eric Alterman of The Nation. 

But what, precisely, is Netanyahu supposed to do in the face of the left’s gradual move against Israel over the past two decades? Alterman, for all his sneering, is a harsh anti-Israel critic — he says that Israel is either practicing apartheid today or on the verge of doing so, and has endorsed the idea behind boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel on the international stage. Can that be attributed to Netanyahu?

The left’s anti-Israel move has been brewing for decades. Republicans have been somewhat more pro-Israel than Democrats since the Six-Day War — Israel’s victory in that war led to an onslaught of Soviet propaganda against the Jewish state as the Soviets attempted to consolidate the support of Muslim states. Still, until 2001, the two parties remained largely pro-Israel; in 2001, 38 percent of Democrats supported Israel against the Palestinians, with 50 percent of Republicans doing so.

Then 9/11 hit. Suddenly Republican support for Israel began to climb and Democratic support for Israel began to drop. That drop was exacerbated by the advent of former President Barack Obama’s administration, which took the line that Israel’s failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians lay at the heart of broader conflicts in the region. The American left began to parrot the line of the European left that Israel’s intransigence represented the root of imperialistic Western power politics. 

After 9/11, Republican support for Israel began to climb and Democratic support for Israel began to drop.

I attended the Democratic National Convention in 2012, where constituents booed Jerusalem in the Democratic National Committee platform; there was no doubt in the room which way the Democratic Party was moving. The Obama administration established a “daylight with Israel” policy and ran roughshod over Israel’s concerns about Iranian terrorism in promotion of a hollow Iranian nuclear deal. Today, just 27 percent of Democrats say they support Israel as opposed to the Palestinians — even though the Palestinians are governed by a three-headed terrorist monster in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — as compared with 25 percent who support the Palestinians. Controversial Louis Farrakhan acolyte Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) nearly became the head of the DNC last year with the support of supposed pro-Israel advocate Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader in Britain, is openly anti-Semitic. He took tea with Raed Salah, a man he called an “honoured citizen” despite Salah’s use of the actual Blood Libel; he wrote a letter defending Stephen Sizer, a now-retired vicar who blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks; and he hosted “his friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah in parliament. Now, Corbyn has attempted to cover his tracks. But he’s fooling no one.

Meanwhile, the American right continues to embrace Israel at record rates. Republicans favor the Israelis over the Palestinians at a rate of 79 percent to 6 percent. Contrary to self-flattering left-wing opinion, that isn’t because of Christian millenarianism — it’s not because Christians think that support for Israel will immanentize the eschaton. It’s because religious Christians in the United States truly believe that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed; they see Israel as a representative of Western ideals in a brutal region of the world; they recognize in Israel ideological allies and religious kin. Even those on the right who aren’t particularly religious support Israel because they recognize that Israel represents the canary in the coal mine for the West; Israel’s battle against Islamic terror is part of a broader battle the West must fight.

That’s not Netanyahu’s fault. Perhaps those on the left who remain pro-Israel ought to consider that the problem isn’t Israel or Netanyahu: It’s a left wing that has lost touch with reality in favor of multicultural utopianism and flattered itself into believing that sympathizing with some of the world’s worst regimes represents standing up for human rights.

Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.

Letters to the Editor: Natalie Portman, Teen Mental Health, and Millennials and the Holocaust

Natalie Portman’s Israel Decision

Is Natalie Portman wrong about not visiting Israel to pick up the Genesis Prize? Right? Justified? Anti-Israel? Playing into the hands of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group? Influential people are lining up on both sides. But strategically, it’s the wrong conversation. There is a bigger, more critical and worrisome story beneath the surface of the Portman controversy that supporters of Israel and believers in Zionism have to wrap their heads around.

Powerful people like her, the people they influence and too many of the next generation are distancing themselves from the current Israeli establishment. We can vociferously argue the drawbacks and merits of everyone’s beliefs, but the fact is we are in danger of losing these people. And we cannot lose them. The ramifications are too great.

If Israel were a product and we were the marketers who saw a growing trend among important segments of the market, that consumers no longer were buying as they once did, we would be doing everything we could to understand why and what needed to be done to shore up our marketplace.

Instead, we just argue, write, voice outrage, support and offer many opinions. All the while, as the marketplace continues to hemorrhage.

Is our job as Israel-lovers to just to keep talking, writing and having conversation? Or is it to understand our marketplace and take action?

Gary Wexler via email

Portman’s refusal to accept her Genesis Prize in Israel makes me very sad. I used to adore her, and now I can’t watch her. Leftist conflict with Israel isn’t new, but do liberals really think they can just turn their backs on Israel and remain Jews, and that their children and grandchildren will still be Jewish? When the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem, those who stayed behind, the first Diaspora, showed great deference and support in rebuilding the Jewish state despite serious controversy. And ever since, Diaspora Jews have cherished the Holy Land.

The miracle of Jewish survival has occurred in part because we don’t just believe in God, we have a deal with God, a covenant, based on our allegiance to the Promised Land. This connection has inspired Jewish hopes and pride, and kept our people together for 4,000 years. Now, as Jews by the thousands make aliyah to escape persecution, and Iran threatens Israel with a three-front war, “progressives” here and in Europe relentlessly slander Israel.

Rueben Gordon via email

Teen Mental Health Help in L.A.

Regarding your story “Making Teen Mental Health a Priority,” (April 27) help for teens with mental health issues is in our own backyard.

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services (DHMSH) transforms lives by providing quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment from 11 sites and in nearly 100 schools. The agency helps almost 100,000 adults and children throughout Southern California each year. Its suicide prevention center — the first in the nation to provide 24/7 crisis counseling — receives more than 80,000 calls on its crisis line annually and provides support groups for people who have lost loved ones to suicide or have attempted it.

My late mother-in-law, Beatrice Stern, closest of friends with Didi Hirsch and a former DHMSH board member, took a leading role in sparking positive conversations about mental illness by establishing the DHMSH Erasing the Stigma Leadership Awards. What began as a small fundraising luncheon has grown into a large dinner, which last week honored musician Rick Springfield, actor Oliver Platt, pro football player Joe Barksdale and the Born This Way Foundation for their work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness.

Marilyn Stern, Westwood

Liberal Democrats, by Definition

I come from a long line liberal Jewish Democrats. When I married my husband, (who is Jewish), I married out of the “faith” because he is a Republican. I read to him Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column “I Am a Liberal. Are You?” (April 20) to verify his stance on each point she highlighted. He agreed with every line. Turns out Republicans can be liberals, too.

Jan Burns via email

Emotional Links to Israel

Thank you, David Suissa, for reminding me of why I swell with pride when hearing of Israel’s great accomplishments, and why my heart aches when I hear of Israel’s sorrows (“A ‘Better’ Word for Israel,” April 20). Having been born and raised in the United States, and having lived my entire life here, I needed that reminder of why. What an eloquent column that shines the light on two big words: fair and unfair.

Pamela Galanti, Chatsworth

Cartoonist Is Off Base

In light of President Donald Trump’s success at staring down nuclear missiles from North Korea, producing amazingly low unemployment numbers (especially among the poor and most vulnerable), the growth of the stock market and Gross National Product, decimating ISIS, moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, raising workers’ pay and bonuses through tax cuts, and confirming federal judges, the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” cartoon by Steve Greenberg in your April 27 issue was particularly disgusting.

Warren Scheinin via email

The Amazing Metuka Benjamin

Metuka Benjamin could have achieved super success as a leader in politics, business or any leadership role she could have chosen (“Milken Schools President Is Moving On,” April 27). Consumed by her intense love of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, in particular, she applied her skills, talents and magnetic personality to the building of Jewish schools and the relationship with the State of Israel, not just in words and emotions, but with action. She envisioned and built one of the largest Jewish schools in the U.S., complete with a “living bridge” to Israel as a laboratory of Jewish and Zionist identity for Los Angeles students.
For people serious about the relationship between Israel and our 18- to 26-year-olds, Benjamin is just beginning, again. You may want to follow her next move. Stay tuned.

Howard Gelberd via email

Millennials and the Holocaust

The recent Claims Conference study that revealed millennials’ lack of knowledge about the Holocaust is, as Stephen Smith pointed out, due to “an uneven educational environment” (“Mandate to End Holocaust Ignorance,” April 20). The question is: What to do about it? While eight states have Holocaust Study “mandates” that vary in nature — and approximately half of the states have Holocaust teaching “recommendations” — should all states, via federal legislation, particularly, require Holocaust instruction?

One facet of the foregoing is the all-too-often failure to provide financing for Holocaust curriculum implementation. Without dollars for teacher in-servicing, materials and associated educational costs, just how “even” can Holocaust instruction become?

California is a perfect example of an unfunded, via taxes (1986 forward), but funded, via contributions (post 2002, for several years) mandate. Fortunately, for millions of California students, organizations such as Stephen Smith’s USC Shoah Foundation provide rich, ongoing, accessible Holocaust study resources. Still, a national “mandate” without means (i.e., teacher training and related funding costs) should make us cautious about what we wish for.

Bill Younglove, Lakewood

The Middle East Powder Keg

Iran having a base of military operations in Syria must never be allowed (“Collision Course,” April 27). This not only puts Israel at risk, but world peace, as well.

Add Russia’s involvement in the area and you have a recipe for a catastrophe.

George Vreeland Hill via email

Where Were the Liberals When Weinstein Betrayed Them?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

When I first heard about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, my initial reflex was to see it through a Jewish lens: Oh no, I thought, not another Jewish scandal. As anti-Semitism reaches a tipping point, this is the last thing we need.

And then I read The New York Times story detailing three decades of sexual misconduct, and the stories that have come out since then. Sickening stories that, as a woman and as a mother, make my blood boil. Stories that would make me sever ties with a man who was capable of just one of them, let alone dozens. Stories that have apparently been an “open secret” in Hollywood for years.

As an outsider looking in, I am dumbfounded that the women of Hollywood, the women of the Democratic Party, would keep silent about these transgressions. For what? His money? His glamorous parties? His ability to “make your career”? After a certain point, you don’t get to claim that you’re a feminist, that you support women’s rights, if you know that there is a very powerful man destroying the emotional fortitude of young women on a daily basis.

As an independent, I have no dog in the Democrat versus Republican hyper-partisan mega-fight. Both sides play up the scandals of the other side, and play down the scandals on their own side.

But as a liberal, as a feminist, I care about women subjected to repeated abuse — verbal, physical, psychological, sexual. And so I ask the liberal women of Hollywood: How could you let this happen for three decades? I ask Hillary Clinton: How could you take money from this man?

I ask the liberal establishment: How could you allow your hatred of the GOP — and we’re talking pre-Trump here — to undermine your ability to honor your own principles? To stop you from stopping Weinstein from scarring yet another young woman’s life?

We have come to over-politicize nearly everything. If it’s bad for the other side, we go hysterical. If it’s bad for our side, we stay quiet. If the abuser is a right-winger like Bill O’Reilly, the left goes ballistic. If it’s a Democratic lion like Harvey Weinstein, it goes silent.

Perhaps the ugliest episode of the Weinstein saga is that, according to a report by Sharon Waxman at The Wrap, the Times gutted a story on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct in 2004, after coming under pressure from Weinstein and his liberal Hollywood pals. How many women would have been spared the scars of sexual abuse had this predator been called out earlier?

While the Times’ explosive piece on Weinstein should be applauded, the “paper of record” was one of his enablers. “So pardon me,” Waxman writes, “for having a deeply ambivalent response about the current heroism of the Times.”

There’s nothing ambivalent or partisan about the moral depravity of using power to abuse women. To its credit, the Times published an op-ed by Bari Weiss that nails this point: “Will Liberals Give Weinstein the O’Reilly Treatment?” In her piece, Weiss notes that “prominent feminists like Gloria Steinem didn’t waste any time discarding sexual harassment guidelines when it came to Bill Clinton’s sexual predations as president. Principle rapidly gave way to partisanship and political opportunism.”

The one good that can come from all this is a deep self-reflection on the part of everyone who knew what was going on but chose to remain silent. Some liberals, like Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham, have begun to speak up. Of course, now that Weinstein’s star has dimmed, it’s a lot easier to show outrage.

Streep, who has worked with Weinstein for years, says she didn’t know anything about the overt daily harassment — he was known for throwing tables at employees when he was angry — and huge financial settlements. Perhaps she didn’t. But with her statement of outrage, Streep now can go back to attacking the right for its moral failings.

To redeem politics and scale back the cynicism that is corroding our discourse, both sides must choose moral principles over politics. We can’t hate “the other party” more than we hate sexual predators or Islamic terrorists. Every time we put politics ahead of what’s obviously right, we put another nail in the political coffin.

We’re running out of nails.  

Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and curator. Author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World” (Doubleday), her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and Metropolis, among others.

Letters to the editor: Leonard Fein, Dr. Jose Nessim and ISIS

ISIS Atrocities 

Rob Eshman is to be commended for discussing one of the most disturbing and savage events currently on the planet — the barbaric slaughter of Christians Kurds and Yazidis in Iraq by Islamic Nazis: ISIS (“When Christians Die,” Aug. 15). Several points, though, should be made. As Eshman points out, the silence from Christian communities around the world is deafening. Groups like the Presbyterian Church USA are much more concerned with the plight of the Palestinians who, based on Middle Eastern history, would be first to eradicate Arab Christians as they have in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the Muslim world.  

The frustrating element here, though, is that Hamas, al-Qaida and ISIS are individual teams within the larger league of Sunni Muslim jihadists, as Eshman pointed out. The biased media worldwide treats Hamas as if it is a Hindu pacifist group rather than connecting the dots: If Israel didn’t have the capabilities to defend herself, her fate would have been similar to the Christians of Iraq.

Richard Friedman, Los Angeles

Liberal Deliberations

I was raised, and have raised my children, with liberal values: the rights of all people to be equal, to live a life free from injustice and persecution, to pursue peace and happiness. Inherent to my beliefs of how my fellow man should be treated is the assumption that my fellow man will not try to kill me or deny my right to exist. A liberal who stands by while his house is being bombed isn’t a good liberal; he’s a dead man. I applaud David Suissa’s article, “How Liberal Critics Failed Israel” (Aug. 22), as a thoughtful, and necessary, gut-check for all those who care about preserving and spreading liberal values.  

Stephen Kessler, via email 

David Suissa’s article is just an updated version of the old canard that Jews “shouldn’t wash Israel’s dirty laundry in public.” Progressive, pro-Israel American Jews, like those who support Americans for Peace Now, reject this transparent effort to shut down debate and give cover for policies that are anathema to everything we believe — as Jews, as Americans and as supporters of Israel. Today in Israel, our friends and colleagues are likewise under attack, both rhetorical and physical, from extremists who similarly want to shut down debate. They will not be cowed, and neither will we. We do not apologize for focusing on the imperative of achieving a two-state solution to end the occupation, because the occupation — which for nearly five decades Israel has expanded and deepened with its indefensible settlement policies — is destroying Israel. While Suissa seems mainly concerned about defending Israel’s reputation, we are far more concerned with defending Israel’s survival as a pluralistic, democratic, Jewish state.

Sanford Weiner and Steven Kaplan, Los Angeles area regional co-chairs, David Pine, regional director–Americans for Peace Now

David Suissa responds:

My friends at Americans for Peace Now believe in the value of criticism, except, apparently, when they are the recipients. Then, it becomes an attempt to “shut down debate.” No one is trying to shut down debate. On the contrary, this is a healthy debate about priorities. For those of us in the Diaspora who love Israel, what is the priority? To pressure Israelis to make peace — as if we know something that they don’t? Or is it to defend Israel against unfair attacks from a world that all too often judges Israel based on a double standard? If all we focus on is Israel’s failure to make peace, we cover up Israel’s extraordinary record of tikkun olam and social activism, and reinforce the global lie that Israel is an illiberal demon. Whether or not that’s good for Israel is a healthy debate. 

May Their Memories Be a Blessing

The sad news of Dr. Jose Nessim’s death brought me back to Paramount Studios, where I had the pleasure of presenting him with the 2008 Cohon Award for his work in the field of education and information, which brought benefit to klal Yisra’el — the total Jewish People — by bringing so many young Sephardim closer to us all. His spirit as embodied in the Sephardic Education Center in Jerusalem will surely continue to inspire a new generation to honor his memory.

Rabbi Baruch Cohon via email

It really is so good to have Rob Eshman’s voice back in the Jewish Journal.

His column this week really brings Leibel (Leonard Fein) to all of us (What Would Leonard Say?” Aug. 22). He was a dear friend — we worked together and shared a suite of offices at the then-Union of American Hebrew Congregations in New York (now Union for Reform Judaism). We often sat over coffee and just talked about life. I had him out to Mount Sinai some years ago to spend time with my senior staff and “just talk.” They fell in love with him and did not want him to leave — he brought a unique thinking ability and a graciousness that will never be replaced.

Thank you for remembering him in such a meaningful way.

Len Lawrence, general manager, Mount Sinai Parks

How Occupy will end

No one knows what difference Occupy Wall Street will turn out to make. 

This could the start of something big.  Maybe the burgeoning sense that something is not right in America will reach a critical mass.  It’s already showing up in the polls.  Maybe more and more ordinary Americans will wake up and smell the plutocracy.  The consensus will grow that the only way that income distribution could have become so out-of-whack is that the power in Washington isn’t in the hands of the people we elect; it belongs to the big corporations and Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who have the country by the short hairs.  We’re at the beginning of a tectonic shift in our politics, our culture, maybe even in our governance. 

Or the movement fizzles.  The demographics of the demonstrators don’t keep expanding.  Unemployment and foreclosure turn out not to be the contemporary equivalent of the draft’s role in mobilizing broad opposition to the war in Vietnam. Winter, and shrewder policing with less blowback, take a toll on the encampments.  Occupy becomes just another tale of the fall 2011 media scrum, alongside the Conrad Murray trial.  In retrospect we realize that our political elites have grown so dependent on our predators that the whole corrupt system is immune to challenge.  Occupy goes nowhere – there’s no wave election, no campaign finance reform, no reregulation or rule of law for the financial sector, no increase of progressivity in the tax code, no infrastructure rebuilt by no jobs program, no course correction for the American dream. 

Since no one really knows what Occupy’s impact will be tomorrow, there’s a contest going on today, a battle for control over how the story is being told right now.  And the way it’s framed could actually determine the way it will play out in real life.

The right’s strategy is: If we don’t build it, they won’t come. So its narrative is: These people are lazy, losers, hippies, stooges, drug-takers, a mob.  They don’t know what they want.  They want to destroy capitalism.  This is no Tea Party. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. 

It’s a bit incoherent, but they’re sticking to it, and their intention is to prevent any more of their pigeons – the 99 percenters – from figuring out how deeply they’ve been shafted by Koch-era robber barons and their political puppets.

The left, on the other hand, hears the strains of “Something’s Coming” in the air. Its aspirational narrative sees the pendulum swinging the other way.  A moral confidence is stirring. Yes, the political system is dysfunctional, but the urgency of protest will not be paralyzed by pragmatic cynicism.  We really can do it.  We can reclaim our country from the oligarchs.  We can recapture what America used to be about.  These Occupy encampments spreading from city to city?  That’s what it looks like when hope shucks off the victim script.

The arena where these warring narratives are slugging it out is in the media.  Fox, which has been the publicist, cheerleader, speakers bureau and enabler of the Tea Party, is of course relentlessly dismissive of Occupy.  Over on MSNBC, police bungling fuels support, and the messages on the demonstrators’ hand-made signs provide a counter-narrative to the corporate triumphalism that has dominated public discourse for decades.  CNN’s account of Occupy is whiplashed between the false equivalence its brand requires – kabuki pundit combat, always ending the same way: “We’ll have to leave it there” – and the need to hold eyeballs during commercials, which mandates you-won’t-want-to-miss-this alarmism.  The prestige press needs to play it both ways, in an only-time-will-tell frame, though it’s always safe to go meta: “Every Movement Needs a Logo” was the title of a New York Times gallery of graphic identities proposed by designers, while New York magazine asked an ad exec and a PR pro to give letter grades to the occupiers’ protest signs.

Social media, whose importance to the Arab Spring has become a benchmark of subsequent protests, is atwitter with people talking directly to themselves; it’s an organizing tool, and a gauge of popular sentiment, that doesn’t require the dots of the story to be connected in prefab patterns.  But no matter how immersed we may be in virtual and mediated reality, Occupy is an essentially offline phenomenon.  It has required real people in real places – not viral videos or Facebook pages—to give it credibility.  It is as local, grassroots, bottom-up and non-hierarchical a movement as they come – the antithesis of billionaire-funded astroturfing by the likes of FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.  No one sleeping in those parks and plazas has a clue how this will all turn out.  But their sheer physical presence gives them a narrative authority that the media and the chattering class lack. 

Every day brings a fresh blizzard of data about the world.  But which information gets our attention, and how it acquires meaning, depends on the story-in-progress at the time.  A Congressional Budget Office study of income distribution can be the usual one-day story, like other CBO studies, or it can get massive coverage because Occupy put the topic on the nation’s front burner. Record-breaking oil company profits can be framed as just another business story, or it can be reported in the context of the industry’s climate change denial campaign, and the hold its lobbyist have over Congress, and our political system’s imbecilic failure to address our direst global problem.  Wall Street’s escape from accountability, its capacity to thwart even the most modest attempts to rein in future recklessness, can be a story about the regulatory process, or it can be a warning that there are dangers to democracy that our Founders’ checks and balances were unable to anticipate. 

“We are the 99%” could turn out to be a popgun, or it could be the shot heard round the world.  Just don’t let anyone tell you that the answer is already a foregone conclusion. 

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Marty Kaplan: The Monsters Are Due on Maple Streets

The power has gone out in a typical American town.  Wait—it’s not just the electricity.  The phones don’t work, either.  Portable radios are dead.  Cars won’t start. 

But then lawn mowers and cars and lights inexplicably start and stop on their own. What’s going on?  A meteor?  Sunspots?  Or are there, as Tommy’s comic book suggests, aliens among us, preparing for a takeover? Suspicion poisons the air. Neighbor turns on neighbor. A scapegoat is blamed. A shot is fired.  Panic, madness, riot.

And while the humans behave monstrously, the real monsters watch from a nearby hilltop, working a little gizmo that messes with the power on Maple Street and marveling how easy it is to manipulate these earthlings into destroying themselves.

In what is arguably the best “Twilight Zone” episode ever, “” target=”_hplink”>declared their willingness to return to the table and negotiate a shared sacrifice. The monsters are on Wall Street, where state pension funds were sunk into toxic sub-prime mortgage-backed securities.  The monsters are on K Street, where lobbyists are fighting financial industry oversight. The monsters are the politicians who are using Wisconsin’s deficit as a pretext to ” target=”_hplink”>so be it” language of their leadership, you’d think that the federal deficit is caused by the very people who who’ve been suffering the most in this recession.

But the monsters aren’t low-income ” target=”_hplink”>health insurance to cover them; or ” target=”_hplink”>Pell Grants; or people who think their government’s job includes preventing their air and water from ” target=”_hplink”>billionaires who’ve benefited from a massive transfer of wealth from the middle to the top and whose political puppets protect them from paying their fair share of taxes.

They’re the corporations whose cash has convinced Congress to deregulate industry after industry, despite all evidence that it is the enforcement of rules – not the magic of the marketplace—that protects the public’s rights.

They’re the defense contractors and pork appropriators who’ve used the cover of “national security” to shield the Pentagon’s budget and its procurement process from the cuts and reforms that even Republicans like the Secretary of Defense are advocating.

They’re the front groups and propagandists, like FreedomWorks and Fox, who use class warfare and culture wars in order to turn Americans against their own economic interests.

They’re the Supreme Court justices whose Citizens United decision, overthrowing a century of settled law, has made our campaign finance system an open sewer, and whose indifference to ” target=”_hplink”>coming case promises to throw sick people back onto the tender mercies of insurers and to destroy our best hope to curb Medicare costs – further ballooning the deficit and providing cover for even more draconian cuts.

The game in Washington is to use the deficit as camouflage for destroying government’s capacity to promote the general welfare.  The game in Wisconsin and other states whose new Republican governors and legislative majorities are feeling their oats is to shelter the income of the wealthiest, and to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class. 

At the end of the episode, Rod Serling says this:  “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men.  For the record: Prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own—for the children, and the children yet unborn.  And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the twilight zone.”

Sometimes it’s hard to watch the news and not think that things are surreal.  The other day, when what’s been happening in Madison reminded me of what happened on “Maple Street,” I suddenly realized the theme music that goes with it.

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

Religious Right, Left Find Political Guide in Bible

The fast-emerging religious left contrasts sharply on many issues — from homosexual marriage to socialized medicine — with its longer-established competitor, the
religious right. Yet these two Bible-citing political movements equally have woken up to the realization that there is something intrinsically American about using the Bible as a guide to practical politics. That’s good news and a blow to secularist orthodoxy.

As I have previously noted, the current debate about immigration signals a major sea change in rhetoric from the left. Against Republicans who want to get tough on illegal immigrants, amnesty advocates like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) have invoked the Christian Bible image of the good samaritan and Matthew 25 on welcoming the “stranger.”

If Clinton becomes a presidential candidate in the next national election, then 2008 will likely prove to be the year of the Bible. That would please religious left gurus (and best-selling authors) like Rabbi Michael Lerner (The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From the Religious Right), the Rev. Jim Wallis (God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It) and former President Jimmy Carter (Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis).

When I reported in the book industry magazine, Publishers Weekly, on a raft of forthcoming books dealing with the intersection of faith and politics, I found that a large majority — applying spiritual insights to issues related to sex, race, poverty, the environment, you name it — were by religious writers with a definite leftward orientation. “Spiritual,” of course, is not a synonym for good, true or even credible.

Clearly the religious left reads books. Is it prepared to make a difference at the grass-roots level? Well this month, a new outfit, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, drew a thousand activists to a religious left teach-in in Washington, D.C. — not enough to fill a megachurch but still evidence that something important is percolating.

That liberals would contemplate shrugging off their customary secularism is new. But the insight that government and the good book go together may be traced back to the beginnings of the American political tradition.

Our country’s founders were disciples of the 17th century liberal philosopher John Locke, whose major book is the Two Treatises of Government. When Locke’s work is assigned in college classes, the first treatise is usually skipped over. That’s too bad, because it is devoted almost entirely to biblical interpretation, with numerous citations from the Hebrew Scriptures, including learned commentary on the Hebrew language.

Locke’s more pessimistic counterpart in English political theory, Thomas Hobbes, similarly expends about half of his great book, Leviathan, on drawing out the political lessons of the Bible, contrasting the ideal “Christian Commonwealth” with the “Kingdom of Darkness.” He defined the latter as the condition of “spiritual darkness from the misinterpretation of Scripture.”

Locke and Hobbes followed in the footsteps of earlier thinkers, as Israeli scholars Yoram Hazony and Fania Oz-Salzberger have pointed out recently. When Protestant political theory wished to find a way to cut loose from the Catholic Church and its thinking on the relationship between faith and state, English, Dutch and Swiss Christian Hebraists from the 16th century on pointed to the Hebrew Bible as the world’s first and best political text.

Philosophers like Cornelius Bertram, Petrus Cunaeus and John Selden wrote works with titles such as, respectively, The Jewish State (1574), The Hebrew Republic (1617) and Law of Nature and the Nations According to the Hebrews (1640). Christian-Hebraic political thought achieved a practical breakthrough with the English Puritan revolution, which took the Jewish commonwealth described in the Bible as its model. The Puritans later brought these ideas to our shores, declaring that they would found a “New Israel” here. America’s political roots truly lie in the Bible.

Among these thinkers, it was never the intention to simplistically copy biblical institutions like the Jewish high court (the Sanhedrin), the Jewish king, the Jerusalem Temple with its priests and so on. Rather, the idea was to discover philosophical principles in the Scriptures that could be translated into a modern secular government.

Those principles included the superiority of a transcendent moral law to any law the government might invent and the belief that men and women should be held morally responsible for their deeds.

Such ideas, still controversial today, deserve to be discussed openly in public forums, including political ones, with due attention to their source, the Bible, and its proper interpretation. For what separates the religious left from the religious right is precisely what Hobbes warned of, the question of how to read Scripture correctly. Religious conservatives and liberals can agree that it is important to get the Bible’s meaning right, while debating what that meaning actually is.

So let the debate begin.

My Work Is Not to Blame for Jew-Haters

Usually I only respond to fair and thoughtful criticism, but I’ll make an exception in this case, because people I respect tell me that Rob Eshman, the editor-in-chief of this publication, is both a smart and decent guy.

Recently, he wrote a column on July 29 about my new book — “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is ’37),” and this is how the column began: “Jewish Americans are only 2 percent of the nation’s population, but they are 25 percent of its problem.”

Of course, he doesn’t believe that. The point was that I supposedly believe that. Why? It seems that Eshman actually counted up all the Jewish people on the list, came up with 25, and, well, you do the math.

Good thing my name is Goldberg and not something WASPy or the column might have begun, “This is a book written by a Jew-hating bigot.”

The truth is, I don’t have a clue as to how many Jews are mentioned in my book. I never thought about who was Jewish (or any other religion). It never occurred to me to count people by their religion. It’s my friends on the left who love to put people in groups and count them up like so many beans. Liberals love diversity — just not the intellectual kind.

Let’s acknowledge that Eshman was trying to make a serious point: That I’m giving ammunition to lunatics who hate Jews. If my book contributes to their dark fantasies about Jewish control of America and the world, I’m sorry. But what should I do? Stop commenting on successful, prominent people in our culture — who happen to be Jewish?

That’s a very illiberal road to travel. Are liberals who protested the war in Vietnam responsible for Pol Pot’s killing fields, which happened only after American troops pulled out of Southeast Asia — thanks in large part to the anti-war protesters? Are liberals who supported civil rights in the 1960s responsible for anti-Semitism among some blacks today?

Of course not. To even suggest as much is obscene. Yet, Eshman tells us about Web sites that preach anti-Jewish hate and says that one of them, “either rips Goldberg off or just happened to arrive at a similar revelation: It lists the same Jewish media execs he does….”

Get it? I mention some prominent Jewish media executives in my book; the lunatics do the same. And what? I’m egging them on?

Well, not exactly. Even Eshman says I’m not “responsible for the delusion of others.” (Thanks.) But then he goes on to say, “But [Goldberg’s] list … is not without risks.” Meaning? In times of social upheaval, he writes, people look for scapegoats and lists “especially ones weighted so heavily to one minority group — are ready-made red flags.”

Sorry. People who hate Jews are responsible for hating Jews. Not people who write books about the culture that happen to include Jewish people in it.

And let’s face it: The Jew-hating nuts on the fringe right in this country are just — nuts! They have no standing in the culture. The nuts on the left are another story altogether.

Remember the joke that was going around Hollywood right after George Bush won election in 2000?: “What’s the difference between George Bush and Hitler?”

Hitler was elected.

Unlike the right-wing screwballs, liberals were telling the Bush/Hitler joke in polite company in places like Beverly Hills. Did that offend Eshman’s sensibilities, as a Jew or as a liberal?

How about the Hollywood actor who told a national radio audience, “I’m not comparing Bush to Adolf Hitler — because George Bush, for one thing, is not as smart as Adolf Hitler.”

Did that one trouble Mr. Eshman, just a little?

John Leo, the columnist, Googled, “Bush is a Nazi” and came up with more than 400,000 hits. I’m guessing it wasn’t conservatives comparing Bush to Hitler.

Jewish people have done very well in our culture — disproportionately well. There are more prominent Jewish people in the arts, at universities, in law and in the media than a mere 2 percent of the population would suggest. That’s why certain people are on the list. Because — no matter what their religion, race, or anything else — they matter! And, in my humble view, they are doing things that are coarsening the culture.

Reasonable people, as they say, may disagree. But to suggest that I’m putting Jews in danger because my book may inflame some crackpot is a nasty stretch. Crackpots don’t need excuses, or books, to hate Jews — or blacks or Hispanics or gays or anybody else. To put that on me — indirectly or otherwise — is indecent.

For more responses to Rob Eshman’s editorial, see letters

Bernard Goldberg is the author of “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is ’37)” (HarperCollins, 2005)


Goldberg’s List

Jewish Americans are only 2 percent of the nation’s population, but they are 25 percent of its problem.

That’s according to Bernard Goldberg, whose new, bestselling nonfiction book is called, “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken is No. 37).”

The book offers one- and two-page mini-attacks on people who, Goldberg writes, “are not only screwing things up in this country, but who often are wildly succeeding by screwing things up.”

The way I see it, if Goldberg could take the time and trouble to list these people, the least that I, the Jewish journalist, could do is count the Jews among them.

I came up with 25.

So there are 25 American Jews who, in Goldberg’s words, produce “a slow poison running through the veins of this great country.”

The screed of this scribe has a history. Every couple of years, Goldberg releases a new book attacking liberals in America. His first was called, “Bias,” and it was a fun read, because the author had been a CBS News correspondent, and had scores to settle and grudges to nurse.

His second, “Arrogance,” I didn’t read — it was beneath me — and this new one continues the same general line: political, media and entertainment elites, spurred on by the liberal-educational complex, have debased and coarsened American culture.

The book is a bestseller — No. 2 on Amazon.com and climbing the New York Times list — and Goldberg is out flogging it everywhere. Droning on through droopy jowls, working himself up into a kind of lackadaisical outrage about Barbra Streisand and Howard Stern, Goldberg is the thinking man’s Deputy Dawg.

He wags a finger at radio pioneer Stern, though he is quick to say he opposes media censorship. His cover promises a full frontal attack on Franken, who took apart “Bias” for factual inaccuracy, but Goldberg doesn’t marshal anything more than a fictional conversation between himself and the Air America host.

His indictment of Michael Moore, who ranks No. 1 on the list, consists of a full-page photo of Moore and a single quote.

Most of the nonliberals who make the list — there are five — either broke the law or killed someone.

“The Unknown American Terrorist” is No. 23. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is No. 8.

Serious, thoughtful work this book is not.

So which Jews make the list?

Other than Franken, Streisand and Stern, there is billionaire Democrat George Soros; activist Laurie David; schlock hosts Jerry Springer and Maury Povich; professors Eric Foner, Jonathan Kozol, Peter Singer and Noam Chomsky; right-wing talk show host Michael Savage; director Oliver Stone; “Vagina Monologue” author Eve Ensler; Norman Mailer; feminists Gloria Steinem and Linda Hirshman; Nation writer Katha Pollitt; Interscope’s Ted Field; “Fear Factor” producer Matt Kunitz; New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, and columnist Krugman; Barbara Walters; NBC News president Neal Shapiro; and ABC News president David Westin.

Of course, Goldberg makes nothing of the fact that these people happen to be Jewish. It’s possible that no one but me will notice. It’s not like anyone can accuse a middle-aged author named Goldberg who lives in Miami of being an anti-Semite. You might even say it’s a good thing that someone can publish a best-selling diatribe listing more than two dozen Jews who are poisoning the American bloodstream and not one crackpot picks up on it.

Well, not quite.

Goldberg’s callings-out turn up quite frequently on the Web sites of white supremacists and anti-Semitic hate groups. Even nutjobs need validation, and who more authoritative than a man named Goldberg to assure the hatemongers that, yes, if the whole, anti-American entertainment and media elite seems Jewish, it’s because it is.

Take this from www.thepriceofliberty.org: “The Zionist domination of the media has been repeatedly proven, and this domination is evident in both the electronic and print media. The commonality of “news” reporting in all the news media, to include major leading newspapers and both network and cable TV journalism, was definitively exposed in Bernard Goldberg’s two best-selling books: ‘Bias’ and ‘Arrogance.'”

Just wait until they read the new book: It’s the same ideas with twice as many Jewish names.

Another web hate site, www.rense.com, either rips Goldberg off or just happened to arrive at a similar revelation: It lists the same Jewish media execs he does, like Shapiro and Westin.

Goldberg isn’t responsible for the delusions of others. But his list, which he calls, at the end of his book, “the fun part,” is not without its risks. A just-released study in Britain found anti-Semitic actions among the general population on the rise — some42 precent in 2004. In times of social upheaval and terror, people look to scapegoats, and simple-minded lists — especially ones weighted so heavily to one minority group — are ready-made red flags.

Some fun.


Analysis – Leftists Try to ‘Take Back God’ in 2008

The 2008 election may be more than three years away, but one group is hoping to press the Democratic Party to infuse spirituality into its platform for that campaign.

“The right is correct; there is a huge spiritual crisis in America,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine. “And the left doesn’t get it.”

Republicans and their allies on the religious right have “done a good job” of articulating that crisis, Lerner said, but their analysis is “fundamentally flawed” because it’s based on demonizing “feminists, gays, liberals, African Americans.”

Lerner made his comments before an opening-night crowd of 1,200 attendees at a four-day interfaith conference on spiritual activism.

An initiative, as several speakers put it, to “take back God” — and the White House — from the religious right was the principle behind the forum, held July 20-24 at UC Berkeley.

The real crisis in the United States, according to Lerner, is generated by the “ethos of greed and materialism” that drives Western culture and impoverishes human relationships. And until the left and the Democratic Party understand that deep human hunger for meaning, the religious right will continue its ascendancy.

“We have not yet built a movement that speaks to those human needs, and until we do, the right has cornered the market,” he said.

The organizers hope to create a “network of spiritual progressives” who will, over the course of the next three years, develop a spiritually based platform they hope to take to the 2008 presidential elections.

They also plan to call for various international initiatives, including a “Global Marshall Plan” in which the developed countries that are part of the G-8 group of nations would each donate 5 percent of their gross domestic product for the next 20 years to eradicate poverty and hunger and rebuild the infrastructure of Third World economies.

“We’ve created this gathering for people who want to challenge the misuse of God and religion by the religious right and build a new bottom line whereby institutions will be judged rational, productive and efficient not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they maximize love and caring, generosity and kindness, ethical and ecological sensitivity,” Lerner outlined.

Although the conference organizers insist they’re apolitical, they’re clearly aiming their words at the Democratic Party, which like the rest of the left is, they say, tainted by “religio-phobia.”

“It’s easier to come out as gay in Boston than as religious in the Democratic Party,” said the keynote speaker, Rev. Jim Wallis, a well-known progressive evangelical Christian and the author of the best-selling “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.”

Wallis, who has just wrapped up a 47-city book tour, told the crowd that many Americans consider themselves people of faith but don’t feel the religious right speaks in their name.

“The religious right think they own God,” he continued. “They think there are only two moral issues: abortion and gay marriage.”

Instead, he said, ending poverty should be the highest priority of a faith-based politics. “Now that’s a moral value,” he stated.

This isn’t the first faith-based progressive movement to champion social justice. Groups including the Clergy and Laity Network, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Nevada Interfaith Council for Worker Justice also try to bring together representatives of various religious organizations in the name of specific social or economic issues.

But the Berkeley initiative, a project of the Tikkun community created by Lerner, reaches beyond synagogue, church or mosque walls to “people who are spiritual but not religious,” organizers said.

Although the gathering’s theoretical underpinnings — merging traditional leftist ideas of social justice with spirituality — are very much Lerner’s, the conference itself featured speakers from Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and nonsectarian backgrounds, and its focus was clearly nondenominational.

There was just a handful of rabbis and no leaders of major Jewish organizations in attendance. Some people who helped put the conference together admitted privately that they were “disappointed” at the lack of response from the organized Jewish world.

“We are definitely interested in reaching out to them,” said Lerner, adding that he expects that the network’s next conference, in February in Washington, “will attract much more of the Jewish establishment.”

He hopes that this new network and the movement it spawns “will provide a way for Jewish liberals and progressives to unite around issues of concern” to them.

Throughout the conference, speakers urged participants to “go home and organize locally” and spoke of creating progressive, spiritually friendly caucuses within the Democratic and Green parties “and maybe even the Republican Party,” Lerner said.


Why the Left-Wing Hand-Wringing?

I should have known better than to forward an e-mail recommending a boycott of French products for France’s anti-Israel stance and willingness to tend to Yasser Arafat on his deathbed.

In an age of e-mail overload, forwarding e-mail is already a risky proposition, and usually I am more careful. But the real whopper was sending it to two of my Jewish friends who are Democrats.

One replied with a line lifted directly from the Democratic Party playbook: “We can’t continue to alienate every country on the globe over issues that have always been settled diplomatically in the past,” this friend noted. My other friend’s response was more unsettling: “I can’t support a group that uses Bush and Cheney as a drawing card. They sicken me. That’s the least offensive thing I can say about them.”

This hatred of President Bush comes from people who I know to be otherwise thoughtful and intelligent. Unfortunately for them, their “anybody but Bush” mantra helps to explain the Kerry defeat. Negativism and name-calling is not a winning political strategy.

These friends’ angry and contemptuous post-election sentiments are part of a larger mass hand-wringing among the left. On an Internet-based writers’ discussion board that I belong to, more than 150 messages were posted the day after the election, 90 percent of them expressing shock, dismay, deep mourning and sheer embarrassment. The sky-is-falling responses included plans to move to Canada and predictions of the destruction of the world environment, obliteration of all civil rights, and a looming Christian-based theocracy. That’s quite an agenda for only four years! Wonder if W can pull it off?

One writer likened President Bush’s religiosity to mental illness: “It’s a sad day when a man claiming to follow God’s instructions prevails in an election. Prominent people who hear voices include the Son of Sam and all those schizophrenics on lifetime medication.”

Most Jews would not, I hope, make this odious comparison. Nonetheless, many of them, including my friends, worry that President Bush’s overt faith is somehow dangerous. “I can’t think of anyone worse for the Jews than Bush,” said one of my e-mail recipients.

Just what are they so afraid of? After four years of a Bush administration Jewish life in our country is thriving and free. The United States has not been attacked again since Sept. 11 despite the efforts of known terrorist cells throughout the world and in the United States — including Los Angeles. Why the refusal to give credit for keeping us safe from further terrorist attacks? The Bush agenda also fights aggressively for the democratization of the Arab world, believing, in contrast to many on the left, that they are capable of democratic self-government. President Bush has also been a stalwart supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself and refused to deal with Arafat, recognizing him as the terrorist and mass murderer that he was.

I wished I could have engaged my friends on these issues, but with emotions running so high I didn’t dare push it. I value my friendship with them more than I value the highly unlikely chance that I might sway their opinions.

That’s why as a religious Jew, I am not threatened by the president’s basic Christian values. I am more threatened by the moral relativism of the left, which questions the war on terror, where third-trimester abortions are coyly framed only as a woman’s “right to choose,” and where those who fight to preserve the institution of marriage are instantly called bigots, shutting down any further discussion.

Many Jews respond that Christian support for Israel is self-serving: the second coming of Jesus cannot happen until Jews are safely in Israel. But it’s only a small minority of Christians whose support has ulterior motives. I am friends with several religious Christians who have had many opportunities over the years to try to get me to “come over to their side.” They never have. Instead, they have participated in missions to Israel where they helped shore up flagging tourism even during the darkest days of the intifada. Most religious Christians support Israel because they take seriously the Torah’s promise of God to Abraham: “Those who bless you I will bless; and those who curse you I will curse.” Perhaps if more Jews realized how much Christians have also suffered at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, who have committed mass murder of Christians in the Philippines, Pakistan, East Timor, the Sudan, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the West Bank, they would be less suspect of Christians’ motives in supporting Israel.

I admit that until I was in my mid-20s, I myself was a proud Jewish liberal. In fact, when I met my husband-to-be in 1984 and learned he was planning to vote for President Reagan’s re-election, I nearly wrote off the fledgling relationship. Dating a Republican felt like a violation almost as severe as dating out of the faith.

It took “four more years” for me to finally believe that Republican values of lower taxes, strong defense and support of traditional family values were in the best interests of American society and more consistent with my Jewish values of justice and compassion. Like so many other Jews, I had been deeply emotionally invested in my Democratic affiliation.

Polling pundits claim that in this election, Bush claimed 25 percent of the Jewish vote, up from 19 percent in 2000, although Jewish support in Florida and even the hotly contested Cuyahoga County in Ohio were thought to be significantly higher. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Martin Peretz, editor of The New Republic, surmised that Jewish support for the president was even higher, but that many Jews just couldn’t bring themselves to admit they voted for a Republican.

I’m pretty certain that my friends were not among those voting Republican and just unable to fess up. But I hope that in the next four years, the good effects that I expect from President Bush’s policies for the entire country will at least make me seem less vexing to my Jewish friends on the left.

Judy Gruen is a humorist and author of “Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout.” Read more of her columns on www.judygruen.com.

God, Gays and Guns: The U.S. Fault Line

About the same portion of Americans describe themselves as being liberal (19 percent) as believe that the world will come to an end in their

lifetimes (17 percent).

Right-wingers have so effectively besmirched the term (“wishy-washy liberals,” “tax-and-spend liberals,” “limousine liberals”) that only a few political martyrs and masochists publicly proclaim their allegiance to the cause once championed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The word preferred by left-of-center types in the United States is “progressive,” which harkens back to the earlier Roosevelt, Teddy, a turbocharged Republican who whipped monopolists and gleefully asserted the power of the federal government.

FDR’s robust liberalism focused on social justice at a time when one in four workers had lost their jobs in the Great Depression, and then on social solidarity, when the United States entered World War II. By now, much of that twin legacy has disappeared.

But look beneath current political labels and you find a nation still clinging to several liberal ideals. Polls show, for example, that an overwhelming majority of Americans support Social Security, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage, as well as Medicare for the elderly (courtesy of Lyndon B Johnson), strong environmental protections (Richard Nixon’s contribution, surprisingly enough) and a graduated income tax.

Most believe that government has no business snooping into people’s private lives without cause to believe that they have been involved in crime. The vast majority favor equal civil rights for blacks, women and ethnic minorities.

And George W. Bush’s swagger notwithstanding, most Americans oppose unilateral assertions of U.S. power abroad. An overwhelming majority believe we should work in close concert with our long-standing allies, including France. The shrill, right-wing rantings of radio and television talk show hosts do not reflect the views of most Americans — or the manner in which they disagree with one another.

The political fault line in modern America has become cultural. It is about religion, sex and firearms — or, in the vernacular, God, gays and guns. Since Sept. 11, the culture war has been extended to global terrorism.

On the conservative side are Americans who attend church regularly, believe that homosexuality is morally wrong, want the government to ban abortions, take offense at out-of-wedlock births and think they have a God-given right to own any gun they wish. They also want the United States to exterminate all terrorists, including anyone with terrorist leanings.

Most of the people who think this way reside in rural and southern parts of the nation, towns and small cities and outlying suburbs. They are the majority in what are now called “red states” — states that lit up bright red on the electronic TV maps late on election day 2000 and 2004, when returns showed that most of their voters had cast ballots for Bush.

They dine nightly on meat, potatoes and a vegetable, watch Fox News, shop at Wal-Mart and enjoy NASCAR races and wrestling on TV. They earn between $20,000 and $60,000 a year — straddling the middle and working classes, doing jobs ranging from mechanic to clerical worker, beautician to physical therapist and low-level managerial and technical work.

On the liberal side of the cultural divide are those whose church attendance is irregular at best, who harbor far more permissive attitudes toward sex and think government should control gun ownership and ban handguns and assault rifles. They believe terrorism is a complex problem, requiring better intelligence and more effective ways to win the hearts and minds of Muslims who now opt for suicide missions.

They tend to inhabit America’s sprawling metropolitan regions in the northeast and on the West Coast, the larger cities and the inner suburbs. They are the majority in the “blue states” that went for Al Gore in 2000 and Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

Their tastes in food tend toward varied national and ethnic cuisines. They watch the major TV networks or public television and play golf or baseball. They typically earn between $60,000 and $200,000 a year or they earn under $20,000.

Cultural liberals tend to be both richer and poorer than cultural conservatives — moderately paid professionals such as teachers, lawyers and social workers or else low-paid employees, such as hospital orderlies, retail and restaurant workers and hotel personnel. In other words, they are more cosmopolitan than cultural conservatives and more diverse.

Why God, gays and guns? They are proxies for two distinct temperaments that divide the United States like a meat ax.

On the conservative side is a moral absolutism that views the nation’s greatest challenge as holding firm to enduring values in the face of titanic economic and social changes. The common thread uniting strong religious conviction, rigid sexual norms and an insistence on owning a gun is the assertion of authority, typically by men.

The task is to apply strict discipline to those who might stray from established norms and to win what are repeatedly seen as “tests of will.” Since Sept. 11, this has also taken the form of patriotic bravado and stubborn pugnacity.

America, say cultural conservatives, must remain the strongest nation on earth. The best way to deal with terrorists is to demonstrate toughness and never waver. Better to be feared than loved; better to be consistent than appear indecisive. The tough-talking, born-again cowboy president, Bush, perfectly exemplifies this worldview. “Bring ’em on,” he says. “You’re with us or against us.”

On the liberal (progressive) side of the cultural divide is a belief in tolerance, reason and law as central tenets of democracy. Americans who hold to this view consider all public issues to be soluble with the correct and relevant information, subjected to objective analysis and full deliberation. Religion and sex fall outside the public sphere, because they are inherently private matters.

A vibrant democracy must tolerate different beliefs and personal choices. Gun ownership directly affects the public sphere and, as such, is subject to regulation if there are good reasons to limit it. (As there are.)

By extension, the battle against global terrorism requires that we be smart rather than merely tough. We have to get our facts straight (Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction), tell the public the truth (Iraq played no part in Sept. 11), apply rational analysis (our first priority must be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of potential terrorists) and respect international law (work through the United Nations and NATO, and don’t torture prisoners).

We also need to get at the causes of terrorism — the hate and hopelessness that fuel it. If you want to understand Kerry, look no further.

Cultural conservatives condemn liberals as having no strict moral compass, as being “moral relativists” and “flip-floppers.” These charges predate the 2004 presidential campaign.

Conservatives fear liberals will sell out, because they don’t know what they stand for. In fact, liberals do have strong beliefs (again: tolerance, reason, democratic debate, the rule of law), but these beliefs seem more about process than substance and do not lend themselves to 30-second sound bites.

To liberals, most issues are complicated and nuanced. This attitude drives moral absolutists nuts. American liberals, for their part, worry that the right-wing conservatives are stubborn, intolerant zealots who shoot before they think. Recent history seems to bear out these fears.

Presidential elections in modern America have been about these contrasting worldviews since at least 1964. Starting with Sen. Barry Goldwater’s failed bid in that year and continuing through Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes, the new right has emphasized moral absolutes and the need for authority and discipline to enforce them. By contrast, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Gore and now Kerry have focused their campaigns on tolerance, reason and democracy.

Republican candidates repeatedly talk about toughness and resolve, while liberals talk about being correct and thinking problems through. On balance, toughness and resolve have proved the easier sell, especially when American voters are worried about something big.

What about social justice?

This part of FDR’s liberal legacy has been eclipsed by the culture wars. Odd, when the biggest thing voters worry about is their jobs and paychecks, and the paychecks (including wages and job benefits) of most Americans have been declining for two decades, adjusted for inflation.

The gulf between rich and poor in America is now wider than at any time since the robber barons of the late 19th century monopolized industry and bribed the government to do nothing about it.

Yet, in recent years, Democratic candidates have not dwelled on the subject. They have bought the conventional view that economic populism does not sell, because most Americans still want and expect to become rich one day.

That is rubbish. Upward mobility has just about ground to a halt. And it’s circular reasoning.

Economic populism would sell if Democratic politicians explained to the public what has been happening and why. To his credit, Kerry didn’t duck the issue. He promised to end the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000 a year and use the proceeds to make health care affordable for the working class and the poor.

America is splitting into “two nations” (as Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate said), because the twin forces of globalization and technological change are rewarding the educated and well-connected, while punishing the less educated and the disconnected.

What to do about this?

There are solutions that do not require protectionism and neo-Luddism, solutions much in keeping with the liberal legacy of FDR, but too few of today’s liberals have been discussing them, and the American public doesn’t have a clue. You hear them discussed mostly in the rarefied precincts of university towns such as Cambridge, Mass., and Berkeley, whose inhabitants talk to one another and convince themselves that the rest of the nation must be saying the same things.

One hopes that the conversation will be much wider.

Robert B. Reich, former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, is professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis University and the author of “Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America” (Knopf).