Yesterday, I saw someone on Facebook express his disgust for Hillary Clinton’s speech at AIPAC by concluding that the most dangerous presidential candidates are first Clinton, second Cruz, and third Trump.
Underneath this outrage there clearly lurked a tenuous hope that Clinton’s message might have been different — that along with the predictable pandering there might have been a modicum of truth telling.
Still, it makes more sense to be disappointed that any politician chooses to speak at an AIPAC conference rather than disappointed by what they end up saying after having crossed that threshold. Everyone knows in advance that these are servile and self-serving exercises.
If we need to score such performances in some way, the criteria on which they should be assessed are their measures of cynicism, shamelessness, gall, hyperbole, and obsequiousness. By those measures, everyone tends to compete very closely.
For that reason, it’s debatable how much value there is in analyzing the specific content of any AIPAC speech when there is arguably no other venue in which such little weight can be attached to what anyone says.
Nevertheless, there is a risk that a small constituency of American voters, on the basis of her AIPAC speech (and her political history), are now leaning in the direction of believing that it would be worse to see Hillary Clinton enter the White House than it would be for Donald Trump to be elected.
Phil Weiss writes:
If there was any doubt that Hillary Clinton is running to the right of Donald Trump on Israel, she removed it this morning with a fist-pumping hard-right speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC that mentioned Israeli settlements just once, in passing, and continually derided the idea of American “neutrality” in the conflict, which Trump has embraced.
Often projecting an adamant posture in the speech, Clinton said she was willing to use force against Iran if it violates the Iran deal, praised Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and promised to invite the PM to the White House in one of her first acts in office. She concluded the speech by thrusting her fist in the air as she vowed to take the relationship to the “next level” so that Israel and the U.S. could face the future together.
When Trump addressed the AIPAC conference yesterday afternoon, he offered a clue of how the “neutrality” of a Trump administration would work:
When I’m president, believe me, I will veto any attempt by the U.N. to impose its will on the Jewish state. It will be vetoed 100 percent.
He also said:
The United States can be useful as a facilitator of negotiations, but no one should be telling Israel that it must be and really that it must abide by some agreement made by others thousands of miles away that don’t even really know what’s happening to Israel, to anything in the area. It’s so preposterous, we’re not going to let that happen.
And in the most loyal expression of fealty to the Zionist lobby, Trump promised:
We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.
Let’s assume that Trump is no less cynical than any other politician in serving up the sentiments that AIPAC wants to hear. Would it be worth voting for him on the basis of some tentative hope that he might turn out to be a great Middle East deal maker? Or, simply because you imagine that in relation to Israel, Clinton could be worse.
The fact that for some people, Palestine is the only issue, doesn’t actually make it the only issue. It just means they have chosen to reduce politics to the singular focus of their own passion.
Ironically, for some Palestine watchers, as humanitarian as their sensibilities might be, in recent years their focus has become so tightly constrained, they have largely averted their gaze from the worst humanitarian crisis of the twenty-first century — even as it unfolds right next door in Syria.
To be open-minded about a Trump presidency solely on the basis that on a few occasions he has broken ranks with the pro-Israel political establishment, is to overlook the fact that whatever his actions on this issue might turn out to be, he would certainly be more active in many other arenas — active in ways that pose all kinds of adverse consequences.
Even if one adopts a thoroughly agnostic position and decides that it’s impossible to predict what a President Trump might do, the question is: Do you want to take the risk of finding out?
This much we already know: Trump is a demagogue. He is vain, ignorant, extraordinarily arrogant, and deceitful. He promotes xenophobia and mob violence. He is a misogynist and a bully.
However dark your view of the U.S. presidency might be, Donald Trump isn’t fit for office.
As sickened as many Americans feel about the corrupt nature of this country’s political culture, sending Trump to Washington makes no more sense than employing an arsonist to put out a fire.