A politician’s legacy is not his alone. He often builds on policies and practices of previous administrations. While Trump’s mendacity and incompetence (and dementia) are his and his alone, many of his most noxious initiatives have been bipartisan projects all along. Trump’s recklessness simply airs America’s dirty little secrets and turns already bad policies into unbearable ones. Forget the “kinder, gentler” versions. Now the worst of militarism, racism, and predatory capitalism are simply official.
If we tremble at the recklessness with which Trump toys with American nukes, we forget that Obama authorized a $1 trillion upgrade to them. If we abhor Trump’s new Mexican wall, we forget that Democrats helped build them. Twice. If we despise the racism of the GOP, we willfully forget that Democrats had a hand in drug, crime and prison policies that disproportionately harmed people of color. If we detest Trump’s shady friends in high places, we forget that these were the guys Democrats bailed out in 2008. If we mouth concern about Trump’s affinity for dictators, we forget that the Obama administration kept them in power in Honduras and Egypt and the Ukraine. If we wring our hands over Trump’s saber-rattling toward Iran, we forget that Democrats destabilized Libya and Syria.
None of this would be so offensive if Democrats had changed their ways or said their mea culpas for, say, wrecking Iraq or Vietnam or creating a carceral state. Yet for all the crocodile tears and hypocritical indignation over Trump’s policies, Democrats have some very selective memory.
This week it was Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Democrats responded immediately and harshly. Nancy LeTourneau, in her piece “Trump’s Dangerous Pandering to White Evangelicals on Jerusalem” in the Clinton-friendly Washington Monthly, wrote:
“the announcement from Trump today that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving our embassy there is a key ingredient to this president’s support among white evangelicals.” [… and ] “this is a perfect example of what happens when we tear down the wall separating church and state. Having a foreign policy that panders to people who welcome war in the Middle East as a sign that we are approaching the climax of history is as nutty as it is dangerous.”
But LeTourneau and the rest of her Pants Suit Nation “forget” the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
That was the year that Barak Obama added a plank in the party platform at the behest of the Israeli lobby group AIPAC to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It was a plank that had somehow been omitted. But a majority of delegates opposed the restoration. Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa kept calling for voice votes to affirm the adoption of the plank, and it kept failing. Finally, Villaraigosa simply ignored the “nays” and declared that it had passed — a moment that revealed how democracy really works in the DNC.
“Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” This has been the DNC position since at least 2008. LeTourneu’s complaint that Trump’s foreign policy panders to people who welcome war in the Middle East is certainly true — but it applies equally to her own party. The rest of the language in the plank — completely disregarded by Democrats — called for an open city, not for gifting the Al Aqsa mosque to Israel:
“The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain a divided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
Yet for the last fifty years of Israel’s martial law over Palestinians only the United States has defended the occupation and the settlements. The U.S. has consistently shut its eyes to Israeli abuses and Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes and businesses in East Jerusalem without a peep of protest or without the U.S. using its considerable supply of sticks and carrots. The U.S. could easily cut off military and economic aid or vetos at the Security Council. Or it could sanction Israel’s nukes.
Democrats now fume at settler donors Jared Kushner and David Friedman working so transparently in behalf of Israel, but it was former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller who first coined the phrase “Israel’s attorney” in 2005, referring to the United States.
Whether out of gutlessness, lack of empathy for those whom Israelis displaced, craven political opportunism, or maybe just the cash, Democrats have presided over an irreversible buildout of Israeli settlements and half a century of oppression of Palestinians. By being “Israel’s attorney” Democrats have neglected the peace process so long that there is no longer any hope of a Two State solution and so-called U.S. “leadership” is a cruel sham.
Trump just made it official.