Right-wing hypocrisy run amok: Lt. Col. Vindman, Rep. Omar, and the anti-Semitic ‘dual loyalty’ slur

Shameless. Republican hypocrisy this week reached a new level of shamelessness. That was true on multiple fronts—how shameless do you have to be to pretend that Trump saying “I want no quid pro quo” after he already knew he had been caught demanding one means he’s in the clear? However, the hypocrisy I want to focus on here relates to Republicans and anti-Semitic rhetoric, in particular the use of the anti-Semitic slur of “dual loyalty” against Jewish Americans.

One of the most powerful witnesses to appear this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry was Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Vindman, who is Jewish, was born in Soviet-era Ukraine, and fled for the United States with his family at the age of three. For weeks now, Republicans and their allies have been attacking Vindman, hurling charges of disloyalty.

John Yoo, a high-ranking attorney in the George W. Bush Administration who helped draft the so-called “Torture Memo,” actually accused Vindman of “espionage,” and Fox News’ Laura Ingraham claimed Vindman was “advising Ukraine,” and working “against the president's interest.” During his House testimony, Vindman faced similar charges of disloyalty from Steve Castor, the Republican lawyer who questioned him—in other words, from the people officially charged with defending The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote in the impeachment inquiry.

In sum, Republicans and their right-wing allies in the media have been claiming that Vindman is somehow more loyal to Ukraine than to the United States, the country he has served as a soldier—earning a Purple Heart in Iraq in 2004—and a high-ranking security official for decades. This slander falls under the category of “dual loyalty,” and is a particularly notorious form of anti-Semitism. Rightfully, many have called out those who perpetrated it.

One of the most powerful condemnations came from GQ journalist Julia Ioffe. Like Vindman, she is a Jew born in the Soviet Union (Moscow, in her case) who fled that country for the U.S. as a child. Her insights and experience are thus particularly relevant here.

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Here’s more from Ioffe:

While Trump has a history of attacking anyone who questions his power, there is a particularly insidious history to questioning the loyalty of Jewish émigrés. According to a source who knows the family, Vindman’s grandfather died fighting for the Soviet Union in World War II. After the war was over and the state of Israel was founded, Stalin unleashed a bloody and ruthless campaign against Soviet Jewry. He called them “rootless cosmopolitans,” a wandering people who had no real roots in the Russian soil, and therefore no loyalty to the Soviet state. The campaign continued even after Stalin died, with harsh quotas imposed in universities. Politically sensitive jobs were closed to Jews because their loyalty could not be trusted. In everyday life, Soviet Jews, whose ancestors had been living in Russia for centuries, were told to “go to your Israel” or to return to their “historic homeland.”

This constant harassment and discrimination, combined with Western pressure, triggered a mass exodus, with millions of Jews leaving the Soviet Union because it had decided that they were second-class citizens and not to be trusted. The Vindmans were part of that exodus. [...]

Then 2016 came around, bringing to power [in the U.S.] a set of people all too eager to remind us of a thought we’d left in the old country: No matter what you do for this country, even if you give it your life and limb, you will always be foreign, suspect. And if, like Alexander Vindman, you dare to flag the president’s deeply problematic behavior and talk about it to congressional Democrats trying to impeach him, none of your service to your country will matter. There will be an effort to discredit you—you won’t be suspected of being secretly loyal to Israel, as your parents once were in the Soviet Union, but to Ukraine—any country but the one you actually serve.

The “dual loyalty” attacks on Vindman evoke an earlier episode in history, namely the Dreyfus Affair. Here’s Matthew Rosza at Salon making that connection and more:

There is a long history of accusing Jews of being disloyal to the countries where they reside, which is a form of anti-Semitism. In the 1890s, a French captain named Alfred Dreyfus was accused of being a German spy and publicly disgraced despite exculpatory evidence. The dual loyalty slur appeared more recently when Trump claimed that American Jews who vote for Democrats, whom he in turn claimed were anti-Israel, were “disloyal.”

There’s been even more right-wing anti-Semitism on display during this whole Trump Ukraine scandal, as numerous figures have brought up the supposed mastermind behind everything: George Soros. We heard some discussion of this Thursday, during Fiona Hill’s House testimony:

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On Dr. Hill directly, here’s Trump loyalist and convicted felon Roger Stone from two years ago speaking on Infowars, hosted by Alex Jones: “We here at Infowars first identified Fiona Hill, the globalist, leftist, George Soros-insider who had infiltrated [Former United States National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster’s staff.” Globalist is another term with strong anti-Semitic connotations.

I began this post talking about the shameless hypocrisy on the right regarding anti-Semitism and “dual loyalty.” Earlier this year, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar or Minnesota made statements that employed the “dual loyalty” canard about American Jews and Israel, and I called her out for it here. However, a couple of weeks later Omar wrote a piece for the Washington Post that showed she had learned a great deal from the previous incident, and I praised her for what she wrote:

Omar explicitly endorses a two-state solution, which means she acknowledges the right of Israel to exist as a state alongside a Palestinian state. She speaks of the need for “self-determination” and a “sanctuary” for each of the two peoples, and speaks of “the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland,” as well as recognizing their need for “security,” while noting that Palestinians have similar rights, needs, and interests, as well as their own connection to the land.

Omar also shows real empathy for Jews by highlighting the “urgency of establishing a nation” after the Holocaust and “centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it.” This is not the language of someone who hates Israel, or who denies the right of Jews to have a homeland in the land of their forefathers. One can, without question, call out Israel when it is wrong and advocate for the right of Palestinians to have their own state, yet still show respect for the rights of Jews as individuals and their collective rights as a self-identified national group. That’s exactly what Rep. Omar does here.

Furthermore, Rep. Omar has refrained from using language that connects to anti-Semitic tropes in the months since. She made real progress in convincing folks that her intent was not to inflame hate against Jews.

And let’s get something else clear, Jews in our country face far more danger from hatred coming from the right than anything coming from the left. To take just the most blood-filled example, the Pittsburgh terrorist murderer who killed 11 Jews in a synagogue hated Jews because, in his mind, they were helping immigrant “invaders.” This is hate inspired by the right-wing, not the left.

Regarding the dual loyalty language, the right-wing harshly criticized Rep. Omar. Most of their criticisms left little room for the possibility that she was anything but a through-and-through Jew hater. This did not change even after her Washington Post article. As I wrote then:

From the right, however, the reaction to her Washington Post piece was a different story. Right-wing media published attacks (see here and here, for example) that, in sum, argued that Omar is a liar, and still an anti-Semite: “Omar has already shown us who she is.” Why do they make these claims? Because for much of the right wing, including, of course, Individual 1, the issue is not sincere concern about anti-Semitic rhetoric but rather fostering division among Democrats. The difference between the response from Democrats and Republicans to Rep. Omar’s Washington Post article speaks for itself.

This is the larger point, the larger hypocrisy. If Republicans actually cared about anti-Semitism, and they actually believed it was wrong to throw the charge of dual loyalty at Jewish Americans without any real evidence to back it up, they wouldn’t be doing it themselves.

It is fitting, but hardly surprising, that this hypocrisy rears its head in relation to the defense of President Individual 1. We have all watched, shaking our heads or screaming at the television, as his Republican defenders shred any notion of truth or principle in the name of defending their chieftain. Anti-Semitism is one of the most important problems we face in America. For the Ever-Trumpers, however, it’s just another tool in their bag of dirty tricks.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (foreword by Markos Moulitsas).

Radio host says he was fired mid-show from conservative station after criticizing Donald Trump

Craig Silverman, the host of “The Craig Silverman Show,” which aired on a conservative radio station in Denver, Colorado, says he was fired in the middle of a show. Why? According to Silverman, he was fired suddenly after he criticized Donald Trump during his Saturday morning 710 KNUS talk show. Just how suddenly? As Silverman tells it, the station’s program director, Kelly Michaels, literally came through the door and said, “You’re done,” as first reported by the Denver Post.

Here’s what reportedly happened right before that. Silverman had been playing parts of an old interview, from 2015, between himself and Roger Stone. Stone, as previously covered at Daily Kos, was convicted on Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress and faces a sentence of 20 years or more. The clip Silverman replayed involved the radio host telling Stone that he was upset by Trump’s relationship with Roy Cohn, Trump’s former attorney. After that aired, as Silverman explains it, the station suddenly cut to network news.

Silverman, who said he’d been increasingly critical of Trump lately, has felt that Democrats have made a solid case for impeachment hearings. In a recent show, a listener called in and stated that Trump hadn’t committed any impeachable offenses and thus the impeachment inquiry was unfair. 

“You like Donald Trump’s policies and I like many of them, as well. Right now, we have peace and prosperity, and that’s great,” Silverman answered as reported by The Washington Post. “But the question becomes, ‘Is it okay to cheat to win?' Because the allegation is that Donald Trump is using that money and the power of the presidency to cheat to win in 2020.”

Here’s what Silverman tweeted about the reported firing:

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Silverman, a former prosecutor, said he voted for Trump in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012. As reported byThe Washington Post, Silverman calls himself an independent who possesses both liberal and conservative views. He also said he’s voted Republican more than Democrat. 

“I submit that Donald J. Trump is deeply unpopular in lots of America,” Silverman said, as reported by the Post, during his Nov. 2 show in reference to Trump being booed at Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C. “And our country is at a crisis point. And I think a lot of people in America are coming to the realization that something is just not quite right with President Donald Trump.”

“Not quite right” puts it lightly.

Roger Stone and the media’s shame of 2016

News on Friday that a federal court convicted former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone on seven counts, including obstruction of a proceeding, false statements, and witness tampering only added to Trump's woes as the second day of impeachment hearings played out in Washington. Stone’s conviction certainly added to an aura of criminality that surrounds Trump, as more aides and advisers are convicted and sentenced to prison time.

The guilty verdicts also returned focus to the dismal job the campaign press did in 2016. Specifically, the media treated a bottom feeder like Stone as a serious person while wallowing in the Democratic emails that Russian operatives stole, and for which Stone served as a conduit for Republicans.  

During the 2016 campaign, both The New York Times and The Washington Post couldn't stop quoting Stone, and couldn't stop whitewashing his ugly past. In their pages, Stone was vaguely tagged as a "Trump confidant," a "veteran political operative," "an informal adviser," "a political strategist,” the "master of the political dark arts," a "sometime-Trump adviser," and yes, a "Trump supporter." What did news outlets politely leave out in 2016, when Stone became a go-to source? They left out his racist and radically hateful past.

From Media Matters:

Stone called commentator Roland Martin a “stupid negro” and “fat negro.” He referred to commentator Herman Cain as “mandingo” and called former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) an “arrogant know-it-all negro.” He also called commentator Al Sharpton a “professional negro” who likes fried chicken and asked if former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was an “Uncle Tom.”

Additionally, Stone attacked New York Times columnist Gail Collins as an “elitist c*nt” and tweeted “DIE BITCH” at former Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Back in 2008, Stone formed the anti-Clinton group called “C.U.N.T.” Keep in mind, Stone had been banned by both CNN and MSNBC because he was so untrustworthy, but the Times and Post had no trouble trusting him.

There's no way serious news outlets should have been dignifying a gutter player like Stone as a significant, professional political voice in 2016. "Stone is a thug who relishes personal insults, character assassination, and offensive gestapo-like tactics that should be unequivocally dismissed by civil society, most especially those who might give him a platform from which to spew his hatred," is what conservatives were saying about Stone that year.

But when it came to Trump, too many in the press changed all the rules in order to accommodate him. And one key rule was to pretend Stone wasn't a deeply odious and untrustworthy player.

Stone's star seemed to rise in the press because of his association with the story of the Democratic Party emails that were stolen and widely distributed to the media during the campaign. And that was the media's second major, Stone-related sin of the campaign season: Journalists actively, and irresponsibly, hyped a Russia dark ops campaign that Stone helped market.

Here's the key part: Despite their revisionist claims that they had no idea Russia was behind the email scheme, journalists knew in the summer of 2016 that Russia was connected to the hack, yet reporters and editors gleefully published the stolen documents anyway. WikiLeaks’ connection to the Kremlin has never been a deep mystery. "Throughout WikiLeaks’ existence, the allegedly pro-transparency group has had strange, shadowy, but very well-documented connections to the Russian state," Vox has noted.

In June 2016, a cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee posted a public notice that concluded that the hack had been carried out by two groups associated with Russian intelligence. And in July, top U.S. officials were confirming that Russians were behind the illegal attack on the DNC.

So why the media rush to do Russia's bidding in 2016? I've tweeted this many times, but if anyone thinks the same journalists and the same news outlets would have gorged on stolen Trump emails in 2016 if they had been hacked by Iranian government operatives, I know of a bridge that's for sale in Brooklyn. That scenario simply is not conceivable because the press would have instantly backed down to right-wing objections and claims the press was aiding and abetting an American foe and helping Iranians interfere in a U.S. election.

But with Clinton, the press wallowed in an unmistakable amusement as they pretended the benign emails pulled back the curtain and offered an unvarnished look at her. (They did not, unless you count risotto recipes as being an unvarnished look.) What unfolded in 2016 was comically breathless coverage of the emails, even though those pushing the hacked material often conceded that none of the emails revealed stunning information. After the campaign, the Times itself conceded that news organizations became “a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence” by publishing so many stories on the hacked emails.

The dirty little secret is that everyone in the D.C. press thought Clinton was going to win, and because there was a strange personal animus toward her, the press seemed to see its job as making sure she limped across the finish line and that her historic win be as unenjoyable as possible. The hacked emails provided a perfect vehicle for that harassment campaign.

Three prominent researchers who documented Russia's propaganda success in 2016 recently urged journalists to rethink how they treat hacked emails delivered by Russian intelligence. "Newsrooms should carefully consider how the volume of their coverage might be manipulated by strategic leaks," stressed Renee DiResta, Michael McFaul and Alex Stamos. "Most importantly, they need to break the cycle of amplifying disinformation by "covering the controversy."

That's sage advice. Here's some more for 2020: Don't follow the lead of bad actors like Roger Stone.

Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.

This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.