Nikki Haley attended a meeting of the Security Council regarding the Middle East. She was not amused, and she said so.Seth Wenig/Associated Press
In the Age of Manufactured Media Panic and Social Media Amplification, knuckleheads can get a lot more done than they used to.
It used to be that if a knucklehead called up the local Jewish community center and said he'd planted a bomb on the premises, maybe the staff would ask the cops to check it out. Maybe not. Either way, everyone would get back to work pretty quickly and the general public would never hear about it.
Because, frankly, it wasn't interesting. And why reward the knucklehead with publicity, thereby encouraging other knuckleheads?
Now, the same knucklehead pulls the same stupid stunt and gets some serious coverage. The FBI gets involved. The local TV station runs a story. Twitter and Facebook spread it around. Like-minded knuckleheads call in bomb threats in their towns. The story grows and grows. And pretty soon, big questions have to be answered -- questions such as, "Well, how does the president of the United States feel about all this?"
Hint: The president of the United States, no matter who he is, opposes bomb threats. The only people who don't oppose bomb threats are the knuckleheads who make them and the people who use them to try to win political or social media points.
So, when President Donald Trump was asked at a recent news conference what the federal government was going to do about "an uptick of anti-Semitism" evidenced by knuckleheads calling bomb threats in to Jewish community centers, he skipped the whole bomb threat angle and got to the unspoken heart of the question with this reply: "I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."
The preamble to the question was a thinly veiled accusation that Trump and/or his close advisers are anti-Semites, along with an acknowledgment that there's no evidence to back such an allegation.
Trump's initial reaction -- that it was "not a fair question" -- was the response he should have run with. He should have said, "When you assume 'an uptick of anti-Semitism' in the United States, you're not talking about me. You're talking about your fellow Americans. I challenge you to back up that scurrilous implication, and when you fail, I'll expect an apology to the American people."
But, Trump being Trump, the question was all about him, so the answer was all about him and the fallout is all about him.
It's OK. He'll get other opportunities. The anti-Semitism thing must focus-group well, because it's been hanging around for months, along with an equally ludicrous supposition that Trump is anti-gay.
But let's not lose sight of one very important thing here: The question was directed at the president, but the insult it contained was directed at you and me. If there's "an uptick in anti-Semitism" in this country -- there isn't, but bear with me for the sake of argument -- that's not Trump's fault. It's our fault.
If Trump's election has somehow unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism upon the land, then that vile sentiment was always there, just waiting for a catalyst to translate it to action.
Does anyone truly believe that's the case in today's United States of America? Of course not. Yes, a consumer of propaganda might decide he resents "the Jews" for one specious reason or another, but he's not going to mention it in polite company, because he knows 100 percent of his listeners would write him off as a nut job.
There's only one place in the United States where anti-Jewish sentiment is both widely held and socially acceptable: New York City.
The diplomatically neutral ground on which the United Nations sits contains North America's densest concentration of dangerous anti-Semitic knuckleheads.
In fact, on the very same day Trump was fielding the media's disingenuous and insulting questions about a fantasized "problem," his U.N. secretary, Nikki Haley, was ripping the U.N.'s many official anti-Semites a well-deserved new one.
She had just gotten a look at the Security Council in action and described it thus:
"The Security Council is supposed to discuss how to maintain international peace and security. But at our meeting on the Middle East, the discussion was not about Hezbollah's illegal buildup of rockets in Lebanon. It was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists. It was not about how we defeat ISIS. It was not about how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of civilians. No, instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East."
She continued, "I'm here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I'm here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.'s anti-Israel bias."
I don't care what the president thinks about bomb threats at Jewish community centers. There's a whole federal, state and local law enforcement apparatus to deal with those knuckleheads. I do care what the president thinks about Israel, an ally. That's a legitimate matter for the very top of the executive branch.
And if what Nikki Haley said at the U.N. is the Trump administration's brand of anti-Semitism, you can bet that Israel -- where Jews actually live every day in mortal peril -- will find it quite refreshing.
O'Brien is The Plain Dealer's deputy editorial page editor.
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