Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition this morning was a sober-minded and detailed analysis of the security threats Israel faces and the most effective way to eliminate the Islamic State.
Haha, just kidding!
He spent most of the time talking about how Jews are good negotiators and then saying they wouldn’t support him because they couldn’t buy him. A wild, stereotype-filled ride from start to finish, yes, indeed.
The Republican presidential frontrunner kicked off his talk by doing the obvious thing and talking up his poll numbers, as one does, and saying Obama “is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Israel.”
He also sought to connect with the Jewish audience by touting his business experience.
“I’m a negotiator like you folks,” he said.
Like other candidates, he criticized the president’s negotiating abilities on the Iran deal. But unlike other candidates, he suggested the president’s decision not to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” means he is likely harboring a dark secret.
“I’ll tell you what, we have a president that refuses to use the term,” Trump said. “He refuses to say—there’s something going on with him that we don’t know about.”
The line drew immediate, noisy applause. It isn’t the first time Trump has floated curious theories about Obama’s origins; he became a Tea Party darling by vociferously questioning whether the president was born in America. He told Fox News in 2011 that secret religious beliefs might explain the president’s alleged caginess about his birthplace (Hawaii, btw).
Perhaps the most curious part of the speech—which is really saying something—came when he suggested the Jewish audience wouldn’t support him because they couldn’t control him through donations.
“I don’t want your money, therefore you’re probably not gonna support me,” he said.
“Trump doesn’t want our money, therefore we can’t—” he continued, launching into an imagined dramatic inner monologue of what the audience must be thinking, “Even though he’s better than all these guys, even though he’s gonna do more for Israel than anybody else, even though Bibi Netanyahu asked me to do a commercial for him and I did and he won his race, I was very happy.”
That sentence, you will notice, includes both the first and third persons—really terrific. His mention of Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, drew more applause. And he didn’t really make his point.
But a few minutes later in the speech, he found himself back at the same idea: mulling over whether the audience would be able to support him even if he didn’t take campaign contributions that would make them his assumed puppet masters.
“You know, you’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money,” he said, drawing audience laughter.
The stereotype of Jews using their money to insidiously manipulate global politics is an old one, as Anti-Defamation League founder Abraham Foxman detailed in his book Jews and Money: The Story of a Stereotype. He notes that anti-Israel Middle Eastern groups often use the ugly stereotype “to claim that Israel’s survival reflects not its moral status as a nation among nations but rather the manipulation of world opinion and, especially, of U.S. policy by wealthy, self-interested Jews.”
Later in his ramble, Trump suggested Jeb Bush’s acceptance of campaign contributions means his donors control him.
“He raised $125 million, which means he’s controlled totally, totally controlled, by the people who gave him the money,” he said.
This has been a theme throughout the mogul’s campaign. He’s argued repeatedly that other candidates are beholden to their donors and won’t prioritize the country’s best interests because of their muddied loyalties.
Trump, without saying it directly, made it clear that his loyalties will remain where they have always been: to himself.