On his visit this week to Washington, D.C., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably exchanged a wry word or two with President Donald Trump about their similar predicament. Both are under siege from a legal, political and media establishment determined to lever them out of office.
There is another striking similarity concerning their respective electoral base. For despite the maelstrom over their various alleged misdemeanors, those who voted for them don’t seem to care.
For sure, Trump’s voters believe that there’s no truth in the charge that Team Trump was in cahoots with Russia in trying to rig the presidential election. They are more likely to believe the evidence of a plot against Trump hatched between Russia and the Democratic Party involving the infamous Christopher Steele dossier.
Nevertheless, torrid claims have been made about Trump’s sexual behavior. At least 15 women have made allegations against him of sexual assault or harassment since the 1980s.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly paid $130,000 to a porn star called Stormy Daniels, who claims Trump and she had an affair. She has now filed a lawsuit against him claiming that a non-disclosure contract she signed was invalid. The president vehemently denies her allegations.
Remarkably, this sordid miasma has seemingly made no difference to Trump voters. They remain solidly for him. Even more remarkably, evangelical Christians have remained loyal. This has led to accusations they have sold their souls or squandered their moral authority.
The truth is surely more nuanced. The evangelicals hardly approve of such reportedly louche behavior, and they believe Trump is flawed. They also believe, however, that he has been put into the White House to restore the biblical precepts at the core of American culture, such as pro-life policies, support for Israel and the defense of Christian religious liberties. While he delivers godly American values, they will support him regardless of the paradox.
A similar phenomenon is occurring in Israel. Netanyahu is mired in an ever-widening swirl of corruption allegations. Opinion polls suggest that most voters believe these to be true. Yet polling also suggests that if a general election were held now, Likud would still be the largest party.
A significant change appears to have occurred in voters’ attitudes towards politicians in general. They are no less censorious about sexual excesses or corruption, but they make a new kind of political calculation.
They now discount politicians’ peccadillos because they expect them. Across the West, alienation from the whole political class has been fueled by the perception that no politician is honest, and more than one has abused both women and his marriage vows.
Why, then, should Americans be outraged by a president who sometimes appears to inhabit an alternative reality? After John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, why should they be shocked by claims there is a philanderer in the White House?
Why should Israelis be rocked by allegations of bribery against Netanyahu when a former Israeli prime minister and a former Israeli president were jailed for corruption and rape?
With moral flaws in national leaders becoming seen as inescapable, other questions become far more important. Which U.S. politician can be best relied upon to “drain the swamp,” and restore the rule of law and the primacy of the constitution? The answer to that overwhelmingly remains Trump.
Or which can best be relied upon to keep Israel safe from its enemies? And the answer remains that—like him or loathe him—many believe the answer to that life-or-death question remains Netanyahu.
This is very different indeed from attitudes on the left towards unarguably vile behavior. For the left connive at or even endorse it.
In the United States, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has a history of anti-Semitic and anti-white attitudes, recently doubled down on his Jew-hatred and racism. In an address on the movement’s Saviours’ Day last month, Farrakhan ranted: “White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.”
He has previously blamed Jews for the 9/11 attacks and the slave trade, and claimed that the FBI—under Jewish influence—pushed marijuana onto black men to “feminize” them. Yet people on the left have been happy to associate with Farrakhan, despite his appalling record.
Tamika Mallory, a leader of the anti-Trump Women’s March, attended the Saviours’ Day event and posted about it on Instagram. Two years ago, she wrote an enthusiastic social-media post about Farrakhan’s appearance in Detroit. And she was involved in organizing his “Justice or Else” rally in Washington in 2015, along with two Women’s March co-chairs, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour (who has herself been accused of anti-Semitism ).
Although Women’s March leaders said Farrakhan’s statements were “not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles,” other progressives have supported Mallory. New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman called her “a fearless fighter against racism.”
According to The Daily Caller, at least seven Democrats had meetings with Farrakhan while in Congress, with Rep. Danny K. Davis calling him an “outstanding human being.” And in 2013, Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Keith Ellison, who worked for the Nation of Islam for 18 months (although he subsequently damned its anti-Semitism), dined with Farrakhan and Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani when the latter visited the United Nations in 2013, and was said by Farrakhan to have dined with him again in 2016.
In Britain, transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf was appointed by the Labour Party as an adviser on LGBT+ issues, even though the previous year she had made a number of offensive comments, including claiming that all white people were racist and calling the suffragettes “white supremacists.” When this was revealed in the press, it was another week before she resigned.
Not surprising: Such black-on-white racism is common on the left. And its open anti-Semitism is now a running sore. This week, the Labour Party launched an investigation into claims by the blogger David Collier that party members posted anti-Semitic comments on a closed Facebook group run by Palestinian activists, which included discussions of conspiracy myths about the Rothschilds and supposed Israeli involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as links to material produced by neo-Nazi groups.
Trump and Netanyahu supporters may hold their noses for the greater good. But on the left, bad people are supported because the left believes bad things.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a column for JNS every two weeks. Currently a columnist for The Times of London, her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has just been published by Bombardier. Her work can be found at her website, www.melaniephillips.com.