What Are Trump and Netanyahu Afraid Of?

Barring Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib shows weakness and intolerance, not strength.

It is difficult to stomach the notion that an American president would put pressure on Israel to deny entry to two members of the United States Congress.

There are not many traditions of decorum that President Trump has not trampled on since entering the White House. But to put at risk, so cynically, America’s special relationship with Israel solely to titillate the bigots in his base, to lean so crassly on a foreign leader to punish his own political adversaries, to demonstrate so foul a lack of respect for the most elemental democratic principles, is new territory even for him.

Though facing a difficult election next month for which he sorely needs the support of his fractured right-wing base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was said to be leaning toward allowing Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan to travel through Israelout of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America,” as his ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, wisely said last month. But, on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu cravenly bowed before the pressure from Mr. Trump.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”

Sad, to borrow one of Mr. Trump’s favorite words. How sad that two leaders — each desperate to look tough to his own base — are risking a bipartisan relationship built between these two nations over generations. Only weak leaders would risk so much for a reward so negligible. To what end?
  • To win a few political points against two of the newest members of Congress?
  • To capture a few news cycles?
  • To dial up the outrage machine just one more notch?

Confident leaders would never have risked so much for so little.

Though many American presidents have sought to influence Israeli decisions throughout the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, they usually did so diplomatically — and to advance America’s interests. Mr. Trump, by contrast, leaned on Mr. Netanyahu as he would on one of his own appointees, in broad view, and in direct violation of what the president of the United States should be doing when democratically elected lawmakers are threatened with a blockade by an allied leader.

There can be, and has been, considerable debate over what the two congresswomen, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and both sharp critics of the Israeli government, have said and done. They have supported the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement aimed at pressuring Israel into ending its occupation of the West Bank, a movement that some Jews have deemed to be anti-Semitic.

Yet, from the outset, Mr. Trump has pounced on the religion and background of the two congresswomen to fan racial divisions. Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib were two of the four congresswomen of color, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who Mr. Trump said should “go back” to the countries they came from, giving rise to chants of “send her back” at a subsequent Trump political rally.

The visit Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib were contemplating was not to Israel proper, but to the West Bank, where they were to visit Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem, as well as Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, on a trip co-sponsored by a Palestinian organization, Miftah, that promotes “global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities.” A visit was planned to the Al Aqsa Mosque, on what Israelis call the Temple Mount, an especially volatile site in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is little question that their visit would have focused on Palestinian grievances over the Israeli occupation.

All that was clearly troublesome for Mr. Netanyahu, especially the support of the congresswomen for the B.D.S. movement. A relatively recent law allows the Israeli government to deny entry to supporters of the movement; it was this law that the government used to deny entry to the representatives.

In April the United States barred Omar Barghouti, one of the co-founders of the B.D.S. movement, from entering the country when he was scheduled to deliver a series of talks and attend his daughter’s wedding. Other American public figures have been detained by Israeli authorities, ostensibly because of their political views, including the

  • IfNotNow founder, Simone Zimmerman, who was held at the border; a B.D.S. advocate,
  •  Ariel Gold, who was denied entry to the country; and the
  • journalist Peter Beinart, who was held at the airport. Mr. Netanyahu later called Mr. Beinart’s detention a “mistake.”

Yet contrary to Mr. Trump’s tweet, it is blocking entry by two American legislators who are critics of Israel that shows great weakness, especially after Israel hosted visits by delegations of 31 Republican and 41 Democratic lawmakers this month.

It has long been Israel’s mantra that critics of its policies should come see for themselves, and the country is certainly strong enough to handle any criticism from two members of Congress. Mr. Trump has done Israel no favor.

Stone-Cold Loser

Roger Stone has always lived in a dog-eat-dog world.

So it was apt that he was charged with skulduggery in part for threatening to kidnap a therapy dog, a fluffy, sweet-faced Coton de Tuléar, belonging to Randy Credico, a New York radio host.

Robert Mueller believes that Credico, a pal of Julian Assange, served as an intermediary with WikiLeaks for Stone. Mueller’s indictment charges that Stone called Credico “a rat” and “a stoolie” because he believed that the radio host was not going to back up what the special counsel says is Stone’s false story about contacts with WikiLeaks, which disseminated Russia’s hacked emails from the D.N.C. and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

Stone emailed Credico that he would “take that dog away from you,” the indictment says, later adding: “I am so ready. Let’s get it on. Prepare to die (expletive).”

As the owner of two Yorkies, Stone clearly knows how scary it is when a beloved dog is in harm’s way. When he emerged from court on Friday, he immediately complained that F.B.I. agents had “terrorized” his dogs when they came to arrest him at dawn at his home in Fort Lauderdale.

.. Always bespoke and natty, living by the mantra that it’s better to be infamous than never famous, Stone looked strangely unadorned as he came out of court to meet the press in a navy polo shirt and bluejeans.

He has always said Florida suited him because “it was a sunny place for shady people,” borrowing a Somerset Maugham line. But now the cat’s cradle of lies and dirty tricks had tripped up the putative dognapper. And it went down on the very same day that Paul Manafort — his former associate in a seamy lobbying firm with rancid dictators as clients, and then later his pal in the seamy campaign of Donald Trump — was also in federal court on charges related to the Mueller probe. Manafort’s hair is now almost completely white.

.. One of Stone’s rules — along with soaking his martini olives in vermouth and never wearing a double-breasted suit with a button-down collar — is “Deny, deny, deny.” But his arrest for lying, obstructing and witness tampering raised the inevitable question about his on-and-off friend in the White House, the man who is the last jigsaw-puzzle piece in the investigation of Trumpworld’s alleged coordination with Russia: Is being Donald Trump finally about to catch up with Donald Trump?

Stone, who famously has Nixon’s face tattooed on his back, is the agent provocateur who is the through line from Nixon, and his impeachment, to Trump, and his possible impeachment.

The Myth of Conservative Feminism

While groundbreaking in the literal sense, there is nothing feminist about a woman who oversaw a site where detainees were tortured, someone who refuses to say whether she believes torture is immoral. In the same way, there is nothing “empowering” about Ms. Scott, a media executive who reportedly enforced a “miniskirt rule” for female on-air talent, and who was cited in two lawsuits for contributing to a toxic work environment and retaliating against a sexual harassment victim.

Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power.

The real political duplicity here is Republicans’ continued efforts to co-opt feminist language while actively curtailing women’s rights.

.. Conservatives appropriating feminist rhetoric despite their abysmal record on women’s rights

.. In our eagerness to make feminism more friendly to the mainstream, we didn’t fully consider what it would mean if any woman could claim the label.

.. Now that feminism is more culturally and politically powerful than it has been in decades, however, conservatives are eager to capitalize on its cachet. Or wield it as a cudgel.

.. The conservative commentator Tomi Lahren, for example, has said that any woman who doesn’t support Ivanka Trump’s business because of her father’s policies isn’t “really a feminist.”

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, blasted any Democrat “who claims to support women’s empowerment” but opposed Ms. Haspel’s nomination as “a total hypocrite.”

.. In 2015, conservative female leaders leveled the same criticism at women’s rights advocates for not rallying around Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid.

.. It’s a hollow argument from the Republican Party, which does next to nothing to prioritize women’s representation. The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated .. it is not for everyone.

.. Women like Gina Haspel and Suzanne Scott have certainly benefited from the movement; without feminism, they very likely wouldn’t have the jobs they have now. But taking advantage of feminist wins does not make someone a feminist.

.. You cannot be a feminist and support an immigration policy of taking children away from undocumented immigrant mothers.

You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.

.. Amassing professional power at the expense of other women isn’t feminism — it’s self-interest.

.. Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding “anything a woman does” — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.

Hollywood Uses the Very Women It Exploited to Change the Subject

As allegations of sexual exploitations pile up, the
industry has absorbed the critiques and converted them
into inspirational messaging and branding exercises.

Is it possible for Hollywood to truly reckon with its issues while it’s so busy celebrating itself? It’s remarkable how slickly the entertainment industry — and its annual showcase, the winter awards show circuit — has adapted to the accusations against it. Harvey Weinstein may have been cast out of Hollywood (exiled, for now, to a spa in Scottsdale, Ariz.), but his complicity machine stretched its tentacles into agencies, law firms, fashion deals and of course, awards shows. New allegations of exploitations and inequities are revealed every week. The details suggest systemic rot.

In response, Hollywood has nimbly absorbed its critiques and converted them into inspirational messaging and digestible branding exercises, just in time for the unfurling of the red carpets. Whatever talks may (or may not) be happening inside agencies or on film sets, the message that comes across is this: The industry has skirted a conversation about its culture of harassment in favor of one about what an amazing job it is doing combatting that harassment. It’s engaged in just enough introspection to recalibrate and move on.

.. But when an earnest effort is fed through the Hollywood machine, it is quickly repurposed for what Hollywood does best, which is to sell things — women included. The initiative has revealed as much about Hollywood’s still unexamined sexism as it has the abuses it intended to address. In short, that women are expected to clean up the industry’s mess, and look good doing it. And they don’t have much choice, either, because if they say nothing, they’ll be knocked for that, too.

.. In this commodified atmosphere, it was difficult to process the appearance of real activists on the red carpet: #MeToo founder, Tarana Burke, came as Michelle Williams’s date, while Meryl Streep brought along Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The tactic bucked expectation — namely, that actresses tie their public personas to their relationships with men — and gave these pioneering activists exposure that’s hard to come by, but it also revealed the impossibility of dismantling an event bent on promoting a certain kind of femininity and luxury at once.

.. The image of white actresses paired with activists of color suggested a kind of moral accessorizing. And the meeting of celebrities and “regular” people came tinged with a preset narrative, one where the celebrity’s perceived exceptionalism is only enhanced by her engagement with the real world. But when Ryan Seacrest interviewed Ms. Williams and Ms. Burke on the red carpet, E! made it clear which it valued most — women’s appearance, or what they have to say. The network shrank Ms. Burke’s image into a corner as soon as she began speaking and turned its gaze to the actress Dakota Johnson. She twirled.

.. Watching this sparkling protest unfold, it’s easy to forget what exactly is being protested. The ugliness of rape and abuse is polished into optimistic hashtags and spun into glamorous dresses. In glad-handing Hollywood, criticizing the industry is verboten, but using one’s platform to advocate for other people is so expected it’s a cliché. (Mr. Weinstein himself was a master of linking his films to social causes, cynically pitching the award show ballot as a kind of morality test.)

.. The most electrifying moments of this protest have come when Hollywood women choose instead to model what it looks like to interrogate their own industry’s destructive norms: When Debra Messing broke red carpet geniality to speak out against E!’s underpayment of women, straight into an E! microphone, or when Ms. Portman presented the Golden Globes’ best director nominees as “all-male.”

.. all of this is quite easier for men. Just as they’re not required to uphold the same standards of beauty as their female peers, men are generally excused from carrying the moral weight, too. At the Golden Globes, they got by silently wearing Time’s Up lapel pins.

.. Justin Timberlake captioned his pre-Globes Instagram snap: “Here we come! And DAMN, my wife is hot! #TIMESUP #whywewearblack.” The bar is so low for men that this was, according to Instagram, the most-liked post of the night.

.. One way to push Hollywood toward change is to heighten its contradictions, drawing out the gap between its shimmering idea of itself and its darker realities. The image Hollywood builds for itself at these self-congratulatory events can be used as a bargaining chip for behind-the-scenes activist wins. As the SAG Awards neared, pressure mounted for the guild to protect its workers by installing a real code of conduct to address harassment. And as “All the Money in the World” racked up award nominations, the revelation that Mark Wahlberg earned much more to participate in reshoots than his co-star Ms. Williams — reshoots necessary to scrub the film of Kevin Spacey, and make it palatable for post-#MeToo audiences — created such a PR nightmare that Mr. Wahlberg ended up donating his $1.5 million salary to Time’s Up.

.. When Mr. Franco attended the Golden Globes earlier this month, grinned down the red carpet and bounded onstage to claim a statuette for “The Disaster Artist,” he wore the Time’s Up logo pinned to his lapel. As the night unfolded, female acting students and collaborators began filing complaints on Twitter about Mr. Franco’s own behavior, noting the hypocrisy of the pin. When Mr. Franco appeared on Seth Meyers’s show days later, he was grilled over the allegations. A Los Angeles Times report came next. Mr. Franco skipped the Critic’s Choice Awards, and when he turned up at the SAG Awards last Sunday, his very appearance made news. This time, he didn’t wear the pin. Aziz Ansari, who himself weathered his own hypocrisy scandal after wearing the pin at the Golden Globes, didn’t even show up. All of a sudden, a Hollywood awards show is a perilous place for some men to be.

.. For a woman, getting old is as much of a career-ending affront as an assault allegation is for a man. When Mr. Meyers opened his Golden Globes monologue by greeting the “ladies and remaining gentlemen,” I thought of all the women who don’t “remain” in Hollywood, either, pushed out through abuse or just discarded. One of those women — until recently — was Rose McGowan.

.. She’s now emerged as the most prominent actress to take aim not just at Hollywood abusers but at Hollywood itself.

.. Ms. McGowan and other accusers of Mr. Weinstein were not invited to the campaign’s Golden Globes coming-out party.

.. On Twitter, she’s called out “fancy people wearing black to honor our rapes.” Of Ms. Streep, she wrote: “YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change.”

.. its opening line — “I was in the middle of my second movie for his company, and I get assaulted” — is itself more real and more damning than anything that’s been said at these Hollywood events.

Faust on the Potomac

Trump is morally and intellectually incapable of being president. He has also exploited his office for personal gain, obstructed justice, and colluded with a hostile foreign power. Everyone who doesn’t get their news from Fox has basically known this for a while, although Wolff helps focus our minds on the subject.

.. Republicans in Congress are dealing with this national nightmare: rather than distancing themselves from Trump, they’re doubling down on their support and, in particular, on their efforts to cover for his defects and crimes.

Remember when Paul Ryan was the Serious, Honest Conservative?

.. Now he’s backing Devin Nunes in his efforts to help the Trump coverup.

.. Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party. Why?

The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap

.. The cynical bargain I’m talking about, of course, was the decision to exploit racism to advance a right-wing economic agenda.

.. For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent.

.. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else.

.. just about everyone in the Republican establishment decided that they could work with that.

.. were willing to overlook it as long as they could push their usual agenda.

.. They guessed, correctly, that this wouldn’t be a problem: Trump didn’t even hesitate about abandoning all his campaign promises and going all in for cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor.

.. some speculated that this would be a temporary alliance – that establishment Republicans would use Trump to get what they wanted, then turn on him. But it’s now clear that won’t happen.

.. Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?

.. Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him.

.. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others.

..  now have the Republican party as a whole fully complicit in Trump’s crimes

.. expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.

The Republicans’ Fake Investigations

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right.

.. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

.. The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.
.. Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
.. After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power.
.. It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.