Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Obama is the BAD America firster, not Trump

Democrats are the dark interpretation of America First" , not Trump. See MgGurn op Ed in WSJournal today.  Lindbergh attacked Churchill for wanting to join in WW2 as did Joe Kennedy, our Ambassador to Britain. They begged us to stay out if the war. Trump restored Churchill bust to Oval. NY Post column by Lipsky points out Obama is very like the American Firsters of the 30s. Backed off Syrian red line even though 500,000 died. Did not help Iran dissidents when could have, or Ukraine fend off Russia, or pulled us out if Iraq giving birth to ISIS etc.  Trump has made it clear he will use our military if necessary to stop ISIS, control Iran, protect Israel etc.

America First’ Takes On a New Meaning

The 1941 movement vilified Churchill. Trump restores him to a place of honor.

Donald Trump during a swearing-in ceremony for White House senior staff, Jan. 22.
Donald Trump during a swearing-in ceremony for White House senior staff, Jan. 22. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
If Donald Trump is the reincarnation of the America First movement of the early 1940s, he has an odd way of showing it.
Within hours after he was sworn in as president, and after an absence of eight years, the Oval Office again had a bust of Winston Churchill. This is a particularly strange move for someone said to be a modern brownshirt/fascist/crypto-Nazi. Not only did Churchill take his nation to war with all these totalitarians, in the America First pantheon of villains Churchill ranks second only to the detested interventionist Franklin Roosevelt.
In a 1941 speech in Des Moines, Iowa, just three months before Pearl Harbor, America First’s Charles Lindbergh put it bluntly: “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”
A few months earlier, two prominent senators—Democrat Burton Wheeler of Montana and Republican Gerald Nye of North Dakota—spoke to an America First rally in a Midtown Manhattan hall then known as Mecca Temple. The next day, the New York Times carried a statement from an opposing organization contrasting the crowd’s reaction to mentions of Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin on the one hand with its reaction to mentions of Britain’s prime minister on the other: “It is interesting to note, too, that while there was no disapproval of the foreign dictators the audience at Mecca Temple booed continually at the name of Winston Churchill.”
In another speech that same year in Philadelphia, Lindbergh laid out the logic of his anti-British position: “First they said ‘sell us the arms and we will win.’ Then it was ‘lend us the arms and we will win.’ Now it is ‘bring us the arms and we will win.’ Tomorrow it will be ‘fight our war for us and we will win.’ ”
Lindbergh was wrong about many things, but he was right that Churchill was doing his best to get America to intervene on Britain’s side. And yet it is a bust of Churchill, the foreign leader detested by America First, that President Trump has just reinstalled in a place of honor in the Oval Office.
It’s not just Churchill. The 45th president’s national-security team is hardly calling for America to reject global leadership. During Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearings, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state declared that “Russia today poses a danger,” denounced the U.S. reaction to Moscow’s seizure of Crimea as “weak” and insisted the U.S. is going to have to “send China a clear signal” that its island-building in the South China Sea will not be permitted.
Ditto for Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who spent his final years in uniform leading U.S. military operations in the Middle East. Certainly as a commander who lost Marines in battle, Mr. Mattis is not eager for war. But would anyone want to characterize him as a latter-day Lindbergh?
Then there’s Mr. Trump. In his inaugural address, the new president declared: “We will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.” The next day, at the CIA, he said radical Islamic terrorism has to be “eradicated” from “the face of the earth.” Even the “America First Foreign Policy” page now up on the White House website doesn’t sound retreat: It speaks of “peace through strength,” of “defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic groups” as “our highest priority,” and of ensuring America’s “military dominance.”
Not to mention Israel. Among the most discrediting aspects of the original America First movement were the anti-Semites it attracted to its banner. Surely it’s unlikely that modern anti-Semites will find themselves attracted to a President Trump who says he wants to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Finally, there is the Trump crowd itself. Were the ordinary American citizens who cheered Mr. Trump’s inauguration really applauding a coming darkness?
In his New York Post column last May, Seth Lipsky suggested that it is “today’s Democrats who stand for the worst of the now discredited ‘America First.’ ” Meaning the president who gave us “lead from behind,” who backed off his own red line in Syria even as hundreds of thousands of innocents were murdered, who refused to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression, who stood by during Iran’s Green Revolution when freedom-loving demonstrators begged for our support and who constantly lectured us about how peaceful the Middle East would be if only we would pull American troops out of Iraq.
Certainly President Trump’s America First policy is open to criticism, especially on trade, as Monday’s formal departure from the Trans-Pacific Partnership indicates. But with Winston Churchill now back in the Oval Office, it might help if critics focused more on what President Trump means by America First in 2017 rather than what Charles Lindbergh meant in 1941.
Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

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