On June 14, 1918, a nineteen-year-old Italian soldier by the name of Bernardo Vicario was ordered by his commander, Carl Rigoli, to carry out a curious task. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Italian forces would soon be hit with a furious bombardment that would mean the death of most of them. Rigoli clearly knew this, which is why he told young Bernardo to write an inscription on the ruined wall of a home in the village of Fagare, where they were holed up:
Rigoli perished in the battle: Bernardo lived to tell the tale. And almost a hundred years later, a researcher looking for ways to smear GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump stumbled across a reference to it and attributed it to Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator.
A reporter for Gawker, the notorious gossip site that’s been sued for libel more times than I care to discover, had set up a parody Twitter account named “Il Duce,” and the reporter, one Ashley Feinberg, tweeted the not-said-by-Mussolini quote at Trump, who promptly retweeted it. Shortly afterward, Trump was confronted by reporter Chuck Todd, who wanted to know why he was retweeting something said by Mussolini. Trump wouldn’t back down: “It’s a great quote,” he said, quite correctly. That refusal and the content of the quote itself underscores and explains why he is winning and why the hysterical smear campaign directed at him and his campaign is failing big-time.
But why – why do they hate him with such ferocity? The accusations of “racism” and the way he speaks without regard for upper-class niceties doesn’t explain the intensity of the hatred coming from the journalistic wolf pack and the Washington crowd. After all, shortly after Trump raised the issue of whether we should allow Muslims into the United States, the House of Representatives passed a bill – supported by libertarians like Rand Paul as well as mainline Republicans and Democrats – making it all but impossible for immigrants from Muslim countries to resettle here. It also requires all foreigners who have visited Iraq, Syria or Iran, or who hold dual citizenship from those countries, to apply for a visa before visiting here… Yet we heard very little about that.
So where is all this vitriol coming from? David Stockman, former chief of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan, nails it:
“To be sure, there is much that is ugly, superficial and stupid about Donald Trump’s campaign platform, if you can call it that, or loose cannon oratory to be more exact. More on that below, but at the heart of his appeal are two propositions which strike terror in the hearts of the Imperial City’s GOP operatives.
“To wit, he is loudly self-funding his own campaign and bombastically insisting that America is getting a bad deal everywhere in the world.
“The first of these propositions explicitly tells the legions of K-Street lobbies to take a hike, thereby posing a mortal threat to the fund raising rackets which are the GOPs lifeblood. And while the “bad deal” abroad is superficially about NAFTA and our $500 billion trade deficit with China, it is really an attack on the American Imperium.
“The American people are sick and tired of the Lindsey Graham/John McCain/George Bush/neocon wars of intervention and occupation; and they resent the massive fiscal burdens of our outmoded but still far-flung alliances, forward bases, and apparatus of security assistance and economic aid. They especially have no patience for the continued huge cost of our commitments to cold war relics like NATO, the stationing of troops in South Korea and the defense treaty with the incorrigible Japanese, who still blatantly rig their trade rules against American exports.
“In short, The Donald is tapping a nationalist/isolationist impulse that runs deep among a weary and economically precarious main street public. He is clever enough to articulate it in the bombast of what sounds like a crude trade protectionism. Yet if Pat Buchanan were to re-write his speech, it would be more erudite and explicit about the folly of the American Imperium, but the message would be the same.”
All this was on display during the Houston GOP debate, and yet its significance was lost amid all the histrionics. To begin with, look at this exchange between former AIPAC employee Wolf Blitzer, the moderator, and Trump:
“BLITZER: You said this about the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians – I’m quoting you now: ‘Let me be sort of a neutral guy. I don’t want to say whose fault it is, I don’t think it helps.’
“BLITZER: Here’s the question. How do you remain neutral when the U.S. considers Israel to be America’s closest ally in the Middle East?
“TRUMP: Well, first of all, I don’t think they do under President Obama because I think he’s treated Israel horribly, all right? I think he’s treated Israel horribly. I was the grand marshall down 5th Avenue a number of years ago for the Israeli Day Parade, I have very close ties to Israel. I’ve received the Tree of Life Award and many of the greatest awards given by Israel.
“As president, however, there’s nothing that I would rather do to bring peace to Israel and its neighbors generally. And I think it serves no purpose to say that you have a good guy and a bad guy.
“Now, I may not be successful in doing it. It’s probably the toughest negotiation anywhere in the world of any kind. OK? But it doesn’t help if I start saying, “I am very pro-Israel, very pro, more than anybody on this stage.” But it doesn’t do any good to start demeaning the neighbors, because I would love to do something with regard to negotiating peace, finally, for Israel and for their neighbors.
“And I can’t do that as well – as a negotiator, I cannot do that as well if I’m taking … sides.”