Michael Anton and the Shameful Legacy of America First
Not to put too fine a point on it, but ‘America First’ was Trump’s campaign slogan and he still uses it now. In this sense, the most charitable interpretation is that he simply doesn’t know the history of these shameful words.
If Trump doesn’t know this history, his National Security Council aide, Michael Anton sure does. Like Pat Buchanan, Anton embraces ‘America First’ with full knowledge of its history:
“A senior national security official in the Trump administration wrote under a pseudonym last year that Islam is an inherently violent religion that is “incompatible with the modern West,” defended the World War II-era America First Committee, which included anti-Semites, as “unfairly maligned,” and called diversity “a source of weakness, tension and disunion.”
“Michael Anton, who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, joined President Donald Trump’s administration earlier this year as a staffer on the National Security Council. But in the year leading up to the 2016 election, Anton operated as an anonymous booster of then-candidate Trump. Using the pen name Publius Decius Mus (the name of a self-sacrificing Roman consul), Anton promoted Trump’s anti-Islam, anti-immigration platform on fringe websites. The Weekly Standard revealed Publius to be Anton last week.”
“As Publius, Anton is best-known for his September 2016 article, “The Flight 93 Election,” which argued that, like the passengers on the aircraft hijacked by al Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans in 2016 needed to “charge the cockpit” and prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the election — or die. The article, which ran in the Claremont Review of Books, was circulated widely on conservative and white nationalist websites. The New Yorker declared it “the most cogent argument for electing Trump” but cited the responses by Ross Douthat of The New York Times that he’d “rather risk defeat at my enemies’ hands than turn my own cause over to a incompetent tyrant” and by Jonah Goldberg of National Review that its central metaphor is “grotesquely irresponsible.”
Looks like James Comey answered the call. America First was about a shameful movement in American history that said we shouldn’t fight Nazi Germany. But the enemy is now not in Nazi Germany but here at home.
“Anton devoted 1,000 words of the March essay to defending Trump’s “America first” slogan, which is eerily reminiscent of the America First Committee, a group that urged the U.S. to stay out of World War II, sometimes by invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes. When American Jews urged the U.S. to intervene on behalf of Jews facing genocide in Nazi Germany, AFC spokesman (and famed aviator) Charles Lindbergh accused them of “agitating for war.” Jewish Americans’ “great danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government,” Lindbergh said in 1941.
Lindbergh’s comments were shocking, even at a time when outright anti-Semitism was more publicly acceptable. “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler,” The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an editorial.
And today this voice has been taken up by Anton, and Donald Trump himself.
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