INTERVIEW: Leon Wieseltier: Trump Should Be ‘Slaughtered’ in Election

The following is an interview with Leon Wieseltier, the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution and a contributing editor at The Atlantic:

“The most important thing is that Trump be slaughtered” in next week’s presidential election,” Wieseltier told Jewish Insider in a phone interview on Wednesday. “The poisons that he’s unleashed are not going to go away after Tuesday. The country needs healing, but nobody seems much in the mood for healing.”

On Hillary Clinton’s struggle to close the deal: “I think it’s shameful that she has not been able to open a decisive lead against Trump. But nobody loves her. I mean, it’s a mitzvah (commandment) to vote for her against Trump, but she’s not an exceptionally attractive candidate. I think she should remind people, as often as she can, who Trump is. I don’t know what else she does.”

On the difference between Clinton and Obama’s Middle East policy: “One of the reasons that I will be voting for her — I mean, I will vote for her because she’s running against Trump. But one of the reasons I will be voting for her, that has to with her and not with her competitor, is that she really does have a more hawkish and interventionist inclination about Syria, and I support that. She seems to be serious about a safe haven. She is not averse to using American force when it seems to be justified, which, in my view, is. The use of American force has been justified in Syria for years. So, I think, with any luck, she won’t agree to inherit Obama’s shameful passivity. There is no question that many of her foreign policy inclinations are not congenial to the Democratic Party. And if she has actually had to disguise them or ignore them during the campaign, there is a decent chance that she won’t just agree to accept to inherit Obama’s despicable policy.”

On the Syrian civil war: “Syrian refugees are fleeing Syria because they have been the victims of secular tyranny, religious tyranny, genocide, chemical warfare, mass murder; I mean, this is as atrocious than atrocity as we have seen in our time. No analogy with what was done to the Jews in the middle of the 20th century is ever perfect, but their predicament on moral grounds, it seems to me to justify assistance, rescue, protection and certain kinds of intervention. And I should add – on strategic grounds too because the strategic stakes in Syria are high.”

On the possibility President Obama will re-engage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before leaving office: “The only thing that matters now is an improvement of relations on the ground between the populations. I don’t see much hope for a solution right now. The only thing that matters is that the situation isn’t made worse. I think that the continued settlement of the West Bank and the continued augmentation of existing settlements and legitimation of the so-called outpost settlements, all this is madness, pure madness. And until there arises a leader in Israel with some courage, I think the madness will continue. It makes no sense strategically. It poisons the situation communally, socially. It’s just about the most short-sighted policy for Israel that I could imagine. I don’t think American pressure will affect that policy, and I don’t see any Israeli leader in Israeli politics who has the guts to recognize the lunacy of this policy and put an end to it. I should add that I don’t see much leadership or political courage on the Palestinian side either. That’s the really crushing truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right now – that there are no heroes on either side. Without political leadership, it’s going to be a slow and steady decline into disaster.”

On the state of Jewish and Hebrew literacy among America Jews: ”First, American Jews need to made to feel terrible about their Hebrew illiteracy. That’s very hard to do. I think that American Jews, of all kinds, are much too satisfied with their Jewish attainments and have to recognize how much they cripple their Jewishness and damage the possibility of a successful transmission of the tradition to their children if they don’t possess a Jewish language. The Jewish tradition does not take place in English, even if many American Jews seem to think that it does.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.