Jeffrey Goldberg

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In any fair world, Henry Kissinger would have spent the greater part of his adult life in leg irons or perhaps met with the business end of a meat hook, his thoughts and actions responsible for the needless death of so many. Alas, the universe does not dispense justice in a suitable manner. 

It’s a big complicated world,” Hillary Clinton said when attacked during the primary for her regard for the former Nixon and Ford Secretary of State, and that’s certainly true. The problems of three little people–or three million–don’t amount to a hill of beans when the wrong people are in power, and a wronger group than the incoming cabal of monsters could not be birthed in Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory.

Just prior to the election, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic published excerpts from interviews with Kissinger about what might result from a Clinton or Trump triumph. It surprises me that at that late stage, the publication’s new Editor-in-Chief still believed Trump might govern as a “pragmatic liberal democrat.” By then, that hope had long vanished from my mind. Neither suggests what’s long seemed obvious about the President-Elect: He may be a dangerously mentally ill person whose words and actions defy rational analysis. The two men spoke again right after Trump’s alarming Electoral College victory.

An excerpt from the pre-election conversations:

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Since we last spoke, he’s said various things that must have made you go pale.

Henry Kissinger:

I disagree with several of Trump’s statements, but I do not historically participate in presidential campaigns. My view of my role is that together with like-minded men and women, I could help contribute to a bipartisan view of American engagement in the world for another period; I could do my part to overcome this really, in a way, awful period in which we are turning history into personal recriminations, depriving our political system of a serious debate. That’s what I think my best role is.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Donald Trump does not rise in your mind to the level of a person who is so clearly unqualified for the presidency that you should preemptively say, “this person cannot function in this job?” More and more Republicans are saying that, especially national security professionals.

Henry Kissinger:

I’ve decided I’m not going into the name-calling aspect of the campaign. I’m approaching 94; I will not play a role in the execution of day-to-day policy, but I can still aid our thinking about purposeful strategy compatible with our role in shaping the postwar world. Before the campaign, I said over the years friendly things about Hillary. They are on the record. I stand by them. In fact, my views have been on the record for decades, including a friendly attitude towards Hillary as a person.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Let me ask again: Is Donald Trump teachable?

Henry Kissinger:

Every first-term president has to learn something after he comes into office. Nobody can be completely ready for the inevitable crises. If Trump is elected, it is in the national interest to hope that he is teachable.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

You know, there’s a chance he would govern as a pragmatic liberal Democrat.

Henry Kissinger:

He has said things that sound like it. He has also said many much more contrary things. I simply do not want to get into this sort of speculation. I don’t know Trump well. I intend to make my contribution to the national debate on substance. There is no point in trying to get me into the personal aspects of the campaign.•


Like the first President he served, Kissinger became quite a baseball junkie, especially in his post-Washington career. At the 15:40 mark of this episode of The Baseball of World of Joe Garagiola, we see Kissinger, who could only seem competent when standing alongside that block of wood Bowie Kuhn, being honored at Fenway Park before the second game of the sensational 1975 World Series. During the raucous run by the raffish New York Mets in the second half of 1980s, both Nixon and Kissinger became fixtures at Shea Stadium. Nixon was known to send congratulatory personal notes to the players, including Darryl Strawberry. It was criminals rooting for criminals.

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The press and Republicans didn’t exactly help matters in regards to the political rise of the hideous hotelier Donald Trump. 

The former initially treated him as cheap summer programming and misrepresenting him as an irreverent, naughty uncle rather than the deeply racist, seeming sociopath he is. But the media didn’t make Trump the GOP nominee–the people did. The Republican establishment been pandering to the racist heart of America for decades, and it turns out there were far more people with Angry White Person’s disease than previously diagnosed. More than economics, that’s what Trump tapped into: unearned privilege under threat. He’s a rich person who feels ripped off because of all he lacks inside, and the same is true today of a good chunk of the country.

Fellow Republicans also didn’t try to drive Trump’s clown car off course for far too long, everyone thinking it was all an elaborate joke, and if they just avoided the scrum, they’d be okay. I doubt, however, it would have made much of a difference if they had acted sooner. John Kasich, exceedingly conservative and eminently electable, never had a prayer of gaining the nomination. Republicans weren’t voting for policy or principles but rather for hatred and nativism. They chose their messenger, their nominee, for very clear reasons. When you select the candidate who mocked POWs and the disabled, and bragged about the size of his dong during a debate, there can be no mistake.

Not everyone agrees, however, with my contention that wags and pols aren’t responsible for Trump’s candidacy. Excerpts follow from: 1) Carl Bernstein insisting at Real Clear Politics that Matt Drudge could have stopped Trump, which I think is preposterous, and 2) Jeffrey Goldberg’s immaculately written Atlantic article, which suggests more moderate members of the GOP could have prevented the “Make America White Again” movement, which I also doubt.


From Carl Bernstein’s comments:

“One of the interesting things we’ve seen in this campaign is FOX has driven Trump’s candidacy less than Matt Drudge,” the legendary journalist said Wednesday on CNN. “Drudge is really a great new factor in this election in terms of media. He is — Drudge, that site has been unapologetically in Trump’s pocket from the beginning. And I would say a large measure of why Donald Trump is the nominee goes to Matt Drudge in much the way that FOX has — when you use the word kingmaker, I’m not sure it goes quite far that way, but it is an influence unequalled.”


Goldberg’s sharply written opening:

The neediness of politicians has always fascinated me; the pathological desire for relevance; the plasticity of belief in the service of self-aggrandizement; the depths plumbed in order to stave off insignificance, which can be as frightening as non-existence itself. One of my favorite politicians, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, is almost morbidly needy. His desire for attention made him into a brilliant retailer, mainly of himself, but also of his ideas, and intermittently, of his state. His neediness made him greatly entertaining. But it also caused him to betray his own principles.

I recognize that it took millions of Republican primary voters to bring America to this frightening moment, a moment in which a preposterous grifter of authoritarian bent whose mental health is the subject of pervasive and anxious speculation, has become a major-party nominee for president. But it was men like Christie who were indispensable in the creation of this moment. Donald J. Trump could have been stopped. I believe he could have been stopped early, by a concerted effort to unify the party behind a single, viable, non-fraudulent candidate; and he could have been stopped late, if Republicans like Christie had not crumpled before Trump. A handful of honorable men did, in fact, try to stop him. But they were too few in number, and too marginal to make a difference. Collectively, the most influential and smartest Republican elected officials—people who fall into the general category of Them That Knew Better—just might have been able to devise a way to prevent what is happening from happening. But abdication of responsibility and self-debasement in the pursuit of power were the order of the day.•

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Jeffrey Goldberg’s devastating Atlantic essay plumbs the depth of distrust between the Obama White House and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who seems more and more like a one-man Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, desultory and self-preserving to the nth degree. The “chickenshit” quote refers to his lack of will, which has good and bad ramifications: He won’t order a major military strike, such as one against Iran, but nor will he move forward the peace process with the Palestinians. The opening:

‘The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. ‘The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,’ this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.

This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively ‘unbreakable’ bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it’s ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program.

The fault for this breakdown in relations can be assigned in good part to the junior partner in the relationship, Netanyahu, and in particular, to the behavior of his cabinet. Netanyahu has told several people I’ve spoken to in recent days that he has ‘written off’ the Obama administration, and plans to speak directly to Congress and to the American people should an Iran nuclear deal be reached. For their part, Obama administration officials express, in the words of one official, a ‘red-hot anger’ at Netanyahu for pursuing settlement policies on the West Bank, and building policies in Jerusalem, that they believe have fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.

Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and ‘Aspergery.’ (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)  But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a ‘chickenshit.’ I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn’t have a full understanding. From time to time, current and former administration officials have described Netanyahu as a national leader who acts as though he is mayor of Jerusalem, which is to say, a no-vision small-timer who worries mainly about pleasing the hardest core of his political constituency.”

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