A few days ago, a respected rabbi told me that when he heard Greta Thunberg’s speech before the United Nations, he understood how Joseph Stalin had managed to indoctrinate children so thoroughly that they were willing to report their own parents.
For those unfamiliar with the history of Stalin’s demonic rule over the Soviet Union, children were “educated” to believe that loyalty to country was more important than such antiquated, bourgeois concepts as loyalty to family. If a parent harbored ideas that made him or her an “enemy of the state,” children were encouraged and expected to report them to the authorities. This occurred countless times during and after the “Great Purge” of Trotskyites and others during the 1930s.
Thunberg received her own indoctrination regarding her parents’ betrayal: The world is coming to an end, the sky is falling, and the fault lies with the economy they built. Cars must be taken off the road, and carbon dioxide-producing power plants replaced with only solar and wind power — or we will all die. In her words, “entire ecosystems are collapsing,” though neither she nor her handlers can provide evidence of anything but growth. Since “we are in the beginning of a mass extinction,” there is no time for silly things like evidence or sober consideration. We must act, not think!
And she concluded with an implicit threat: “Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.” With rhetoric like that, how far-fetched is it to imagine that CEOs of energy companies might be imprisoned for imagined crimes against humanity?
Yet with all of that said, this is far from the most troubling example of Stalinism’s return. For that, we can look still closer to home: The effort to impeach President Donald Trump.
I must admit, it is troubling to imagine a U.S. head of state strong-arming the leader of a foreign government to do his or her bidding. I am referring, of course, to the possibility that Joe Biden forced Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to end an investigation of corruption at an energy company that was then paying Hunter Biden $600,000 a year for consulting work (despite his utter lack of experience or knowledge of the energy industry).
And it is also troubling that Trump may have asked that Biden be investigated, not because of genuine suspicion of wrongdoing, but because it is politically expedient. Two wrongs do not make a right, and even in the immediate wake of the failed Mueller investigation, it was inappropriate.
But that doesn’t make Trump’s actions dangerous to democracy. It certainly doesn’t make his conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky worthy of the Constitution’s prescribed “high crimes and misdemeanors” impeachment criterion. That would require conclusive proof that Trump withheld aid to force Zelensky to settle a personal score. Everything we were assured would prove this true has been found false, from the transcript on down. Zelensky himself has volunteered that that their phone conversation was as friendly and unthreatening as the transcript appears to indicate.
Neither is this new. I referred earlier to the “failed” Mueller investigation, but by what measure was it a failure? Mueller executed his mission precisely. It merely failed to produce the results that Democrats, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in particular, assured us would emerge.
Democrats set their target in 2016, immediately following the stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump: Impeachment. The goal came first and the search for evidence came later. And this is where the comparison to Stalinism is not merely appropriate, but frightening in its precision.
From 1936 to 1938, a series of large trials were held in Moscow of senior Communist leaders accused of treason against Stalin’s government. Most of them even confessed to their alleged crimes. Yet in 1937, an American commission led by John Dewey proved that many of the specific charges made during the trials could not have been true.
These were Stalin’s “Show Trials.” The “guilt” of the accused was predetermined, and evidence, whether true, distorted, or fabricated from whole cloth, came later — and only then in service of the predetermined conclusion.
During the middle of Mueller’s work, Democrats took control of Congress with a new “squad” of loud leftists demanding they “impeach the mother******.” And time and again they have tried and failed to find a way to justify their predetermined conclusion. When Mueller produced the “nothingburger” that Van Jones of CNN predicted, the calls for impeachment only grew louder.
This is why Democrats now refuse to vote for a formal impeachment inquiry — because doing so would permit Republicans to subpoena witnesses that would bring the full truth to light. As another prominent rabbi once told me in a different context: “When you are searching for the law, you find the law. When you’re searching for a place to hang your hat, you find a nail.”
The Democrats are now using Ukraine as the nail upon which to hang their predetermined conclusion. It is the very opposite of justice — and incredibly dangerous for the future of our democracy.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.