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Trump Pledges 'America First'

Trump Pledges 'America First'


Monday, 23 January 2017 08:30 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Donald Trump “America first” pledge in his inaugural address Friday, has caused controversy the world over with many roundly condemning him for words that suggest isolationism and even anti-Semitism.

But many other patriotic Americans have used the term to mean something altogether different.

“A phrase with an anti-Semetic and isolationist history,” is how the Los Angeles Times’ Brian Bennett defined “America first.” Bennett recalled how the phrase “galvanized a massive populist movement against U.S. entry into the war in Europe even as the German army marched through France and Belgium in the spring of 1940.”

“I'll be unembarrassedly old-fashioned here,” Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol tweeted Friday. “It is profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim ‘America First.’”

What Kristol, Bennett, and many others refer to is the role aviator Charles Lindbergh played in the later stages of the America First Committee. Founded in September 1940 the movement gained 800,000 members and 450 chapters nationwide. America First’s goal was to see that the U.S. abided by the Neutrality Act penned in 1939 that restricted any U.S. involvement in foreign wars such as those raging in Europe at the time.

It is true that Lindbergh did become the most high-profile spokesman of the committee and his remarks at a Des Moines, Iowa gathering in September 1941 were blatantly anti-Semitic. He warned that “while a few farsighted Jewish people . . . stand opposed to intervention, the majority still do not. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government.”

But it is also inarguable that the committee’s goal of keeping the U.S. out of a foreign war appealed to many young Americans. Fresh out of Harvard, future President John F. Kennedy joined America First by sending a note declaring “What you are doing is vital” and attaching a $100 check.

Another future President, Gerald R. Ford, joined America First while a Yale Law School student. So did several other Yale Law School students, among them future Peace Corps head Sargent Shriver and Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart. Gore Vidal, who would go on to be a renowned playwright and author, signed up for America First while a student at Phillips Exeter Academy.

Other members of the America First Committee included producer Walt Disney, novelist Sinclair Lewis, poet E.E. Cummings, and architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and both Japan and Germany had declared war on the U.S., the America First Committee disbanded. Today, while some say its name suggests anti-Semitism, a careful look at its 14-month history and membership suggests it meant something quite different to a lot of patriotic Americans — as the term does to Donald Trump today.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Donald Trump “America first” pledge in his inaugural address Friday has caused controversy the world over with many roundly condemning him for words that suggest isolationism and even anti-Semitism.
trump, america first, kennedy
Monday, 23 January 2017 08:30 AM
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