Aaron Klein, Israeli bureau chief for Breitbart News – the media outlet most closely identified with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump – seems troubled by the idea that, now that Trump has won, he’s part of the establishment.
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“We’re not the establishment,” he says several times, smiling as he realizes what he’s saying.
The establishment is a recurring subject in our long conversation, as it is in the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Hillary Clinton may have been the main object of hatred for “alt-right” supporters during the election campaign, but when Klein talks about the establishment, he cites the Republican establishment first and only gets to the Democrats later. Corruption isn’t a partisan matter, he says.
Klein, who also has a successful radio program in America called “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio,” came to the far-right website through his good friend of many years Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive chairman and Trump campaign manager who’s now the president-elect’s strategic adviser. Bannon, who has been accused of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and racism, recruited Klein a year ago and asked him to launch the site’s Israel desk, which now numbers six employees including Klein.
Klein says he understands why “the establishment” is afraid of Bannon, but he’s deeply dismayed by the anti-Semitic label that’s been attached to his good friend. “He brought me to Breitbart with the actual goal of countering a lot of the misinformation – and lies and smears against Israel in the media,” Klein says.
“He was especially interested actually in exposing the boycott movement against Israel; he was deeply concerned about the growing trends of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses. So for me now to hear this man who’s a lover of Israel smeared as the exact opposite is incredibly frustrating.”
Also frustrating for Klein is the media’s alleged zeal to put Bannon down. “He really understands the issues. He’s actually quite brilliant,” Klein says, adding that it’s hard to think of anyone more fit for the job of White House strategist.
“When I say the issues, I’m talking about immigration reform in America. I’m talking about border security in America to keep illegal aliens from flowing across the border,” Klein says.
“I think both the Democrats and some Republicans are afraid of him because he wants to stamp out corruption in the establishment of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party,” Klein adds.
“He’s also somebody who understands the economy in America and how to reform it. His enemy is big government – trying to keep the government as much as possible out of the personal lives of Americans. The government just became way too big under Barack Obama.”
As for Bannon’s enthusiasm for the power of darkness, Darth Vader and Satan, and his calling himself a nationalist, Klein says, “Steve Bannon is in the background. He’s not looking for power or media attention . He’s not someone looking for power, he’s someone looking to fix America. He’s been trying to do this and now he has the opportunity. This is the first time in a long time that you have had a nationalist in the White House. Nationalists are used to being sidelined in the media and certainly in the Republican and Democratic parties.”
Klein says the Trump movement isn’t out to undo all the liberal progress that has been made in recent years, even if he thinks “the pendulum has swung too far to the left.”
“Obviously we can’t become a xenophobic country, a closed-in country,” Klein says. “I think that the point that Trump and Bannon are trying to highlight is that we went way too far with open borders, way too far with internationalism, with this buildup of Wall Street, of big business that has interests that are not necessarily American – they’re international. So the pendulum needs to swing back a little bit; things need to be scaled back, not destroyed.”
Talking about open borders, Klein looks to Israel’s example. “We’re not talking here about anything extremist, but the American public wants the border to be secure,” he says.
“It’s very simple, look at Israel, the illegals have infiltrated from Egypt; they built a fence. Terrorists have infiltrated from the West Bank; you built a fence and a wall in some areas. Israel is the pioneer in that. This is not extremist. This is in fact the most basic element of the definition of a country.”
‘Palestinian incitement needs to end’
Klein’s friendship with Andrew Breitbart, who died in 2012, predated the founding of the news site in 2009. “I knew him before there was a Breitbart because we just traveled in the same circles. I knew Bannon also because we just traveled in the same circles. It’s a very small group of people who are not liberal in the media.”
Klein not only insists that Bannon loves Israel, he’s adamant that Trump will be good for Israel, noting that the president-elect appointed people with pro-Israel stances to his transition team.
“Bannon and Trump understand absolutely that nuclear Iran is the greatest threat to Western civilization, and to America, and to the Middle East. He understands that the United States must do whatever it takes to make sure that Iran can’t get a nuclear weapon, and that is something that Israel should feel a lot more secure about,” Klein says.
“The other issue is the way that Obama has sided with enemies of the United States at the expense of allies including Israel. Look at his treatment of Sissi’s government in Egypt, which is a disaster for Israel. Look at the inability to do anything in Libya after we basically destroyed its borders. You now have the Islamic State in a witch’s brew of jihadists threatening Israel’s borders.”
As Klein puts it, “I think that Trump and Bannon understand that the time has come to side with our allies to do whatever we can to take out the Islamic State. And that is a very good thing for Israel.”
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Klein says he hopes the issue of settlement construction won’t be high on the Trump administration’s list of priorities. “I would hope that they understand first that Palestinian incitement needs to end; Palestinians need to come to the bargaining table,” he says.
“The onus is more on the Palestinians, and I would hope that they also understand the importance of giving Palestinians economic opportunity. I think this is something Trump understands.”
Klein also seeks to reassure women, legal immigrants and members of the LGBT community that they have nothing to fear from a Trump presidency.
“Donald Trump is possibly the most pro-gay politician the Republican Party has ever had. He even defied the Republican Party and said enough with this madness about bathrooms; let everyone go to the bathroom wherever they want. One of our top Breitbart editors, Milo Yiannopoulos, is gay. We’ve become a safe place in fact for gay Republicans and gay Americans,” Klein says.
“Also this whole thing about the war on women, what? Donald Trump, his campaign manager is the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign. Donald Trump has made a point in fact of hiring women and minorities. They’re the presidents of his corporations. His daughter is helping to run Trump enterprises,” Klein adds.
“And also, Steve Bannon, I’ve never heard or experienced anything where I would be concerned when it comes to minorities, when it comes to legal immigrants in America, when it comes to gays, lesbians, all races, genders. We don’t look at that anymore. Who cares?”
Klein also contends that, under Obama, America has become more divided than ever. “You saw the race riots in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Philadelphia. Obama has a policy on almost micromanaging Americans based on ethnicity, race, religion. Americans really turned one against the other over the last eight years,” Klein says.
“Black Lives Matter is, I believe, almost a terrorist-supporting entity. They’re inciting violence against police. They’re hijacking the issue of race to push another agenda, and that’s such a shame because there is real discrimination and real racism in the world, in America. Also, I don’t understand the smearing of Donald Trump based on the KKK and David Duke,” Klein adds.
“David Duke has no audience. Nobody cares what he says other than the media. Donald Trump disavowed him several times. Meanwhile, the media has ignored actual anti-Semitic associations of Barack Obama – Obama attends a church for 20 years that is anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-white. Or his association with Bill Ayers, from the Weathermen, and on and on it goes. So where is the media when it comes to that?”
Asked whether there is any concern that Trump will heed the criticism and get rid of Bannon, Klein laughs. “No way,” he says. “When have you ever seen Trump back down? Trump understands that Bannon is not an anti-Semite. It’s the media, and some Republicans, and Democrats that are scared of Stephen Bannon’s policies. They cannot have him in the White House so they’re using this smear tactic to shut him down. This is fascist.”
During the campaign, Breitbart gave extensive coverage to complaints against former President Bill Clinton for alleged sexual assault. A few hours before the final debate, Klein posted an interview with Leslie Millwee, who said Bill Clinton assaulted her, and an interview with Juanita Broaddrick, who made similar accusations.
According to Klein, no one talks about the big part Hillary Clinton played in the war on women; she was “actually leading campaigns against Bill Clinton’s sexual-assault accusers . She intimidated or led campaigns of intimidation against rape victims, sexual-assault victims; smear campaigns to destroy their character.”
Klein says he knows these women personally and “they are traumatized. Their lives have been destroyed. They have eating disorders, they have anxiety issues.”
On the other hand, Breitbart News has put out headlines like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “The Solution to Online ‘Harassment’ is Simple: Women Should Log Off.”
“The headlines you are referring to are not our news articles. They’re sarcastic opinion pieces written to use sarcasm to make a political point. This is a new tactic that Trump helped to revolutionize, called trolling. People are sick and tired of political correctness,” Klein says.
“Donald Trump used the tactic of being so outrageous that you can’t ignore what he’s saying, and at the end of the day the messages, the policies, are discussed. Mitt Romney couldn’t do that, or John McCain. I do not necessarily agree with the way that he said things, but it generated a conversation.”
Klein has lived in Israel since 2005 after graduating from Yeshiva University, where he edited the college newspaper. He originally planned to stay for just a few months, to cover Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.
He previously worked for the conservative news site WND and has published seven books, three of which reached The New York Times’ best-seller list. Two of the titles are particularly interesting: “The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists,” and “Fool Me Twice: Obama’s Shocking Plans for the Next Four Years Exposed.”
He says one reason his radio show is so popular is that “there’s really no other radio show that talks about Israel, so the American audience is kind of starving for it. They love Israel.”
Let me guess, I ask Klein – his radio listeners aren’t readers of Haaretz English Edition.
“I think Haaretz, when it comes to defense issues, is the best in the country. I read it every day. I love the defense coverage of Haaretz. The opinion section I can do without, although I like all sides,” he says. “But I believe that Haaretz is by far the absolute best in the country when it comes down to military and defense issues. So I use them as a source.”