Donald Trump is many things – few of which, at least to me, are particularly appealing. He’s a crude, loudmouthed jerk, which actually covers most of the bases.
This is a characteristic that’s not among the job qualifications of the position he’s seeking, nor is it something one usually looks for in an employee. Strangely enough, a whole lot of people seem not to care. In fact, if there’s one thing that worries me more than Trump, it’s the people who would hire him.
I get it. I really do. They feel disenfranchised.
They think the country’s being run by idiots, that it’s not great anymore. They don’t necessarily agree with everything Trump says, but they like the way he says it. He’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn what others think, and in an age of choking political correctness, they find this so invigorating that they’re willing to overlook most everything else.
Now, I have to admit that I, too, find a great deal of satisfaction in flipping the bird. Yet I’d be deeply worried if the cohort writing in to express support for such behavior was comprised of people who’d roar with delight at the prospect of those they disagree with being removed on stretchers. A bird is one thing; a sucker punch is another.
And that’s the other thing that turns me off about Trump: the people he attracts. They boo when he speaks of the political establishment, and applaud his calls for political change. Okay. But they hiss when he brings up migrants and Muslims, and shout with joy when he speaks of walls. They razz when the subject comes to liberals, and cheer when he says what he’d like to do to them. And they’re so obedient – like when he tells them to raise their hands and swear they’ll vote for him. They lift those upper limbs like people did in the 1930s at Nuremberg.
When someone in the crowd comes from a particularly problematic quarter, Trump bobs from ambiguity to disingenuousness, as he did in the wake of support expressed by white supremacist and anti-Semite David Duke. Overnight, it went from “David who?” to “That damn CNN earpiece,” from “I don’t like him” to “Nah, never heard of him.” Of course, we all change our minds from time to time, but to have a person like this on the stage at AIPAC? Actually, I guess he’s quite the fit. AIPAC has long been open to support from just about any quarter, whether it’s a politician with questionable ethics (where do I begin?) or an entire sector that says it loves you but believes that someday you’ll either join it or burn in hell (need I identify these people?).
But there comes a time when the Israel lobby should say enough is enough, that there is indeed support it does not need or want. And that support comes from the likes of demagogues like Donald Trump.
THE AMERICAN Israel Public Affairs Committee is certainly “non-denominational” when it comes to finding support for Israel, so among the other invitees to speak at its annual policy conference this week in Washington were GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and John Kasich, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (the latter declined to come), and even a representative of the fairly despised Obama administration, Vice President Joe Biden. To be honest, there was no way it could possibly not invite a mainstream pol.
But that’s the problem. Trump has gone mainstream because, thanks to him, some of the worst human qualities in America seem to have gone mainstream. Shouldn’t AIPAC – the American voice for Israel, which is the homeland of the Jews, who are supposed to be decent people out to repair the world – say something, anything, about the sad, ugly decline of the American political landscape? The Anti-Defamation League has. While it says it “takes no position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office,” since last summer, from what I can tell, it has issued nine official statements taking presidential candidates to task.
One was against Mike Huckabee “for suggesting that President Obama is ‘leading Israel to the door of the oven’ in the nuclear agreement with Iran” (July 26, 2015). Another was against Ben Carson, who said he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation” (September 21, 2015).
Of the rest, six of the statements were squarely against Trump.
They condemned him for “hate speech and stereotyping” against immigrants (July 5, 2015); cited his “failure to stand up to an anti-Muslim bigot at a campaign rally” and to the “various troubling comments by the candidates about a Muslim’s fitness to serve as president” (September 21, 2016); urged him to “clarify” that some of his remarks should not be “interpreted” as evoking “anti- Semitic stereotypes” (December 3, 2015); slammed his calls to bar Muslims from entry into the United States, describing the plan as “deeply offensive” (December 7, 2015); demanded that he “distance himself from white nationalist and former KKK grand wizard David Duke, as well as other white supremacists, and publicly condemn their racism” (February 25, 2016); and called him out because he had “indicated he did not know anything” about the “racist hate-monger” Duke (February 28, 2016).
Interestingly, the remaining complaint “urged a pastor to retract and apologize for disparaging remarks” he made about Democratic candidate Sanders’s Jewish faith (March 15, 2016). Those remarks came at a Trump rally in North Carolina.
But AIPAC, and not the ADL, is perceived as the real representative of the country’s organized Jewish community, and non-Jews who despise Trump are probably wondering why the Jews are treating him so nicely. Who cares if he has Jewish grandchildren? I can think of quite a few people with even more Jewish grandchildren who are just as unfit for the American presidency. For heaven’s sake, even the folks at the Fox News Channel are sick of him (well, aside from Sean Hannity).
Forget Trump’s comments about shooting people on Fifth Avenue and his grotesque hint that there will be riots if the GOP blocks his nomination. AIPAC’s sole playground is American foreign policy. Don’t its leaders watch MSNBC? That’s where the candidate, when asked a few weeks ago whether he had assembled a team of foreign policy experts, replied: “Yes, there is a team. There’s not a team. I’m going to be forming a team. I have met with far more than three people.”
Not long after, when pressed by the channel as to whom he consults on such matters, he said: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. I know what I’m doing, and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have, you know, a good instinct for this stuff.”
IN A campaign that has been breathtaking for its silliness, pettiness and vulgarity, never mind its messages of hate and incitement to violence, red lights about Donald Trump have been flashing everywhere.
If, out of fairness and good manners, he could not be barred from addressing AIPAC, it should not have been left to individual conference delegates to school him about decency and good manners by quietly walking out. And it was sorely insufficient of the lobby’s leadership to scold, only the next day, both Trump, for his “ad hominem attacks” against President Barack Obama, and those delegates whose cheers had been a bit too enthusiastic.
Instead, these leaders should have confronted him – out loud, in real time – about the unease he elicits among a lot of people, and told him – out loud, in real time – that while he was welcome to speak, this would be an educated, bipartisan crowd, not his usual throng of wild-eyed yahoos.
With Americans so deeply divided over issues at home and abroad, and with Jews so deeply divided over Israel, AIPAC chose “Come Together” as the theme for its conference.
“Coming Apart and Doing Nothing About It” would have been more like it.