As his reaction to the hate fest in Charlottesville two weeks ago continues to energize the racist, antisemitic Right, President Donald Trump needs to get a stronger message from the few Jews in his administration, big Jewish campaign donors and the Jews in his own family – namely, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Instead, the weak response to Trump’s outrageous reaction to Charlottesville makes all of the above his enablers as he continues to poke a presidential finger in the nation’s social and racial sores.
The Jewish enablers also include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was slow to condemn the white supremacist and hate-group violence and who never criticized Trump’s reaction.
Netanyahu seemed unperturbed when Trump saw a lot of “fine people” among the neo-Nazis, Klansmen and antisemites. It was also that way during last year’s campaign when Netanyahu, whose longstanding Republican allegiance was barely concealed, ignored Trump’s dog whistles and courtship of the antisemites because the GOP candidate gave off strong anti-Muslim and pro-Israel vibes.
The message the prime minister and others in his coalition sent to American Jewry was “we place a higher priority on not offending Trump than on defending you.” It only widens the rift between Israel and the Diaspora and encourages Trump’s coziness with the hate mongers.
Do they really believe that just because Trump’s grandchildren and their parents are Jews he wouldn’t turn on Israel if it suited him? Do they really think his legitimization of antisemitic, racist hate groups won’t ultimately undercut Jewish security here? In this country, three out of four Jewish voters opposed Trump, and of the remaining 25% many were ultra-Orthodox, a group that has been too silent in the wake of Charlottesville.
Most leading Jewish organizations condemned the violence and the extremists. With the exception of the Conference of Presidents, the World Jewish Congress and the Zionists of America, they also rebuked Trump by name for seeing moral equivalence between the two sides.
Among the most outspoken was the ADL, which called on him to show “moral leadership.” The American Jewish Committee said Trump’s moral equivalency comment “blurs truth and gives pass to neo-Nazi perpetrators.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition was slow to respond but eventually called on Trump by name to demonstrate greater “moral clarity,” reminding him “there are no good Nazis.”
That’s more than can be said for the group’s principle benefactor, Adelson. Many non-Jewish Republicans were more courageous than Netanyahu and some Jewish leaders.
Senators Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Jeff Flake, Cory Gardner, Tim Scott and Jerry Moran, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Mitt Romney and former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and several House members were unafraid to criticize Trump by name.
Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Jew and a Democrat, said, “This president is not competent morally, politically or in terms... to lead the free world,” and he called on Jewish members of Trump’s cabinet to resign in protest.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Economic Adviser Gary Cohn and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, the highest ranking Jews in his administration, are staying put.
Only Shulkin spoke out publicly.
He said “silence is not acceptable” and denounced the Nazi and white supremacists.
Cohn reportedly told friends he was “mortified” by Trump’s remarks, but apparently not enough to say so publicly or quit.
Hundreds of Mnuchin’s old Yale classmates wrote telling him he had a “moral obligation” to resign in protest, but he defended Trump, insisting he’s not a bigot.
He contradicted the words the president spoke at Trump Tower even as his treasury secretary stood nearby, insisting – despite evidence to the contrary – his boss “in no way, shape or form” believes in moral equivalence between the hate groups and the counter demonstrators.
Mnuchin said the president needs “highly talented men and women” to be sure “he makes important decisions [which] will benefit the American people.” In other words, Mnuchin.
Are they really putting country above principle or is that just an excuse to hang on to their high positions? Are they enabling a morally corrupt president or trying to keep him from going entirely off the rails? Do they not understand that as enablers of this president they will forever bear the mark of Trump? Abe Foxman, the former leader of the Anti-Defamation League, said this is a Esther and Mordechai moment for son-in-law Kushner and his wife, Ivanka. It is time for the couple, among the most influential Jews in the country, to tell the president that he is embracing the kind of people who would want to get rid of his grandchildren and their mother and father for being Jews, Foxman said.
They may be Trump’s most influential Jewish enablers, but they are not alone. He should be hearing, loudly and publicly, from top GOP contributors like Adelson, Bernard Marcus, Steve Wynn, Mel Sembler, Robert Kraft, Paul Singer and Lewis Eisenberg. They have the access and influence at the White House and throughout the party that few others enjoy, and they should be using it to speak truth to power.
Unveiling his new Afghanistan policy this week, Trump said his goal is not nation building but “killing terrorists.” He speaks a lot about fighting terrorism, especially if they’re Muslims, but he has a terrorism problem here at home and he is one of its most egregious enablers.
The Ku Klux Klan is the nation’s oldest active terrorist group, targeting blacks, Jews and other minorities. The Charlottesville rally was 102 years to the week after the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman, in Marietta, Georgia, by a white mob.
Trump cannot lecture the Islamic world about doing away with extremists when he fails so miserably at home, where he sees many “fine people” among the domestic groups who went to Charlottesville to terrorize the people they hate. On Monday he said, “our country needs to unify, to heal and to remain one nation, under God.”
Mr. President, that job starts at home – with you.