Lesser of Two Evils: The Donald or Hillary?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (Wikimedia Commons)
The fates of Israel and the United States are intrinsically and intimately entwined. Both nations have complex histories of conflict, innovation, and leadership in the world. In American politics, a political candidate’s relationship with Jews and position on Israel are routinely and passionately discussed and debated. Because of this, Israelis often follow American politics with interest.
America’s political elimination process has given way to a standoff between The Donald and Hillary. Of course, organized dog fighting is illegal in the United States. Yet sharp exchanges between the remaining candidates seem to portend a political process after the Republican and Democratic conventions that will more resemble a pit bull struggle to the death than a civil exchange of policy positions or expressions of dreams for a more prosperous future.
All American candidates for the U.S. presidency tend to voice some support for our Jewish State. Trump has said, "Israel is a very, very important ally of the United States and we are going to protect them one hundred percent." Although Hillary often voices support for Israel, she sometimes as secretary of state put undue pressure on Israel to come into line with President Obama’s expectations and timetable for the so-called peace process.
It is immoral, dishonest, and irrational to treat Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is none other than a band of terrorist thugs, as equally guilty for failure of the peace process. As long as Israel is blamed in spite of its sacrifices and efforts for peace, the Palestinian Authority will never stop its incitement of Palestinian terror. There will never be a successful peace process until American administrations and the Europeans recognize that the Palestinian leadership will never be willing to match Israeli concessions for peace as long as the U.S. and Europe maintain so much pressure on Israel.
Trustworthiness is a legitimate concern. Hillary has been married to Bill Clinton for over forty years. According to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, President Bill Clinton lied under oath and obstructed justice. Democrats should be shocked and embarrassed by Bill Clinton’s meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch just before his wife’s questioning by FBI investigators. The meeting didn’t look good and both Lynch and Clinton have said that they wouldn’t do it again. Can Bill Clinton really be trusted not to have again tried to obstruct justice?
Bill should not have been able to more or less get away with lying under oath while serving in the office of the presidency. If Hillary has broken the law, then she should be held accountable like any other American. If she is innocent, then the witch hunt should stop. As serious as concerns about Clinton trustworthiness should be to all of us, the extreme pronouncements of one Donald Trump “trumps” even the apparent improprieties of the Clintons.
The last straw for me came when the Donald Tweeted a picture of $100 bills, a six-pointed star, and a picture of Hillary as the “most corrupt candidate ever.” We have often been characterized as “crooked and corrupt Jews.” So when the Donald mixed the word “corrupt” with money and a six-pointed Star of David, the association was unmistakable. Earlier this year, Louis Farrakhan praised Trump for telling us that he doesn’t want our money.
The Donald later characterized the six-pointed star as a sheriff’s star or “plain star” although it lacked the undeniable characteristics of a true sheriff’s star. If he truly believed that a six-pointed star mixed with money wasn’t an anti-Semitic association, then why did he delete the Tweet after the media firestorm? The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer praised the “Glorious Leader” for tweeting Hillary’s image with dollars and a “Jew star.”
Jewish Republicans sometimes point to Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, as proof that he cannot be anti-Semitic. Having a Jewish son-in-law does not a philosemite make. There are varying degrees and levels of antisemitism. Many Trump supporters give him a pass when he displays egregious insensitivity seemingly unparalleled in the history of American presidential politics.
Can Trump really be so ignorant that he didn’t immediately recognize the anti-Semitic nature of associating money, a six-pointed star, and crookedness? Or is Trump just being consistent in his use of “shock jock” headline grabbing to manipulate the media in the absence of effective fundraising? Whether it’s blatant antisemitism or just outrageous insensitivity to Jewish sentiments, a thinking individual cannot be comfortable with it.
Trump’s saying that former Republican presidential candidates not endorsing him should “never be allowed to run for public office again” is just another example among many of the New York businessman’s propensity for “extreme” pronouncements. He too often appears incapable of any kind of middle-of-the-road rational discussion that doesn’t ultimately give way to an extreme position.
A determined last ditch effort to sidetrack a Trump nomination continues to simmer. Too many high-profile Republicans have expressed shock in the aftermath of seeming misogynistic, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic Tweets and dismay at the prospects of an erratically unpredictable Trump presidency. When many within a candidate’s own party see him as divisive and prone to wildly unnecessary controversial statements, can the rest of us be assured that he can change for the better once he is given the ultimate reins of power?
The use and misuse of Holy Writ to promote a political agenda hit a new low when multimillionaire GOP donor Foster Friess advised principled evangelical Christian women to back Trump despite concerns over his moral fiber. Friess distastefully pointed out that although King David schemed to win Bathsheba’s affections even if it meant sending her husband off to be killed in combat, “throughout history God has harnessed imperfect people to fulfill his perfect will.” Friess has argued that people should not be judged on their past or even present flaws, but rather on what they can become.
Ouch. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
No matter how hard the previous Republican candidates might have tried to keep it civil, exchanges with Trump during debates inevitably descended into chaotic name-calling and immature accusations. Because Hillary herself is reluctant to run from a good fight and sometimes even appears to enjoy “getting down and dirty” in her characterizations of Trump, we can look forward to a summer and autumn of “he said, she said.”
Which is worse, a question of trustworthiness or insensitivity to Jewish concerns? I do know that Jews cannot sit idly by while a dishonest or ignorant candidate makes anti-Semitic associations. If nothing else, history has taught us that a person’s past and present are fair predictors of future tendencies. Let’s not wait until it is too late before we raise our voice in protest.
Politics is not my favorite subject. Both political and theological views are to a great extend based on a person’s individual background, experience, ideals, worldview, concerns, worries, hopes, and fears. We cannot prove which candidate will be better for America, Israel, or the rest of mankind any more than we can scientifically prove Jewish statements of faith, such as “God is one.” All we can do is look at the candidates’ past record, policy positions, as well as general demeanor and character.
It scares me when people say things like “We need change even if it’s the wrong change.” Such statements feel excessively illogical to me, even if we are living in politically illogical times. No change is better than the wrong change, in my opinion.
Although the FBI has recommended that no charges be brought against Hillary in connection with her emails while secretary of state, the trustworthiness question will not go away. However, if nothing else, Hillary is relatively predictable. Unfortunately, predictable people are easier to control. The Donald is only predictable in his unpredictability. Many people find this character trait scary in a person who might have future access to the power of the American presidency. The American people must decide which is better -- or which is the lesser of two evils.
Yoeli’s Mandate: Leave your mark, make a difference for the good, and do your part to make sure that they never again devour Jacob or make his habitation waste.
You may email Yoeli Kaufman at [email protected]