Who is the real Donald Trump?
Who the hell knows?
His responses to questions from picked journalists at the highly staged "press conference" with Benyamin Netanyahu left the impression of a man who was not focused. He wandered around the subjects asked, managed to repeat his doubtful assertions about the election and false news, and provided enough nuggets to leave commentators a lot of room to say what he had said.
His performance on that occasion, and what else we've seen and heard since the election, forces us to wonder if he's up to the job, or all there.
At a political rally in Florida, he spoke about a terror attack in Sweden that had not occurred, which he linked to Sweden's acceptance of refugees.
He raises the possibility of being like other individuals who have been at the heads of governments or religious organizations, including saintly Popes, Mormon Prophets, and Rabbis, who can't be dislodged, and are surrounded by aides and/or family members competing for the opportunity to interpret the great person's mutterings for the public. Reliable stories about Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan indicate that the problem was also known in the White House, but not this early in a presidential term.
Such a high figure is so coddled by others, as well as being at the focus of loyalists and antagonists in the media, as to make it impossible for us commoners to be sure.
An Internet friend sounds about right when describing a President who he supported, and continues to defend, even while acknowledging.the faults of his hero.
"Trump is well known in NY real estate circles to be highly egocentric, of vulgar tastes, a unique character, not always the person with whom one wishes to do business but, to be perfectly frank, my opinion is that virtually all politicians are a little bit nuts".
My friend is right about politicians generally, especially those who get to high office. The classic academic item is Harold Lasswell's Psychopathology and Politics.
We may be looking at a tense four or eight years. If an old and often vacuous Reagan could do it twice, why not Trump?
The average American need not suffer. State and local governments provide almost all that touch upon them directly, and there are enough institutions surrounding the White House to minimize the damage from a man who tweets to the people.
Yet those institutions do not always work well. They may be especially weak in matters of international affairs, where the aura surrounding the Commander in Chief gets in the way of checking and balancing. The worst stories in recent memory concerns GW Bush and what used to be Iraq, and that Cairo speech of Barack Obama and what used to be Syria.
For an item in one of the media that Trump has labeled an enemy of the people, which parses the pros and cons of what mental health professionals are writing about him, see this.
An op-ed piece in the Washington Post, by E.J. Dionne, Jr. suggests that serious people are working to bringing to an end a presidency that should never have begun.
Along with the projections about impeachment or the unfit to serve provisions of the 25th Amendment, are the problems of going against the President this early in a presidential term.
Elections count for a great deal in democratic norms, and Donald Trump won this one. To oust him this early would risk a rebellion.
There's also the Second Amendment, and the likelihood that Trump supporters are oiling their weapons,with their eyes on leftists and journalists.
Yet to wait too long risks the growth of a constituency that believes Trump's nonsense. As they said about Hitler, if you lie enough, and often enough, and if you silence contrary voices, the people will believe and act accordingly..
We should chide all those liberal Democrats, from Barack and Hillary on down, who forgot that the White working class was once the heart of their party.
So far, presidential expressions on Israel and the Middle East are looking better for Israelis than what came out of the Obama White House. The Bibi-Donald/Sara-Melanie extravaganza warmed our hearts, especially if we didn't pay too much attention to the details.
One can pick whatever cherries sound best from the great man's comments. What was especially heartening were the President's words about relying on the Israelis and Palestinians to reach an agreement, without defining key terms of what that must be.
Palestinians responded in deep gloom and great threat, all of which we've learned to ignore as the latest in daily or more often outpourings of individuals without any real authority.
Bibi seemed to display his moderate side when he said that planned building would proceed, but that further plans would be considered in consultation.
Trump himself lost control when questioned about anti-Semitism by a religious Jew at a later press conference.
Left wing Jews as well as Palestinians were ousted from the Senate hearing of David Friedman as ambassador nominee to Israel, due to their unseemly protests.
Among the signs of a struggle likely to intensify was the testimony of a prominent Reform Rabbi against the prospect of Friedman's confirmation.
According to Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Friedman is
“the wrong person for this essential job at this critical time. . . . (he has never been involved in professional foreign policy issues) other than as a zealous partisan and financial supporter of settlement activity.”
Here Friedman is the darling of settlers and their friends.
We may worry more about our relations with American Jews than with Palestinians. It won't be pleasant hearing strong praise in Hebrew for the support provided by Donald Trump, while our cousins are shrieking in English their antipathy to Trump and to us.
Not all Americans are crying. The S&P 500 has gone up by close to 10 percent since the election and by more than 3 percent since the inauguration. That may have something to do with the businessman-President's comments on economic growth and deregulation.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political ScienceHebrew University of Jerusalem