Middle Israel: Trump – The end of the beginning

The preelection scorn for values, civility and truth was followed by impulse, ignorance, improvisation and a universal sense of impending doom.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump waves from Air Force One as he departs Morristown, New Jersey.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump waves from Air Force One as he departs Morristown, New Jersey.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Donald Trump lost Middle Israelis well before his election 12 months minus 12 days ago.
Trump lost us already in summer 2015, when he said John McCain was no hero for him, because “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Had an Israeli public figure said anything like that – about a fighter pilot who was shot down by a missile and seriously wounded in his 23rd sortie above enemy territory; then spent five years in harsh captivity, including two in solitary confinement; and then refused an early-release offer, demanding that those captured before him be released first – that Israeli would be summarily evicted from the public sphere and possibly also assaulted by pedestrians.
This is besides the fact that Trump has never even been a soldier himself, and never saw a battlefield from within. When Americans his age were fighting in the jungles, he sold real estate, clinked cocktails and dated models in Manhattan. What level of immorality, frivolity, audacity and nihilism – we wondered already then – does it take for such an armchair patriot to discharge such a broadside at such a war hero?
The rest of Trump’s sacrileges – the profanity toward journalist Megyn Kelly, the constitutional blasphemy of banning any Muslim’s entry to the US, the defamation of Mexican migrants, the charge that Ted Cruz’s father liaised with Lee Harvey Oswald, and the economic alchemy of cutting taxes while multiplying defense spending – could no longer surprise us. The man, we concluded early, had no values, no principles and no God.
Even so, when he was elected we hoped the Donald Horror Show was over, and would now make way for a kind of leadership that America could clearly use, and evidently craved. Instead, the horror show had hardly begun.
THE HOPE was that Trump the bully would make way for Trump the entrepreneur; that the man who had built office towers, hotels and golf clubs had a plan and would now get it done; that the way Franklin D.
Roosevelt launched his New Deal in his first 100 days in office, Trump would within weeks execute a master plan for the kind of public-works projects that he can understand and America’s rusting bridges, aging highways, antiquated railroads and decrepit airports glaringly beg.
Alas, the man had a plan no more than he had a God.
Instead of a doer’s delivery, a dumbfounded world watched a quarrelsome prattler pick Twitter cockfights at early dawn with anyone and everyone, from congressional rivals and colleagues to cabinet members, football players, world leaders and all journalists (“the most dishonest human beings”), while charging absurdities like Obama wiretapping his phone.
Instead of showing even just an appearance of order and the beginning of a road map, Trump shot from the hip several presidential orders which – as a high school student could have warned him would happen – were downed by the courts at takeoff.
Trump then turned to healthcare, where he didn’t know what he wanted to do, only what he wanted to undo, but even that undoing he proved unable to do, even though his party controls both houses.
Meanwhile, out in the big world, conflicts bubbled and demanded the coherence, resolve and poise that Trump quickly proved to lack.
In North Korea he babbled ad nauseam but did nothing other than trade insults with a despot less than half his age. At his South Korean ally, meanwhile, Trump darted a reprimand for its “appeasement.” In Syria, Trump rightly bombed an air force base and several military convoys, but then abandoned the arena to Bashar Assad and the advancing Iranians. In Saudi Arabia, Trump landed for a lavish visit, in disregard of his campaign-trail demand that Riyadh send troops to fight Islamic State. And for good measure, he publicly undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Back home, at the same time, the axis in the Trump operation’s revolving door cracked as high-ranking officials incessantly came and went, including FBI chief James Comey, national security adviser Michael Flynn, White House communications director Michael Dubke, chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer, communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and chief strategist Steve Bannon.
This, in brief, is the backdrop against which Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this week said that Trump will be “remembered most” for “the debasement of our nation,” while fellow Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a devout Mormon, decried Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified” conduct.
“The norms and values that keep America strong are undermined,” warned Flake, and “the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters.”
ONE YEAR into the Trump era, a sense of impending doom is gripping the free world, a feeling that the man tasked with keeping the international system intact might actually wreck it, and that what we have so far seen is but the prelude for something that in Trump’s vocabulary would be “very bad.”
“We must stop pretending,” Flake urged his fellow lawmakers, speaking from the Senate floor.
Indeed they must.
To salvage America’s dignity, its politicians must first acknowledge that Trump is their creation; that both parties had equally lost touch with millions who, over decades of automation, multiculturalism and terrorism, grew fearful of losing their jobs, status, identity, and security.
To emerge from where they have arrived, both parties must find a way to remove the oaf they have landed in the White House, and jointly replace him with some interim caretaker; some retired centrist like Condoleezza Rice, or Al Gore or Michael Bloomberg; someone who will be there just for the rest of the term, until the parties reconnect with the people; someone who will understand the world rather than toy with it, someone who will listen rather than grandstand, someone who will trust subordinates and respect rivals, someone who will study rather than tweet, someone for whom saluting a patriot like John McCain will come as naturally as slandering him came to Donald Trump.