Why Trump is the great dismantler

But President Trump’s program of destruction has also wrought, and continues to wreak, severe and massive suffering in another matter of healthcare.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump throws a face mask from the stage during a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida, on October 12.  (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump throws a face mask from the stage during a campaign rally in Sanford, Florida, on October 12.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
With the US presidential election just days away, President Donald Trump is fighting for his political life against the surging candidacy of former vice president Joe Biden.
But over the last four years, President Trump’s actions and behavior have demonstrated without doubt that the president does not deserve to be reelected for reasons pertaining to both his policies and his character.
In brief, President Trump has defined himself during his tenure as the great dismantler. He was good at destroying, but he could not create and build.
One of the great legacies of former president Barack Obama was the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare for short. The legislation was not perfect, but it addressed what was an important lacuna in the American healthcare system. It was a wonderful addition to the safety net of American society: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the ACA added millions of people to this safety net.
President Trump tried his utmost many times and through many avenues to scuttle the ACA without offering an alternative healthcare plan. He was and remains apparently indifferent to the suffering that would be caused to millions of people should the ACA be dismantled.
But President Trump’s program of destruction has also wrought, and continues to wreak, severe and massive suffering in another matter of healthcare.
It is the consensus of the majority of Americans, so the polls tell us, that the Trump administration has simply lost the war against the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in the deaths of more than 225,000 American citizens, as well as the suffering and sickness of many hundreds of thousands more.
It is very strange that the US, with all its wealth and power, allied with its superb scientific and medical know-how could not overcome this challenge.
Obviously, there are many factors to this failure, but one little-known factor must be mentioned.
When President Trump took office, there was an entire department within the federal health system dedicated to managing the type of pandemic that could eventually hit the country.
Alas, a year-and-a-half before COVID-19 struck America’s shores, that very department was disbanded by President Trump. Trump cannot build, he can only destroy and dismantle.
Trump has also dismantled with malice and cruelty one of the values inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, that of America’s inclusivity. This inclusivity, to be true, has not always been fulfilled and at times in American history was not always implemented.
Still, many people who experienced discrimination and persecution flocked to America in droves throughout its history. But when in our history until the Trump administration did America engage in separating families? As of this writing, the press reports that the US authorities cannot find the families of 545 migrant children who were separated from their parents and guardians at the southern border. When in American history were parents and children torn asunder in such a brutal manner? Only when Trump gained power and did what he does best: destroying and dismantling.
THIS PHILOSOPHY of dismantling guides the entire path of the Trump administration. Under President Trump, the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, withdrew from the World Health Organization during a deadly pandemic, and tried to weaken NATO, thus weakening the USA and isolating it from the rest of the civilized world.
President Trump has also tried to destroy something else. His policies, his words and his actions have sought to destroy faith in the American message itself. America was founded on certain beliefs and values, and the political culture of American enriched and helped spread the democratic ethos.
Among the values inherent in this democratizing message are the rule of law, the dignity of every individual, civil political discourse, a free and untrammeled press, political policies that operate by the “rules of the game,” and the understanding that neither side of the political divide would threaten the existence of the current political system.
These are the cornerstones of the American polity. No US president ever tried to undermine the very political system of the country until President Trump came along.
He is the only president who challenged the prevailing concept in force since 1787 that the transfer of political power should be a peaceful affair.
In addition, and without one iota of evidence, he has cast doubt on the legitimacy of America’s presidential election, an attack on the system itself as well as an attack on the civility and decency of the USA.
Here of course people would say they are voting for the re-election of President Trump because he has shown himself to be a great friend of Israel. But a president who acts on whims and not on a plan or program or policy can also abandon allies, not on the basis of new facts and new thoughts but simply on the mood he is in when he gets out of bed.
Trump publicly announced that he would support Israel’s annexation of Judaea and Samaria, and many Israeli citizens were overjoyed at this prospect, but within days he changed his mind and even sent Jared Kushner to pressure Israel not to carry out such a step.
I am not at all surprised at this turn of events. A president who can abandon the Kurds, and other allies, after promises of help and support can also abandon other friends despite pledges of assistance and support.
The Talmud, discussing the judgment on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, tries to give one of many examples of God’s grace and kindness. It mentions the fact that when a person sins, God does not count the first sin in His ledger. Rather, God says that this first sin is not a rebellion but simply unwilling and accidental.
The second sin is also not counted, but God keeps wondering why the person sins and He concludes the person who sins the second time probably thinks that it is permitted.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, studying this text asked a question: “If the person who sins a second time thinks that it is permitted, what does a person who sins a third time think?”
Answers Rabbi Mendel, a person who sins a third time, considered this sin as having performed a mitzvah!
I have a terrible fear that President Trump considers his philosophy of dismantling and destroying families, institutions, people and the prevailing American political culture as a mitzvah.
“I hope and pray that what a past American president has said will be a prophetic lodestar for our days, “Let us hope that the second and sober thought of the people” this year will undo the effects of the 2016 election”.
This is why I hope that Mr. Joe Biden will be triumphant come Election Day 2020.
The writer is the emeritus rabbi of Young Israel of Hillcrest, New York, the past president of the Religious Zionists of America, and a former Talmud teacher at Yeshiva University. He now lives in Israel.