The man in the White House thinks he’s a miracle.
Do you blame God for Donald Trump?
“I am the chosen one,” Trump announced on Wednesday. O.K., he was talking about fighting his trade war with China, not ascending into heaven. It was all a joke, sort of. But we’ve been so far down the megalomania road with this president that it would not be a total surprise to discover he had delusions of divinity.
Maybe at night, when he’s alone with nobody but Fox News to keep him company, Trump envisions a future in which all Americans will appreciate how much he’s suffered for their salvation. He does seem to think of himself as something super-special. And if you listen to him answering questions without the help of a teleprompter, there is a tendency to wonder if he’s speaking in tongues.
Take his interchange with reporters Wednesday. There were, naturally, questions about gun laws — particularly background checks. Trump had wanted to tackle that issue in a big way until he sorta didn’t. Now he’s decided the current system is already “very strong.”
And then he elaborated. Follow along:
“But we are going to be filling in some of the loopholes, as we call them, at the border and will be speaking about it at the border. It would be really nice if the Democrats would indeed fix the loopholes because it would be really nice. But despite that, I want to thank Mexico. They have 26,000 soldiers at our border and they’re really stopping people from coming in. So what happens is with background checks, we’re dealing with Democrats, we’re dealing with Republicans. …”
You will notice that he seems to be mixing up the Mexican border with gun regulation. This may be because he has a godlike ability to see things that no one else can see. In his getting-on-the-helicopter Q&A with the media, he referred twice to the way his great wall has been growing by leaps and bounds. (“The wall is being built — we’re building tremendous numbers of miles of wall right now.”) Mere mortals might wonder where the heck he gets the idea that this is actually happening, but that’s because they lack his miraculous vision.
With that kind of self-image, you could understand why the president feels any criticism reeks of blasphemy. This week he’s been obsessed with the prime minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, who called his idea of buying Greenland “absurd.”
“The prime minister used a terrible word,” our wounded chief executive told reporters. And he vowed there’d be no quick forgiveness for any heads of state who dared send a negative adjective in his direction: “(They) can’t treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.”
Trump’s obsession with his predecessor is scary. Now he’s at war with auto companies that want to stick close to the 2012 rules on emissions rollbacks. How dare they respect an Obama-era regulation?
And the media thing: Trump sees his story in heroic — if not biblical — proportions, and journalists are always the villains, doing something that needs to be decried. Currently it’s the stories that hospitalized victims of the El Paso mass shooting passed up the opportunity to meet with him when he visited.
“I went to the hospitals — it was totally badly reported,” he complained. The victims and their families, Trump insisted, “love their president and nobody wrote that.” Well, two people who’d been treated and released did come to shake his hand. And some of the stories did focus on the way the president spent part of his mission of mercy bragging to the medical staff about the size of the crowd at his rally. Can’t imagine why.
The nation is still reeling from that tragic weekend of mass shooting. When the cry went up for better gun control, there were lots of stories about Trump’s promise to do something very big when it came to background checks. He is now waffling like a breakfast special. And adopting the National Rifle Association dodge that the only problem is mental health. (“The gun doesn’t pull the trigger, a person does. And we have great mental illness.”)
But about the God complex: Lately Trump has had an obsession with himself as savior of the Holy Land that’s turning downright creepy. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he insisted.
Some people wondered if it was a tad offensive to demand that Jews vote Republican or be seen as a traitor to their people.
“It’s only anti-Semitic in your head,” Trump decreed, peering into the minds of his questioners.
Lots of hints here that the president, at least, thinks of himself as someone far beyond mortal men. And then there’s that long, long history of referring to himself in the third person:
“Nobody has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”
“Nobody has more respect for women than Donald Trump.”
“There’s never been a president like President Trump.”
“China has total respect for Donald Trump and for Donald Trump’s very, very large brain.”
Take your pick, people. You can accept the idea that he was sent to us by forces from above, or you can pray that he’ll have to go away in 2020. But remember, he’s always watching.
A president loyal only to himself uses my community as a political weapon.
The major debate tearing apart the American Jewish community on this particular Wednesday is whether or not the 45th president of the United States just accused them — us — of disloyalty to Israel and the Jewish people or of disloyalty to the Republican Party and the man who has remade it in his image.
“Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the state of Israel?” President Trump said on Tuesday, referring to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, Democratic congresswomen who support the boycott movement against Israel. “And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
As my people say: Nu?
What do you hear in the president’s statement, which, like many things he blurts out, manages to be both opaque and outrageous at once? If you’re pro-Trump or Trump-curious, you’ll generously hear an assertion that Jews should be loyal to Israel. If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but hear echoes of the sinister charge of dual loyalty.
I’ve been around enough tables with pro-Trump Jews to strongly suspect that this is a riff on a theme Mr. Trump himself has overheard at many dinners with Ivanka and Jared, the favorite daughter and dauphin: dismay that even those Jews who have appreciated the president’s Israel policies — moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, cracking down on Iran — will never pull the lever for him.
It’s easy to imagine what they say: Look how much you’ve done. More than any other president. They should be grateful. Why can’t they see that? Why can’t they see that the Democratic Party has abandoned them? Meantime, you’re more pro-Israel than most American Jews! Indeed, on Wednesday afternoon at the White House, Mr. Trump clarified as much: “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel.”
Brace yourself for further presidential Twitter rants on the matter because I do not believe that Mr. Trump is capable of higher-order thoughts about loyalty — loyalty to the office in which he sits, loyalty to the Republic, and, above all, loyalty to the idea of keeping America united. Fealty to him is the only litmus test.
Indeed, if we have learned anything about the former host of “The Apprentice,” it is that he looks at the world in the exact way he looked at those contestants. You’re a winner or you’re a loser. You’re for him or you’re a turncoat. In his small mind, if you’re on Team Jew, you vote for his party because Republicans are pro-Israel and, therefore, pro-Jew. If you’re on Team Anti-Semite, well, then you vote for the other guys.
All of which is why I have zero doubt that if the prime minister of Israel criticized Mr. Trump on the wrong day or in the wrong way, the president would dump Israel at that very moment. And it is why anyone with a shred of knowledge about Jewish history should be extremely concerned.
If 2,000 years of diasporic living has taught the Jews anything, it’s that an existence that is contingent upon the kindness of strangers is never too safe or too long lasting. A president with authoritarian tendencies who cares about nothing more than lock-step loyalty is not one American Jews, let alone anyone, can rely on.
More to the point: Will white supremacists, like the one arrested Monday in Ohio, or the one arrested Tuesday in Miami, parse these Talmudic distinctions about who was, in fact, the subject of the disloyalty in that Tuesday sentence? Or will they hear — as they have always heard in this president’s rants against the globalists, the elitists, the invading immigrants organized by George Soros, and all the shady forces keeping the hard-working men and women of America down — the word “Jew”?
The Jews of America are in the midst of a political crisis, sped along at breakneck speed by a president asking us, bluntly, to choose. Vote for a party whose base seems increasingly in thrall with newbie politicians who are unapologetic supporters of the B.D.S. movement, a new face of old anti-Semitism, even as the party’s leadership remains pro-Israel. Or vote for the party led by a man who is loyal to nothing but himself, who actively sets Americans against one other, and, more, genuinely seems to thrill at creating a disunited state of America.
We are increasingly a people apart. Which self-mutilation, so many of us wonder, is worse? Abandon the universal values our community has always championed? Or abandon the particularism without which we cease to be Jews at all?
Our predicament would be entirely familiar to the Jews of Babylon and Berlin and every community that has been erased in between. But that it is facing the greatest diaspora in Jewish history has shocked those who always believed we were the lucky ones.
To preserve all that has ever made American Jews — and America — great, we cannot allow this man to tear us apart.