Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He suggested some of the recent wave of anti-semitic vandalism and bomb threats came from Jewish groups themselves in order to make Trump look bad.

The remarks, made at a closed-door meeting (but echoed by an incoming White House senior staff member), were reported by Pennsylvania state attorney general Josh Shapiro. A Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was desecrated on Sunday, less than a week after a similar mass vandalism campaign at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. At least five distinct waves of bomb threats each targeting dozens of Jewish community centers and schools have been reported in the last two months. The most recent was yesterday.

Trump has not handled criticism on this subject well. He got into a contentious exchange with an Orthodox Jewish reporter at his recent press conference, shouting down a question about the rise in violence and threats. He released a Holocaust Day memorial statement that pointedly omitted mention of Jews (over the objections of his own State Department), then had his press secretary attack the Anne Frank Center for its criticism and bemoan that his efforts are "never good enough" for Jewish groups. And he has repeatedly insisted that the fact that his daughter's family is Jewish means that he cannot be criticized on his actions (or lack thereof) on the matter.

Anti-semitic hate groups, for their part, have openly embraced Trump, whom they see as sympathetic to their views. Both Trump and his chief advisor Steve Bannon have made anti-semitic remarks themselves, to the delight of white nationalist supporters.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • A president who sees Jewish cemeteries vandalized and concludes that he is the victim is either paranoid or a narcissist.
  • Anti-semites who believe a president is a kindred spirit, and who are denounced only after enormous political pressure and months of silence, will probably not stop thinking they have a friend in the White House.