Jews for Donald Trump

Jews for Donald Trump

by

Howard Adelman

Arutz Sheva, identified with the National Religious Party in Israel, with the Israeli settlement movement, and with a history of consistent opposition to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), is an Israeli media outlet which includes Channel 7 and B’Sheva, an Israeli weekend newspaper with the third largest circulation in the country. Following its reports on the presidential campaign in the United States provides a number of insights. Begin with the coverage of the standard prayer invocations at the Republican Party Convention held in Cleveland from 18-21 July.

Prayers came from all faiths. Msgr. Kieran Harrington on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church reminded Republicans in a clearly political speech that “all human life is important.” As another example, a Sikh prayer was delivered on the second night in Punjabi, subsequently translated into English, by Harmeet Dhillon, a lifelong Republican and the daughter of a Sikh-American orthopedic surgeon. She called for unity among Republicans, asking them to have the “courage to make the right choices, to make common cause with those with whom we disagree, for the greater good of our nation.” However, when she was editor-in-chief of the conservative student newspaper, The Dartmouth Review, in October 1988, she was very divisive. She published a satirical column by James Garrett likening the president of Dartmouth College (a Jew, James O. Freedman) to Adolf Hitler and calling the results of university policies a Holocaust. Allan Gold in an op-ed in The New York Times (5 November 1988) noted that the headline read, “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Freedmann,” echoing the Nazi slogan, ”One Empire, One People, One Leader (Fuhrer).” Dhillon denied the charges thrown at her of anti-Semitism, but, at the very least, like her contemporary leader, Donald Trump, both of their remarks and the strong defence of them instead of an apology may have smacked more of gross insensitivity.

“The Jewish prayer became controversial when a very well known and highly respected rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, rabbi of the modern Orthodox Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City for almost sixty years and principal of the Ramaz School for fifty years – now emeritus of both – was originally designated to offer the Jewish prayer at the Republican Convention. He withdrew. Lookstein was the rabbi who converted Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, to Judaism and officiated at her wedding to Jared Kushner. Both were his congregants and Ivanka had invited him to deliver the prayer.

At the same time, the conversion of another American married to an Israeli, whose certificate Rabbi Lookstein signed, was rejected by the local rabbinate court in her husband’s hometown, Petach Tikva in Israel, setting off the controversy within Jewish orthodox circles between the bona fide orthodoxy of American versus Israeli rabbis and the issue of whether orthodox Jewish conversions in America were kosher. The issue was not over Ivanka Trump’s conversion because her conversion was sanctioned by a “networked” beis or beit din, a Jewish rabbinical court, while the controversial case was not sanctified by the GPS Rabbinic Court in Manhattan.

However, the bona fide of Lookstein’s orthodoxy was not offered as the explanation for his withdrawal, but rather the pressure he had come under by his former students of Ramaz. “To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the Modern Orthodox community; this is a shanda [shame] beyond the pale,” wrote Jacob Savage responding to Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border and temporarily ban Muslims from entry into the U.S. His petition urging withdrawal, or, alternatively, an explanation rooted in Jewish values, had 800 signatures urging that withdrawal. Lookstein did withdraw, professing his political innocence and non-involvement. Rabbi Ari Wolf, a relatively unknown orthodox Ohio police “chaplain,” was named as his replacement.

In spite of that initial reversal, Donald Trump received relatively favourable treatment in the orthodox Jewish press, particularly through the media outlets controlled by Arutz Sheva. The convention itself marked an important turning point in the American presidential race because, according to many pollsters as reported by Arutz Sheva, Donald Trump, benefiting from the Convention “bounce,’ pulled even with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

This celebration of Donald Trump’s improvement in the polls was recently reiterated when Arutz Sheva reported that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump had shrunk to 3% (6 August 2016) according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, though when one read the full article, the headline was undermined when the piece mentioned that CBS poll reported a 7% lead and a CNN/ORC poll reported the lead as 9%. Careful reading indicated the polls more favourable to Clinton were conducted with “registered” voters as distinct for “likely voters” polled by Reuters. The precipitous drop in Trump’s support was attributed largely to his denigration of the gold star parents of a fallen American Muslim war hero who had appeared at the Democratic Convention and criticized Trump’s attack on Muslims. As well, Trump’s squabbles with the Republican Party establishment had also not helped. Making up to the Republican Party and endorsing House Speaker, Paul Ryan, and others, and dropping his feud with the Khans, were given credit for the bounce back, though not much of a bounce according to most polls.

Though the reporting tended to be balanced once the bias of the headlines and the lead to the story were discounted, most op-eds in Arutz Sheva appeared to be highly critical of Hillary Clinton and generally favourable to Donald Trump. David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer with the Kasowitz law firm and a close confidante of Donald Trump as well as his adviser on Israeli affairs, publicly declared that Donald Trump would, upon winning the presidency, withdraw American support for the two-state solution, move the American embassy to Jerusalem, put more pressure on the Palestinian Authority and end U.S. economic “coddling” of the PA (seemingly in contradiction to Trump’s early statements in his primary campaign that he would remain neutral in dealing with Palestinians and Israelis), and withdraw the designation of Israeli settlement activity as “unhelpful” in fostering peace and certainly not endorse any characterization of the settlements as illegal. Friedman went further and declared in Trump style, without proffering any evidence, that Hillary would be “terrible” for Israel, and had no love for the Jewish state.

Barak Obama (as well as Hillary Clinton) has been harshly critical of continuing Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Obama, however, has not strayed from the continuing American established policy that settlement activity was not defined as a violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords or their subsequent implementation agreements, and is neither illegal nor in violation of the letter of the Oslo Accords and its supplements. Eliot Abrams, President Bush’ national security advisor, wrote on 8 April 2009 that the specific guidelines negotiated between the Palestinian Authority and Israel merely stated that any settlement activity would not diminish the territory the Palestinian Authority would get in any peace agreement. In any case, the settlements, even with their expansion as a result of national growth, consist of less than 2% of the territory of the West Bank. However, most international observers go further than Obama and Clinton and regard the expansion of the settlements as not only illegitimate in violating the spirit of Oslo because they undercut the prospect of peace, but also regard them as illegal according to international law.

But what a radical shift Donald Trump would make on Israeli policy, assuming that Friedman has articulated Trump policy correctly. “Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.” Reflexive support of a two-state solution would no longer be a premise in American foreign policy since it has proven to be a failure if Trump were to be elected.

On 22 July 2016, Ben Ariel published an article in Arutz Sheva headlined, “Trump: Clinton’s legacy doesn’t have to be America’s legacy.” He repeated Trump’s condemnations of Clinton’s polices while she was Secretary of State in Libya, and with Iran., Egypt and Syria. “In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS wasn’t on the map. Egypt was stable. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was somewhat under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region and around the world. Libya is in ruins. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, forcing the military to take control. Iran is on a path to nuclear war. Syria is engulfed in war.” Trump ran as the candidate of law and order, of America first, of making America great again. The report captured and summarized Trump’s speech, but there was no fat check of his assertions – such as, “America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (In a report by KPMG in 2013, in a comparison of 114 states, the U.S. ranked 55 in comparing personal tax rates around the world.)

Yet an article by David Rosenberg on 24 July 2016 reinforced Trump’s message when it was headlined, “Could Clinton’s VP pick hurt her chances with Israel supporters,” as if all supporters of Israel opposed the nuclear deal. At the same time, an op-ed by Jack Engelhard appeared entitled, “Trump’s speech was huge.” This paragraph in the article is typical of his vociferous cheerleading for Trump. Fact-checking was labelled merely “nitpicking.” “Trump delivered the goods for nearly every segment of American society, and true Zionists who wanted a good word about Israel got it when he named Israel as ‘our greatest ally in the region.’ This drew sustained applause from the packed house. Among Democrats, meaning Liberals, such talk usually gets jeers.”

In another op-ed piece in the same issue, Rabbi Dov Fischer, who gives himself the tile of Prof. Dov Fischer even though he is only an adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, in an op-ed article entitled, “I think I understand Trump,” explained Trump’s delivery of the longest nomination acceptance speech at any convention as a means to undercut all his naysayers on the three main commercial networks who might otherwise devote the time to dissecting and criticizing the speech if it were shorter. There were no criticisms of the speech in Arutz Sheva. Other than these two pro-Trump op-eds for Trump, there were no critiques let alone analyses of Trump’s speech, only one reasonably objective report, but under a distorting headline, and one anti-Kaine diatribe under the guise of reporting.

Just when one would expect objective reporting on the Democratic Convention, all one could read was one attack after another on the Democratic presidential team. The attack on Kaine continued in the next issue (25 July 2016) headlined, “Clinton VP tapped pro-terror Muslim leader (Esam Omeish) for immigration seat,” with an on-line video clip of a pro-jihadi speech that Omeish gave. In 2007 (my italics), Governor Kaine of Virginia had appointed Omeish to Virginia’s Immigration Commission, though, after learning more about him, he pressured Omeish to resign, which Omeish did. The story was a denunciation of Omeish and, by extension and association, Kaine, even though it was really about an inadequate vetting process. Omeish had been vice-president of the Dar Al Hirjah mosque and responsible for hiring the radical imam, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S drone in 2011 in Yemen. Two of the 9/11 terrorists attended that mosque. Another op-ed piece by Stanley Zir was a vitriolic attack against Obama for allowing the theft under his watch of America’s identity as a Great Nation.

The 27 July issue included anther op-ed by Jack Engelhard with the headline, “Hillary flees to sanctuary city, Philadelphia. He pronounced that Hillary had won over her audience, not by her brilliance but “wore them down through exhaustion” as he repeated the usual Trump litany of accusations against Hillary. “It’s how the Clintons do it – they beat you into submission. They’ve spent (ill-gotten) millions crowding out anyone who might be more qualified. As for Hillary, throughout her shady past, has she ever met a payroll? Yes, but mostly for herself, her foundation and her cronies.” While Ben Sales gave a reasonable, if very brief, report of Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton, Ben Sales wrote that, “Sanders’ delegates not listening,” a statement that proved to be totally false in subsequent polls.

In the next issue, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wrote a rebuke of the petitioners who “forced” Rabbi Haskel Lookstein to withdraw offering a benediction at the Republican convention, which he insisted was always politically neutral, though anyone with the least knowledge knows that it is not. He asked rhetorically in a rebuke, “how about the Chillul Hashem [desecrating the name of God] of publicly humiliating a rabbi – your rabbi – in the media? What about the Chillul Hashem of a massive rebuke to someone who could be the next President of the United States? What about the mitzvah of ‘v’ahavtem es hage. You must love the convert’? Don’t you think your actions were a public humiliation of Ivanka, the Jewish daughter of the ‘anti-Semite’ Donald Trump?” What is worse, comparing the criticism of a rabbi and of the Republican presidential candidate to profaning God’s name, or comparing university policy to a Holocaust? I personally find it hard to choose which is the worst, but they are both of the same order.

The overt bias against Obama and Clinton and the overt favouritism towards Donald Trump continued in issue after issue. The same 28 July issue included a repetition of an accusation by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham that, “Obama increased aid to Arabs, but not to Israel.” The 29 July issue by Shai Landesman reported Trump’s charge in some detail that, “Hillary’s refusal to mention radical Islam proof that she is unfit.” Finally, a seeming reproof of Trump came from Jack Engelhard commenting on his horrible handling of the Khan affair, but the so-called critical comment came as a backhanded excuse and plea for support. “We need him and we need him to stop making such blunders.”

So the question arises not simply about completely skewed journalistic bias, but about why a leading voice for Jewish orthodoxy is providing such strong support for Donald Trump. I suggest that it could not be based on the conclusion that his temperament (which this media outlet ignores), lack of experience (which this media outlet ignores) or his blatant and outright lies repeatedly exposed by other media outlets (which this media outlet ignores) are not relevant. The possibility of Donald Trump favouring their radical right-wing agenda of increased settlement in the West Bank and refusal to contemplate a Palestinian state living in peace beside Israel is the prime motivation.

Eric Metaxas, the biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pronounced that Donald Trump is culturally Jewish and his bigotry is just “shtick.” Other Jewish supporters offer other reasons than his bias towards an expansionist Israel. Like many non-Jewish supporters, they see him as saying it “as it is” instead of being politically correct (when he most often says it as it isn’t), applaud him for being refreshingly honest when he tells lie after lie without explanation or apology, regard him as a great business success in spite of Michael Bloomberg’s scathing attack on his business credentials followed by that of Warren Buffett. They generally give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt when he is attacked for his bigotry and for being a demagogue, for his loose generalization in place of worked-out policy provisions. It is not clear, but it may also be the case, that Donald Trump’s attitude to Muslims articulated what they themselves were too timid to utter.

But, as with many non-Jewish Republicans, many Jewish Republicans are reconsidering their support for the GOP candidate for the presidency while the vast majority of Jews continue to back the Democratic ticket and continue their long pattern of voting against their personal self interest in favour of a larger vision of justice and tikkun olam, mending the world. I do not have any idea of the degree, but the stand of Arutz Sheva has even helped push at least some orthodox Jews away from Orthodoxy itself. “Peace through strength, unwavering [and uncritical] support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad” are slogans viewed as the voice of Balaam, blessings that end up being disastrous. But they were the blessings that the Republican Jewish Coalition conferred on Donald Trump.

“The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Throughout the course of this long campaign among Republicans there has been unity in the belief that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief. Secretary Clinton has proven time and again through her record and her policies that her candidacy will compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel. Along with the Presidential race, the RJC will be working hard to hold on to our majorities in the Senate and the House. It is critical that these majorities be preserved. To do this we must remember our core principles: peace through strength, unwavering support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad.”

With the help of Alex Zisman

Parshat Matot: Numbers 31-36 – Justice

Parshat Matot: Numbers 31-36 – Justice

by

Howard Adelman

Eye in the Sky is a 2015 British thriller that applies the laws and ethics of just war theory to drone warfare. Whether in the ceilings of gambling casinos or in weather helicopters above our cities, whether the pictures are taken by satellites flying above the earth or by tiny robotic flies entering a house through a window left ajar, these ubiquitous surveillance cameras are now omniscient and omnipresent. In the Torah, God is the eye in the sky who can attend even to the pecking of a tiny sparrow.

One can, of course, be absorbed in this all-pervasive point of view and the technology or theology behind it. But one can also find it captivating and totally absorbing to use the eye in the sky to reveal dilemmas of justice in the lives of humans. The latter is the real purpose of the 2015 movie and of this week’s Torah portion.

In the movie, surveillance cameras from satellites zero in on a house in Eastview, the Somali section of Nairobi and also enter in from within the house using a surveillance camera is a mechanical flying insect. I had problems personally with the scene being placed in Eastview since, though I have not been back to Nairobi since the real rise of fanatic Islam began to spread all over the world in this century, I found it hard to believe that the Kenyan army would permit armed fanatics to control the streets and entry to a villa in the Somali part of Nairobi. But the movie quickly made me suspend such sources of disbelief. For the issue was credibility, not truth. The issue was a moral and legal issue and not the empirical reality of the dilemma. The situation merely needed to be plausible; it did not need to be credible.

The film opens with a Somali Muslim father who works repairing bicycles. He has made a hula hoop for his ten-year-old (???) daughter who is delighted by her present. Her father is also pleased and overjoyed watching his daughter play – that is, until a strict Muslim enters the courtyard to redeem his repaired bike and remonstrates the daughter and the father for allowing his daughter to play in such a provocative way – the swinging of hips, one presumes. This is important because we can identify with the daughter forced to conform in her play to a very strict interpretation of Sharia law, a stricture to which her own father agrees given the intimidating environment in which they supposedly live.

The girl will be the focus of our concern throughout the movie as Hawkeye missiles are to be shot at a house in which there are two leading terrorists and, as a bonus, two martyrs preparing to blow themselves up and sacrifice themselves for their fanatical belief in Islam. The young girl is selling her mother’s baked bread outside the walls of the compound that is being targeted. She is the potential and likely collateral damage with which the military officers concerned with military urgency are wrestling as they try to take advantage of a rare opportunity. The Attorney General and lawyers from the justice department are there as well, focused on the interpretation of international law concerning the conduct of war. There are also politicians concerned with the issue of how the collateral damage of the death of the young girl will be viewed by the media, quite aside from the importance of military action even for humanitarian reasons. To top it all off, there is a holdout moralist who, in addition to her concern with the perception of the public, goes beyond that and finds the potential killing of a girl to be beyond the pale, even when the targets are terrorists and the threat is imminent.

Key issues of law and morality, military necessity and moral considerations, weigh on contemporary society in the context of warfare. So too in the Torah. Ethical questions always arise in such life-and-death situations. However, in the film and in the Torah, the ethical outcomes are radically at odds. In the movie as the urgency of this situation grows, ethical necessity dictates a willingness to sacrifice the innocent daughter of a Somali bicycle repair man in the interest of advancing the war against radical Islam. From the legal perspective, once proper legal procedures have been followed and the responsible authorities authorize the decision, the lawyers from the justice department advising on the law applied to the terms of engagement can be persuaded to authorize an action in the name of military necessity.

But the politicians take longer since the perception of how the action will be weighed, how the death of one girl will be weighed on the scales of justice, against the likely but still only possible large number of deaths from the vest bombs of the fanatics weigh heavily. And then there is the moralist. She will never be persuaded that the possible loss of the life of one young girl by a deliberate action with knowledge aforethought should not outweigh the highly probable but still uncertain deaths of many more sometime in the very near future. The tension of the movie is built around these conflicts.

Of course, this is a totally false picture of the doctrine of just war and the terms of military engagement applied to such a situation, for this is an open and shut case militarily, legally, politically and even morally. The sacrifice would certainly be permitted under the laws of necessity and proportionality, under the laws of proper authority and procedural regularity of just war theory. But, after all, this is a Hollywood film even if made by the Brits. For though the decision is British, the implementers are Americans. It helps that the British military officers are played by Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman to allow even me to set aside my incredulity at the overt manipulation of my emotions for such a distorted moral dilemma. I know better, but I was totally sucked in. Aaron Paul, the pilot of the drone, may have tears in his eyes, but I actually wept as I, in my mind, berated the legalists, the weak-kneed politicians and the ideological moralists who stood in the way of military necessity and a just decision – with one small qualifier which I will not reveal lest it spoil the movie for those who have not seen it and may want to.

What has this all to do with this week’s Torah portion? Well the latter is also all about justice, even though the norms of justice are totally at odds. They are the other extreme of the situation in the film cast in the context of political and moral correctness which is portrayed as such a heavy handicap on the military carrying out its duties of protection. Look at the series of moral issues raised in chapters 32-37 of Numbers:
1. With the background of Jephthah and the insistence that he must keep his vow to sacrifice his daughter because he did make the vow to sacrifice the first one who greeted him if he achieved military victory, chapter 30 explores the same issue from the perspective of the daughter, that is whether she was obligated to follow through on the vow to carry out the terms of the contract made by her father; chapter 30 takes up that issue and permits reversion of the vow under very specific patriarchal conditions – the father (or the husband if she is now living in his house) hears the vow and immediately takes action to revoke it; unlike Jephthah’s vow that he alleged could not be reversed, the vow in such circumstances can be revoked.

2. The decimation of all the Midianites, men, women and children, with the exception of female children who have not reached the age of sexual maturity – like the girl in the movie; this genocide is not only permitted, but authorized by God. On what spurious grounds? Because Balaam blessed rather than cursed the Israelites? The real reason is given since the men, including all male children, had already been slaughtered. Moses became angry that mature women had been spared for, lest we forget, the real outcome of Balaam’s blessing was that he, with his blessing, cursed the Israelites by allowing cohabitation between Israelite men and Midianite women. Moses insisted that these mature women had to be killed as well. According to Rashi, God authorized such action lest the preservation of his chosen people be endangered by ethnic intermixing, yet Moses himself was married to a Midianite woman and, as I have said many times before, King David would descend from the loins of one of Israel’s greatest prophets, the Moabite Ruth.

3. The issue of what plunder was acceptable, under what conditions and how it was to be justly apportioned between the military and civilians, between the priestly class and other civilians. (I wanted to write a separate commentary on this, but not enough space and time.)

4. The next issue was the just allocation of lands to the different tribes of Israel and the lands to be set aside for the priestly class.

5. The fixed boundaries of the nation and the setting up of a sufficient number of cities of refugee (6) within that land for unintended murders (what we now call manslaughter) from family members who would otherwise seek and be entitled to vengeance.

6. The restrictions preventing the daughters of Tzelafchad from marrying outside even their tribe when there were no male heirs lest the lands they inherit be allocated to another tribe upon their father’s death since there was no surviving male heir.

The Torah in this section, with God’s imprimatur, sanctions genocide and ethnic cleansing, never mind when it is moral and proper to allow an innocent young girl to be sacrificed is collateral damage in an operation driven by military necessity. This is the other extreme of the moral universe than the one presented in Eye in the Sky. Other than a universe totally free of moral and legal constraints, this is about as close as you can get to a totally morally debased world portrayed as belonging to a moral and legal worldview and sanctioned, indeed instructed, by God.

One can only hand one’s head in shame and offer retrospective apologies to the Midianites (and the Amorites).

I will end here because I have to prepare to be a witness at a wedding of a couple who are Seventh Day Adventists. Yesterday afternoon I spent with a former graduate student who now directs a unique program in diversity studies in an American university and his wife chairs another program at a different nearby university. They also had their grandson with them whom we made an effort not to become collateral damage to a discussion about intolerance and Donald Trump.

There are so many times I feel so blessed to live in the present, when diversity is so valued and in a country like Canada that has made such a value central to its very being.

The Virtues of Donald Trump III: Stiff-Necked and Stubborn

The Virtues of Donald Trump III: Stiff-Necked and Stubborn

by

Howard Adelman

Thus far I have described the virtues of Donald Trump as a clever calculator and as a pushy promoter. I have two more categories to round out his character in terms of a core of virtues. DT is stiff-necked and stubborn. Both these characteristics are so much in evidence in the blowback to his criticisms of the Khans, the Gold Star parents of the Muslim-American war hero. But before I go into those characteristics, I want to offer up some blowback to my own previous musings about DT’s virtues. They are related, one referring to his racism and the other to my use of the term “tolerance” applied to DT.

Instead of going through the piece by Nicholas Kristol ten days ago – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/24/opinion/sunday/is-donald-trump-a-racist.html?_r=0 – that offered evidence that DT was and remains a racist, I include my reply to distill the piece down to its essentials. There is no question that the Trump organization discriminated against blacks in its housing in the seventies. That is well documented. But Trump did not evidently discriminate against blacks in employment. As usual, the housing discrimination was based on the fear based on the self-fulfilling widespread prejudice and lack of enforcement and penalties to ensure blacks had equal opportunities to find housing. Once blacks moved in, there was an expectation that there would be a white exodus. This happened to buildings and to neighbourhoods when I worked in the Bronx in the seventies. Prejudicial and racist policies do not necessarily entail racial prejudice. I did not know previously about DT’s father’s arrest at a Klu Klux Klan rally in the twenties.

I also forgot about Trump being a leader of the equivalent of a lynch mob in the case of the five black teenagers, but again that could simply be his self-identity as a bully indifferent to the rule of law and principles of human rights. What makes him a racist in the story of his casino managers clearing out blacks when Donald and Ivana arrived. That is incendiary information on his racism and would make my explanations totally beside the point. The paragraph: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” This paragraph has been in wide circulation, but I never knew the context. But given its Trump rhythm, it is certainly something that Trump might say – and afterwards say he was only joking. Nicholas Kristof is correct that the evidence justifying the charge of racism and not just bigotry is cumulative.

Another response by BG questioned my equivocal use of the term, “tolerance.” BG in part wrote:
What exactly does it (the term “tolerance”) mean to you in this context? If TD barks at or wants to do away with someone or some idea or some group, does that mean he is intolerant or is just expressing a contrary view? If, for a change, he does not diss somebody, does that mean he is tolerant towards them, or maybe just indifferent, or ignorant of their existence, or they have not, as of yet showed up on his ever so sensitive radar as dissenters? Thoughtful criticism is civilized; mindless barking is intolerant. Is tolerance a steady state of mind, or is it just a sudden outburst kinda response? Is it DT’s unique brand of delivery? The volume? Is it the brutishness? Is it the spontaneous blurting out of incoherent noises? There must be more substantial, necessary and sufficient conditions to being deemed tolerant/intolerant. Please clarify.

Actually, I do not like the term ‘tolerant’ very much because it feels like inwardly one’s black heart of hearts may be filled with seething contempt or even hatred and other evil sentiments, while outwardly the person bites her tongue, remains calm and civilized and may not say anything awful: she tolerates us (barely). I always associate ‘tolerance’ with a cauldron full of hot water, threatening to boil over. Is this really the attitude we wish to be met with by our fellow human beings?

Another thing occurred to me: DT likes to hang out with the disenfranchised, like the foreign construction workers – they are no threat to him. When we train for becoming a counselor, we must seriously question our motivations as to why we would want to surround ourselves with those worse off than ourselves, those needing professional help. It would be the wrong answer to confess at this point that their troubles make us feel better and more secure about our own wretchedness – even though some counselors are known to use their clients for this purpose…Similarly, DT is not driven by the principle of equal opportunity (I know you are being sarcastic when you call him that sort of an exploiter); he is dividing humans into two simple categories: those who boost his ego, and those who bust it. Boosters vs busters. These role assignments can shift at a moment’s notice: just make one critical comment or raise an objection and you will find yourself on the wrong side of the ramp: He will lash out and destroy you indiscriminately like a wounded animal.

I loved the characterization, “booster or buster” as two mutually exclusive and, taken together, exhaustive categories for seeing the Other. I also totally agree that “tolerance” is not respect, for “tolerance is a negative term – not expressing bigotry towards the Other versus someone who embraces the Other in all his/her Otherness as long as the Other is not an enemy. Tolerance is passive more than active and that is why I question Museums of Tolerance.

Let me offer an example. Donald Trump is tolerant of Republicans who remain silent towards him, uses Republicans who embrace him, but disses Republican leaders who hesitate in backing him fully (Paul Ryan and John McCain) and then declares war on those Republicans who not only blast him, but sign up in the “enemy” camp towards whom he expresses no tolerance. To various degrees, mindless barking is the expression in which DT responds to the opportunists who jump on board (and for whom he seems to retain contempt rather than tolerance or intolerance), dissenters but backers, and those he regards as traitors. On the other hand, he is tolerant of what used to be called “sexual deviance” and even abortion. As we saw this week, he is really only intolerant of the different degrees of busters who are not fully behind him on his train.

At the very least, it did not seem to be a deep-seated prejudice until I read the essay on his alleged racism. He may indeed be much worse than I thought. Let us see how his stiff-necked stubbornness fits in. But first a note on calling all these traits, “virtues.” This goes back to the classical Greek idea of virtues as the cardinal foundations of a highly moral individual. The cardinal virtues were justice, courage, temperance and wisdom. Pushy promoter, clever calculator and stiff-necked and stubborn hardly compare to these lofty virtues and very few would consider these traits virtues in the first place. But that is the precise reason I use them, because they do not start from an aspirational ideal but with characteristics as you find them but without looking at his dominant characteristics as vices. For the Donald, they are his virtues. I will expand on stiff-necked and deal very briefly with stubborn.

Stiff-necked is a biblical expression (qesheh oreph, קְשֵׁה עֹרֶף), literally, hard of neck, specifically the back or nape of the neck. The term was applied to the Israelites. It is often used interchangeably with stubborn or obstinate, but I suggest, that although there is some overlap in the two terms. stiff-necked has a specific connotation that stubborn does not have. A mule is stubborn, but one would not say a mule is stiff-necked. Stiff-necked is stronger than stubborn for it suggests that the individual has a determined and intractable spirit that is not just resisting being pulled forward but seems to have determined its own way, to have a mind of its own, even if it is only driven by instincts. If you are stubborn, you do not want to be led. If you are stiff-necked, you are off in your own direction and often insist on leading.

In Exodus 23:9, God says to Moses, “I have seen these people and behold they are a stiff-necked people. וְהִנֵּה עַם קְשֵׁה עֹרֶף הוּא רָאִיתִי אֶת הָעָם הַזֶּה Why? Because they would not be led by God. Further, they had started worshipping idols. In Exodus 33:3, God instructed the Israelites to go to the land flowing with milk and honey, but God would not accompany the Israelites lest He destroy them because they were “a stiff-necked people” (קְשֵׁה עֹרֶף). In Exodus 23:9, God was going to annihilate them. You do not threaten to destroy people just because they are stubborn. In this case, they were far more active contrarians.

It is in that sense that Donald Trump is stiff-necked. He will and does not listen to others. He certainly will not take directions from the establishment in the Republican Party. His refusal to back down in his controversy with the Khan family is a case in point. DT insists on not only staying within his defensive bubble, but blowing it to a greater and greater size. A further dimension of what it means to be stiff-necked is revealed in his Washington Post interview with Phil Rucker the day before yesterday. It was an active session of self-inflation in which he is his own idol constantly focussed on himself.

I have included my deconstruction of the interview as an appendix. Its essential features reveal DT struggling to say what he wants to say. He lacks fluency, but he desperately wants to be heard above the general cacophony. He bathes in the loving oil of the millions who watch him and his belief that they adore him. He views the establishment and the media as bullies in their treatment of him. And there are always his most serious crimes – insulting the Other whether that Other be the establishment or minorities. He loves to stick it to them. He is pithy but very repetitive. He is very easily distracted and has a propensity to go off on tangents. He is sometimes charming and genuinely funny. But he is always the artful dodger engaged like a street magician in playing switcheroo. He is one of the best examples of the dictum that the best defense is an attack. In the process, he readily reveals his ignorance, such as the fact that at the time of the interview he was in Loudon County, one of the areas used as a predictor of the outcome of the election. He also has a great deal of difficulty not only in listening to another, but hearing that other person – hence his confusion between Clinton as a change-maker and Clinton as a woman incapable of changing.

Always, however, there is the idea that perception is everything. Hence his obsession with ratings, with polls, with numbers of people who attend his rallies. At the same time, he has this deep conviction that people are out to get him, especially the media. Though TV ratings are everything, he also feels himself to have been victimized, that the world has dealt him bad cards, that it is unfair and in that unfair world, he will be cheated out of certain victory through the absence of ID cards. He is obsessed with ID cards because he himself lacks an idea, is, in T.S. Eliot’s words, a “hollow man.” IDs are not perceived to be used in the way that they are, as a way to disenfranchise voters in the way they are being used, but to disenfranchise his entitlement to the presidency through an alleged fraud where there is virtually none, through an election process that is rigged. His contention that Khan “attacked” him may be true, but “viciously?” And what virtues does he himself worship – not courage but strength, not justice but revenge against those who are disloyal, not temperance but coming out swinging, and certainly not wisdom.

Let me go into one of the habits repeated over and over again, his strong propensity to repeat something he says, not once, not even just twice, but a few times amidst what Kristol called his “syntactical train wrecks” of a speech. He reminds me of an exaggerated man-size version of Mordecai Richler’s fictional version of his own six-year-old son in Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang. DT is not a case of an adult suffering from arrested development and behaving like a teenager. Rather, he speaks and acts like a six-year-old and for some of the same reasons as the imagined Jacob Two-Two without by any means trying to insult Jacob Richler.

DT appears over and over to me as a young person desperate to prove himself, desperate to have his voice heard, desperate to be recognized in a world of adults and older siblings. He is stiff-necked, desperate to do all of this on strictly his own terms. He is a young child desperate to destroy dragons produced by his own imagination. DT is savvy, but regards the behaviour of others as arbitrary, intent on blocking his own growth and development. In that effort, he refuses to acknowledge boundaries, Trump may be psychologically a pygmy, but he will stand up to any dragon. That is why he is stiff-necked. He stands up to God at every turn and worships his own creations. DT is truly an Old Testament character, and that, I believe, may be why evangelical Christians love him. He instantiates empowering innocent young children.

And that is why DT is not only stiff-necked. In his own imaginative world, his life is perilous. God could destroy and obliterate him at anytime. But he will only get by if he stands his ground, if he resists what he takes to be intimidation and intimidates in his own right. He brags and boasts and blows himself to an enormous size for how else do you fight the dragons that haunt your imagination? He has to be stubborn.

And, to repeat what I already wrote, he is tolerant and not ideological. Women should respond to sexual harassment by getting out, staying in to fight the battle or do both, get out and fight the battle from a more comfortable place. It depends on the woman. It depends on the situation. H is a believer in situational ethics rather than abstract ideological norms. Slights roll off his back like pills of water.

APPENDIX

Deconstruction of DT’s interview with Phil RuckerPhil

Rucker asks about Hillary’s bounce in the polls after the Democratic Convention. DT replies: Yeh. True. But it was because her Convention came second. That gave her an advantage. DT then changes the subject and goes on the attack. I get the crowd, he says. At Hillary rallies, they fall asleep. Rucker then asks DT about what he thought of the Vice-Presidential Democratic candidate, Tom Kaine’s impersonation of DT. Impersonation. It was terrible, says DT. Not popular here and then goes off on a tangent with Rucker informing DT that the very county in which they are sitting now, Loudoun County, forecasts the outcome of the election. Who wins Loudon wins the big prize. This evidently is news to DT.

Rucker tries again. Bill Clinton described his wife as “the biggest changemaker he’s ever met in his life.” DT replies: “She’s been there for 30 years. She’s not going to change. Because you look at her donors. So you heard my speech?” What has Hillary’s being around for thirty years have to do with whether or not she is a changemaker, let alone the best one Bill ever met? The question was not about whether she could change, but whether she could make changes and how effectively. So again, DT does not answer or even seem to understand the question and then switches the dialogue back to himself. What did you think of my speech? Rucker, though at first taken aback by the switchback, finally equivocated. “It was interesting” and then immediately got back on course and asked about DT’s advice to his daughter, Ivanka, if she would have been working at Fox News and had been sexually harassed.

DT interrupts. “I’m surprised people are talking about it,” and before Rucker fills in the rest of the question, DT answers that it could have gone either way. Rucker asks more specifically whether he (DT) would advise Ivanka to follow Gretchen Carlson’s path, stand up for her rights and sue Rodger Ailes rather than resign and go work somewhere else as DT seemed t initially advise. Trump now, unusually, equivocates. “I’d want her to do what makes her happy. I’d want her to do, Phil, what makes her happy.” He quickly shifts his attention to the TV. But Phil Rucker will not let him go. “Why should she have to change careers or jobs?” DT said she could do either or both. This was DT’s answer and for the life of me I could not figure out what DT meant initially, though Rucker said he did. Here is the exchange:

DT: You can go through the process. You can also change. You can do both. Uh, you can do one, the other, or both. And I think it depends on the individual. You understand what I mean by that, right?
RUCKER: Yeah.
TRUMP: One, the other or both.

Though DT does not initially explain how you could do both when he is asked what DT would recommend, he offers at least a sensible answer even if it does not fall within the options feminists would push: “I think it’s gotta be up to the individual. I think it depends on the individual. It also depends on what’s available. There may be a better alternative, then there may not. If there’s not a better alternative, then you stay. But it could be there’s a better alternative where you’re taken care of better. But some people don’t like staying in an atmosphere that was so hostile. You understand that?” Then he finally clarifies the both/and option “— meaning fight it out but be in a place that’s more comfortable.” In other words, get a new job and sue as well.

This voluntarist non-moralist or non-ideological position is very different than the impression he first gave. The questioning then switched to the debates. And what does he focus on when he discusses the debates? Not the topics. Not the techniques. Not the approach. But the ratings. “It will be one of the highest-rated shows in television history, if not the highest.” Then he goes off on his shtick about the conspiracy of the media. “She (Jill Stein of the Green Party) doesn’t get media coverage only because people perceive her as hurting Hillary Clinton.” And then adds, “I’m not sure that that’s true.” He offers an explanation and no sooner utters it than he takes it partially back and questions whether or not it is true. It is what people perceive not necessarily what DT believes. Hearsay is a constant reference for him.

In the process, he continually makes statements that could have come out of the mouth of Mordechai Richler’s childhood character, Jacob Two-Two. “There are plenty of dates that are dead nights that you could do. There are plenty evenings that are dead nights that you could have the debates in.” “I thought it was very unfair. I thought what happened to Mitt Romney was very unfair in the third debate. So, I’d want to be. I’d want to have somebody that I think could be fair.” There is one example after another.

Then DT goes off on another rant about fraudulent voter IDs when all studies have shown this to be an infinitesimally insignificant issue. The real issue is the attempt by a number of states to keep minority voters from casting ballots. When they switch to discuss the Khan affair, this is what DT says: “I’ve said everything I can say about it. I was viciously attacked from the stage, and I have a right to answer back. I’ve said everything I could say. I was viciously attacked on the stage, and I have a right to answer back. That’s all I have to say about it.” And then he goes on to repeat himself when asked how he would answer the charge that his treatment of the Khans was indecent. “I think frankly a lot of people agree with what I’m saying. I was viciously attacked on the stage. All I did was respond to it. Pure and simple. It should’ve been a one-hour story and they [that is, the media] make it a longer story.” And his sense is that the biased media are piling up on him more and more.

Then there was the question of whether he supported or did not support Paul Ryan. After five dodges, he finally answers and says, “No. I never said I’d support him. I’m giving it very serious consideration.” And then to various queries about, for example, his relationship with his vice-presidential running mate, he shifts to comments about TV. And it is always the same. “I’d hate to say, Philip, if I wasn’t running, the television networks would be doing less than half the business.” The media is biased, but the media cover him the most because he, and he alone, attracts the largest audience. He does the same when the discussion reverts back to whether he, DT, will endorse Paul Ryan. “Everybody wants my support. You know why? Cause I had more than 14 million people that voted for me. And nobody gives us credit. There were 17 people in the race. I got more votes than anybody in the history of Republican politics. By millions.”

When the conversation turns to other Republicans who are ignoring Donald Trump, this is what DT had to say: “You have a Kelly Ayotte, who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot. You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us? Okay? You tell me. I don’t know Kelly Ayotte. I know she’s given me no support, zero support, and yet I’m leading her in the polls. And I’m doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support and I’m doing great in New Hampshire. You know, as you saw, I’m eight points up. I’m leading Hillary Clinton by eight points.” And he culminates the discussion by threatening Republican candidates who do not support him with revenge. He will launch super-PACs against them.

How is it possible that the strongest nation in the world might risk electing a man with a six-year-old mind as its President?

With the help of Alex Zisman

Donald Trump’s Character: II A “Tolerant” Pushy Promoter

Donald Trump’s Character: II A “Tolerant” Pushy Promoter

by

Howard Adelman

That should be a title to get attention. Pushy? OK. Promoter? OK. But tolerant? Who am I kidding?

Let me begin with the pushy part. Again, I did a search though all my collection of articles. Not one writer called him “pushy”. Bully, yes, but pushy no. Why? The writers do not even dub him brash and bold, obnoxious or presumptuous. Donald Trump called Meghan McCain, the host of “America Now,” “obnoxious,” but no one seems to have pinned this label on Donald Trump. Even such milder descriptors as self-assertive and ambitious do not seem to have been used much applied to Donald, not at all in my limited knowledge.

At first sight, one would think that any of these descriptors would fit Donald Trump perfectly. Though not applied directly to Donald Trump, Trump University officials during its existence between 2005 and 2010 were dubbed pushy for their sales tactics in getting students to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a non-credited so-called university. They promised students access to the tools and strategies Trump used to make millions in the real estate market. (See http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2016/06/compendium-of-pax-posts-about-trump.html) Those employees did not advertise that they were teaching them a central trait in the Trump repertoire, pushiness, which they daily demonstrated in their recruitment techniques.

Stronger court charges – two before federal courts and a third in a state court – go far beyond “pushing” and allege the techniques used to recruit students were deceptive, predatory, unscrupulous and fraudulent as the representatives of Trump University allegedly hustled a Gold Elite Package costing $34,995. The promotional booklet provided to the university’s sales force reminded them that, if a potential client started focusing on cost, then shift the conversation to the image of “Trump as the best.” This is almost the same way his presidential campaign is run, only he has to assert it himself instead of one of his lackeys. But Trump himself is rarely labeled “pushy.”

Not only that, but it was Donald Trump who filed a charge of assault against a female reporter who was pushed by Trump’s then campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, against whom David Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County, decided not to press charges. The reporter, however, was charged in a civil suit launched by Donald Trump for being “pushy.” Perhaps Ted Cruz came closest to calling Donald Trump pushy when he accused Trump of promoting “New York Values,” interpreted as a euphemism for Jewish values, a group historically identified with being pushy. Cops were called pushy when dealing with Trump protesters, but not only was Teflon Trump not so charged, but virtually no one tried to stick him with the label. Perhaps mild-mannered Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and other outsider in the race to become the Presidential candidate, tried very indirectly when he insisted that he, Ben, would not be “pushed” out of the race as his poll numbers kept dropping.
Or perhaps, even as the electorate grew increasingly exacerbated by Trump’s incivility and even crudity, especially in response to criticisms from a Muslim American war hero, they were too polite to call Donald Trump “pushy” even when he ejected a mother and her baby from a recent rally. “Get the baby out of here.” He first said he loved babies when the crying distracted him from his speech. “Don’t worry about that baby – I love babies. I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it. What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry, don’t worry. The mom’s running around, like, don’t worry about it, you know? It’s young and beautiful and healthy and that’s what we want.” After he subsequently asked that the mother and baby be ejected, he reversed positions and stated that he had been sarcastic when he said he welcomed babies crying, “Actually, I was only kidding – you can get the baby out of here. That’s all right, don’t worry. I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking. That’s OK. People don’t understand. That’s OK.”

And that is his pattern. Initially tolerant and loving. Then determined and, yes, pushy. Then he asserts that people misunderstood when he said he loved babies. If babies cried and disrupted his speech, his so-called love is thrown out the window and he re-describes, what everyone listening interpreted as a sincere assertion of love, as a statement of sarcasm. One psychiatric observer suggested that Donald Trump was not a psychopath, but consideration should be given as to whether he is manic and bipolar, but that might be considered an insult to individuals who are.
The one who came closest to calling Donald Trump pushy was his own son, Donald Trump Jr., who in his Republican Convention address with the “bearing of a pushy (my italics) bond trader with slicked-back hair,” as one commentator described him, referred to his father’s “true grit.” This was not quite the same as “pushy,” but as close as anyone I read came to calling Donald Trump Sr. “pushy.” True grit was perhaps a more appropriate phrase often given its very positive connotation in American Western folklore and put on the wide screen in a Cohen brothers’ 2010 film of the same name starring Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin. The movie is a tale of vengeance, but also guts and determination. But mostly it was about never giving up. And that is Donald Trump – vengeful against those who do not give him full support and gutsy and determined even as he has already started making excuses for his coming loss as his erratic behaviour increasingly registers with voters and especially Republican voters. “The system is rigged.” The irony that court rulings have now declared in three cases that in some states the electoral system has been rigged, but not against Donald Trump, but against Black Americans increasingly denied access to the ballot box because they overwhelmingly will not vote for a current Republican candidate in the party ironically founded by Abraham Lincoln, the President who issued the declaration against slavery.

Donald Trump Jr. gave that pushiness and determination a plebeian twist as he described his father hobnobbing with the construction crews, having them teach his kids to drive caterpillars and promoting blue collar workers based on their merits rather than their degrees. “He (Trump Sr.) valued their opinions as much and often more than the guys from Harvard and Wharton locked away in offices, away from the real work.” So Donald Trump pushed downward as well as up. But at his core, he was a “kid from Queens” invading the holy grail of Manhattan carrying the mantle of insecurity and determination of an outsider as he pushed his way in and up while apparently genuinely sharing in the resentments that he recognized in the workers in the rust belt of America, in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

I have described Donald Trump as pushy even though very few even imply such a characteristic and even though The Donald wears that label proudly on his sleeve. However, he is much more clearly a promoter. I have myself described him as promoting a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda. His current campaign manager, Paul Manafort, recently “promoted” to that position, had been a paid promoter of Viktor Yanukovych in the Ukraine, who, in spite of twice being convicted of assault when he was young and losing the position of prime minister, Manafort orchestrated his return to office in 2007 after successfully whitewashing the image of Ukraine as a haven for mobsters, while at the same time managing to develop a number of lucrative side deals for himself.

I would argue that no term suits Donald Trump and his team more than “promoter.” On this there is no shortage of writers who share applying this term to Donald Trump. They may argue whether he is more ambitious in promoting himself than in promoting his suitability to be president, but whatever he does, he is a promoter. I do not know whether Paul Manafort has been a conduit to obtain Russian money for investment in Trump’s enterprises, but given the pro-Putin Trump comments and Trump’s position on the Ukraine (“the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”), one has to be, at the very least, suspicious. This is especially true given all his contradictory statements on Putin and the Ukraine in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. (Yes, the same George who used to be on CBC.) “He’s (Putin’s) not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right?” and then less than a minute later admitting that Putin had already taken over a part of Ukraine and then denying, though again previously suggesting, that Putin might also have forces in Eastern Ukraine.

Given the vast disparities in the campaign chests of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, about an enormous 30:1 ratio, Matt Tracy queried whether Trump genuinely wanted to win or whether he was just after free PR for himself. For he is certainly best at being an advertisement for himself in Norman Mailer’s old phrase than a promoter of specific policies and remedies to deal with America’s ills. He is noteworthy for his tiny staff, his personal desire to be everywhere on virtually any media – though he currently boycotts CNN.

He does have some diehard publicists and apologists (Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany) who appear on CNN. They seem to remain attached to him because they engage in the same type of push-back employed by their hero. Kayleigh tried to explain away Donald Trump’s suggestion that, if his daughter were faced with the sexual harassment by his friend Roger Aries of Fox News, he would advise his daughter, Ivanka, to find a new career. He would not, evidently, go into battle to insist his daughter retain her job and that Roger Aries find a new career.

How did Kayleigh explain not standing up for women’s rights? “I mean I think that that’s the same advice my father would probably give me. It’s the same advice I would give to my sister. Get away from the situation. If someone is harassing you, if someone’s being aggressive, move jobs, get away from the situation.” Instead of admitting to Donald Trump’s own past record of repeated misogyny, or even her own effort to undercut women’s efforts to insist on their rights, she reinforced the notion that any loving father would advise his daughter to flee and surrender her rights. Kayleigh aggressively insisted that Donald Trump was just saying what any father, any loving father – what her own father – would advise. But I assure Kayleigh that I have never given and would not give my daughters such advice. That is not because of any lack of love, but because I respect them as women and think the victimizer not the victim should search for another job.

But all these are mere clues as to how Donald Trump behaves and speaks as a self-promoter. What a better way to sell yourself to working stiffs – limit the monies paid out to policy wonks and consultants. He relies on tweets rather than campaign ads and has evidently allocated $0 for campaign ads in August, September and October. He has not been able to tap into Bernie Sanders legion of small contributors that overwhelmed Hillary Clinton’s fund raising efforts and, on the other hand, he is unable to draw much money from other Republican plutocrats given his record of name-calling, hateful and divisive rhetoric. How will he get out the vote without a ground team in place?

But these are not the only questions about whether he is a successful promoter. Given that he has dissed his way to the position of Republican candidate, insulting Mexicans as murderers and rapists while using America’s guest worker programs to staff his own enterprises, given that he threw suspicions on all Muslims and even disparaged the parents of a war hero, the targets of personal abuse are in the hundreds and the abuses hurled out are in the thousands, probably tens of thousands. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have not even been the prime recipients.

For example, where was Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Orlando mass shooting just after he fired his campaign manager and at a time when the Brexit results were to be announced? In his first foreign trip during his campaign, he was flying by helicopter to re-open his luxury refurbished golf course on the west coast, Trump Turnberry, with suites that rent for four figures per night. He was then airlifted to a promotional tour of his east coast of Scotland property near Aberdeen, where he has fought with and denigrated the Scottish “commoners” who objected to his expansionist plans.
(http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2016/05/youve-been-trumped-documentary-on.html)

Promoter is Donald Trump’s middle name. It should be “pushy promoter,” but, unlike Donald Trump, most of the rest of America is committed to civil discourse even as Donald Trump disparages self-discipline in talking and speaking as “politically correct speech,” a boundary he deliberately crosses. In his own Republican Convention speech he showed that he could occasionally discipline himself and engage in that same “politically correct speech.” I suspect that most of my readers will have little trouble with most of the above assertions, and may even grant that Donald Trump can be civil when he chooses, but describing Donald Trump as “tolerant” appears to be a world too far.

One reader took me to task for suggesting that Mussolini’s fascism had been tolerant while another reminded me that Antonio Gramsci was put in jail by the Italian fascists and died in a clinic a few days after his scheduled release. That reader endorsed the views of Robert Kagan (Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute) that Donald Trump is the epitome of intolerance. If you don’t jump on board his “victory train,” as Chris Christie did, then equivocators – those like Republican Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Paul Ryan, Republican, first congressional district in Wisconsin and speaker in the House of Representatives – will be crushed. Donald Trump is totally intolerant on this score.

Though Ryan, after much hesitation, endorsed Donald Trump, presumably to foster party unity, the endorsement has been tepid – he barely referred to Trump in his convention speech. He has also been critical. Ryan defended Khizir Khan, the Muslim father of the American war hero, and rejected religious tests for entry into America.

Donald Trump responded with his usual full volley attack and announced that he would not endorse Paul Ryan as the Republican candidate in the first district in Wisconsin. If he is that hard on critical endorsers, what can one expect of his response to fence sitters, to war heroes and former presidential standard-bearer, John McCain, who openly rather than by implication criticized Trump. And what about Republicans like Representative Richard Hanna, Republican House of Representatives from New York, who announced he would vote for the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton and called Donald Trump “unfit to serve.” Whether you are an equivocator, fence-sitter, critic or open opponent in the Republican party, expect the wrath of Donald Trump to come down on your head. Hardly a sign of tolerance. And certainly a sign of at least being a cousin to fascism. So how can the adjective “tolerant” be applied to Donald Trump? In what sense can he be called a tolerant promoter? Trump clearly does not read, even J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, for that might lead him to vote against himself since a University of Pennsylvania study found you were likely to become more tolerant, more opposed to violence and resistant to authoritarianism, if you read even one of the Harry Potter series.

Well, relative to the community conservatives in Donald Trump’s party, he is quite tolerant – favouring accommodation for transgender individuals in their use of bathrooms (he openly opposed the discriminatory North Carolina legislation). Though he bashes Mexican and Islamic immigrants, I do not see that he does so on racist lines, but he is an anti-immigrant nativist and a law and order candidate. These platform approaches supposedly give him permission to demonize these groups and appeal to the downwardly mobile white middle class worker. Economic (however wrong, even silly) and physical self-protection dictate his stands, not racism.

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Virtues of Donald Trump I: Calculating and Clever

The Virtues of Donald Trump I: Calculating and Clever

by

Howard Adelman

One response to yesterday’s blog asked the following: Is it more useful to call Donald Trump a fascist because he espouses a contemporary form of ethno-nationalism intent on destroying the liberal state and its humane values even when he is disinclined to adopt military models and ideals or a coherent model and set of objectives? Is what he offers a new version of fascism given that he shares with the vintage version so many traits – demagoguery, the cult of the great leader, nihilistic messianism – especially since many of these traits are shared with the so-called neo-fascists plaguing contemporary Europe? I will come around to a more concise answer, but I first want to fill out Donald Trump’s character.

I could begin with his negative character flaws. For example, Donald has a propensity to demonize and not just defame the Other. I do not include Trump’s efforts to delegitimize because the counter-attack has focused on Donald Trump’s complete lack of qualifications in temperament, in track record and in experience to be a presidential candidate let alone president of the United States of America. I leave aside for now lack of experience and his rotten record in the conduct of his business pointed out by Michael Bloomberg in his speech at the Democratic Convention.

Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City for twelve years with at least ten times the wealth of Trump, a political independent and former Republican, called Donald a demagogue and con artist (as a New Yorker, Bloomberg could recognize one when he saw one), risky, radical and reckless, a hypocrite and a failure as a business man who left unpaid workers and contractors, naïve investors and sophisticated banks, licking their wounds in the wake of his business exploitation. Donald Trump, he declared, had a “well-documented record of bankruptcies, numerous lawsuits and a history of hiring undocumented immigrants.” Donald Trump, he could have declared, gives billionaires a bad name.

Instead of beginning with these and other smears, generally justified, on Donald Trump’s record and performance, temperament and character, I want to examine his purported virtues. Below, I list six, two c’s, two p’s and two s’s.
• Calculating
• Clever
• Pushy – an unstoppable determination to see things through
• Promoter of tolerance of others, in particular, ethnic mixing (controversial!!!)
• Stiff-necked
• Stubborn

Critics may not agree with this list or the descriptors used, but I ask for the reader’s indulgence as I elaborate. Calculating when applied to a spread sheet may suggest accuracy, care and caution, but in the case of Donald Trump, a whole set of other characteristics are associated with depicting Donald Trump as calculating – more “c” words – crafty, cunning and conniving. They imply a man who is both shrewd and wily, devious and designing, ruthless and determined. In some circles, these are considered admirable traits. These are words that in the past were often used to stereotype Jews by anti-Semites.

How did I select and check the relevance of these descriptors? Reading journalist reports did not help. There are too few references to his virtues and certainly very few calling him calculating and clever, much to my surprise. I collected a ream of articles on Donald Trump and not one of them applies the words “crafty” or “cunning” or “conniving.” There were several references to his being shrewd in his business deals – he had “a shrewd aversion to staking his own money” and he shared with other wealthy successes in business – “they’re worth millions and billions of dollars…because they’re tough and they’re shrewd.” In the context, these are hardly insults or deprecatory comments. I distilled these characteristics, though not the terms, from the speeches of his children, acolytes and other supporters.

If you try to google Donald Trump’s name in association with a term like “calculating,” what you find is a long list of articles about how he inflates his wealth by a wily method of arithmetical calculation. The juxtaposition of hyperbole and calculation applied to spread sheets seems very similar to how we all put our best foot forward in presenting our net worth when applying for a loan or a mortgage, but perhaps nowhere near the nth degree taken by The Donald. The difference seems to be both at the level at which he operates and his enormous capacity for exaggeration.

However, there were a few references to his being calculating in the sense that I mean. The Washington Post had a piece by Dana Milbank when Donald Trump first appeared to have secured his place on the Republican ticket for president. It was about the Donald’s misogyny and his backing away from a time when he used terms like “slob,” “dog” and “piece of ass” to describe women. Milbank concluded that when he accused Hillary of playing the “woman card,” the attack was “rational” and “calculated” and that he was building an election platform on gender resentment.

John Cassidy wrote a piece in The New Yorker (9 May 2016) and asked the question, “Is Donald Trump a Flip-Flopper or a Wily Politician?” That was the last place in the article to read the term, “wily.” He was presented as a flip-flopper on the minimum wage – no increase, yes a needed increase, but left to the states – cut taxes and then flipped to raising taxes on the rich. But isn’t a flip-flopper just another name for a wily politician who changes his or her opinion to suit the shifting mood of the electorate?

Calculations in the arithmetic sense were used to accuse Donald Trump’s tax policies, little different than those proposed by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. As a result, Trump’s plan was criticized for being “fiscally irresponsible, mathematically unsupportable, and extremely regressive” that would provide the bottom 20% with an extra average of $128 a year but the top 0.1% a tax benefit worth $1.3 million per year. Subsequently, Trump said that the rich would have to be taxed much more. Similarly, initially he objected to raising the federal minimum wage standard above $7.25 as that would be counter-productive and lead to a loss of jobs. Subsequently, he supported the need to raise the minimum wage, but insisted it was a state responsibility. Was Trump being calculating in the second sense and adjusting his policies to be more congruent with the public demand?

Want about his being clever? After all, how could he have accumulated so much wealth if he were not clever? A little over a year ago (27 July 2015), when Trump had already achieved a double-digit lead over his rivals, Bob Taylor wrote an article asking, “Donald Trump: Loose cannon or deceptively clever?” He referred to Wayne Allyn Root describing what Trump has done is to magnify the situation in America – “the unholy conspiracy between big government, big business and big media” – to the point that Americans no longer trust anything anyone says in Washington, regardless of political affiliation. His wealth gave him free reign to do his own thing independent of lobbyists and outside influences. Taylor wrote, “Americans simply want somebody to tell them the truth. Or, at the very least, the truth as a candidate honestly perceives it. Trump has done exactly that.”

But he has not. And he does not. And he will not. Railing against the establishment is not telling the truth or even telling the truth as Trump perceives it since it has been well demonstrated that he seems incapable of distinguishing a statement of truth from a lie. It may be that the establishment in both the Democratic and Republican parties neglected to attend to the needs of the middle class workers who have been disadvantaged by globalization. It may be that young people who made such a large part of Bernie Sanders supporters are burdened with too much educational debt and too few career opportunities in spite of the enormous numbers of jobs created since the Great Recession. These are situations that require analysis of the causes and proposed prescriptions to deal with the problems. Railing against the establishment – of which there are many different ones, often far from being in accord – is no substitute for hard attention to detail, careful and precise analysis and imaginative alternative proposals.

Taylor in his piece never directly answered the question about whether Donald Trump was “deceptively clever.” He did write:
Certainly, when the debate season begins, ratings will skyrocket for networks who broadcast the Republican talk-fests. Trump will be front and center with the headlines. In that sense he has become the Tiger Woods of politics. Realistically, Trump may be too much of a loose cannon to handle the daily crises that erupt during a presidency. For all of Barack Obama’s hesitation and “reviewing of situations,” Trump is 180-degrees the opposite, thus possibly making him too quick to respond. Certainly his business skills, like those of Mitt Romney, would be a boon to the American economy, but the question is whether Trump has the appropriate temperament to deal with global issues. One could easily see The Donald telling Vladimir Putin “You’re fired!”

With hindsight, particularly in light of Trump’s record a comments about Putin, and particularly his most recent ones over the last few days, Trump would be more likely to say to Putin, “You’re hired.” For Trump’s cleverness does not have to do with international affairs, but with attracting news coverage, with being the story of the day, with outflanking the Democratic Party in his appeal to older voters, particularly anti-establishment working class male voters in the rustbelt states. Rush Limbaugh insisted that Donald Trump was “quite clever” last week when The Donald invited Russia to hack into Hillary’s emails. It was a “masterstroke of political theatre.” For his provocative answer kept him in the headlines. His provocative answer proved that he would reply to any question thrown at him and dodge the bullets afterwards. Hi provocative answer succeeded in keeping the voters’ distrust of Hillary, especially for her handling of her emails, front and centre.
But why not turn to what Donald Trump says about himself rather than looking elsewhere? “I’m like really a smart person,” including the term “like” both as an inarticulate reflex as well as an unintended suggestion that, though he is not a clever person, he is similar to one in that he has a head on his shoulders and a brain in that head. But the similarity may stop there. For if he used that brain properly, he would not be so stupid as to walk around telling people how clever he is.

But he is not the only one to describe Donald Trump as clever. At the end of May, Kim Jong Un of North Korea suggested that Donald Trump was a very clever American and described him as a “sensible politician” and a “far-sighted presidential candidate” after Trump offered to directly talk to the North Korean dictator. After all, Trump suggested, wouldn’t it be nice to have friendly relations with Russia – and with North Korea and the Assad regime and all the other tin pot dictators around the world?

What about the rebuke to Khizr Khan and his wife that Donald Trump shot back at them after they appeared at the Democratic Convention as the parents of an American war hero and attacked Trump for his attacks on their co-religionists? “Has he not read the constitution?” Khan asked him as he offered to lend Donald his copy. Donald shot back that Khizr’s wife (Ghazala) just stood silently beside him and was probably “not allowed” to speak, throwing even more aspersions on Islam for their treatment of females. Surely, attacking a Gold Star mother must rank as the stupidest, or, at least, among the top of the heap of Trump’s asinine blurts. On the surface, it seems so counter-productive at the very least and demonstrates a temperament so apposite to one needed by and essential to a president who must not and cannot have a trigger finger. When the options are available, Donald Trump can always be counted on to respond with aggressive rhetoric rather than a gracious response.

So the Donald can be reasonably accurately described as calculatingly clever, not knowledgeable, not reflective, not deliberative, but driven by an instinct for the opportunity, a drive to take advantage of a situation and a magnificent belief in his own merits.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part II

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part II

by

Howard Adelman

Trump doesn’t believe in tradition. He does not believe in science. He does not believe in thinking. So what does he believe in? Well, he doesn’t believe in dissent – “Throw him out.” He believes in “Me”. BELIEVE ME is his motto as he claims to be the voice of the frustrated middle class stalled or even dropping down in the competitive climb upwards of the modern age. He believes in manipulating the aggravations and exasperations of the discontented and the infuriated to build a movement founded in resentment. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, the politics of resentment is built on a foundation of feeling powerless and seeing oneself as a victim of the actions of others. Trump targets elites who he claims live off the avails of politics – and, as he openly admits, he should know because he personally preyed upon and used that self-serving politics of the elite. He is the epitome of the glaring inequities in wealth and taking advantage of the tax code to pay as little tax as legally possible – which can be very little. He is the epitome of privilege. And he became the voice of the disintegration of the Republican Party that increasingly relied on vitriolic, uncompromising take no-prisoners rhetoric. He showed that he could do it better than any of the rest of his competitors.

When violence assaults us daily and appears both immovable and persistent, precisely at a time when political rhetoric is most needed that is temperate and cool, it is easy to stoke the coals of burning resentment into a wildfire that is as unstable and unpredictable as that which destroyed a good part of Fort McMurray this past spring. Resentment erupts like a volcano, and once the lava starts to flow profusely, it is virtually impossible to stop. One only prays that the quantity present will not be in such profuse proportions that it will destroy civilization as we know it.

But the resentment was there. Donald Trump did not manufacture it. Bernie Sanders tapped into the same vein of those who feel powerless, who feel exploited, who feel that they have become outsiders in a country in which they previously constituted the core of the American dream both in their status and in their values. They have become bitter and unloving and may now be immune to the Democratic Party appeal to hope and love and positive thinking and a deep belief that everyone can benefit from a rising tide. They certainly have not.

It is because of the politics of resentment that a famous journalist less than one hundred years ago in the first half of the twentieth century, H.I. Mencken, had such a jaundiced view of the voting public and recognized the appeal of fear-mongering to a populace full of repressed anger, those whom Mencken disparagingly referred to as the booboisie in contrast to the bourgeoisie, to the gullible public wide open to the appeal of a verbal soothsayer who sews fear and paints a picture of an apocalypse that so conforms to their inner feelings about self and the state of the world. Mencken understood the politics of resentment because he had read Friedrich Nietzsche and even wrote about him. Mencken knew a mountebank when he saw one because Mencken had the same dismissive temperament but, in comparison, excelled in the art of dissing. Politicians were mainly swindlers or oafs. Most voters had a herd mentality, were incapable of rational thought and looked totally ready to be led to the slaughter by the first “shepherd” who came along, the first savior who promised a form of salvation as he led them on a death march.

Donald Trump replaced the crusading and corrupt evangelist preachers of a former era so it is no real surprise that he can appeal to the evangelical crowd in spite of his blaring non-Christian values. His appeal to evangelicals is more powerful than that of Ted Cruz because he taps into a deeper core of hatred and resentment. For far deeper than the love of mankind, Mencken argued, was the hatred for “one’s betters,” the intense distaste for privilege. What better one to lead them than a Moses who grew up as an outsider in that realm of privilege and came down from that mountain to lead them into the wilderness by depicting the elites as exploiters and enslavers, as abusers and misusers, so that even the surrounding other nations get painted with the same brush as misled idolaters climbing upward at their expense. In the mind of the populist, the moral uplift of the Democratic Convention can be regarded as so much bunkum.

What Trump had going for him is that, like Mencken who dissed democracy without limit, Trump too has a sense of glee in the whole affair. A good part of him regards the whole exercise as an effort in stirring up amusement, as an opportunity to bathe in his own cussing and cursing, as an opportunity for whimsical and irreverent expression disguised as thinking. For Trump, all declarations of truths are simply fictions, simply fabrications, simply illusions, and he is as capable of contributing as any trained scientist. He is a post-modern man indifferent to the gap between conception and sensibility. So, of course, the fact that the truth-checkers can find as much as twenty-five outright lies in his speech to the Republican Convention, the fact that he utters explicit falsehoods at an average of two or three a day, is totally irrelevant. Correction is totally irrelevant and its uselessness proves that the whole idea of truth is itself an invention of the devil. The neo-liberal cosmopolitan dream is just as much a deceit as nativism and protectionism, but at least the latter will allegedly benefit those who have been abandoned and left behind.

Why, Donald asks, should one believe Hillary? She has been a major contributor to the neo-liberal internationalist fraud, but now claims to love you, to care for you, that she will introduce protective measures that will reverse the downward drift. Believe her and you can believe me, Trump proclaims, and you can believe me much more because I recognize your hatred and resentment and do not engage in the fraudulent appeal to love.

No more apathy. We need to create an army that rebels against the elites Trump cries out. I know you are frightened, Trump tells them. I recognize that you feel imperiled. I recognize that you have been pushed into a corner of apathy and acquiescence. Well it is time to open every window and shout, “We won’t take it anymore,” and make the walls of Jericho come crashing down. Did I rise by sincerity or by sin? Did I rise by believing in, “We the people?” I exemplify the exposure of the lie and that is why I am best to lead you, supposedly to the land of milk and honey, but, in reality, into the wilderness. That is why you, the vulnerable, can count on me as your voice. NOT because I feel what you do, but because I express what you feel and I epitomize and understand the manipulation to which you have been subjected. I will lead you to drowning the rich and the ostentatious in a sea of reeds. So do not be surprised that they resent me. Do not be surprised that my class and my peers turn against me. For at heart I am an outsider who has risen into their ranks and have now set out to destroy the royal order.

We the people? Self-government? Self-legislation? Are you kidding? This is the very guise on which the rich and the powerful have acquired their wealth and accumulated their power. Respect the other? Conduct yourself with dignity? No. Rebel and throw mud in their faces. Problem solving? Pragmatism? Political policy debates? These are all cover-ups for a renewed power grab. The winners teach falsifiability only to repress real and deep criticism. Trust us because we know we err, they pronounce. Does Trump say that he knows we cannot always achieve what we promise? Does Trump announce that he knows that we are fallible? No. No more. Trust me, not that collective brew of liars and thieves. Trust me because I am a liar and a thief and know the ropes. Only I can lead you out of slavery to a system built on lies. I know idolatry when I see it because I have made the mass of my wealth by building those idols.

Education, social interaction, discussion and debate – these are all frauds and if you expect me to beat Hillary Clinton under such a rigged system, you have to think again. But you won’t. You are too deeply immersed in your false vision of a land of milk and honey for all. I can deliver that land because I truly understand that you cannot simply nip the elites at the tips of their fingers and their ears. You have to drown them. You have to destroy them. You have to seize their wealth and power even as you offer them more tax breaks to limit the use of their money in opposing you. That is my route to leading you to paradise. And it will be built on the power and energy erupting from your deep resentment. And on my recognition and cultivation of that resentment. I deserve to lead you because I refuse to be a patrician but am not a plebian but myself come from the monied aristocracy. I have demonstrated I can lead you by conquering the bastion of the patricians, the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln and the pretense that all men are born equal as the cover for increasing inequality and repression. I can lead you because I am strong and recognize your weakness. That is why you need and can count of me as a charismatic ruler. With your help, I and only I am capable of seizing that power. Believe me.

And count on this. Hillary promises to beat the Islamic fanatics as they grow in strength and in their destructiveness. But Hillary does not – nor do even our establishment generals – recognize that you already possess the tools to do so. For any battle waged with fanatics cannot be won with rational calculation, clever strategies and well thought-out plans. For this is where we the people come in. The people must offer a counter-martyrdom, a willingness to die for an alternate cause, a willingness to set aside fine distinctions between loyal Muslims and extremism, a willingness to brand the whole lot of them as extremist.

And this is where Donald Trump fails as a fascist. He is unwilling to spell out that need for self-sacrifice, the need for martyrdom, that this is perceived as a fight to the finish, not only one in which the other must not be left with one soldier standing, but by a willingness to sacrifice the whole herd in the cause of fighting the alien Others. Trump lacks the insight of Jean Jacques Rousseau that what is required is a general will to oppose both common sense on the one hand and total and absolute common insensitivity on the other hand. For those are the two parties really engaged in battle.

That is why I appeal to your nativism, Trump might explain, why I elevate our national identity into a cult, why I trace our origins to our membership in the same country and pinpoint outliers as enemies, why I paint a portrait of a conspiracy, a deliberate plan, to keep you oppressed, why it is an international plot rather than one attributable to Russia or China, let alone North Korea and Turkey. That is why xenophobia is not to be discarded but embraced. You feel besieged because you are besieged by a cosmopolitan conspiracy of globalization. And in league with Muslims, a far better target for Americans than Jews. Like Leon Trotsky, like Mao Zeduog of the cultural revolution, revolution, revolt and the enhancing the belief that the other are truly revolting, requires a permanent commitment, a permanent revolution. A campaign had to be forged on breaking one’s teeth by biting the air and regarding human flesh as disposable and ready to be sacrificed as a scorched-earth burnt offering.

So is Trump a fascist? Certainly ha has many of the traits. Certainly there is a family resemblance between himself and Putin, between himself and Erdoğan, between himself and Mussolini, between himself and Hitler. But it is only a family resemblance. Donald Trump is on the same range of leaders in the politics of resentment, but he is at the other extreme from Hitler, though he shares none of Hitler’s traits, but some of the characteristics of those who mediate between Hitler and himself and increasingly carry a bit more of Trump’s character the closer they stand shoulder to shoulder with him. In the serial and uninterrupted series of decreasing similarities between Trump and Hitler, we find the suspicions of fascism, but as we near the Trump terminus, the core elements are missing. That is why we may be prone to labeling Trump as a fascist, but also why he is not one and why, in labeling him that way as a slogan rather than as a conclusion of empirical analysis and critique, we lose by falling onto the same practice of false labeling which is his forte.

The reality, in the end, is that Donald Trump lacks enough of the qualities to make him a true fascistic leader.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part I

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part I

by

Howard Adelman

Last evening at a dinner at a friend’s, I was asked whether I thought Donald Trump was a fascist? Evidently, I seemed to have implied that he was in some previous references to Hitler and Mussolini in my writings. So I want to answer that query in this blog, and perhaps allow it to be an introduction for one or two more blogs on Donald Trump by offering my answer in the negative. I. of course, have previously considered this question, but I have never articulated a clear reply. Formulating this short answer is helped by an essay of Umberto Eco in The New York Review of Books entitled “Ur-Fascism,” (22 June 1995), which allows me to examine, indirectly and by implication, whether Trump is what Eco called an Ur-Fascist.

Eco opened with a story of Mimo, the partisan leader in the area of Milan where he was living at the end of the WWII. Mimo made a victory speech from a balcony. “Citizens, friends. After so many painful sacrifices … here we are. Glory to those who have fallen for freedom.” And that was it. The lesson Umberto Eco took away: In contrast to the sections of Mussolini’s long mesmerizing speeches that he had been forced to memorize at school, he learned that, “freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.”

Rhetoric: short, rambling strings of tweets rather than soaring memorable lines, staccato segments that started and restarted, rhetoric built on “an impoverished vocabulary and elementary syntax in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning,” strangely reminded me of Casey Stengel, the famous American baseball coach memorable for his malapropisms. Donald Trump, in contrast to Mino, believed that there can never be one tweet too many. Trump stands in contrast to the diehard anti-war Bernie Sanders acolytes who were stuck on one phrase and not even a tweet. They yelled out, “No more war” when a contemporary warrior like Mino, the former head of the CIA and Secretary of Defense in Obama’s cabinet who had served seven previous presidents, Leon Panetta, spoke. The Bernie diehards – what a misnomer – booed again and re-shouted the same slogan when John Allen, a retired four-star Marine general and former commander of American forces in Afghanistan, spoke. He had previously been known as a non-partisan soldier who kept his distance from politics, but, backed up by a phalanx of veterans, he delivered a rousing endorsement of Hillary Clinton and a scathing excoriation of Donald Trump whom he claimed was completely unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

Those true believers in Bernie, those who had sworn to die on the sword for him, Sarah Silverman, a former strong advocate in the Bernie movement, now labeled “ridiculous.” They had not learned another lesson that Umberto Eco had learned after WWII: “the moral and psychological meaning of the Resistance. For us it was a point of pride to know that we Europeans did not wait passively for liberation. And for the young Americans who were paying with their blood for our restored freedom it meant something to know that behind the firing lines there were Europeans paying their own debt in advance.”

Mussolini had been a fiery orator, in contrast to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but, like Mussolini, Donald Trump’s campaign has been built on the need for a charismatic singular ruler upon whom the populace relied, on a renewed belief in making America (Italy) great again, on a nationalism that exacerbated divisions and singled out minorities for attack. Unlike Hitler or Stalin, Mussolini was not a totalitarian. But, like Donald Trump, “Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.” A ghost stalks the West – a “way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instinct and unfathomable drives” built on a politics of resentment.

Eco wrote that, “Linguistic habits are frequently important symptoms of underlying feelings.” Donald Trunk has been a Balaam, a soothsayer, a man of many words, a long-winded blowhard, but still only capable of stringing together a series of short expressions and expletives. He so clearly has an attention span of only a few minutes. Words count. Words strung together count even more. Those words and the patterns of how they are brought together both reveal his way of unthinking, his seemingly incapacity to feel compassion and empathy whether in shouting, “You’re fired” or advocating building walls or selection and exclusion mechanisms to manage migration.

That means that Donald Trump may not be worthy of being Commander-in-Chief, but, in spite of his attraction for dictators, it is unlikely also that he would be capable of establishing a liturgy and system of costuming that could unite the inchoate cluster of believers and anarchists, deeply hurt workers and fulminating angry Americans who have lost their place in the sun to a rising tide of rivals. The real worry is not that he is likely to become a dictator, but that he is uncontrolled and should not be allowed to have a finger, a pinky, let alone a hand on the nuclear trigger. For though not evidently a dictator, or one with a capacity to become one, he is erratic while delegating detailed planning to others. On the other hand, what makes him attractive to the few diehard Bernie supporters is that he has so few conservative bona fides and might even carry through on some area of social reform, such as more extensive parental leave for parents about to have children and an extensive child-care program, though how he would pay for it would be greatly in question since he also plans to cut even more taxes for the very rich.

When his very capable daughter, Ivanka, delivered this nanny state initiative that had never before been uttered in the Trump so-called platform, when his son, Donald Trump Jr., delivered his right-wing exhortation of anti-Government rhetoric and support for the NRA, it only indicated a fuzzy amalgam of left and extreme right-wing ideas, an inchoate collage rather than a coherent program, what Eco called a “beehive of contradictions,” that is, of buzzing confusion in the semblance of a highly ordered system. If Donald Trump were to become president, “believe me,’ his most disappointed acolytes would be the David Dukes of the world. So although he is bombastic and a blowhard, though he has no clue on how to check whether anything that emerges from his mouth is true, we can be grateful for small gifts. Although he seems to admire dictators of many stripes, he also seems singularly incapable of developing the discipline, the coherent mass organization of uniforms and songs, salutes and signals – “Lock her up is no substitute” – enabling him to become one.

In spite of the Donald’s rants against Mexican rapists and thieves, in spite of his tirades against Muslims as all terrorist suspects, there is no indication that he has a prejudicial bone in his body. Like Mussolini who had a Jewish mistress, Trump has a Jewish orthodox son-in-law, a daughter who converted to Judaism, Jewish grandchildren and a phalanx of Jewish executives. Further, he hires illegals of all ethnic and religious backgrounds and gives every evidence of being an equal opportunity exploiter.

So though he is a nationalist rather than a patriot, though he is a nativist but not a racist, what he clearly seems to celebrate and revel in is speed in decision-making rather than deliberation and does have an attraction to bullying and violence – “punch him out” – rather than to listening to complaints and grievances to enable him to diagnose their roots. And though he pledges to create jobs for those who suffered the most as globalization moved at high speed, he reveals himself in his speech and his actions to be a perilous risk-taker guaranteed to leave an even greater swath of victims in his wake. This was indicated by Trump University which was not used to develop an extension of any great thinker as Mussolini used his fascist youth clubs to develop and expand on the thinking of Giovanni Gentile. It was simply another exploitive development to add to the Donald’s repertoire.

Like Mussolini, Trump is bombastic. Like Mussolini, Trump is a bully. But he lacks any of the discipline and sense of coherent order to be Benito. Donald Trump is no Reagan, but he is also no Mussolini. He might abolish, or, at least, undermine trade unions, he might boycott and even try to punish an unfavourable journalist, but as long as the media attends to him, as long as the media never deviate from observing and commenting on his boorish behaviour, from paying attention to him, Donald Trump seems to lack the killer instinct of an Erdoğan as hyper-sensitive as the Donald is to criticism. He might use the power of the state to squelch dissenters, but, however, horrific, that is not the same as abolishing dissent. He might expand executive power at the expense of the legislature, appoint judges because he favoured them rather than for their capabilities, but there is no evidence he would appoint judges because they conformed to a rigid ideology.

In that sense, he is less dangerous than Ted Cruz would have been. Ted Cruz contributed to wrecking the Republican Party in the final stages of its decline. He certainly contributed enormously in preparing for its transformation from a political party to a movement when he set out to destroy its ability to compromise, destroy its ability to carry out what is the essence of political life, compromising with those with whom you disagree. Ted Cruz helped reduce the Republican Party to a remnant of its former self, a Commodore Hotel ripe for the arts of a takeover artist who can spot a bargain a few hundred miles away.

Ted Cruz has been lauded for standing on principle and refusing to endorse Donald Trump in his Republican Convention speech, but few seem to recognize that it was this same rigid adherence to principle and his affection for the wrecking ball mode of doing politics that had reduced the Republican Party to a wreck worthy only of being offered for sale in a bargain basement store. And the Donald showed that he had the eye, that he had the skills, to enable him to buy it for a bargain and add it to the trophies of the Trump organization.

In sum, whatever the characteristics of a braggart and a megalomaniac, whatever the traits of a psychopath with brutish charm, Donald Trump is not a proto-dictator let alone a fascist. He demonstrates no cult of tradition and has systematically destroyed whatever cult of tradition remained in the Republican Party to make the party his own. But where tradition is no threat to him, where it does not stand in the way for his appetite for takeovers, he can respect, even esteem the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. Donald Trump has no ambitions to take over the Jewish religion.

Though explicitly not committed, and, therefore, not a Burkean conservative, it is a puzzle to me why his support from evangelicals is increasing and coalescing. But Donald is also an opponent of modernism in its most demonstrable form – science. He explicitly and repeatedly says that he does not believe that humans have played a significant part in altering the world’s climate and suggests that is just an excuse for a very expensive tax to make some people a lot of money. (My eleven-year-old granddaughter following the campaign in Princeton now sports a Hillary button and explained yesterday why she doesn’t like Trump. “He doesn’t like science – and Mexico.”) Trump offered another explanation for the purported hoax: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” When and only well after that was met with widespread derision, did he insist that he was only joking.

So he is not an upholder of tradition. He is not a believer in the results of science. What does he believe in? Deeds! And himself. “I can get it done.” I can make a deal.” “I can kill all the members of ISIS.” “I can build a wall and get the Mexicans to pay for it.” He does not believe in deliberation to find what looks like the best solution, but does believe in his own instincts to spot an opportunity and act upon it. This is known as irrationalism. Anti-intellectualism is too weak a term to describe it. Other presidential candidates may have been irrational – William Jennings Bryan comes to mind – but they rarely boasted about it. Trump is a warrior of the twelfth and thirteenth century who revels in the joust and for whom reading and reflection are the purview of wonks and nerds. If you are rich enough, you can buy toadies to do that feminine kind of labour. He not only favours the use of extreme methods of torture – “torture works” – and explains that “eggheads came up with the international law to ban torture,” but he wears his brutality proudly as a badge of honour on his shoulder.

With the help of Alex Zisman