Donald Trump and Hitler: Part I
I was on the bus yesterday and sat down beside an older woman. There was a much younger woman standing, holding onto the bar and talking with her. I wondered why the younger woman had not taken the empty seat beside the older woman. As I listened to their conversation, I guessed that the younger woman was the older woman’s social worker and they were talking about the older woman having to move from her apartment and find a new one. The older woman said she was anxious about moving. The younger woman assured her that there were economical one-bedroom apartments that she could find, such as in the low rise building we were passing near Tichester Road in Toronto. “Don’t be afraid,” assured the younger woman. “I’m not really afraid of moving. Just a bit worried,” the older woman answered. Then, out of the blue, she said, “What really frightens me is that man, Donald Trump. He sounds like Hitler.”
The “social worker” went on to assure the older woman that Donald Trump was not likely to get elected. The older woman did not seem to have any expertise on American politics, yet, as a Canadian, she was frightened of Donald Trump and thought he was like Hitler. I sat there dumbfounded until I got to my stop a few blocks after. Was this serendipity? That is what I planned to write about this morning, confirmed after watching Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton last night in a town hall discussion in Columbus, Ohio, hearing Donald Trump threaten to send his supporters to break up Bernie Sander’s rallies in retaliation for Sanders allegedly sending his supporters to disrupt his own rallies. Bernie Sanders, when asked about it, simply said that he did not send his supporters for any such thing, would not encourage anyone to disrupt a campaign meeting, but strongly defended the right of peaceful protest. He then curtly stated that Donald Trump was a pathological liar.
I then turned stations to a CBC special (it might have been a replay) hosted by Bob McKeown on Donald Trump on “The Fifth Estate” called, “The Fire Breather: The Rise and Rage of Donald Trump,” which pictured Donald Trump launching “vitriolic attacks on minorities, Muslims, women and pretty much anyone else” while his popularity kept climbing and Trump now seemed likely to win the Republican nomination. McKeown said that this American election was perhaps the most divisive in American history and the cause was Donald Trump. Last evening, Trump was portrayed as a proto-Nazi on Canadian Sunday evening national television. Only three weeks earlier, CBC’s Passionate Eye aired a special called, “The Mad World of Donald Trump” that introduced Canadian audiences to the leading contender for the Republican Party presidential nominee as a serial divorcee and multiple bankrupt, a vulgar and insulting man who targeted women and minorities as well as Scots who stood in the way of his plans for a golf course. No wonder Donald Trump hated the media.
Yesterday in The Tablet I read a piece that presented the daily low-lights of Donald Trump’s attempts to use the dark forces of bigotry to become President of the United States. Over and over again I saw on one news program after another a video clip of an older Donald Trump supporter, 78-year old John McGraw of Linden, North Carolina, sucker punching a protester (Rakeem Jones) as he was being escorted out of the stadium and then the security guards wrestling, not the guy who delivered the sucker punch, but the protester to the ground, cuffing him and carrying him off under arrest. Then Donald Trump rationalized that violence and offered to pay his supporter’s legal bills while claiming he, Donald Trump, was a man of peace who deplored violence, but who also portrayed peaceful protesters as disrupters and in frequent excerpts from his speeches threatened protesters with violence. As the writer in The Tablet opined, “We are a country that actually does have pseudo-Fascists and violent racists, black shirts and brown shirts, on the very far fringes of right-wing American politics. We do have persistent skinheads and neo-Nazis and Klansmen. That persistent fringe variety of American monster, though, has never before been attached to and attracted to a front-running major party presidential campaign the way they are to Donald Trump.”
Look at the following portrait of Donald Trump.
I watch the head of this Las Vegas croupier, this kitschy carnival performer, coiffed and botoxed, drifting from one television camera to another with his fleshy mouth perpetually half-open: you never know whether those exposed teeth are signs of having drunk or eaten too much, or whether they might indicate that he means to eat you next. I listen to his swearing, his vulgar rhetoric, his pathetic hatred of women, whom he describes, depending on his mood, as bitches, pigs, or disgusting animals. I hear his smutty jokes in which the careful language of politics has been pushed aside in favor of supposedly authentic popular speech at its most elemental – the language, apparently, of the genitals. ISIS? We’re not going to make war against it, we’re going to “kick its ass.” Marco Rubio’s remark about Trump’s small hands? The rest is not so small, “I guarantee you.” Then there is the worship of money and the contempt for others that accompanies it. In the mouth of this serially bankrupt billionaire and con artist with possible mafia ties, they have become the bottom line of the American creed – so much mental junk food full of fatty thoughts, overwhelming the lighter cosmopolitan flavors of the myriad traditions that have formed the great American pastoral. In the sequence about small hands, even an ear untuned to the subtleties of that pastoral might have caught (though in a version perverted by the abjectly low level of the exchange) the famous line from e.e. cummings, the American Apollinaire: “Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”
Last week Sarah Silverman, that marvellous American comedienne, joined the chorus with a Trump-Hitler comparison on TBS “Conan.” Dressed as the German Fűhrer and criticizing those who compared the vulgar Trump to himself, Silverman-as-Hitler said, “Don’t get me wrong, Conan, I agree with a lot he says. A lot, like 90% of what he says, I’m like, ‘This guy gets it,’ but I just don’t like the way he says it. It’s crass, you know?”
Is America inheriting a type of leadership that scarred the Italian political landscape with the presidency of Silvio Berlusconi, that supports the very popular Vladimir Putin in Russia, a leader so admired for his strength by Trump? That shift in the international political landscape has seen one anti-immigration party after another increase in the polls and recently get elected in two Länder in Germany. I could not forget this as I watched a video clip that had gone viral of Trump supporters telling journalists to “go to Auschwitz,” of the Trump campaign manager physically shoving a journalist to the ground presumably for asking Trump a question he did not like.
But I also listened to two voters from Florida who seemed to be Jewish expressing disbelief at all the calumnies aimed at Donald Trump. This past weekend, I read Rabbi Dov Fischer’s refutation of the portrayal of Trump as a Hitler as he accused Israel of having a totally corrupt Supreme Court run put in place by an unelected elite as he reminded Israeli readers that David Ben Gurion had called Ze’ev Japotinsky “Vladimir Hitler.” In his op-ed for Arutz Sheva, he wrote, and I quote at length:
Trump is hard to decipher, and he likes it that way. His book, “The Art of the Deal,” is his guide to life. His successes in building gambling casinos and hotels have been offset by an occasional business bankruptcy. His opponents point to those corporate bankruptcies as a bad sign, but I like it. Seriously, a guy who can walk away from his debts, again and again, can walk away from Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and from Obama’s other delirious “executive actions” that have damaged America in a variety of ways ranging from health care to border control to energy independence to America’s role in the world. Trump is impossible to gauge because, as the consummate dealer, he never shows his hand, and neither friend nor foe can guess his bottom line on anything — what is bluff and what is real.
The leftist media portray Trump as a perilous tyrant. They portray him as Hitler and Mussolini. It all is nonsense and ridiculous. It is like the way they portrayed Jabo as Mussolini and as Vladimir Hitler, and Begin as Hitler attempting a putsch. It is even more ridiculous than that. As one example among many, Trump was concerned that, although his political rallies sometimes attract 20,000 people, not all of his supporters translate their enthusiasm by actually going to vote. So, as a joke at one rally, with his crowd in a laughing mood, he kiddingly asked everyone to raise their right hand and to “solemnly promise” to go and actually vote on election day. In America, when someone “solemnly promises,” he does so while raising his right hand. That is how they do it in court, in the movies, on TV, even on an old television commercial for “Promise Margarine” (a butter substitute). So everyone, giggling, raised their right hands and made a “solemn promise” to actually vote on election day. The very next morning, the leftist media showed the 20,000 people with raised hands and compared them to Hitler salutes at mass Nazi rallies. Just the most dishonest, idiotic media lie imaginable.
In another situation, Trump was asked whether he would disavow the support of David Duke, a racist hater who is associated with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a now-small but once-powerful viciously racist group that used to lynch and hang Black people and that wanted to expel Jews from America. Trump disavowed him on a Friday. Trump then was asked again two days later, and he misunderstood what he was being asked, so he hesitated at the interview to disavow. Later that day, he disavowed the hater again. But meantime, the leftist media was packed with reports that Trump had hesitated, in between, to disavow Duke. So the suggestion was that Trump is a racist who hates Blacks and Jews like the KKK. Again — utter leftist-media nonsense.
Indeed, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, plays an enormous and even central role in his life, running many of his businesses, speaking for him — and she is a Giyoret Tzedek, a shomeret Shabbat convert to Judaism. He adores Ivanka. She and her husband are “Modern Orthodox” of the kind associated with our kind of Religious Zionism. So, again — a bald media lie.
Trump nevertheless does pose a concern for avid supporters of Israel. Despite his lifelong record of supporting Israel with enormous charitable gifts and investments, real friendship with Bibi, and great connections in the pro-Israel community, Trump repeatedly declares that he is intensely pro-Israel but will be “neutral” in any Mideast deal-making. We just do not know what he means, what he is up to. Again, Trump is a deal-maker. His philosophy is that, if he comes out publicly as too pro-Israel, in the way that Cruz and Rubio do, then the Arabs never will sit with him as an honest broker (just as sensible Israelis never would trust Obama to be a negotiating intermediary with Abbas). So Trump wants to keep his door open to the Arabs. But how “neutral” would he be? No one can know because he is impossible to gauge.
It would seem surprising if Trump ever would contemplate imposing a deal on Israel the way that a Bush or Carter or Bill Clinton did. More probably, a Bibi would explain what’s-what, and Trump would understand what’s-what, and he would propose some kind of reasonable idea that the Arabs never would accept. And then Trump would walk away from it. The main concern and danger with Trump is that, if Israel eventually elects an idiot from the Labor Left as Prime Minister, then Trump understandably would feel he should not be more pro-Israel than an Israeli Prime Minister offering to concede the farm.
Trump’s “gut” is that he does not trust radical Islam and recoils from the inexplicable hatred that many Islamists feel towards America. He associates with and is endorsed by the kinds of evangelical Christians who are Israel’s best friends in America, and he is overwhelmed by Islamist hostility against Christianity and America. By contrast, he has had wonderful relations with Jews all his life. He trusts Jews in his highest places — and not the kinds of self-haters who leech onto Democrats — and, again, there is his daughter.
In summary: Cruz would be an amazing President for America at home and abroad, and Israel would finally get a breather with such a profound friend in the White House. But if Cruz falls to Trump in the GOP primaries, as seems more likely than not, odds are that Trump nevertheless would be the best American President for Israel since Nixon re-supplied the IDF in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. For those of us who remember Ronald Reagan warmly, we also remember that he was a mixed bag for Israel, condemning Israel’s conduct of Milchemet Shalom HaGalil in 1982, condemning Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, and even proposing a peace agreement that Menachem Begin publicly tore up in the Knesset. All the others have been worse.
American Presidents are elected to serve and protect America’s interests, not Israel’s. It is not our way to put our faith in princes but in G-d, the True Guardian of Israel. If Rubio gets knocked out by failing to win his home state in the March 15 GOP Florida primary on Tuesday, and if Cruz cannot overcome Trump’s current commanding lead as more than half of the fifty American states already have selected their GOP party-convention delegates, then Trump will leave much to be desired. Nevertheless, sad to say, he still probably would be the best American President for Israel in nearly half a century. Not saying much, but it is what it is.
And the alternative would be Clinton, whether she would be serving from the White House or serving time in the Big House. That alternate choice makes Trump even more desirable.
I had also read Rabbi Elli Fischer. (He lives in Modiin, Israel, while Dov Fischer lives in Orange County, but they could be related.) In Elli his apologetics for Trump, Elli Fischer also recalled the epithet “Hitler’ being thrust by David Ben Gurion at his opponent, Ze’ev Japotinsky, back in 1932. For The Times of Israel, he wrote the following:
On October 3, 1932, Jabotinsky published an article in his Russian-language Revisionist organ Rassvet, in which he called the Histadrut a “malignant growth” and accused it of using totalitarian tactics to maintain its monopoly over the Jewish labor market and impoverish political opponents of socialist Zionism. Leaving little to the imagination, Jabotinsky titled his article “The Red Swastika.” A month later (“Yes, Break It!,” Haynt, November 4), Jabotinsky continued his polemic by calling on workers to cross picket lines and thereby break up the Histadrut. Against the claim that class solidarity is fundamental to democracy, he argued that Jewish national solidarity must trump class solidarity in Mandatory Palestine. To illustrate the limits of democracy, he invoked Hitler: “Must we Jews, democratic, liberal, progressive Jews, support the principle of university autonomy? Or, in accordance with the principles of democratic law, if Hitler wins a plurality in the upcoming German elections, must he be invited to assemble a government? If yes, must we Jews then demand that he be made ruler? Not to be outdone, Ben-Gurion… called Jabotinsky “Il Duce” repeatedly. Ben-Gurion also compared Revisionism to Hitler’s movement in no uncertain terms… The ideological and political debates did not slow down, and the following year Ben-Gurion famously called Jabotinsky “Vladimir Hitler.” This may be one of the first instances of a public debate that devolved into each side comparing the other to Hitler and/or Nazis. These two great Zionist leaders were comparing each other to Hitler even before his rise to power in 1933. Presciently, he had become a byword among the Jews long before the rest of the world understood what he was.
Tomorrow: Part II – Is Donald Trump Akin to Hitler?
With the help of Alex Zisman – to be continued