It was a day for theology. So, what will liberals do when it turns out that Donald Trump is the King of Israel and the Chosen One and the Son of God returned to Earth – Jesus returned? He says that he is. He didn’t seem to be joking. Maybe he was just testing out some ideas. But what if he’s right?
Of course this is absurd, but this did happen. Sarah Pulliam Bailey covers religion for the Washington Post and dispassionately reports this:
President Trump on Wednesday tweeted a fawning quote from a non-Jewish conservative radio host who described Trump as the “King of Israel” and who said, without evidence, that Israeli Jews “love him like he is the second coming of God.”
Trump’s tweets cited Wayne Allyn Root, who described himself in a 2016 Townhall column as a “Jew turned evangelical Christian” and has promoted several conspiracy theories in the past, including that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that he is gay.
“The Jewish people in Israel love him like he’s the King of Israel,” Trump quoted Root as saying. “They love him like he is the second coming of God… But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore.”
This was a continuation of Trump’s anger at American Jews. They always vote Democratic. They’re either misinformed or disloyal. Wayne Allyn Root agreed with Trump on that, and added, all on his own, the King of Israel and “second coming” stuff. That pleased Trump. He thought the world should hear that, but the other matter was less than it seemed:
Later Wednesday, Trump said “I am the chosen one” to fix the U.S. trade imbalance with China, as he looked to the sky.
He told reporters that his trade war with China was one that should have taken place a long time ago: “Somebody had to do it, so I’m taking on China. I’m taking on China on trade, and you know what? We’re winning.”
He stared at the sky and smiled when he said he was the Chosen One – so there was a hint of irony – but only a hint. No one really knows what he thinks of himself.
Bailey, however, sticks to the facts:
In the Bible, Jewish leaders call Jesus the “king of Israel” in a mocking way when he was put on the cross, according to Matthew 27:42: “He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”
Root also says that Jews “love him like he is the second coming of God.” Jewish scriptures include mentions of a concept of a Messiah who will improve the world, but it is left unspecific and is not central to Judaism. Christianity includes the core idea of a Messiah, or savior – Jesus.
Two points – that king thing was a way of mocking someone, and the folks aren’t waiting for any “second coming” – because there was no first coming. Judaism does not and never did include Jesus – at all – but Wayne Allyn Root doesn’t like the details everyone else likes:
Root made his comments on Newsmax TV, and they were picked up Wednesday morning by Trump. Trump endorsed Root’s 2015 book about how Trump was changing the United States, and Root has spoken at Trump rallies.
In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting conducted by a lone white man, Root blamed “Muslim terror.” He also pushed the idea that the death of Democratic staffer Seth Rich was ordered by Democratic leaders. In addition, he repeated right-wing theories that Jewish billionaire George Soros paid Charlottesville protesters.
Root has spoken at Trump rallies, but does Trump believe all of that? No one knows. But meanwhile, far away in Israel itself, Trump is seen as someone else entirely:
After Trump announced he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Trump to King Cyrus of Persia, who allowed Jews to return to Israel, ending their historic exile in Babylon.
But wait. Persia is now called Iran. Trump wants to wipe out Iran once and for all. Trump is really the ancient King of Iran? Someone should tell the Iranians. This is getting confusing.
That’s fine. The rest of the Bailey item reports reactions to all this, mostly tweets, like this from Alan Cross:
Evangelical leaders, come get your man. Right now. Sit him down. Tell him to stop it. If ANY other world leader said this, they’d be pulling out the prophecy charts and talking about the Antichrist and Mark of the Beast this morning.
Evangelical leaders, however, shrugged. Trump is who he is, but that wasn’t all:
President Donald Trump claimed to laughter on Wednesday that he sought to give himself a Medal of Honor, but decided not to after being counseled against the move by aides.
The offhand remark from the president came during his address to the 75th annual national convention of American Veterans, a volunteer-led veterans service organization also known as AMVETS.
At the event in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump singled out for praise WWII veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams.
“Thank you, Woody. You’re looking good, Woody. Woody’s looking good,” Trump said.
“That was a big day, Medal of Honor. Nothing like the Medal of Honor,” he continued. “I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’ They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.'”
And everyone laughed, because they know this too:
Trump never served in the military and was granted five draft deferments – four for college and one for bone spurs in his heel.
That makes him one of them. No wait. This is getting confusing, but Trump was getting clearer:
President Trump said Wednesday that Jewish Americans who vote for Democratic candidates are “very disloyal to Israel,” expanding on his remarks from the previous day and dismissing criticism that his remarks were anti-Semitic.
“I think if you vote for a Democrat, you are very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people,” Trump said in an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for an event in Kentucky.
The day before he had accused Jewish people, in America, of “great disloyalty” if they vote for Democrats, but he did not specify, at that time, disloyalty to whom, but now he was clear, and hung his friends out to dry:
After Trump’s initial remarks Tuesday, critics on both sides of the aisle as well as Jewish organizations immediately pointed out that Trump’s use of the word “disloyalty” echoed anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of dual allegiance… Some of Trump’s defenders, meanwhile, argued that he was speaking about Jewish people being disloyal to themselves rather than to Israel.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in an interview Tuesday that the president was talking about “being true to yourself.”
“I don’t think it invokes those [anti-Semitic] tropes,” Brooks said, describing Trump’s message to Jewish people as, “You’re being disloyal to yourself to say, ‘Hey, I support somebody who is known to espouse anti-Semitic comments.’ “
Brooks declined to comment Wednesday.
What could he say? Zack Beauchamp, however, found this to say:
Trump wants American Jews should forget about his long history of anti-Semitic comments and his declaration that there were “very fine people” among the Charlottesville Nazis and vote for him because of his blank check support for Israel. He wants us to forget about the upsurge in white nationalism and anti-Semitic hate-crimes that seems to have been a product of his political rise, including three synagogue shootings in the past year alone, because he gets along well with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He wants us to ignore our political values, vast policy and principled differences with the Trump agenda, because… Israel.
Trump wants American Jews to think of him as their friend, all of the evidence staring our community in the face that he isn’t.
If the past day’s outbursts have any upside, it’s that they reveal just how false this charade is – and show that American Jews are yet another minority group threatened by the Trump presidency.
In short, Trump’s “support” is an attack, an attack on one more minority of color:
There’s a perennial debate among American Jews about whether we qualify as “white.” It’s an odd conversation – it often ignores the existence of non-white Jews entirely – but it gets at an important question: To what extent can American Jews trust America’s white Christian majority to protect their community and civil rights?
Historically, the answer is “not very much.” During the Civil War, General Ulysses S. Grant blamed Jews for a black market in cotton and, in punishment, attempted to expel them from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. Henry Ford blamed the Jews for World War I, and white supremacist terrorists targeted eight synagogues for bombings between 1957 and 1958. Social clubs and universities banned and restricted Jewish access; Harvard and Yale had tight quotas on Jewish admissions as late as the 1960s.
This list goes on and on, and then it got better, and then it got worse:
“The Trump presidency seethes with hostility toward many different minority and subordinated groups. But Jews have been elevated to a special protected category,” David Frum, who is Jewish, wrote in the Atlantic on July 24. “Gone are the days when Trump tweeted out a Star of David atop stacks of money.”
Less than a month later, Trump labeled Jews “disloyal” and declared himself our stand-in messiah.
And that’s where things stand now:
Jews of European descent enjoy many of the privileges of whiteness – especially when they aren’t visibly Jewish. But we also are only contingently accepted as equal participants in white American society. A political movement that threatens all minority groups invariably makes anti-Semitic forces more powerful…
We Jews are most certainly part of the “Other” with a capital-o, a tiny percentage of the country seen as different and distinct from the majority culture. We are targeted for attacks by the growing white supremacist movement and smeared by the president when we don’t do what he wants.
Marc Schulman puts that a different way – With His Accusation of ‘Disloyalty’ Trump Reminded Jews Exactly Why They Vote Democratic – which is not what Trump intended.
Nothing seems to work out as intended. That seems to be the problem that Thomas Wright sees:
Yesterday, President Donald Trump canceled a meeting with the new Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, because she refuses to discuss the sale of Greenland. Greenland used to be a Danish colony but now belongs to the people of Greenland – the Danish government could not sell the island even if it wanted to. Trump likely did not know that Denmark is one of America’s most reliable allies. Danish troops, for example, fought alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered 50 fatalities, and Danish forces were among the earliest to join the fight against the Islamic State.
Many Americans may laugh off Trump’s latest outrage, but Trump crossed an important line. It is one thing to float a cockamamie idea that no one believes is serious or will go anywhere… [But] it is quite another to use leverage and impose costs on Denmark in pursuit of that goal – and make no mistake, canceling a presidential visit is using leverage and imposing costs.
What’s next, refusing to exempt Denmark from various tariffs because it won’t discuss Greenland? Musing on Twitter that America’s defense commitments to Denmark are conditional on the negotiation? Intellectual justifications from Trump-friendly publications, citing previous purchase proposals and noting Greenland’s strategic value and abundance of natural resources?
That last thing is actually happening now, but this is madness:
This is the kind of thing the Russians and the Chinese do. It is territorial revisionism – the use of national power to acquire territory against the desire of its sovereign government and its people. The use of leverage would also call into question the U.S. commitment to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which is the cornerstone of stability in Europe. In it, all parties, including the United States, commit to “refrain from any demand for, or act of, seizure and usurpation of part or all of the territory” of all states in Europe.
That may be a little too detailed for Donald Trump, but this is not:
The cancellation of Trump’s visit to Denmark is part of a disturbing pattern. Trump regularly beats up on and abuses America’s closest democratic allies while being sycophantic to autocrats. His staff has followed suit. In July, for example, Trump hounded British Ambassador Kim Darroch out of his job. This followed two years in which Trump and his administration sought to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May’s government at every turn. Trump has been scathing in critiques of Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel. The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, never misses an opportunity to criticize his hosts. The U.S. ambassador to Poland publicly called for U.S. troops to be moved from Germany to Poland. Trump has reportedly said the European Union is “worse than China, only smaller.” Several senior U.S. officials have also attacked the European Union, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Meanwhile, Trump writes autocrats and wannabe autocrats blank checks. In May, Trump called a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to complain about a bipartisan letter asking the president to raise concerns about democratic backsliding in his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. When the two leaders met, Trump instead praised Orbán in front of the press and expressed no concern. He has also embraced the Brazilian strongman Jair Bolsonaro. The Trump administration has gone out of its way to help Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ride out the storm following the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He can’t say enough nice things about the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. He has done worse than nothing on Hong Kong, secretly promising Chinese President Xi Jinping that he would not condemn a crackdown and calling the peaceful protests by more than 1 million Hong Kongers “riots.”
And yesterday, on the day he canceled his visit to Denmark, he said he favored Russia rejoining the G7 without mentioning any preconditions, which would have the effect of abolishing one of the only forums for major democracies to meet with one another.
That was because, led by France and Germany, everyone in the organization voted to kick out Russia. It was Russia grabbing Crimea and working on grabbing Ukraine, so Wright says this:
Free societies and autocracies are at odds with each other – over human rights, the rule of law, technology, freedom of the press, the free flow of information, and territorial expansion. At this particular moment, it is not sufficient to say that the free world is without a leader. He has actually defected to the other side.
But he is the second coming of Jesus or something. Thomas Wright is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power – a skeptic about such claims.
But something else may be going on. Greg Sargent notes this:
President Trump has now canceled his planned trip to Denmark, claiming he’s doing so because Denmark’s prime minister has shot down his “proposal” to buy Greenland. But is that the real reason he has nixed the trip?
Some observers have offered another possible explanation: Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, plans to visit Denmark at the end of September, and Trump feared the contrasting optics.
And he cites this tweet from David Frum:
In his self-loathing heart, Trump knows Obama is bigger than he is, around the world as well as in the United States. That knowledge tortures Trump, never allows him a minute’s respite.
Sargent sees that may be so:
Several things are immediately striking about this episode. First, it’s a measure of how low we’ve all sunk that, in trying to explain why the president of the United States is making a consequential decision involving an official state visit, we’re forced to choose between two competing rationales that have nothing whatsoever to do with international diplomatic considerations or our national interest.
Notably, the official reason for the cancellation is nearly as saturated in narcissism and megalomania as the “less” flattering Obama-oriented explanation is: Trump is either angry that Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is not taking his suggestion seriously, or he’s embarrassed by it – or both.
Either way, this is a mess:
Leading figures in Denmark are pointing out that Trump’s conduct will complicate relations and make coordination on all manner of issues – from climate change to the Mideast – more difficult. There’s zero indication that Trump gave any thought to such consequences.
No, Trump gave thought to the idea that the elegant thoughtful skinny black guy may be the real Chosen One:
The idea that Trump would be driven – at least in part – by fear of a contrast with Obama’s reception is deeply twisted, of course, and I don’t claim to know whether this is the case. But this brings us to the second striking thing about this affair: That this might be partly what’s motivating Trump’s cancellation simply cannot be dismissed.
Everything we’ve seen from Trump makes it inescapable: An unflattering contrast with an Obama visit unquestionably would be something Trump wants to avoid.
After all, Trump regularly bases major policy decisions on a zeal to undo whatever Obama did – as if blotting out the Obama presidency is a measure of his own success – even as Trump and his propagandists regularly go to extraordinary lengths to create the cult-like illusion that he’s loved everywhere.
This includes claiming that polls showing his deep unpopularity are media fabrications and regularly inflating and obsessing over crowd sizes. Trump’s hypersensitivity to how he’s received extends abroad, too: After his trip to London, Trump claimed that large protests there simply never happened.
So it’s at least plausible that one of Trump’s considerations in canceling the Denmark trip was Obama’s planned visit.
That’s more than plausible:
After all, Obama is a leading member of the globalist elite that Trump has throttled so heroically. Of course leading Denmark figures would greet Obama as a rock star, while treating Trump with supercilious disdain! That would just prove Trump has been right all along – he’s their scourge!
But of course that’s nonsense:
Even if Obama has nothing to do with this decision, this tension is everywhere: Trump outwardly appears to welcome our allies’ contempt, while simultaneously being infuriated when it embarrasses him, particularly in contrast with treatment of Obama.
But that may not matter:
In the end, whether Trump’s rationale for the nixed trip is fear of Obama, or rage at his Greenland fiasco, or a desire to sow international disruption, at the core of Trump’s decision-making, moral emptiness and megalomania and total lack of concern for the national interest are all that’s left.
All that’s left is Donald Trump hinting that he is the King of Israel and the Chosen One and the Son of God returned to Earth – Jesus returned – worrying that the other guy was the Chosen One all along.