It’s been a difficult week. As someone who is an American Israeli whose specialty is American history and to a lesser extent the Presidency, it has been like watching a car crash in slow motion. Of course things in Israel have not been better as it’s become clear that the level of corruption in our government is greater than we thought – but more on that later.
Last friday night, the last chance that this was going to be a normal presidency ended with the inaugural address. I won’t repeat what I wrote in my Newsweek article about the address or what I said on the air afterwards on i24, but suffice it to say it was the most divisive inaugural address in American history. It went downhill from there. Saturday was his speech at the CIA where we learned how obsessed he was about the size of the crowds at the inauguration, and where one of the least appropriate places he attacked the media. A few hours later his spokesman made a fool of himself giving a briefing stating that Trump had the largest crowds at any inauguration. So the week went – a hissy fit when Mexico would not agree to pay for the wall that he wants to build, more obsessive talk about him winning the popular vote if only the illegals did not vote. Of course the best for last his Friday announcement on banning all admission including those holding green cards from 7 Muslim nations. There was the minor issue of the White House issuing a proclamation on the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. In case one was to think that it was merely an oversight, the White House clarified that it was deliberate, since not just Jews died in the Holocaust, but at least Trump is “not an antisemite like Obama”.
The three most problematic aspects of what has happened in the last week are: 1) Everything seems to be done without proper staff work. Decisions of the magnitude that Trump has been making are usually done only after widespread review, and input from the relevant agencies of the government. He is using his reputed intuition to make world shattering decisions. 2) The Republicans in Congress seem to be going along, almost none willing to take stands against actions that go against everything they have ever said they believe in. When former Vice President Dick Cheney is making the strongest statements criticizing Trump’s actions, we know we are in bad shape. 3) Finally, the realization that being President is not going to change Trump for the better. He will not grow into the job. He will not spend the time needed getting up to speed on matters that he does not know, and he will never be willing to make decisions based on the proper staff work. One final note on Trump: the announcement that Bannon will become one of the principles of the National Security Council is frightening. The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces is out and Bannon is in.
As to Israel it was incredibly disturbing to see Netanyahu come out with a Tweet in support of Trump’s wall. Netanyahu has clearly decided that the views of American Jewry or the 50% of Americans who oppose Trump are unimportant. I will be writing an article for Newsweek tomorrow on the subject. Any input would be welcome. In the meantime the legal system is closing in on Netanyahu. It’s becoming clear that the cases against him are strong and it’s only a matter of time until he is indicted. He will try to stay on, the law is grey, but the precedent is not. Who will replace him is unclear but an era is coming to an end.