by: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen
I really would like to find something nice to say about Donald Trump (other than that he supports Israel). He is about to have a Jewish grandchild after all. I just find him so unappealing, so full of himself with little reason, so vain, so arrogant that my stomach churns at the sight of him. He reminds me of men like Hugh Heffner, flaunting their sexual prowess as they manifestly wither into mummification. Of Arnie Schwarzenegger or Dominique Strauss-Kahn, so full of themselves they think they can treat women as concubines and objects of self-gratification. DSK is proof of the truth of the saying that “the higher the brow, the lower the loins”. Schwarzenegger shows how if you take stuff to pump up your muscles your intelligence drains out of your brain and ends up residing between your legs. And Trump is evidence of what happens when you actually believe your own publicity.
Some people say how clever he is. The western value system has chosen a new god, the god of name recognition, self-publicity, PR fluff, and ephemerality. Trump has worshipped at its shrine. A good publicist, a good marketing expert, lots of money, and you make a president. Name recognition leads to publicity leads to money. It is like all those weird Facebook sites that get so many clicks that advertisers want to buy space on them. By hinting he might run for president and by saying silly things it has indeed enhanced his name recognition to the extent that NBC has doubled its offer for another season of “The Apprentice” despite its declining ratings. In that sense he has used the system well.
But on the other hand, anyone with an iota of brain can see what a buffoon he made of himself by ranting on about birth certificates, crazy Chinese, and “motherfuckers”. What was Trump thinking? He has no experience in legislation. He has no idea how to speak in public (otherwise he would not need to use swear words, as this only underlines the paucity of his linguistic skills). His grasp of economics is of kindergarten level. You don’t rebuild a world of tariffs and barriers if you want your economy to succeed. Protectionism went out with the Whigs, when they refused to repeal the Corn Laws.
His much vaunted real estate empire is based on lending his name to a project for a hefty fee. You get the sucker to take on the risks and administration. Then you laugh all the way to the bank. There are hundreds of law cases now by people stupid enough to have bought into a real estate project because they assumed that Trump’s name guaranteed something, only to find their money gone and Trump’s name irrelevant. Had his Daddy not left him a fortune, it is unlikely he’d be anything more than a real estate broker now. Neither his airline nor his casinos have survived intact.
Even his TV show–the idea, the writing, the execution–all done by others. All he needs to do is parrot the script. What is the nature of greatness based entirely on name recognition? After all everyone knows if you commit a great crime you will be courted by the media, publishers, and agents, whereas if you are an honest law abiding citizen you will be ignored. I am not saying he didn’t do some things right in his career. But he is a showman who lives by self promotion and it works a lot of the time.
But a warning! As the Bible tells us (in Proverbs), “Let others praise you, not you.” But, you may say, it’s the game and he pays it well. I have always been suspicious of religious leaders who court publicity. Inevitably those who live by the word die by the word. Yet people seem to think that the more publicity the more successful or the more pious or the more effective a person is. Usually the contrary is true.
No one seems to judge religious leaders any more by how much good they do, only by how often they appear in the media. The hundred “best” rabbis, religious leaders, etc., are based entirely on publicity generated because that’s so much easier to see. Pseudo-religious outfits like Scientology and Kabbalah Centres, all feed on publicity, on famous names, on stars (who sparkle at night but disappear in the revealing light of day).
The good side of all this is that there are fewer dirty little secrets. Once you could say one thing to a group of Ku Klux Klan members in Mississippi today and the very opposite to academics at Harvard the next and no one would know any better. So people who do not have either the training in acting like Reagan, or the charisma and ability of a Clinton (or an Obama, to be fair) will be shown up to be disaster areas very quickly. Nowadays the incompetent and the incontinent are soon revealed for what they are. How does it go about “fooling all of the people some of the time” etc? Not that I expect much from anyone in politics. The great crash was engineered by socialist Democrats like Barney Frank as much as by bankers and regulators and they are all still there. No heads have rolled. I am glad that criminals get caught and punished, be they Rubashkins or Madoffs. But “too big to fail” now seems to apply to any crook. Steal millions, you get jail; steal billions, the government bails you out.
Doubtless Trump never really intended to run. Would you leave this man in charge of the store? All his financial affairs would then be scrutinized and that is the last thing Trump would have wanted. Perhaps the one good thing that will come out of it is that some people may realize that the emperor has no clothes, and we should not be looking for emperors either, but for simple “honest men of valor who hate bribes”. At least Moses understood that.