Are Trump’s de­nun­ci­a­tions of ha­tred good enough?

An in­tense ex­change on CNN sparks the ques­tion. But the pres­i­dent has as­sured Amer­ica: ‘You’re go­ing to see a lot of love’

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOCUS - CAL­LUM BORCHERS

CNN COM­MEN­TA­TOR Kayleigh McE­nany posed a sim­ple ques­tion to Steven Gold­stein, the Anne Frank Cen­ter’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, on Tues­day night: “You think the pres­i­dent does not like Jews and is prej­u­diced against Jews?”

Gold­stein’s re­sponse was un­equiv­o­cal: “You bet.”

So be­gan an in­tense ex­change on CNN’s “Out Front” that es­ca­lated when McE­nany sug­gested that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump can­not be anti-Semitic be­cause his daugh­ter Ivanka con­verted to Ju­daism when she mar­ried Jared Kush­ner.

“Does he hate his daugh­ter?” McE­nany asked. “Does he hate his son-in­law?”

“You know what, Kayleigh?” Gold­stein shot back. “I am tired of com­men­ta­tors like you on the right trot­ting out his daugh­ter, trot­ting out his son-in­law as talk­ing points against the pres­i­dent’s anti-Semitism. They are Jewish, but that is not a talk­ing point against anti-Semitism, and that is a dis­grace. Have you no ethics?”

An­chor Erin Bur­nett even­tu­ally cut in to say that “it is true that when some­one is close to some­body they can see them dif­fer­ently (than) they see oth­ers … If you look at what hap­pens through­out his­tory, that’s cer­tainly been true with anti-Semitism and many other things.”

The back-and-forth over Kush­ner and Ivanka Trump’s Jewish­ness made good tele­vi­sion, but the real sub­stance of the dis­agree­ment be­tween McE­nany and Gold­stein came down to a re­cur­ring ques­tion about Trump: Are his de­nun­ci­a­tions of ha­tred good enough?

Fifty-three Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tres in 26 states have re­ceived threat­en­ing calls this year, and more than 170 Jewish grave­stones were top­pled at a ceme­tery in sub­ur­ban St. Louis last week­end.

Trump, who of­ten tweets his re­ac­tions to news events im­me­di­ately, did not ad­dress the in­ci­dents un­til Tues­day, when he said, “The anti-Semitic threats tar­get­ing our Jewish com­mu­nity and com­mu­nity cen­tres are hor­ri­ble and are painful and a very sad re­minder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prej­u­dice and evil.”

Gold­stein said Trump’s state­ment was in­ad­e­quate.

“Time and again this pres­i­dent has had an op­por­tu­nity to con­demn an­tiSemitism,” Gold­stein said on CNN.

“He had a chance to in­clude Jews in (a) Holo­caust re­mem­brance. He didn’t. He had a chance to speak out against the des­e­cra­tion of Jewish ceme­ter­ies this week­end. He didn’t. He had a chance to speak out against bomb threats against JCCs, and he didn’t.”

McE­nany pointed to the pres­i­dent’s an­swer to a ques­tion about anti-Semitism dur­ing a news con­fer­ence as evi- dence that Trump’s re­sponse has been suf­fi­cient. Here’s the ex­change McE­nany re­ferred to:

RE­PORTER: Mr. Pres­i­dent, since your elec­tion cam­paign and even af­ter your vic­tory, we’ve seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic in­ci­dents across the United States. And I won­der what you say to those among the Jewish com­mu­nity in the States, and in Israel, and maybe around the world who be­lieve and feel that your ad­min­is­tra­tion is play­ing with xeno­pho­bia and maybe racist tones.

TRUMP: Well, I just want to say that we are very hon­oured by the vic­tory that we had — 306 elec­toral col­lege votes. We were not sup­posed to crack 220. You know that, right? There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tre­men­dous en­thu­si­asm out there.

I will say that we are go­ing to have peace in this coun­try. We are go­ing to stop crime in this coun­try. We are go­ing to do ev­ery­thing within our power to stop long-sim­mer­ing racism and ev­ery other thing that’s go­ing on be­cause lot of bad things have been tak­ing place over a long pe­riod of time.

I think one of the rea­sons I won the elec­tion is we have a very, very di­vided na­tion. Very di­vided. And, hope­fully, I’ll be able to do some­thing about that. And, you know, it was some­thing that was very im­por­tant to me.

As far as peo­ple — Jewish peo­ple — so many friends, a daugh­ter who hap­pens to be here right now, a son-in-law, and three beau­ti­ful grand­chil­dren. I think that you’re go­ing to see a lot dif­fer­ent United States of Amer­ica over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are hap­pen­ing, and you’re go­ing to see a lot of love. You’re go­ing to see a lot of love. OK? Thank you.

“For those want­ing to give the pres­i­dent a fair chance,” McE­nany said, “you would have heard him con­demn anti-Semitism … That sounds like a con­dem­na­tion to me.”

If it was a con­dem­na­tion, it was one that did not specif­i­cally men­tion an­tiSemitism and be­gan with an off-topic boast about Trump’s elec­toral col­lege win — all in all, an un­con­ven­tional an­swer from a pres­i­dent.

The White House is clearly frus­trated by me­dia cri­tiques of the way Trump han­dles these re­sponses.

“I think he has been very force­ful with his de­nun­ci­a­tion of peo­ple who seek to at­tack peo­ple be­cause of their hate — ex­cuse me, be­cause of their re­li­gion, be­cause of their gen­der, be­cause of the colour of their skin,” White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said dur­ing his Tues­day news brief­ing.

“And it is some­thing that he is go­ing to con­tinue to fight and make very, very clear that it has no place in this ad­min­is­tra­tion. But I think that it’s ironic that no mat­ter how many times he talks about this, that it’s never good enough.”

Trump doesn’t speak like pres­i­dents Barack Obama or Ge­orge W. Bush (or any other past pres­i­dent), and he is very proud of that f act. Per­haps then he should not be judged by the stan­dard of his pre­de­ces­sors.

But Trump has set him­self up for crit­i­cism by the stan­dard he set for him­self. By tweet­ing swift re­ac­tions to ter­ror­ist at­tacks car­ried out by Mus­lims and Fox News seg­ments about shoot­ings in Chicago, he has cre­ated an ex­pec­ta­tion that he will be equally at­tuned to at­tacks against Mus­lims and threats to Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tres.

When he isn’t, peo­ple no­tice. And they won­der about the pres­i­dent’s pri­or­i­ties.

ROBERT CO­HEN, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fam­ily mem­bers re­act sadly as they ob­serve top­pled grave­stones at Ch­esed Shel Emeth Ceme­tery in Univer­sity City, a sub­urb of St. Louis, Mo., on Tues­day.

EVAN VUCCI, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Above: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day. He has de­nounced threats against Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tres as “hor­ri­ble.” Right: Ivanka Trump and hus­band Jared Kush­ner at the White House. At right is White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non.

DOUG MILLS, NEW YORK TIMES

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