Trump is no one’s friend

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Miriam Sha­viv

SO IS he or isn’t he? The Jewish world is in a tizzy, try­ing to work out whether the Pres­i­dent of Amer­ica (!) is an an­ti­semite, or, in his words, “the least an­tisemitic per­son that you’ve ever seen in your en­tire life”. The con­fu­sion is un­der­stand­able be­cause Mr Trump’s mes­sages are dis­tinctly mixed. On the one hand, he has de­clared him­self a great friend of Is­rael, an­nounced that he is go­ing to move Is­rael’s em­bassy to Jerusalem (al­though ap­par­ently not quite yet…), and ap­pointed a very right-wing am­bas­sador. He is also fa­ther to a con­vert to Ju­daism and Zaida to three Jewish grand­chil­dren, a fact which, for many, au­to­mat­i­cally ab­solves him of any pos­si­bil­ity of an­tisemitism.

On the other hand, he has racists in his in­ner cir­cle, has tol­er­ated overt an­tisemitism in his fans, re­leased a Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day state­ment that ne­glected to men­tion the Jews, and re­sponded an­grily to ques­tions about bomb threats to Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tres, de­mand­ing that the Charedi re­porter sit down and call­ing the ques­tion “in­sult­ing”. On Tues­day, read­ing a pre­vi­ously crafted state­ment, he fi­nally called an­tisemitism “hor­ri­ble” and “painful”.

The de­bate, how­ever, misses the point. What Trump ac­tu­ally un­der­stands, knows and be­lieves on any given sub­ject seems to be hazy. This pres­i­dent is con­sis­tently in­con­sis­tent on a whole slew of sub­jects, from his at­ti­tudes to China and Amer­ica’s armed forces to his plans for Oba­macare and Mex­i­can im­mi­grants, and vir­tu­ally ev­ery other is­sue he’s ever ad­dressed. This man is not, nor is he ever likely to be, guided by a co­her­ent phi­los­o­phy.

It’s more than likely that when it comes to Jews, as well, he has no de­fined set of be­liefs or re­ally strong opin­ions ei­ther way — Ivanka and his Jewish grand­chil­dren notwith­stand­ing. How then are we to un­der­stand Don­ald Trump, and his at­ti­tude to our com­mu­nity and to Is­rael?

Through the lens of his ex­treme nar­cis­sism.

Allen Frances, the psy­chi­a­trist who orig­i­nally de­fined the term, de­nies Trump suf­fers from full-blown Nar­cis­sis­tic Per­son­al­ity Dis­or­der, but even he agrees that Trump is “a world­class nar­cis­sist”. Nar­cis­sis­tic traits in­clude a grandiose sense of self-im­por­tance, re­quir­ing con­stant ad­mi­ra­tion, lack of em­pa­thy, tak­ing ad­van­tage of oth­ers to achieve their own ends, and a strong aver­sion to crit­i­cism, mak­ing ex­cuses and blam­ing oth­ers when things go wrong.

When such peo­ple, who are of­ten ini­tially very charis­matic, be­come abu­sive, they “gaslight” their vic­tims — en­gag­ing in be­hav­iour de­signed to make their vic­tims ques­tion their own me­mories, per­cep­tions and san­ity. Crit­i­cism can trig­ger rage.

Trump dis­plays ev­ery sin­gle one of these be­hav­iours on an al­most daily ba­sis, ex­plain­ing ex­actly how he op­er­ates. It cer­tainly ex­plains his re­la­tion­ship with the Jewish com­mu­nity. On the sur­face, he claims to be our best friend — and in­deed many Jews, in­clud­ing the Prime Min­is­ter of Is­rael, ap­pear to con­cur. This is the charisma, the need for ad­mi­ra­tion and ac­cep­tance at play. Pos­si­bly tak­ing ad­van­tage of oth­ers, too.

Yet he lacks even ba­sic em­pa­thy with the com­mu­nity, deny­ing the Jewish na­ture of the Holo­caust and go­ing to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to avoid crit­i­cis­ing an­tisemitism. When con­fronted, he re­sponds with rage, and steers the con­ver­sa­tion back to his favourite topic: Don­ald Trump.

Un­for­tu­nately, those in our com­mu­nity who have put their trust in him will re­gret it. Peo­ple who en­ter into re­la­tion­ships with nar­cis­sists of­ten emerge men­tally and emo­tion­ally bat­tered, as they are used, ma­nip­u­lated and blamed when things go wrong.

The re­al­ity is that Trump can’t re­ally be a friend of the Jews or of Is­rael, not be­cause he doesn’t care for us, but be­cause he can’t be a friend of any­one at all — ex­cept him­self. It’s not in this nar­cis­sist’s na­ture.

The Pres­i­dent is in­con­sis­tent on a slew of sub­jects

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