During Wednesday’s joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reporters threw him some of the softest pitches imaginable. Yet he answered as if he were playing a losing game if tiddlywinks instead. Take, for instance, a question about rising numbers of anti-Semitic hate acts and a global concern that his administration is xenophobic and promotes racism. Shouldn’t that be a grand slam? If only.
With Israel’s Prime Minister standing just a few feet away, Trump was asked the following by an Israeli reporter:
Mr. President, since your election campaign and even after your victory, we’ve seen a sharp rise in anti-Semitic — anti- Semitic incidents across the United States. And I wonder, what do 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?
This isn’t an issue to be taken lightly. In the week following Trump’s election, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported no fewer than 867 separate hate-related incidents. And they make good arguments why this number vastly underestimates the actual volume of hate crimes and incidents that were committed.
Trump responds to whether he’s running an anti-Semitic, xenophobic, and racist administration.
Turning to Netanyahu, Trump said:
Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had — 306 electoral college votes. [Trump turns to Netanyahu] 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. [Netanyahu sounds like he wants to butt in here] And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.
Um… let’s all have a moment of awkward silence while this settles in. Because the only possible question this could ever answer is “Mr. Trump, could you please impersonate the Swedish Chef?” Seriously, this is what you’d expect from a malfunctioning prototype of Siri or Alexa when you ask “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”
This kind of rant isn’t new for Trump, by the way. Even thought the election was over in November and certified in December, Trump has been constantly singing the praises of his victory as if they’re a one-hit wonder from 1982. He did it with labor leaders, at an initial White House dinner meeting with GOP leaders, (during which he also repeated his pants-on-fire lie that three million illegal votes were cast), and during a press conference with Canada’s Prime Minister.
But it isn’t just acts of anti-Semitic violence. Growing incidents of racism and discrimination are serious topics. They deserve a serious response by a person who takes them seriously. What we get is the equivalent of a person mangling the ABC’s song when they were supposed to sing the national anthem at the World Series.
So sad. And by the way, he won by 304 electoral votes. Not 306.
So that no one accuses us of selective editing, Trump continued his answer:
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. Okay? Thank you.
As Charles Pierce put it in Vanity Fair, “I don’t know what any of that means, and neither do you. Admit it. It’s rather liberating.”
Transcript courtesy of NPR. Featured image from YouTube.