Danny, since you seem very concerned about my position on Trump (although I'm not sure what that position is), I've published a response to you on Times of Israel and I'm inviting you to respond. I doubt that you will take me up on the offer, but I didn't think it was fair to not allow you a place to respond.



Looking forward to the conversation. For starters, though, let's set one major ground-rule: let's not attribute to the other things that he didn't say, and if we're going to say something about the other person's background, let's make sure we get it right. So, to start:


(1) You said I'm a professor of history. I'm not. What I do is very clear on the Shalem College website. Or on my bio here. Why does this matter? Because as you can see on your Facebook page, some responses have picked up on your erroneous characterization, and went from there. So, yes, I've just written a history of Israel (it'll be out on October 18, and if you're nice to me, maybe I'll give you a copy). But no, I'm not a professor of history. 


(2) Even more important, you wrote in your Times of Israel blog that I want you to "know that [I think] Trump is Hitler," which is, of course, patently false. I've never said that. Yes, I think that Trump is a potential fascist. Yes, I think we should be very scared of him (we'll get into all that). But no, I've never said that Trump is Hitler. Even one woman noted your mis-characterization on your FB page yesterday, though her comment seems to have disappeared (I imagine that she deleted it when subsequent comments got gratuitously ugly and ad hominem, but don’t know for sure). So if you want to say that I’ve been raising the fascism red-flag and pointing out that Hitler didn’t start out as “Hilter” either, then you’re right. But don’t say that I said that “Trump is Hitler,” because I never have. Facts actually matter.


More later.



I recently watched an Alan Dershowitz/Noam Chomsky debate (I'm a Chomsky junkie) where they set the same ground rules, and then Chomsky (you gotta love Chomsky) spent the entire time accusing Dershowitz of breaking the rules. Hopefully, we can avoid that outcome. Re: your exact title -- tomayto, tomahto. Clearly, you have a longer historical memory than most, let's agree at the very least that your sense of history is an asset. 

Now to Trump. Admittedly, I haven't searched your entire FB wall to see if you ever explicitly said Trump is Hitler, but you did recently tag me in a post on Facebook with this picture. 

You also shared the following on Twitter

And this

You wouldn't be the only one comparing Trump to Hitler either -- I've heard this in many corners of the Jewish community as well as the broader media, and I do consider it vile and misplaced (hopefully we'll get to that).

But, I don't want to put words in your mouth, so why don't you lay out your position on Trump and we'll take it from there.


The screenshots that you posted actually make my case perfectly, because most of them point to very worrisome dimensions of Trump’s personality and campaign, and in none of them do I say that Trump = Hitler. Just reminding you.

I was delayed in replying because I was working on my Bloomberg piece for today (http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-07-26/israel-s-culture-war-is-getting-ugly). I mention it only because it’s actually about a phenomenon in Israel that’s somewhat analogous to what we’re witnessing in America. Thankfully, we don’t yet have any serious candidates nearly as horrible as Trump on our horizon, but I do think that it’s important to remember that it’s not only America that’s in the grip of this ugliness – it’s much of the Western world. Which makes it all the more important to fight it.

Now, before getting into the Trump stuff, one more introductory caveat. Everything that I’m going to say about Trump is about Trump … there is no implication that one should vote for Hillary. (I do find it interesting that when her husband ran, people said they were voting for “Clinton.” Now that a woman’s running, they’re calling her “Hillary.” Another problematic phenomenon, but I digress…) To me, at least, she’s a despicable liar and an entirely unappealing candidate. I could go on. I don’t think she’s a demagogue or a narcissist the way that Trump is, but she’s ain’t no saint – Americans who plan to vote have two terrible options.

Before we launch into Trump, I want to raise another issue (since I imagine most people following the conversation are Jewish) that I think we dare not ignore. The latest brouhaha surround Debbie Wasserman Schultz is deeply unsettling. Read those emails; the way in which the Democrats (and most Jews will vote Democratic, of course) spoke about Sanders, his Jewishness, his atheism, etc., is beneath despicable. Add to that this morning’s report that Rep. Hank Johnson, D- Ga referred to Israeli settlers as “termites” in what was an obviously hostile-to-Jews setting. Add to that Trump’s numerous brushes with what can be called anti-Semitism, and you have, for Jews, a political environment very different from the one in which I grew up the 70’s and 80’s. 

Regardless of who wins, the genie is apparently out of the bottle on the way one can speak about Hispanics, Muslims – and now, yes, Jews – and this does not bode well for the next phase of American Jewish life.

That’s something that American Jews should start to watch very carefully.

Now, on to your hero, The Donald. I know we’re in the era of “anything important can be said in 140 characters,” but allow me to be a dinosaur and to suggest that no, that’s not true. Some things actually need to long-form. So I turn your attention to a piece in Tablet Magazine yesterday, “Weimar Germany and Donald Trump.” (http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/207665/weimar-germany-and-donald-trump) The author, Eric Weitz, is a professor of history at City College (so yes, you can call him a professor of history). He is staying above the political fray, but a careful read of his piece and his description of how Hitler got the Nazis in charge of Germany should make any thinking person – even if they’re going to vote for Trump – very, very scared.

This is getting too long. Let’s stop here and say that to move forward in our conversation, we’ll give people a day to read Eric Weitz’s piece (yes, that dinosaur in me thinks that we learn by reading, and we especially learn by reading things we don’t necessarily agree with).

Looking forward to continuing.


So just to be clear: you're NOT saying that Donald Trump is the next Hitler, but the article to which we should all keep an open mind is called "Weimar Germany and Donald Trump." Okey doke. The problem with narratives like these is that human beings are notoriously bad pattern recognizers, but it doesn't stop us from trying to use historical analogies.

And Donald Trump is NOT my hero, but I would hope we can work in better binaries than hero vs Hitler. And you need look no further than this conversation to know that I'm about as strong an advocate for >140 characters as you will find.

Also, I'm going to need for you to clarify these so called "brushes with anti-Semitism." I've been following the election closely, I've somehow missed those, I must have been too focused on Ivanka.

I still don't fully understand what it is that you fear so much about Donald Trump. Most of your complaints seem focused on the anti-Semitism coming out of the Democratic Party, which I would agree is a real concern. All the more reason that I fail to understand the scorn for Trump who, last I checked, is still running as the nominee of the GOP, the first organization of its size and influence to remove any nonsense language about a two state solution out of its platform. This is the same party that nominated Trump, so is this some big rouse to fool the unsuspecting Jews? 

I'm going to give you a different historical precedent for Trump: John F. Kennedy. Both grew up highly privileged, were notorious misogynists and used highly persuasive slogans to win campaigns ("Ask not what your country..." and "Make America Great Again"). Is Trump more vulgar? Sure. But that's a style issue and more a sign of the times than anything else. Here is the REAL reason people don't like Trump (and I don't fault them for this): he is brash, rude and a narcissist. I have seen you lament these character traits as well.

Find me a president without a YUUUGE ego. If you get into the campaign, you likely have a massive ego. Had Rubio or Kasich dropped out early, we'd likely have Cruz running, not Trump. But Rubio, like any candidate, has a massive ego, and he wasn't going to drop out until he himself was 100% sure that he had no chance, externalities be damned.

I do hope by the end of your next reply I understand better why it is we should all fear Donald Trump.


It's still early in the day, but by the end of the day, as you asked, I'll try to give you a (very partial) list of the things that scare me about Trump. In the meantime, just to show that there are people who agree with you that he's not so bad, I'll share this. I thought you'd enjoy the company.


Looking forward to it. 

In the meantime, a friend of mine (someone who I respect) told me he thought I was being a bit clownish in my last reply. That was certainly not my intention, but when I looked back I understand both why he got that impression.

I have a hard time wrapping my head around the Trump is a fascist dictator argument and I have a hard time taking it seriously, hence the potentially clownish tone. I will openly admit that when you've posted about Trump on social media, I've often rolled my eyes and here is why. The typical complaint against Trump (perhaps this is in your list) is that he sells his message by preying on fear. 

But, I would argue that any great salesman (and campaigning is selling) uses fear to sell. HRC and the Left are using fear as well. "Trump is going to round up Muslims, Trump is working with the Russians, imagine Trump with the nuclear codes." This is fear-selling at its best.

It's hard for me to take fear selling seriously, but again, I'm open to being convinced otherwise -- which is why I, and the crowd of people following this conversation, are looking forward to your next reply. 

Zach, you write: "HRC and the Left are using fear as well. "Trump is going to round up Muslims, ...." This is fear-selling at its best.

Truly excellent point, except for the tiny little fact that Trump HIMSELF has spoken about hiring more security personnel to round them up.  Ooops.


We'll get to Hitler eventually. No, Trump is not Hitler. But he's a demagogue with fascist tendencies. In the meantime, though, he's a bit about his sociopath-iocity. (New word. I like it.)


Be careful, Zach. Most things people say Trump has said, he's actually said.  :-)  

And then, just when you think that the violence, the anti-Semitic tweets, the making fun of people with handicaps, the reference to Meygn Kelly's menstrual cycle, the claim that he might disregard NATO and not protect our allies, the abhorrent suggestion that John McCain wasn't a hero because he was captured and that Trump's own Vietnam was his battle with VD, his statement that he admires (strongman) Putin (http://edition.cnn.com/2015...), his praise for Saddam Hussein (http://edition.cnn.com/2016...) and now ...

Inviting a foreign country, a nuclear power at that, to commit cyber espionage on his own country, all because it would serve his political interests? http://www.wsj.com/articles...

Now we're beyond disgusting, racist, unintelligent, etc., and are on to sacrificing the security of the United States of America for personal interests. Anyone who does not think that such a person has dictatorial tendencies is, well, not going to be convinced.

I've said my piece. You're convinced or you're not. But tonight, I'm just beyond sickened. ... 

C'est tout.  

Danny, what this conversation demonstrates is how our society has become so fragmented. We used to all watch the same evening news and read the same papers. But the growth of the Web and now social media has allowed people to live inside bubbles where they self curate, not just their own news, but their own reality.

I genuinely believe you when you say Trump is a dangerous, power hungry, strong man who is interested in nothing but himself. If the country doesn't break out into Civil War (and this is a real possibility that I do NOT take lightly) and Trump gets elected, I genuinely believe that there will be people in the U.S. who experience reality as if they are living under a dangerous dictator. It doesn't help that so many people in the U.S. are on all kinds of anxiety drugs (prescribed and unprescribed). I'm not sure if it's even possible to talk about an objective reality anymore. This isn't postmodern babble, this is me observing the way people are relating to the world around them. It's no coincidence that college students are demanding safe spaces -- I don't know what to make of it all.

But to me, these fears seem largely imagined. I don't see Trump talking about rounding up Muslims (the link you included has been removed), but I do see Trump and half of the rest of the world completely baffled by Islamic terror. Radical Islam seems to have identified freedom of religion and political correctness as the achilles heel of the West, and no one is quite sure what the hell to do. I see Trump saying, we need to figure this out. Don't we?

You see Trump asking the Russians to commit cyber espionage on his own country, I see him trying to point out that Hilary kept state secrets on her own personal hard drive. Maybe it's because you're reading Bret Stephens and I'm reading Scott Adams (although I would point out that only one of those people has predicted outcomes correctly since last August). It's not like we're living in two different realities, it's that we really are living in two different realities. I'm unaware of a cure for this. We all thought the online revolution would bring people together, it seems to me to have done the opposite. 

Last, and this is specific to Israel. One party has become the party of burning Israeli flags and BDS. The other party has removed language about occupation or some fairy tale two state solution. I'm being attacked on Twitter right now as we speak for being white and Jewish and unafraid to speak my mind, and spoiler alert I'm not being attacked by Republicans. This, despite the fact that I have not ONCE endorsed Trump. The GOP is the one organization that has it right on Israel -- that has to be part of our calculus, even if Trump's antics are distracting. I've never voted before, but this might be the first year I make it to the polls.

I'll let you have the last word. Thank you again for engaging me in this dialogue, I didn't think I could respect you any more than I already did. I was wrong.

Zach, has been a pleasure. We don't disagree about the anti-Israel sentiments of SOME in the Democratic Party, and we're equally worried about a lot of things. 

But you offered me the last word, so I simply paste a quote from Peter Wehner, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, who wrote on Twitter after Trump’s revolting attack on Khizr Khan. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/31/us/politics/donald-trump-khizr-khan-wife-ghazala.html

Memo to Trump Supporters: He’s a man of sadistic cruelty. With him there’s no bottom. Now go ahead & defend him.”

OK, and one last, last word. The Houston Chronicle, a conservative newspaper in Texas (obviously) that endorsed Romney, just endorsed Hillary, and had this to say:


‘Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities — his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance — is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, “I alone can fix it,” should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.’

Thanks! We'll send you an update as soon as a new conversation starts.