President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on March 1. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump, the Purim President


Every Purim, the Jewish Journal produces a spoof cover to help our readers celebrate a holiday that demands laughter and joy.

Last year, we thought we hit the mother lode. How funny would it be, we thought, to devote the entire cover to Donald Trump? This was March 2016. Trump was coming off what pundits said was his worst political week ever: His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, had just been charged with battery; Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea acquire nuclear weapons, refused to pledge support for the eventual Republican nominee, and agreed that women who had an abortion should be punished if the procedure were outlawed.

In a CNN/ORC poll, Trump trailed Hillary Clinton 53 to 41percent.

“He has completely turned off huge swaths of the electorate,” former Jeb Bush spokesman Tim Miller said of Trump. “His numbers have continued to get worse. He would get absolutely massacred on a historic scale [in a general election]. All of the data demonstrates it.”

Ah, the good old days.

So we sat around the conference room, smug as could be, and came up with a slew of wisecracks about the man-who-could-never-ever-ever-be-president. “Trump Unveils Spring Sheitl Line” showed various images of Trump’s hair. “Awkward Trump Family Seder” showed Trump with supporters that included his Orthodox daughter and son-in-law sitting with David Duke and Louis Farrakhan. “Baby Gap Announces New Hand Model” sported a photo of Trump with extra-tiny hands. And the centerpiece? “Trump Boasts at Grandson’s Bris: It’s YUUUGE!”

It was a great cover, all a big joke.

Now look who’s laughing.

On Purim, we read the story of Esther — of the intermarried, assimilated beauty queen who becomes a Jewish hero; of the high and mighty Haman, who is brought low and sent to the gallows; of the Jews, whose children were about to be exterminated, exterminating their enemies’ children instead (they don’t teach you that last part in Hebrew school).

Purim is the upside-down holiday, and Trump is the Purim president. All that ridicule, all the expert predictions, all the hopes the Hillary Clinton supporters had — Trump turned all of them on their head.

The problem is, he stopped.

What I mean is, after Nov. 8, Trump didn’t continue to turn our expectations on our heads — he lived up to them. Trump’s critics expected him to continue his most outlandish behavior. But that’s not what I, for one, was hoping he would do.

I was hoping the man who seemed hysterically unpresidential would rise to reflect the dignity of the office. Instead, we have 4 a.m. tweets about his predecessor wiretapping his phone, or a series of tweets mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s low ratings on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

I was hoping we’d have a contrarian, independent approach that would break the Democrat/Republican stalemate on health care. Instead, I fear we’re seeing the same attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act, and stick the poor and middle class with higher health care costs.

“There can be little doubt that the plan will price millions out of the health insurance market,” Republican health care expert Avik Roy wrote in Forbes of the Republican plan put forward this week.

I was hoping we’d have a businessman who could stand up to the bottomless pit of waste that is the Pentagon — $150 billion according to the Pentagon’s own just-released report. Instead, Trump promises to boost military spending by $54 billion and take money from foreign aid, Head Start, environmental protection and food aid.

I was hoping we’d have a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to bring America and American workers into the 21st century — the kind of bill the Republican Congress refused President Barack Obama. So far, no such thing.

I was hoping the Trump who was pro-choice for seven-eighths of his life would override the Trump who pandered to the anti-abortion vote for one-eighth of his life. Instead, he offered Planned Parenthood a sap’s bargain — stop funding abortions or lose all federal funding (which doesn’t, by the way, pay for abortions).

I was hoping the cruelest things he said about Muslims and Mexicans wouldn’t translate into cruel, impractical and ineffective policies. Instead of turning those promises upside down, he upended innocent lives.

Now it looks like the man who promised to make America safe will make us less secure. The man who told us he would run America like a business is running it like Trump Steaks. The man who proclaimed “America First” is doing his best to hide whether Russia is actually a very close second. And the man who promised to release his tax returns, well, what can I say, the joke’s on us.

Happy Purim.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism
and @RobEshman.

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