December 17, 2018

Why it’s so hard to write about Trump

Every profession has its challenges. For writers who try to come up with fresh insights on current events, the Donald Trump era is especially challenging. I mean, how many different ways can you write that our new president is a human train wreck?

What I have found, though, is that most people don’t want to talk about anything else. Right now, many of them are so angry and worked up over Trump that they have this deep need to express that anger. So, when they seek out what to read, they gravitate toward stuff that makes them feel better — in other words, stuff they completely agree with.

It’s tempting for writers to feed into that. I know I can write column after column bashing Trump and make lots of readers happy. Of course, I will essentially be repeating what many of you already know and are already fuming about. These days, anti-Trump columns are not a dime a dozen, they’re a penny a million (and for good reason).

But if all I do is confirm your beliefs, I’ll be doing you a disservice. I’m also here to challenge you, even if you may not be in the mood.

Take the case of Trump’s sloppy and overextended executive order on visas and immigration that resulted in hundreds of people, mostly Muslims, being humiliated or put in limbo or stranded at airports. In response, much of the country has exploded in anger, marching at airports and mobilizing an opposition movement. You can read hundreds of columns tapping into that anger.

But do you know what I think about when I see the pain and chaos inflicted by a rude and reckless Trump? I think of former President George W. Bush, who, unlike Trump, was a polite and decent man.

You see, this polite and decent man was responsible for squandering $3 trillion of our tax money on a ruinous war in Iraq that cost hundreds of thousands of human lives. And then I ask myself: As much as I can’t stand the vulgarity of Trump, would Trump have sucked our country into that big rip-off of a war? And if the answer is no, what is that worth?

I also think of the polite and decent former President Barack Obama, who allowed a humanitarian disaster to unfold in Syria that resulted in nearly 500,000 dead and millions of refugees, and I ask myself: Where were all the demonstrators then? Where was the public outcry? It’s not fair to blame the complex Syrian disaster only on Obama, but it is fair to ask why he didn’t do more.

One reason is that he didn’t want to jeopardize his nuclear deal with Iran, which has empowered the world’s No. 1 sponsor of terrorism to spread its carnage to Iraq, Syria and throughout the region. The deal is not without its benefits, but I still have to ask myself: Would Trump have driven a harder bargain that would have taken into account Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism? And if the answer is yes, what would that be worth?

It’s uncomfortable to think that decency doesn’t necessarily correlate with success.

None of this should make you feel better about Trump. It’s not meant to. Rather, it’s meant to put things into some larger perspective. America is coming off 16 years under two of the most decent and classy presidents in recent memory, and yet, we still ended up with untold horror for millions of people in a part of the world those presidents were totally focused on.

It’s uncomfortable to think that decency doesn’t necessarily correlate with success. Trump’s offensive style may be infuriating. His ideas may be scary. His initial moves may be reckless and cruel. All that may be true, and it may well lead to much darker days ahead. But it’s also possible that his forceful approach may spook and deter evil regimes like Iran, or shake up the hypocrites at the United Nations or even help create humanitarian safety zones in Syria. If such success happens, will we discount it because it came from a man we abhor?

People who are still in meltdown over Trump can’t conceive of the possibility that he may have any redeeming qualities. I get that and I have my own doubts. That’s partly why it’s so hard to write about him — most people just expect you to bash him. They don’t really want to read anything else.

Once in a while, though, it’s good to take our minds out for a walk and hear things we don’t expect to hear, if only to remind us of what makes America really great — that we live in a society that honors diversity of thought, including thoughts we have no time for.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at