In a single day, Donald Trump said he was refusing to meet with the prime minister of Denmark until that nation met his demand to hand over territory, and then went on to declare himself the Jewish Messiah. That’s not the kind of sentence that anyone ever expected to write about the leadership of the United States. But Trump’s latest one-two punch to history and rationality isn’t just another stride in his everlasting Gish Gallop—both parts are extraordinarily dangerous, and both are based on Trump’s bone-deep weakness that leaves him, and America, subject to destruction.
Trump’s backhanded slap to Denmark is just another in a long line of actions that demonstrate his absolute disdain for America’s allies. He has gone out of his way to undermine NATO and insult America’s European allies, he’s made it clear to allies in Asia that their interests are secondary to his love notes, he’s punished Central American allies for failing to go along with plans that are both illegal and immoral, he’s allowed Middle Eastern allies to have their whole nation held hostage to his dealings with autocratic murderers. Trump gives no value to these relationships, because they are not his personal relationships. At the same time, Trump has demonstrated that there’s nothing he will not tolerate if it furthers the idea of making a deal that he can place his name on. That includes human rights abuses, territorial conquest, and unlimited nuclear weapons.
Trump’s handling of U.S. diplomacy has placed America in a precarious position. He has distanced the country from the reliable nation states that have lent support in both peace and war over the span of seventy years. In exchange he has solicited personal relationships with a line of autocrats, from Kim to bin Salman to Putin, who recognize in Trump a fundamental weakness born out of a need for constant praise and approval. All of them have already taken advantage of their relationship with Trump to greatly improve their own standing in the world, to the detriment of the United States.
That same unfillable void in Trump’s soul makes him an absolute patsy for the byplay between the extreme right in Israel and fundamentalist evangelicals in the United States. The end goals of these two forces may be in direct opposition, but they recognize that Trump’s aching need for accolades, no matter how insincere, is so great that it makes manipulating him for immediate gains as simple as a single tweet.
And the combination of all of the above led to a moment on Wednesday morning, where Donald Trump declared that American Jews who do not support him are Antisemitic.
The “self-hating Jew” has long been one of the tropes that the most extreme Israeli (and American) politicians have manipulated to silence objection. It is also, in itself, a deeply Antisemitic attack, a pivot that places 8 in 10 American Jews in the camp of being “anti-Jewish.” That’s exactly where Trump went in his declaration that Jews who vote Democratic are “disloyal.”
The whole claim that Rep. Ilhan Omar said something Antisemitic was based on the idea that she claimed Jewish Americans have divided loyalties. Which she did not. But Trump is going much further. He’s declaring that Jewish Americans must have loyalty to Israel, and that this loyalty can only be channeled through the divine person of Donald Trump who is “the King of Israel” … “the second coming of God.” Jewish Americans who don’t meet that test are “deeply disloyal.” Disloyal to Israel? To Judaism? To God? To Trump? Yes.
But Trump also went beyond that already oven-scented claim. Trump proceeded to drag a particular brand of Christian eschatology into his claims of Jewish self-hate. The combination may have excited ranchers raising red cows, but it should be deeply disturbing to everyone else. Because Trump’s claim is explicitly related to “End Times” theology.
There is no doubt that Trump is celebrated in Israel. Celebrated by Benjamin Netanyahu and others who recognize that Trump is so easily manipulated by flattery that he will believe anything—anything—that lets him contemplate being seated on a golden throne. There’s also no doubt Trump is celebrated by the bring-on-the-apocalypse evangelicals. Because he’s checking every box on their end times scorecard.
But Trump’s statements on Jewish Americans are enormously dangerous and destabilizing. He, along with those encouraging him, is making support for Israel not just radically more partisan than it has ever been in the past, he is presenting himself as the only gateway to the True Faith. That’s a danger that threatens both Israel and the United States in a way not easily healed.
That’s not just autocratic, it’s pharaonic.