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Susan Estrich - Trump's contempt for America

  • Published in Columns

It was a joke on "Saturday Night Live": The president-elect and his fossil-fuel-loving EPA administrator were going to protect us from the environment.

But really, it's not a joke. It's an accurate depiction of all of Donald Trump's appointees. Instead of serving to ensure minimum standards for labor, Trump appoints an opponent of the minimum wage to be secretary of Labor. An ardent opponent of civil rights and voting rights will, if confirmed, be in charge of Justice, which will not be the kind of justice we are used to. Rick Perry wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy when he was running for president four years ago. Now, he gets to run it (into the ground). Trump's choice for secretary of Education is a strong supporter of private schools. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But this week's appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel may be the most offensive of them all.

Friedman is aligned with the far right in Israeli politics. If you don't know what that means, just consider this. According to Friedman, most American Jews, many of whom happen to be liberals or progressives, are no different from the Jews who aided the Nazis during the Holocaust.

It infuriates me when I hear people casually comparing people or politicians they don't like to Adolf Hitler. Hitler and his Nazis were responsible for the deaths of more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children, along with their other victims — Poles, Gypsies, gay people, people with disabilities and the list goes on. There is hardly a Jewish family in America that was not touched in some way by the Holocaust.

It is hurtful, insulting and offensive that the man who has been tapped to be ambassador to Israel compares us — Jews who are strong supporters of the state of Israel, Jews who pray for peace in the Middle East and an end to the ceaseless violence that costs innocent lives on all sides — to the Jews who aided the Nazis in killing our families. With any normal administration, Republican or Democrat, it would disqualify that person from serving in any office, much less as ambassador to Israel.

Among the most troubling aspects of Trump's choice, aside from its impact on the Middle East, is the near certainty that it will provoke a difficult and divisive battle about politically active American Jews and Jewish politicians, which is sure to leave us — all of us from the Jewish community who support the state of Israel — weaker. Does Trump even think of such things? Does he even care? Can there be any other explanation for why it looks more like he's casting a reality show called "Cabinet, Etc." than choosing leaders who will represent all Americans?

But as he proves every day, Donald Trump is not a normal president, and much as I hate this business of "Not my president" (because we live by the Constitution, as Hillary Clinton so eloquently pointed out in the debates, and we would rightly be screaming bloody murder if the right ever did this to her), the more choices Donald Trump makes, the harder it is to accept him as anything other than the worst president this country has ever elected. The very worst. It is almost as if he is laughing at the country. He is a man with contempt for all that we respect. A man who would divide all of us against each other. A man who only seems comfortable in the company of his fellow billionaires. A man with utter contempt for the basic conventions of American politics.

It is simply impossible for me to think of a single American president in my lifetime who would appoint a man like David Friedman to any office. This man accused his fellow Americans of acting like Nazi collaborators, and not just his fellow Americans but specifically his fellow Jewish Americans — including Holocaust survivors and their children.

This is not "Saturday Night Live." In just over a month, this will be real. The answer to whether to laugh or cry is clear. The tears are not for me but for the civility and mutual respect that Donald Trump is shredding. And he doesn't even care. Not my president, I am sorry to say.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)