The View From Here | Let’s Be Careful About Who We Call G.O.A.T.


Save for perhaps George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, America’s chief executives have been deeply flawed individuals, remembered as much for their foibles as for their greatness.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who battled the Depression and won a war? He was an adulterer who tried to pack the Supreme Court to defeat judicial scrutiny of his programs.

Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious Civil War general who went on to win the White House? He was a roaring drunk who ordered the expulsion of Jews from his military district.

Woodrow Wilson, who formed the League of Nations to usher in worldwide peace? Not only did that peace prove illusory, but he was also a racist.

Turning to the present age, Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom, but we all know what he did in the Oval Office. George W. Bush was the epitome of strength who united a nation after the 9/11 attacks, but he also got us into Iraq and Afghanistan, war zones from which we are still trying to extricate ourselves. Barack Obama gave the nation hope for the future, but he also sold Israel out in the U.N. Security Council.

What about Donald Trump, who on May 14 fulfilled the collective promises of Congress and the last three presidents by finally moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Only time will tell how he will ultimately be judged, but we already know him as a man for whom the public insult is stock in trade, whose boasts of nocturnal pursuits and views of women should make all of us not only blush, but recoil.

Trump may yet, as his supporters deeply believe and as all of us should hope, prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and successfully disarm North Korea of theirs, but even then, he would be far from the perfect man, let alone the perfect president. Richard Nixon opened up China, and look at how the rest of his presidency turned out.

Trump may never extract a price from Israel for granting it its embassy wish and for recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, but chances are that the former real estate developer has not ceased from being primarily transactional in nature. When the proverbial other shoe drops, when Israel is told to evacuate Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and accept the “status quo” — as Trump himself termed it on May 14 — on the Temple Mount, what will those who today proclaim the 45th president a tzaddik say then?

The fact is, even if the moving of the embassy — an event I cheered and supported — proves to be the first step to full American recognition of the complete unified city of Jerusalem, Trump would probably not be a righteous man. Righteousness demands not only making the proper decisions; it demands a respectful way of treating fellow human beings. It demands standing up for truth instead of obfuscating it, inspiring others instead of tearing them down.

The Israeli government can be forgiven for the over-the-top way that Trump was lauded at the embassy’s grand opening this week, for minting a coin comparing the commander-in-chief with King Cyrus, who authorized the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Diplomats everywhere have learned the last year and a half that if you want something from this particular president of the United States, it’s better to flatter him.

My worry is that too many in our community are buying into the boilerplate, trumpeting Trump as something akin to the savior of mankind. That kind of messianic fervor was decried by Rush Limbaugh when he perceived it among some on the left as Obama was campaigning for president. That Republicans are engaging in it now should make it no less wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. Jews everywhere should applaud the embassy move. And we should properly recognize the historical import of Trump’s decision. But we should never mythologize Trump as an otherworldly, superhuman figure.

Like all presidents, Trump is a man, whose history of flip-flopping and doublespeak could still imperil the Jewish nation and the Jewish state. Along with the euphoria, a little caution is in order.

Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at


  1. “Roaring drunk?” Cheap shot. Read Sarno’s book on Grant, When Grant expelled the Jews. That may enlighten you.


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