Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at their second presidential debate
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at their second presidential debate
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at their second presidential debate

By Larry Gordon

A president is not a king–actually, far from it. Today a king is probably not a real king either. But that is what it seems we are looking for in the looming American election, and therein may lie both our error and our disappointment with the choices.

We are in the midst of our holiday season, but it is much more than that. It is a time in which we focus on the concept of the coronation of the King of Kings. The contrasts this past year have been stark if not absolutely shocking. What a difference between the acceptance of the kingship of the Ribbono shel Olam and the choices of leaders we are being asked to make in a few weeks on November 8.

Although on a conceptual basis they both involve choice, they could not be more drastically different. Granted that during the Yom Kippur service was not the optimal time to think about the Clinton—Trump presidential race, but on the other hand we cannot completely ignore the seasonal messages that can be extracted from the otherwise mundane matter of this year’s race for the White House in the context of Yom Kippur’s liturgy.

If there is a different theme in the Clinton—Trump race than in any previous election, it is that there are no secrets anymore. Whether it is Mr. Trump’s thoughtless off-air comments that were nevertheless recorded, or Mrs. Clinton insisting that being two-faced on issues is standard operating procedure in politics, what they have in common is that their remarks were once confidential but are not anymore.

And addressing this idea straight on is one of the most pronounced themes of our just-concluded Yom Kippur davening. Time and again we repeated the idea in our tefillos in an effort to internalize the reality of this thematic supposition–that there is nothing hidden and nothing secret. Here is part of the davening that reminded me in real and hard terms about what is taking place out there on the political landscape today.

“You know the mysteries of the universe and the hidden secrets of every individual. You search all our innermost thoughts, and probe our mind and heart. There is nothing hidden from You and there is nothing concealed from Your sight.” The prayer goes on to ask that in consideration of the above, Hashem pardon us and forgive us for our sins, whether careless or deliberate.

Back down here on earth, the closest thing we may have to that is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. As a result of some proficient computer hacking, almost nothing in interoffice communications is safe, secret, or sacred. Every day, new e-mails are being released that show a glaring double standard that the Clinton election team works under. Whether her private Wall Street speeches in which she says that banks should not be blamed for the 2008 economic meltdown, or her campaign position that represents the exact opposite, or her campaign director John Podesta on record saying that the Obama Iran deal is the worst possible such international agreement since before World War II.

So in effect what we have here are two damaged candidates for president of the United States. There is no way for us to wiggle out of this reality or even imagine that one of these folks is in some way more fit for office than the other.

The message might be that despite their damaged and sometimes embarrassing backgrounds, they both in their own ways have interesting things to offer the country. In his defense, Trump is being judged by a public-service standard that, whether we subscribe to this type of thinking or not, is different than someone–like Mrs. Clinton–who maintains that she has dedicated her professional life to serving the people.

That leaves some additionally glaring questions that we have a right to have answered. One of those is how she and her husband, while doing all this so-called public service, have managed to amass a $200 million fortune. After all, she was secretary of state, and prior to that a senator from New York for eight years, and before that First Lady for another eight years, so something here does not exactly add up.

Trump, with all his drawbacks, should not be held to the same standard. He has never made a claim or hidden behind the idea that he was serving the poor or the middle class or anyone else while putting together his business empire. Unlike Hillary, he was not out there for the last three decades claiming that whatever it is he was doing, “I am doing for you.”

Today it seems clear that there is an all-out assault taking place on Mr. Trump in order to irreparably damage his candidacy. The Clintons just want to win and they will do anything to make that happen. And it seems that they are doing a pretty fair job at getting this done. They know and understand that talk about jobs and the economy, drawing down troops from Iraq, and Obamacare are challenging to the attention spans of most Americans these days.

If you can focus the campaign, however, on the tawdry and crude behavior of Mr. Trump, whether 10 or 30 years ago, what happened may not be relevant to who he is today, but the bottom line is that it gets the attention of the voters, and that is the key.

In the recent past, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that whoever wins the presidency, it will translate into Israel having a good friend in the White House. Additionally, it still looks like both the Senate and the House will remain with Republican majorities, and that is especially important if in fact Clinton is victorious.

A great deal has changed on the Middle East landscape since Bill Clinton’s presidency ended in 2001. So the important thing to note, and what can be extracted from all this mudslinging between the candidates, is that Hillary is not Obama. Though the idea of two states in Israel is probably Mr. Obama’s top agenda item as he heads off into the political sunset, it’s just not so for Mrs. Clinton.

The good news is that she and her husband know that the old peace formula is unworkable today. But if promoting and supporting the idea in order to get elected will attract support, she will go right ahead doing exactly that. That is just politics as usual. For Mr. Trump, all this scrutiny is, to say the least, a strange, new, and highly unusual experience. v

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