Category Archives: NORMAN PODHORETZ

President Trump, NeverTrumpers, and keeping kosher

Regarding NeverTrumpers, are there are two different kinds: — the sleazy grifters and the genuinely principled people who cannot swallow the idea of Trump?

The Torah (that is, the five books of Moses) imposes multiple life rules on Jews and how many of these rules a given Jew follows depends on that person’s degree of religious orthodoxy. For non-Jews, the kosher dietary laws are probably the best known commandments that religious Jews must obey.

For those Jews who keep kosher, there are myriad rules about the type of food that may be eaten, the way animals must be slaughtered, the way the food must be prepared, and the dishes on which it can be served. Keeping kosher is complicated and takes observant Jews outside of the mainstream of American eating.

For those with a deep commitment to God, however, the kosher dietary laws are simply a fact of life. Moreover, they find non-kosher food so viscerally repugnant that they wouldn’t dream of knowingly eating it.

God’s laws, though, are still subsets of an even more important principle: The Torah’s highest and most important directive is to choose life. In keeping with this directive, over the centuries the rabbis developed the doctrine of Pikuach nefesh. Per Wikipedia, which seems to be quite accurate on this point:

Pikuach nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש, IPA: [piˈkuaχ ˈnefeʃ], “saving a life”) describes the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious consideration. When the life of a specific person is in danger, almost any mitzvah lo ta’aseh (command to not do an action) of the Torah becomes inapplicable. [Hyperlinks and footnotes omitted.]

Specifically with regard to the intersection between Pikuach nefesh and kosher dietary rules, Wikipedia explains as follows:

Non-kosher food may be eaten under the following circumstances:

  • If no kosher food is available to the person, and failure to eat the non-kosher food may result in starvation.
  • If a non-kosher food product specifically is needed to cure an illness.

If necessary for recovery, a patient may eat non-kosher foods. In the Babylonian Talmud, Chapter 82a of Tractate Yoma mentions pregnancy cravings for non-kosher food (the passage discusses a pregnant woman who craves pork on Yom Kippur) as the paradigmatic example of a presumed life-threatening situation where a person is allowed to eat non-kosher food (and is permitted to eat it on Yom Kippur). [Hyperlinks omitted]

The fact that something is permitted, though, doesn’t necessarily mean someone is able to do it. I have heard stories of extremely orthodox Jews who, when rescued from Nazi concentration camps, were unable to make themselves eat if the only food available was not kosher. (This obviously doesn’t apply to quarrels about which plate to use; it applies to being offered pork or some other forbidden food to eat.) These Jews would tell their children to eat the food, but they viewed it with such revulsion — akin to your being asked to eat a piece of ancient, rotten, worm-ridden meat — that they simply couldn’t force it down. I don’t know if these stories are true, but they work nicely for my Trump analogy — or rather, for my NeverTrumpers analogy.

I look at Donald Trump, warts and all, and nevertheless happily accept him as my president. Even if I take away all the affirmative benefits I believe he’s brought to America in terms of the economy, national security, removal from the Kyoto Accord and the Iran Deal, a commitment to the Second Amendment, a willingness to attack Islamic extremism head-on, etc., I’m still incredibly grateful to him for all the negative things he prevented.

As I see it, the 2016 election wasn’t between Donald Trump and someone else who might have been just as good. That imagines an election in which both candidates hewed to a fairly middle-of-the-road political ideology that had America’s traditional well-being at its center, with the difference between the two candidates being that Trump was a little more conservative and the other candidate was a little more Leftist.

Instead, I viewed 2016 as a purely binary election with one candidate who might guide America into more traditional paths and another candidate whom we knew with absolute certainty had willingly sold American interests out to Russia, had purposefully violated national security, and absolutely intended to follow the Obama path by continuing

  • to have the American economy bow down to (and bow under) climate change hysteria,
  • to fund Iran, to pursue a “reset” with Russia that would harm central European allies,
  • to continue to place activist judges with little respect for the constitution on the Supreme Court and other federal benches,
  • to pander to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinians while showing hostility to Israel,
  • to pay Danegeld to North Korea,
  • to push for deeper and deeper divisions in America based upon Jim Crow-esque racial theories,
  • to enter into crony deals with big business while destroying our manufacturing sector,
  • to elevate criminals over law enforcement,
  • to destroy gun rights, and on and on and on.

While backing Trump was an obvious step for me to take, there quickly developed a class of ostensible Republicans who absolutely could not stomach Trump and who became known as NeverTrumpers. This essay is about what I perceive as two different classes of NeverTrumpers, one deserving nothing but disdain and the other being people we still respect even if their political take is different from ours.

The ones who deserve our disdain are the Bill Kristol or Jennifer Rubin types. Since Trump’s election, they’ve proven that they were never committed conservatives. Instead, it seems that, in the years leading to the 2016 election, they had merely found a profitable niche for themselves, including Kristol’s effortlessly and undeservedly stepping into his father’s impressive shoes. The same goes for Norman Podhoretz, who came to support Trump, and his louche, entitled NeverTrumper son John.

In the same vein, the McCain family is supporting Biden who, while he plays a “traditional Democrat” on TV, supported every Leftist Obama policy initiative and seems on board with every one of the Democrats’ current Leftist policy initiatives. Keep in mind that this is the man who told blacks that Republicans — the party of Lincoln — were going to “put you back in chains.”

When push came to shove, when it was a choice between their principles and still having Democrat friends in all the right places, these NeverTrumpers willingly abandoned every conservative principle they’d formerly espoused.  They are the kind of self-styled elite Kurt Schlichter appropriately savages in his must-read Militant Normals: How Regular Americans Are Rebelling Against the Elite to Reclaim Our Democracy.

In other words, one has to question whether these people were ever real conservatives or, if like Biden himself pretending to be moderate, they just played conservatives on TV, on cruises, and at cocktail parties where they mixed with the politically connected in-crowd. The fact is that they all seem awfully willing today to back people who stand for everything they once claimed to oppose.

But then there are the people whose values haven’t changed — who still believe absolutely in conservative policies — but who experience a sense of revulsion against Trump that has nothing to do with policies and everything to do with visceral dislike. And this is where I circle back to the kosher food rules.

To me, these NeverTrumpers are not fake conservatives like Rubin, Kristol, or the McCains. Instead, these people remind me of those (possibly apocryphal) survivors of the concentration camps who, even to preserve life, could not force themselves to eat something as completely unkosher as pork or shell fish. Given a choice between dying and eating something repulsive, they chose dying.

In the same way, those who find Trump repugnant at a core level beyond reason will never be able to support him. Given a choice between Leftism and Trump, they choose political abstention. They are conservatives, so they, unlike the grifters, will never vote for a Democrat — nevertheless, because they’re the political equivalent of being kosher, they cannot even force themselves to support, let alone vote for, Trump.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Some #NeverTrumpers were fakers and grifters all along and they therefore deserve the disrespect that comes their way. Others are deeply principled people whose sense of pure revulsion about a man who is, as even his supporters concede, not quite normal, paralyzes their ability to follow their conservative political instincts. That can’t be changed and needs to be respected.

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