I have finally managed to reduce my evaluation of President Trump to one short soundbite: What he does is often praiseworthy; what he is says is often cringeworthy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the president's dealings with Israel and the Jewish people.
What he has done for Israel is huge – as in YUGE.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem was huge. No other president had the fortitude to do this. Not Bill Clinton. Not George W. Bush. Not Barack Obama.
Every president, decade after decade, delayed the move by another six months – until President Trump.
This took courage, determination, boldness, even fearlessness.
To repeat: This was huge.
It was also huge for Trump to pull out of the disastrous Iran deal, hopefully forestalling Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Of course, only God knows the intentions of the radical Islamic leaders of Iran. But if the president's actions made it more difficult for Iran to use nuclear weapons against Israel and others, that would be absolutely huge.
It was huge for Trump to give official recognition of the Golan Heights, something that should have been done by America decades ago.
That's why so many Israelis are pro-Trump: they believe he's a man of action, and they believe he is a real friend of their country.
In fact, on one of my recent trips to Israel, while conducting interviews about religious issues, several Israelis wanted to talk about Trump first. As they said to me with passion, "Make America great! Make Israel great! We love Trump."
In the same way, when it comes to other actions that are important to evangelicals, the president's accomplishments have been huge.
Here are some of the more obvious, major accomplishments:
His judicial appointments, from the federal courts to the Supreme Court, have been huge.
His efforts to help the pro-life movement have been huge.
His stand for religious liberty has been huge.
His pushing back against radical LGBT activism has been huge.
To repeat: What Trump does is often praiseworthy, and that's why I voted for him.
He has kept many of his promises and, in terms of taking action, lived up to many of my expectations. His deeds, on many fronts, have been impressive.
It's what he says that gets him into so much trouble.
Did he really need to insult Rashid Tlaib to her own 90-year-old grandmother? Was this necessary, helpful, edifying, constructive, or presidential?
Did he really need to retweet the hyperbolic comments of radio host Wayne Allen Root?
It's one thing to retweet, with appreciation, Root's first statement: "President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world...and the Jewish people in Israel love him...."
But how does it help his cause to retweet the second comment, even if, in the president's mind, it was done with a smile? Root continued with (and Trump retweeted) "...like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don't know him or like him. They don't even know what they're doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that's OK, if he keeps doing what he's doing, he's good for....."
All this does is give further fuel to Trump's critics and make it harder for some of his supporters to stand with him.
One evangelical Christian wrote to me after seeing the comments, "Christians can't support Trump anymore in my view." Yet the man who wrote this is married to an Israeli and has lived in Israel for more than ten years. And he deeply appreciates Trump's pro-Israel stance.
And then there are Trump's comments about American Jews who did not vote for him, claiming that they have "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."
Why insult a whole voter base? Why not appeal to Jewish voters to recognize what a true friend of Israel he has been, not to mention someone who has helped all Americans by boosting the economy?
Wouldn't it be infinitely better not to take two steps backward for every three steps forward? Wouldn't it be infinitely better not to tear down with your words what you have built with your hands?
A friend who voted for Trump in 2016 emailed me today, writing, "As a Christian, I thought I could somehow overlook the glaring negatives and support him due to the stances he has taken on abortion, installing honorable judges, etc. It is no longer enough for me (and others within my circle). His lack of statesmanship, integrity, and simple plain civility and human decency has created such deep damage to our country....it's heartbreaking really."
Others would say, "That is an immature and superficial reaction. After all, actions speak much louder than words, and in the Bible, it's the doer of the Word who is blessed, not only the hearer."
That is absolutely true, and it is for those reasons I would vote again for Trump vs. a liberal Democrat in 2020.
But I also realize the incredible power of words, for death or for life. And I fear that the President is his own worst enemy, allowing others to forget how much good he has done and also alienating some of his supporters.
His words and deeds regarding Israel and the Jewish community are a microcosm of the best and worst of our President. And that leads to a question. Over time, will the good he does outweigh the bad he does? I hope and pray the answer is yes, but for obvious reasons, I have concerns.
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