The final question of Wednesday's joint news conference between the leaders of the United States and Israel was directed at President Trump and focused on anti-Semitism. Here's the question, and Trump's answer, courtesy of the New York Times's Sopan Deb:
This whole answer from Trump, being asked about anti-Semitism in the U.S. Read the whole thing: pic.twitter.com/AblvIC3ulC
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) February 15, 2017
The question was centered on the rise in anti-Semitic attacks since Trump won in November and what he would say to allegations that his administration “is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.” It's a tough question, without doubt, but also one that has a relatively simple answer. Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) offered his version of that answer on Twitter shortly after the Trump presser.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) February 15, 2017
Beyer is a Democrat, but his suggested answer is one that almost any politician of either party would do well to give. Simple, straightforward and clear.
That was not the answer Trump chose to go with. Not even close.
Instead, Trump spent several sentences — 49 words, to be exact — recalling that he had won 306 electoral votes in the 2016 election when people said he couldn't even win 220 or 221. “And there's tremendous enthusiasm out there,” he added. (I didn't count that sentence in the 49 words; if you do, you wind up with 55 words dedicated to his victory.)
He then segued into a sort-of-but-not-really answer to the question he was asked — REMINDER: It was about the rise of anti-Semitic attacks since he has been elected — by promising that “we are going to have peace in this country” and “we are going to stop crime in this country.”
Those would be two notable achievements. But neither gets to the root of the question Trump was asked: What does he say to a Jewish community around the world and in the United States that is worried about the rise of anti-Semitic attacks since his victory?
Trump's coup de grace came when he cited the fact that his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, and their children are Jewish. Trump's intent is clear: I care deeply about the Jewish people and loathe anti-Semitism for lots of reasons but one big one is because it hits so close to home for me. Why not say that? As it was, it looked like Trump was just pointing out Jewish people he was related to.
And his final words didn't even seem to match that sentiment: “I think a lot of good things are happening and you're going to see a lot of love. You're going to see a lot of love. Okay?”