Late last night, a little more than 24 hours after breaking the fast and feeling hopeful, I found myself filled with despair.
Chris Wallace to the President: “Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down…”
In response, the President said he was “willing to do that,” but quickly changed course and stated that “almost everything I see is from the left wing.”
The President continued, “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
Chris Wallace pushed again, now joined by Vice-President Biden, asking the President to condemn white supremacists.
The President’s response: “What do you want me to call them? Give me a name. Who would you like me to condemn?” Wallace said “white supremacists.” Biden referred to the Proud Boys, a group widely denounced as being white supremacists.
And then this from the President of the United States: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by!”
Stand back? Where’s the condemnation? Stand by!? For what?
After the debate, Donald Trump Jr. told Gayle King that his father must have misspoken when he said “stand by.” If that’s the case, where is the correction? This morning, no clarification. No apology.
Some members of the Trump campaign team are strongly standing by the President’s remarks from last night, while Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie are urging the President to clarify his remarks. And the Proud Boys? They see the President’s remarks as an endorsement.
I resent that I need to enter this toxic political arena. I particularly resent that I need to do so right after Yom Kippur and days away from Sukkot, our z’man simchateinu, our time of great joy. But, as a rabbi, as someone who has been threatened by a white supremacist, as Jewish America who finds himself living in a time when racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate are on wreaking havoc and undermining our great nations, I have no choice but to enter this terrible arena. During the High Holidays, I talked a lot about persevering, about Rabbi Heschel and his call for us to “Rise Up!” and I must practice what I preach. I can’t “stand back and stand by” as the President dodges a clear condemnation of hate and, in doing so, sends a dangerous message to hate groups. This dodge threatens the safety and security of our nation, undermines “law and order” and makes a mockery of the “peace” that the President says he wants.