THE STUMBLING BLOCK

The Senate’s acquittal of Donald Trump was expected. Some Republicans sought cover with Lamar Alexander’s (Tennessee) rationale: What the president did was wrong but didn’t rise to the level of removal from office. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans ignored Leviticus 19:14.

Torah commands Israelites not to place a stumbling block before the blind. Literally, one should never place a physical obstacle in front of a blind person for the cruel pleasure of seeing that person trip and fall. The Sages and later commentators expanded on this. One shouldn’t give bad advice to someone who can’t recognize it or place temptation in the way of the morally blind.

Senate Republicans scoffed. They decided that Trump’s betrayal of the Constitution by freezing congressionally appropriated funds—cited as illegal by the General Accountability Office—to coerce Ukraine into investigating political rivals should bring no direct consequence. While some senators condemned Trump’s actions, all but one left him free to repeat them.

Trump’s take? He gloated about vindication, still convinced he made a “perfect call” to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. Likely, he will abuse his office again given his July 23 comment regarding Article II of the Constitution: “I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” This sadly echoes Richard Nixon’s 1977 comment: “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

Utah’s Mitt Romney disagreed. He voted for removal on the first of two articles of impeachment, abuse of power. His explanation: “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice.”

It’s only right to uphold such an oath. Leviticus 19:15 commands, “You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly.”

At yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, Trump said of Romney, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” I acknowledge that only Jews are responsible for upholding the Torah’s 613 commandments. But Trump’s conservative Christian supporters—and Trump himself—often find Torah’s moral directives compelling when it suits their purpose.

The upshot? Self-professed religious Senate Republicans abandoned the Bible for politics. In doing so, they set an even bigger stumbling block in place. Trump now rationalizes doing whatever he wants without being held responsible. Short of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue—no, he couldn’t get away with that one—he can manipulate foreign and domestic policy to serve not the nation’s interests but his own.

Democrats, independents and even a Mitt Romney may call Trump out for seeking political dirt from Vladimir Putin or the representative of some other country delighted to see America’s political system in disarray. So what?

Gearing up for November’s election, Trump supporters hail the Senate’s unfettering the president to play bull in the china shop and continue overturning the order established by “the elites.” Many conservative Christians feel relieved that their anointed president remains free to do God’s bidding—as they define it and would impose it on the rest of us.

Americans—or more accurately, the Electoral College—will decide whether to place an even more massive stumbling block at Trump’s feet where so many grovel. I can’t see how the election will turn out, but I fear too many “God fearing” citizens cling to moral blindness.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.

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6 Comments


  1. Jerry Robinson
    Feb 07, 2020

    Amen


    • David
      Feb 07, 2020

      Thanks, Jerry. Placing career over Constitution represents the height of hypocrisy, especially from those who speak in the name of religion.


  2. David Newman
    Feb 07, 2020

    The Ten Commandments compel us not to take God’s name in vain and not to bear false witness. The Senators who voted not to convict, after taking an oath to do “impartial justice” seem to me to have ignored both of those commandments. Consequences? Stay tuned.


    • David
      Feb 07, 2020

      I’m tuned in, David. November will be, to say the least, interesting.


  3. Tracy
    Feb 07, 2020

    Regarding 19:15, Rashi comments:

    This verse teaches us that a judge who corrupts the law is called unjust, hated and disgusting, fit to be destroyed, and an abomination. For an unjust person is called an abomination, as the verse says, “For whoever does these things, whoever perpetrates such injustice, is an abomination to the Lord…” (Deut. 25: 16)

    I take this to mean that unjust senators aren’t going to last long. They are going to be metaphorically destroyed. I do not wish them death, just removal from their positions.

    Gut Shabbos.


    • David
      Feb 07, 2020

      Thanks for the Rashi, Tracy. If only . . .

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