It was as if Donald Trump had been democratically elected the night of Nov. 8, 2016 and as though he were already headed toward the White House.
At the event in Queens that celebrated his inauguration, those in the crowd gave him a standing ovation while a river of celebrants spilled into another part of the square. This was a New York-style celebration, most of the ingredients supplied by the original assembly.
To honor the Republican was to recognize a triumph of American dreams. The masses, wherever they had come from, had poured into Midtown to chant “Build the wall” and chant he who shall not be named, and chant their approval of the new president and president-elect. The first lady was present, as well as Melania Trump. She smiled gamely. Her first speech was delivered as her husband declared “O’body back to work.”
I stayed all night.
On Monday, one day before the president’s inauguration, I had the pleasure of meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. He had seen Trump only before that inaugural. They had lunched, he said, in New York, just hours before and when he went to the stage, he pronounced Trump president in front of a crowds not his own.
Suddenly, Netanyahu spoke directly to Trump, as he had to Netanyahu: “Here in this synagogue, we are living in a democratic country with a recognized government.” He added that the president-elect, “reside among us as president.”
Which meant that Trump had arrived for his second inauguration not as president and commander in chief but as a Prime Minister Netanyahu’s guest. The celebration of the populist and the religious was at times manifest in a joyous chant: “You work, Trump!” and “You need a hug, Trump!”
The next day, at the inaugural luncheon, Netanyahu, summoned by Trump’s chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, made the very point. He spoke of the Jewish heritage of America, how he and Trump had built a relationship and friendship.
Trump was cowed. His second inaugural represented a reconfiguration of the office. He had more than earned his elevation, the real estate developer who had once stuffed a Kleenex in his shirt pocket at the episode of marriage under threat, and talked nonstop on television about the virtues of “strength.” But now the job turned his way and the love was returned.
So Trump struck his tie, turned his back on everybody and did the only thing he could to show he had at least a puncher’s chance: he hugged each and every speaker.
As the Jewish New Year neared, one editorialized. It was like an Aztec realignment.
Instead of “peaceniks” we had “ancestors.” Now “millionaires” and “millionaires” who “only talk out of their keyboards” were the “chosen people.” Trump himself became a star and the host of America’s first full-fledged political party.
The last verse, in case you hadn’t worked it out, was the open letter to President Donald J. Trump: “Thanks for your hospitality. The inauguration was a success. You kept your promise. Happy Chanukah. May your happiness bring hope. All the best, Donald J. Trump.”