Trump calls himself 'the chosen one' while defending his trade war with China in face of looming recession
Casting himself as a reluctant warrior in the trade war against China, President Donald Trump told reporters 'somebody had to do it'
WASHINGTON (AP) — King of Israel? The second coming? The chosen one?
President Donald Trump is known to have a healthy ego. But a string of comments Wednesday went to a higher level.
First, Trump thanked conservative radio host and supporter Wayne Allyn Root for his praise. In a tweet, Trump quoted Root calling the president "the best president for Israel in the history of the world" and claiming Jewish people in Israel love Trump "like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he's the second coming of God."
The messianic imagery may have stuck in Trump's head. Later in the day, as the president was defending his trade war with China, he cast himself as a reluctant warrior. Somebody had to do it and he was the one, he told reporters.
"I am the chosen one," he said, turning and looking up to the sky. "Somebody had to do it."
Showing a fresh willingness to play politics along religious lines, Trump had recently said American Jews who vote for Democrats show "either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."
Trump's claim triggered a quick uproar from critics who said the Republican president was trading in anti-Semitic stereotypes. It came amid Trump's ongoing feud with Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are Muslim.
Trump has closely aligned himself with Israel, including conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the congresswomen are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Tlaib is a U.S.-born Palestinian American; Omar was born in Somalia.
"Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the state of Israel?" Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday. "I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."
A number of Jewish groups noted that accusations of disloyalty have long been made against Jews, including in Europe during the 1930s. Ann Lewis and Mark Mellman of Democratic Majority for Israel called it "one of the most dangerous, deadly accusations Jews have faced over the years. False charges of disloyalty over the centuries have led to Jews being murdered, jailed and tortured."
At Trump's urging, Israel last week blocked Omar and Tlaib from entering the country. Israel later agreed to a humanitarian visit for Tlaib to visit her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. Tlaib declined,saying her grandmother had ultimately urged her not to come under what they considered to be humiliating circumstances.
Trump called Omar a "disaster" for Jews and said he didn't "buy" the tears that Tlaib shed Monday as she discussed the situation. Both lawmakers support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a global protest of Israel.
Trump's comments were denounced swiftly by Jewish American organizations. "At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have increased — due to the president's emboldening of white nationalism — Trump is repeating an anti-Semitic trope," said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
The president first attacked Omar and Tlaib, and two other Democratic congresswomen of color, last month by telling them to "go back" to their home countries. All four are United States citizens.