As a very smart young rabbi, a graduate of Columbia University and Yeshiva University, I was quite confident of two things: (i) the inherent goodness of all people, and (ii) my own intelligence. As I subsequently learned in due time, that is the most lethal mix imaginable, a sure-fire path to self-destruction. Because of that mix, I married the wrong person, allowed myself to be induced to make the only two disastrous decisions that changed, altered, and ruined important aspects of my life’s journey, and ended up being cheated out of my first 20 years’ life’s savings.
And then in 1990, after 10 successful years in the rabbinate, I went to a great law school. The law school was 98 percent top-heavy with radical Leftist law professors, but I long-by-then knew when Leftists were undertaking to reeducate and indoctrinate me. So I ate up and consumed every morsel of law I could glean, while discarding the chaff of Leftist indoctrination. On my final exams, I fed back to my professors the Leftist pablum they were looking for, along with the substantive law they had taught me, and I did so well that I emerged as a top graduate, a finalist to deliver the class graduation speech (rejected only because the proposed speech that I submitted espoused conservative values), and one of two finalists for editor-in-chief of their law review. I ultimately was named Chief Articles Editor of Law Review because the outgoing law review editorial board, in debating the merits of the two finalists, explicitly stated during their secret deliberations that they could not imagine how an Orthodox Jew conceivably could handle a full law school courseload plus all the duties of being editor-in-chief of the law review if he would not work on the Friday nights and Saturday nights of his Sabbath. Moreover, they said, Dov was father to three young children at home, so he just would not have time. So the tolerant liberals voted not to give the Orthodox Jew, father of three, that role but instead the N0. 2 role, chief articles editor. I loved that. And it was a role that led to the single best thing that ever had happened to me up to that time, an opportunity to clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the finest person I ever have known, Chief Judge Danny J. Boggs. (And I am indebted to the outraged law review board members who leaked to me how I had been denied solely because I am an Orthodox Jew and a father.)
As I look back on my law school experience during Democrat Stillborn Impeachment Week, I contemplate what law school did to me, how it changed me. I already had been an experienced rabbi of 10 years. In the mid-1980s, I had co-founded a new “Jewish West Bank Settlement in Occupied Palestine” — in other words, we had co-founded a new Jewish small city in Samaria in the Land of Israel.
But here is what law school uniquely imbued to me: I had to take four classes each term. For each class, we were assigned to read an average of between four-and-six cases a week. That is 16 to 24 cases a week. There were 14 weeks in the school term. That meant we read and studied between 224 and 336 cases a term. There were two terms per year for three years. That means I read, contemplated, analyzed, discussed, and internalized between 1,500 and 2,000 cases during my law school years. A “case” is a published holding by a judicial appellate panel, their final decision explaining the facts, issues, and laws by which they adjudicated a dispute before them and came to their final decision on the appeal from the lower court. The case subjects ranged from disputes in property law, contracts, torts, constitutional issues, procedural issues, criminal issues, and every imaginable area of human intercourse. Thus, in order for any “case” to end up in the assigned readings, there had to have been a complete breakdown between two or more people or businesses in their relationships. Looking back, the most powerful part of law school, more than learning all that substantive law, more than doing all that analysis (a process that I already had mastered, long before law school, during my years of rabbinical study of the Talmud) — the most powerful lesson of all was that I had been exposed to nearly 2,000 different situations in which things had gone wrong for people who had assumed that all would be fine.
That is the best thing law school does. It exposes you to some 2,000 situations in which different people, in all walks of life, in all parts of the country, in all fields of endeavor, start off assuming that everything will be hunky-dory and sweet — but things get so messed up along the way that they end up needing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in court battles to undo the mess they got into. For me, that taught me: (i) never assume anything, and (ii) be very prudent and cautious. These lessons have served me well through many decades hence and were at the core of how I rebuilt and reconstituted my life. Next month I will mark my 19th wedding anniversary to Ellen, the love of my life. I now am in my 12th year as rabbi of the kind of synagogue congregation I always should have dreamed of but never realized. I teach the exact two subjects that are best for me to teach at two law schools that precisely fit my needs and personality. And I write for my favorite publication, working with the best editor and publisher I could ask for. It took time.
I wish to the dickens that Donald Trump and some of his earliest inside closest advisers had obtained the education I got. Trump is a brilliant guy, and I understand and appreciate how his mind works. He got a fabulous business education, between his Dad and his Wharton schooling. I wish only that he also had gone to law school and had been exposed to 2,000 real-life situations of mess-ups that resulted from people assuming and failing to exercise the prudence of anticipation. If he had, he would have handled the Zelensky phone call differently when he spoke with the newly elected Ukrainian president. As he would have been talking, his brilliant mind also would have been multitasking and warning him how each and every word could be manipulated and distorted by the thugs and goons who comprise Nancy Pelosi’s inner circle. There was not a thing wrong with the substance of that phone call. He is the chief executive of this country, and it is about time that we have a president who does not just fork over foreign aid without first assuring that our tax dollars will be spent as intended, not shot down a rabbit hole of foreign corruption.
For example, every year the lazy, useless, parasitic West Europeans fork over hundreds of millions of “human assistance” euros to the “Palestinians,” a center of world corruption, with most of that money going not to food or shelter for people but instead to building underground attack tunnels for terrorists, to building rockets and missiles for them, and to padding the private Swiss bank accounts of the corrupt hedonistic leaders of “Palestine.” That is but one small example of how foreign aid is corrupted. As an American, I do not want one penny of my tax money going to corrupt governments. Indeed, I prefer not being taxed to give money even to honest governments unless I can be shown how that helps America. Therefore, I want my president to tell foreign leaders, “Congress has approved money to be sent to you, but I need to know, before releasing those funds, that every hard-earned American dollar that we send you will be spent honestly and only as intended.” Trump did that, as he absolutely should have.
Ukraine is corrupt. Not because there is something genetic in the Ukrainian soul that causes corruption, but because that society just spent a century living under communism. Wherever socialism or communism arises, corruption follows and rots the very soul of the nation. In socialism or communism, the government seeks to grab your hard-earned fruits of labor, in order to spread the loot around to dullards and others who lack the skills, gifts, or simple decency to work as hard as you do. Because the socialist-communist government cheats you, at some point you determine that you have to lie and cheat, too, to protect as much of your earnings as you can. So you hide your money from the government. You turn it into cash that hides under your floor tiles or in your mattresses. You buy and pay in cash so that the government has no record of what you have done. You convert your currency on a black market. You lie and cheat and steal. Socialism-communism corrupts one’s soul and the soul of a nation. That is why there is almost universal corruption anywhere that socialism-communism has impacted a society,
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet socialist republics are emerging. It will take two generations until they have societies who never lived under the soul-corrupting influence of socialism-communism. Thus, it is an imperative that a decent American president hold up any congressional aid to Ukraine until he and we have assurances that every penny will be spent exactly as earmarked. Only then does that money advance America’s interests. Money to Ukraine helps ward off Putin and Russian expansionism, thus advancing America’s interests. That is why Obama’s refusal to send weapons for Ukraine to defend itself from Putin’s military encroachment was so detestable, much as Obama’s reneging on America’s promise to station an advanced defensive missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, to protect against the Russians. Our tax dollars to Ukraine should be going to protect against Putin, not to give Hunter Biden a million dollars as part of a corrupt Ukrainian scheme to buy American foreign aid by paying off and bribing the American vice president, who was in charge of Ukrainian foreign assistance, to send over one billion dollars.
President Trump did well by demanding that President Zelensky root out corruption. For three long years, Trump had been the victim of Democrat lies and false accusations from their Corrupt Journalist Corps regarding everything from colluding with Putin to the state of his mental health. It was right of him to keep his eyes on the prize and to demand that Ukraine look into its corruption rabbit holes, like the Biden Billion Bribe. Had he gone to law school, he better could have anticipated how his phone call would be manipulated. He could have couched his wording better, saying that, before the money is released, he would like Zelensky to do us, the American taxpayers, a favor and conduct a serious and comprehensive investigation into corruption within the Ukrainian energy industry. Period. And then he could have had a Rudy Giuliani or some other envoy later follow up and ask what has been uncovered. The envoy then could have asked about Burisma. And then, when a formal report would have been submitted detailing the investigation into Burisma, the envoy could have expressed interest that “Wow! I notice that one of the members of the Burisma Board has the exact same name as the son of the American vice president who was in charge of doling out a billion dollars to Ukraine! What a coincidence!” And a conversation would have ensued. They could have gotten to the same place more gingerly.
Trump is not a lawyer. In many ways that is what we love about him. No baloney. Straight to the point. No time wasted on beating around the bush or being like Bush. But there really is a value sometimes in getting things done prudently. When he began his presidency with the wonderful travel ban, just a bit more caution would have made it a slam dunk, the level of caution that his administration now follows. When he opted to change the way the census is conducted and to stop including illegal immigrants in the count that determines congressional seats, a touch more prudence would have made that a slam dunk, too. The courts look for documentation that a proper process was conducted, seeking public comment and careful thought. So a few more Ts get crossed, and it takes six more months, but then it is indestructible.
If he had been a bit more studied in the ways of such thinking, he never would have let Omarosa near the White House. He would not have allowed the Republican elite persuade him to begin his presidency with Sean Spicer as his spokesperson, Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, James Mattis as his secretary of defense, and Jeff Sessions as his attorney general. Each of them is exceptionally decent and very brilliant — and they all were wrong for the assignments Trump needed them to implement. In time, he figured it out on his own, the hard way. Now he has the team he should have had on day one.
There was nothing substantively wrong with his phone call to Zelensky. It was substantively exactly what the moment demanded. With a bit more prudence, for himself and demanded from his closest aides, he will achieve even more during the remaining five years of his presidency.