As a proud native New Jerseyan, I’ve learned to shrug off people thinking of my home state as a shithole. Using that word for entire nations, especially when you’re president of the United States, is something else again.
Did President Trump slur African nations as "shithole countries," as NPR and other outlets have reported, in arguing for accepting more immigrants from places like Norway? Frankly, who knows? The White House's initial statement Thursday on the controversy didn't deny he used the word; Friday, Trump tweeted that he didn't.
Just as frankly, it doesn't matter. Even if Trump tweeted the truth — and no thinking person trusts the president, based on his documented lies — his history, from bathing in birther waters to more recent presidential utterances, is that of a racist. Full stop.
Trump’s zombies no doubt are foaming at the mouth over “documented lies.” But The Washington Post, which keeps a running tally of the president’s “false or misleading” statements, says he just broke 2,000 in his first year in office. Only cave-dwellers or the brainwashed are unaware that this president compulsively lies. It’s the political equivalent of the law of gravity.
That record not only denies him the benefit of the doubt vis-a-vis his alleged Africa slur, but Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who attended the meeting, reports that Trump “said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.” Durbin said Republican colleague Lindsey Graham objected to Trump’s word at the meeting as well.
The usual diversion Trump’s supporters pull — oh, he loves legal immigrants, it’s those who sneak in illegally he’s after — doesn’t apply here. Trump and lawmakers were discussing a bipartisan immigration plan that includes the current lottery for legal visas.
Newsman Ray Suarez, moderating WBUR’s On Point Friday, noted that a century ago, countries like Ireland, Italy and Poland would have earned “shithole” designation from many Americans. (Suarez, who was on air, said it more politely.) But whether Trump used the word or not is beside the point. Just as his lies are undeniable, so too is his history of racial Neanderthal-ism.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt recited the record, as if it were necessary. Highlights:
This is a man whose company the feds sued in the 1970s for discriminating against African American tenants; who denied Barack Obama was born in the U.S., a view that, as it rigidly refused conclusive proof to the contrary, incubated solely in racism; who recently retweeted Islamophobia nonsense from a fringe British hate group; who couldn’t bring himself to condemn summer’s Charlottesville white supremacist rally, calling some in the march “very fine people;” who famously opened his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and druggies, despite native-born Americans’ higher criminality; who — hell, you get the idea.
To quote Leonhardt:
“No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist.”
And there’s no polite way to say this, but only racists at this point would dispute Leonhardt’s point, or overlook Trump’s undeniable bigotry because they like his tax policy or his party affiliation.
... there is a respectful, non-racist way to discuss immigration that this president resolutely refuses to follow.
Or defend Trump’s language as merely a refusal to kowtow to political correctness. It’s true that some progressives have been Chicken Littles, screaming that even constitutionally protected words are hate speech, with the result that campus hate speech codes, for example, were uniformly shot down by the courts.
But objecting to Trump-talk, from birther lies to epithets about African nations, is not PC. It is common decency, demanded of a man whose office makes him the president of all Americans, regardless of race or ethnic background.
One need not support our current immigration laws to be racially enlightened. Canada, one of the world’s most progressive nations, long privileged a person’s potential economic contribution in deciding whom to admit from abroad, correctly deeming the presence of a would-be immigrant’s family (a priority in American law) as a well-meaning but spurious criterion.
Yet there is a respectful, non-racist way to discuss immigration that this president resolutely refuses to follow. His language is a window to his soul, and Americans should see his racism for what it is, ignore its defenders, and react to what Trump does, on everything from immigration to anti-poverty policy, accordingly.