Wednesday 18 September 2019

Jennifer Rubin: 'Racist comments from Trump don't surprise, but they cannot be ignored'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jennifer Rubin

'Vanity Fair' reported that US President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Trump made blatantly racist comments to him from time to time.

According to Cohen, Trump said in response to Cohen's observation that his rally crowds were overwhelmingly white: "That's because black people are too stupid to vote for me." Cohen also claims Trump said: "Name one country run by a black person that's not a s**thole. Name one city." Cohen also recalls that while traveling in Chicago in a rough neighbourhood, Trump said: "Only the blacks could live like this." (When someone says "the" blacks or "the" Hispanics, it's generally not going to be a compliment.)

This will come as a total shock to you unless you knew Trump and his father were forced to settle a housing discrimination claim in the 1970s alleging that they refused to rent to African-Americans, and Trump called for the death penalty for the so-called Central Park Five, insisting on their guilt even after DNA evidence exonerated them. He stoked birtherism, a racist conspiracy theory claiming that the first African-American president wasn't born in the United States, and at a rally during the 2016 campaign, he referred to an African-American in the crowd as "my African-American over here", imploring the crowd to "look" at him.

According to lawmakers who attended an immigration meeting with Trump, the president said the United States should not be taking immigrants from "s**thole" countries such as Haiti and from Africa. He said American immigration should prefer Norwegians. (And then there are the racist remarks and policies about Muslims and Hispanics.)

If, however, you've been a sentient being for a couple of years, you've also noticed that in addition to all that, Trump praises "nationalism", refuses to condemn the alt-right and has no trouble embracing out-and-out racists (eg Roy Moore, who said: "I think it was great at the time when families were united - even though we had slavery. They cared for one another. People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction.").

If you didn't think he was a racist, or didn't care that he was, you'll wave off Cohen's allegations as untrue or irrelevant. So does this mean Cohen's accusations are not important or worthy of reporting? No. The measure of newsworthiness for a president's outlandish words or conduct, contrary to fuzzy-headed punditry, is not whether something changes minds or "works", but rather whether it is deliberately false, outside the bounds of decent conduct, violates basic democratic norms, provides comfort to despots around the globe. Honestly, just about everything the commander-in-chief says is newsworthy; he is arguably the most powerful person on the planet.

It's perverse to say that because Trump evidences overt racism more than any post-World War II president we should start ignoring his outbursts. And in an election in which both sides are trying to motivate every last voter, one never knows what will provoke someone to vote or, alternatively, to stay home out of disgust for the conduct of one's favoured party. (© The Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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