Sunday 18 August 2019

Editorial: 'Trump does a disservice to what makes America great'

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
US President Donald Trump. Photo: AP


It is not a good week for the world when its most powerful leader suggests democratically elected women politicians should go back to the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from.

Not only has President Trump not apologised, he has turned up the heat dangerously on 'The Squad', a quartet of Democratic House members, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

A country that holds free speech close to its heart is being washed over by a wave of hate-speech coming from the White House.

Far from being rejected, Mr Trump's attack has been rewarded by a surge in support amongst Republicans.

Depressingly, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham chimed in they "are a bunch of communists". Mr Trump also falsely accused Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born Muslim, of supporting al-Qa'ida.

His refusal to reprimand a frenzied crowd chanting "Send her back!" was equally chilling. Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the comments: "Without question, I reject [Trump's comments] and stand in solidarity with the congresswomen he targeted."

This week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was more Jesuitical, claiming the president's comment "certainly had the hallmarks of racism", noting he wasn't calling Mr Trump a racist.

The humorist H L Mencken wrote: "As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

But Mr Trump is anything but stupid. He has finessed and adapted the darkest Machiavellian arts for a digital age, to divide and conquer. In training the spotlight on these women, he seeks to present them as the unstable core of the Democratic Party.

The meta message is: Unless you are white Anglo-Saxon Republican, we don't want you. One has to go back to the McCarthy era to hear fellow members bandy about the word "communist" in Congress.

Why Mr Trump should revile elected Americans while cosying up to a real-life Stalinist, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, is just one of his myriad contradictions.

American politics has never been for the lily-livered. But many feel Mr Trump has over-stepped the boundaries of decency and respect. Core values of tolerance, diversity and equality are being threatened.

The presumption is Mr Trump assumed his targets were fair game as all were immigrants. In fact, only one of them is. This might have been celebrated as a source of shared achievement in a different era where the American dream shone as a beacon to all.

The struggle to the top was always hard. But for those who made it, success was all the sweeter. Thus the only fitting reaction to Mr Trump's corrosive tweets is condemnation.

These formidable congresswomen will not be reduced by unwarranted slurs, unlike those responsible for them. Such remarks do a grave disservice to all that makes America great.

Irish Independent

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