AGORA Debate: Donald Trump – Great Divider of Victim of Defamation?

PHOTO: AP

Dan Georgakas and Dino Scaros agree more often than not, but not this time! In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, the Agora writers have much to debate.

GEORGAKAS PRESENTS HIS POINT OF VIEW

Dino, racial slurs have been a hallmark of Donald Trump’s public discourse. He, unfortunately, is not a colorful individual ranting informally in a coffee shop, but a man who aspires to be president. If elected, the world would consider anything he says as being the voice of the American people.

Whether Trump is a racist or just a politician mouthing sentiments he believes will appeal to a large bloc of voters is irrelevant. I’m not sure which is true or which is worse. What is relevant is that he began his presidential bid by accusing the Mexican government of “sending” criminals, drug dealers, and rapists to the United States. This was an attack on a foreign government as well as Mexicans in general.

More recently, Trump chastised Judge Gonzalo Curiel as being biased in the Trump “University” litigation. Playing the race card, Trump declared the judge’s ethnic heritage created an “an inherent conflict of interest” due to Trump’s views on immigration. By that standard, any judge could be challenged as being for or against someone on the basis of ethnic identity. That would inevitably lead to a dysfunctional judicial system.

Reality check: Curiel was born in Indiana. His family legally immigrated here before Donald Trump’s mom or wife. His supposed bias was to allow anti-Trump lawyers to introduce printed evidence of how Trump “University” functioned. Trump has since stated that if he becomes president, the judge will be hearing from him, an ominous threat that implies the use of executive federal power in a private lawsuit involving fraud.

Trump nonchalantly and loudly proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States. He later hedged his view by explaining the ban as only temporary and only on some Muslims. Who decides? On what basis? Trump doesn’t like Elizabeth Warren’s politics, so he nicknamed her Pocahontas, as if having some Native American heritage is a negative.

In a cynical bid for support from racists, Trump long questioned whether Obama was truly a native-born American. Later, he refused to reject the public support of a former KKK Grand Dragon. At his rallies, he likes to point out the occasional African-American supporter by gleefully shouting, “he’s my guy” and asks the audience to applaud. Blacks consider that racist paternalism and note whites are not singled out for applause for being white. They also note Trump has never initiated projects on their behalf in New York or Atlantic City where he has considerable holdings.

Trump continues to go out of his way to alienate blacks, Hispanics, women, and immigrants. He believes he can attract enough new voters to offset and surpass the declining support from those groups. The long-term fate of the Republican Party will rest on whether he succeeds.

Trump’s views have made him the GOP’s Great Divider. Prominent Republicans such as the Bush family, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, and Mitt Romney consider Trump’s approach so dangerous for foreign relationships and domestic tranquility that they have refused to endorse him and ask other Republicans to join them. Many Republicans, however, are playing the half-pregnant game of saying they will support their party’s nominee but not endorse. Only a quarter of elected Republican officials plan to attend the Trump convention.

Fourth of July celebrations would be a good time for all of us to decide what America stands for. Do we want a president who fosters religious and ethnic divisions? That we have to ask that question in 2016 is shameful.

SCAROS RESPONDS

Dan, at last, we’ve found a topic on which we vehemently differ. Politicians can take lessons from us, though, because when we disagree, we do so respectfully and collegially.

But I’ll begin with the a point on which we agree: the “birther” theory, i.e., that President Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. I blasted Trump about that for a long time, and I am happy that he no longer talks about it.

And there are a lot of things I wish Donald Trump would do better. It is not as if I don’t think he has a number of flaws. But I think most of the charges against him are, pardon the pun, “trumped up.”

You are one of the few who correctly point out that Trump accused the Mexican government of sending us its rapists, which of course is entirely different from saying that “Mexicans are rapists,” which far too many in the reprehensible mainstream media have so irresponsibly, unprofessionally, and defamatorily reported.

I don’t understand, though, how criticizing the Mexican government for being corrupt – a notion echoed by Transparency International year after year, not to mention the New York Times expose on that government’s publication of a pamphlet on how to cross the border safely, and illegally, into the United States, which it distributed to millions of Mexicans – is an attack on Mexicans in general. When our colleagues here at the Herald blast the Greek government for being corrupt, should that be seen as an attack on Greeks in general?

Regarding Judge Curiel, Trump indeed spoke in a way that suggested that people are inherently incapable of being impartial when their heritage is involved. Even if he meant that, it is not racist, if he applies it to all human beings equally (if, for instance, he doesn’t say that Mexican judges cannot be impartial, but Irish ones can). But Trump went beyond Curiel’s heritage to point out that the judge is a member of at least four organizations that advocate for Latino causes. It is a safe bet that the majority of people in those organizations will not be voting for Trump.

Besides, far too many people are hypocritical about the role heritage plays in governmental decisions. How many Greeks want to elect Greek-Americans to office so the latter can play a role in shaping U.S. policy that benefits Greece and Cyprus?

Next, there’s Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, which was always temporary, as qualified by the words “until we figure out what the hell is going on” (i.e., until entrants can be properly vetted). Trump has recently modified that so it does not apply to Muslims per se, but rather to anyone coming from a region of the world where terrorism runs high. By that logic, he might exclude a Christian visitor from Libya, but admit a Muslim from Sweden. In any case, the only plausible argument I can see to Trump’s proposal is if someone would purport that our vetting process is just fine. Because no one, not even our own cousins from Greece, should be allowed into the United States without being properly vetted.

As for Trump’s referring to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas, I say it couldn’t have happened to a nicer gal. Trump didn’t say boo to Warren, but she unilaterally and unprovoked began unleashing a tirade of scathing remarks against him. The Pocahontas reference was in response to Warren’s dubious claim that she is of Native American descent, a claim refuted by none other than the Atlantic – which is certainly no conservative publication. In that context, calling Warren Pocahontas is no more a slur against Native Americans than it would be against Greeks if Ted Cruz falsely claimed that he was of Greek descent and Trump sarcastically referred to him as Socrates.

Moreover, Trump disavowed David Duke repeatedly, several times before and after the one instance when he didn’t hear the question correctly over the earpiece and thus did not. Even if we don’t take him at his word, what would be the logic to disavow Duke on a Thursday and Friday, not disavow him on a Saturday, and then disavow him 10 minutes later again, and thereafter? I take Trump at his word.

Finally, the Country Club Republicans who denounce Trump are a combination of being jealous because he’s never held elected office and he’s making it all look so easy compared to their campaign struggles, and that for decades since Ronald Reagan left office, neocons have hijacked Reagan’s good name and created a fiefdom through which they maximize their precious billions without government interference, and they are scared to death that a populist is going to pull the rug from under them and take the vast majority of GOP voters, who have merely been double-parked in the Republican Party for decades, along with him.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?