‘We have come so far. We’ve made so much progress, and I think this man, this president, is taking us back to another place,” civil-rights hero Representative John Lewis (D., Ga.) told ABC News’s This Week yesterday.
“The president is an unreconstructed, uncensored racist,” CNN contributor Cornell William Brooks declared last week. U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D., Ill.) drilled fathoms deeper on MSNBC: “We now know that we have in the White House someone who could run the Ku Klux Klan.”
But President Donald J. Trump hardly looked like a grand wizard a week ago today. On January 8, he hosted Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Isaac Newton Farris Jr., Dr. King’s nephew, and Bruce Levell of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. All three of Trump’s guests are black.
As they looked on, the president sat at a desk aboard Air Force One and signed H.R. 267. This new law re-designates Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Junior National Historic Site as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. It expands the venue to include the Prince Hall Masonic Temple, the first headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King co-founded in 1957. The National Park Service’s Peggy O’Dell testified on Capitol Hill in March 2016: “We believe that the re-designation will increase awareness of the park.” It also will ease maintenance and historic preservation.
Who sponsored this legislation? Why, none other than Representative John Lewis.
President Obama had eight years to take this step. He didn’t. President Trump did.
If Trump’s critics are correct, his signature is grotesquely out of place. A racist or Klansman would have vetoed this measure, or at least signed it grudgingly and privately while grumbling to himself about “uppity blacks.” He would not have invited Dr. King’s relatives onto the presidential aircraft, ushered in White House photographer Shealah Craighead, and then issued a press release and pictures to tell the world what he had done. A white-supremacist politician surely would have worried much more about offending white bigots than attracting black voters. A Grand-Wizard-in-Chief would have kept all of this secret. Instead, President Trump made it public.
Also public, Trump on Friday appeared at the White House with HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, Dr. King’s aforementioned nephew, and a racially diverse group of leading citizens. “Reverend King preached all his life: love — love for each other, for neighbors, and for our fellow Americans,” the president said. “Today, we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.”
Photo: Andrea Banks/White House
President Trump then signed a proclamation honoring January 15, 2018, as the MLK Day federal holiday.
Of course, what made the most news last week was what President Trump reportedly said between these two events.
According to Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), President Trump said during a meeting on immigration Thursday that he was frustrated that America admitted so many people from “sh**hole countries,” including El Salvador, Haiti, and many African states.
Trump denies using this term. He responded Friday via Twitter: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
Senator David Perdue (R., Ga.) backed Trump’s not-guilty plea. “I’m telling you he did not use that word, George [Stephanopoulous], and I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation,” Perdue said on ABC News’s This Week yesterday. “How many times do you want me to say that?”
“I didn’t hear that word either,” Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) concurred on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I certainly didn’t hear what Senator Durbin has said repeatedly.” Cotton added: “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.”
Senator Rand Paul. M.D. (R., Ky.) added a unique perspective to this broiling controversy.
“I did about 200 cataract surgeries with a group of surgeons in Haiti and the same in Central America,” Senator Paul, an ophthalmologist, said on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday. “And when we asked Donald J. Trump as a private citizen to support those trips, he was a large financial backer of both medical mission trips.” Paul continued: “I think it’s unfair then to sort of all of a sudden paint him, ‘Oh well, he’s a racist,’ when I know, for a fact, that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti.”
(IRS records of the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s two $10,000 donations to support Dr. Paul’s mercy trips to Guatemala in 2014 and Haiti in 2015 are available here.)
Whatever Trump said or didn’t say, the reaction has been beyond incendiary, with the words “racist” and “racism” erupting like volcanos around the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Trump’s alleged language, if uttered, was unfortunate, vulgar, and unpresidential, although he hardly would have been the first chief executive to use profanity in office. His supposed words apparently were aimed at sh**hole nations, rather than sh**hole people. The latter would have been inexcusable.
It is widely understood that certain nations are garden spots, and others are not. It is fair to say that Haiti, El Salvador, and a tragically high number of African countries are non-garden spots. It also is perfectly appropriate to ask whether America would be better off with immigrants from such impoverished and embattled places or from prosperous nations, such as Norway, which Trump reportedly mentioned. It likely was top of mind, given Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg’s visit and joint press conference with him on Wednesday.
Whatever he stated or didn’t, President Trump should learn these lessons from this experience, and repeat them to himself daily:
‐ “Every word I say matters.” This is true in public, in private, and around the clock, until he leaves the White House and begins work on the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.
‐ “I constantly am on camera, surrounded by microphones.”
Trump should think of himself as Jim Carrey in the 1998 film The Truman Show. Except when he is in bed, Trump should behave as if every breath he takes were being broadcast live around the globe.
‐ “Every Democrat is a human wiretap.”
Trump needs to remember that Democrats are not his pals. They almost universally crave his failure, resist his program, and want to yank him from office — never mind the 304 votes he legitimately won in the Electoral College. Anything he says in front of Democrats (and even some Never Trump Republicans, alas) can and will be used against him in the court of public opinion. Senator Durbin should be condemned for publicizing (or distorting) his private conversation with Trump, thus sabotaging efforts to reach a DACA deal. But this should be no more shocking than if, somewhere in Illinois, a rooster crowed at dawn.
‐ “Bring the cameras in, when Democrats are in the room.”
Trump needs to remember that Democrats are not his pals.
Ned Ryun of American Majority has an excellent idea: Whenever President Trump meets with Democrats, he should summon news cameras and let them stay until Democrats leave. Trump displayed his leadership skills to almost universal applause when he allowed the media to broadcast live for 55 minutes from the Cabinet Room, as he negotiated immigration and border security last Tuesday. Doing this regularly when Democrats are around will prevent them from offering journalists an alternative version of events. With cameras present, Trump should be on his best behavior. And the American people will benefit from Senate-floor-like transparency inside the White House. This would be unprecedented and gain Trump considerable respect for opening a virtual sunroof atop the West Wing.
‐ “My margin of error is 1/16th of an inch wide, and the media and the Left want me dead.”
Without developing a Nixonian sense of paranoia, Trump always must remember that he lacks a loyal opposition. What he has are enemies who salivate at the chance to destroy him. They even attack First Lady Melania Trump’s shoes and her Christmas decorations as they labor tirelessly to demolish him. Incapable of accepting Trump’s defeat of their golden goddess, Hillary Clinton, these bitter-enders never will stop trying to kill him via a thousand cuts and the occasional, strategically dropped anvil.
Trump’s job is to recall at all times, with the relentlessness of a bloodhound chasing an escaped Death Row inmate, that he must not give free knives and anvils to people who hate his guts and literally would cheer if he woke up dead tomorrow morning . (And the Left need not bother to deny this. Everyone knows this is true, as evidenced by the Left’s repeated fantasies about Trump being shot, stabbed, and decapitated.) These people would call Trump a racist for ordering vanilla ice cream. He should remember this without fail and act accordingly.
If Trump becomes blurry about this fact, he should remember the very first fake-news story to emerge on his watch. On January 20, during his very first day as president, Time magazine’s Zeke Miller reported that Trump removed a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King from the Oval Office. This confirmed that Trump was a racist who couldn’t wait to evict that troublemaking black from his new office.
Just one thing:
This was not true. The bust was exactly where it had been for years. It merely was blocked briefly by a door.
President Trump’s enemies have been chasing him since before his inaugural ball. And chase him, they will. He must see that these hyenas starve from exhaustion and hunger rather than drop slices of raw meat in their path.