THE PODIUM: Someone tell the president, ‘Silence is golden’
Author: Bob Beauprez - January 18, 2018 - Updated: January 18, 2018
Recently, Colorado Politics published my commentary lauding the many noteworthy achievements of the new Trump administration in only the president’s first year in office. That praise is justified and hopefully there is a great deal more good to come from our 45th president and the Republican majority in Congress. However, as we have repeatedly witnessed with Donald Trump, every gain seems to come with a measure of pain – usually self-inflicted.
President Trump’s latest insulting, unscripted comment referencing unnamed Central American and African nations as “s***hoe countries” has drawn condemnation from many, and the effects of it will likely last well after he leaves office. Trump and the White House tried in vain to claim that “was not the language used.” The best even Republicans that were at the now infamous meeting could come up with was “I don’t recall” or “no comment.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said fellow South Carolinian Lindsey Graham shared that the original reports were “basically accurate.”
Many see it as just another big gaffe by the president and have pounced on it as a political opportunity without appreciating the serious consequences of him once again hijacking a focused attempt by many to resolve a serious public policy issue with one very ill-conceived, malicious slip of his tongue.
Some have tried to soften the blow for Trump, Republicans and conservatives in general. Even the editors at National Review, who routinely have been highly critical of Trump, penned an attempt to explain that “what set Trump off” was a discussion of “one of our worst immigration programs,” the Diversity Visa Lottery system and the resulting chain migration. I expect that is true, and I likewise have serious objection to the lottery and chain migration.
…(T)he vast majority of immigrants have and continue to make positive contributions to our society, and rather quickly most immigrant families assimilate into our culture. The problems that have frustrated many (including myself) are more a result of failed enforcement of the law and grossly ill-conceived public policy such as the visa lottery, chain migration, welfare programs, and education policy.
However, David French, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite columnists, puts his sensible and perceptive finger on the problem with what he called Trump’s obvious “history and record of transparent hostility to certain immigrants.”
When you read French’s essay, you quickly understand where he’s coming from:
“For all too many Americans, Trump once again got personal. My youngest daughter is an African immigrant — we adopted her from a desperately poor region of a country that has suffered in the recent past from terrible corruption and oppression. Yet she’s been a delightful addition to our American family, and her story isn’t unique.”
“There are millions of Americans and lawful immigrants who hear comments like Trump’s and understand that he’s talking about them. Why shouldn’t they be angry? Why shouldn’t conservatives unite to ask the president to do and be better? No one can credibly argue that political discourse before Trump was healthy and virtuous. No one can credibly argue that he’s the first American to intentionally divide Americans by race, class, or religion, either. But a president can make our political culture better, or he can make it worse. And Trump seems determined to make it worse.”
In darker parts of our past, America has demonstrated prejudice against various groups of immigrants. Irish, Italians, Catholics, Japanese, blacks, Hispanics, Muslim and others have felt the weight of prejudice. Although my Belgian Catholic grandfather never spoke of it in front of me, he may have felt some prejudice against him because of his faith, limited education and the very broken English that he spoke.
However, the vast majority of immigrants have and continue to make positive contributions to our society, and rather quickly most immigrant families assimilate into our culture. The problems that have frustrated many (including myself) are more a result of failed enforcement of the law and grossly ill-conceived public policy such as the visa lottery, chain migration, welfare programs, and education policy.
In my 2009 book, A Return to Values, I wrote about our broken immigration system — what was wrong and how to fix it. Among the elements for a solution, I argued for merit-based legal immigration, suggesting that the various states should have a large hand in determining what skills were needed and the number of new immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. The editors at NR suggest that this is what Trump had on his mind, too.
”What he was almost certainly trying to get at, in his typically confused way, is that we’d be better off with immigrants with higher skills,” the NR editors said.
“This is the thrust of his proposed reforms of legal immigration — to put a greater emphasis on skills. If such a system is ever implemented, it will probably shift the composition of our immigration away from Latin America and toward South and East Asia (not the Nordic countries). This would make for a more rational system and one with a more diverse flow of immigrants than under the status quo,” the NR editors concluded and I agree.
A week ago, after the very positive and at that moment apparently productive bipartisan meeting at the White House I was hopeful that maybe a grand bargain was in the offing. I now fear that the opportunity may have passed with a singular comment yet again diverting the intended mission badly off course and back into the gutter of partisan politics and cultural divisions. Within hours of the vulgar comment, Democrats and Republicans had returned to their respective bunkers launching missiles of blame at each other. Gone in an instant was the glimmer of a possible, and long overdue, common-sense solution to an issue of great importance to the lives of almost every citizen and every community in America.
As the NR editors concluded in their editorial, “President Trump would do himself — and the cause of a more rational immigration system — a favor by cleaning up his remarks and straightening out his thinking.” Or, as our mothers taught us, oftentimes, “Silence is Golden!”
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