Here are 10 thoughts on the president’s alleged use of the word “s—hole” in describing Haiti, a Central American country, and African countries:
1. There are few filters between President Donald Trump’s mind and mouth. That is his appeal and his weakness. It is very common that a person’s strengths are also weaknesses. I wish Trump’s tweets and comments were as forthright—as un-P.C.—as they are now but stated in a sophisticated way. I also wish that cheesecake were not fattening. But just as cheesecake comes with sugar, Trump comes with unsophisticated rhetoric. People are packages, not a la carte menus.
2. As a rule, a president of the United States should not label countries, let alone continents, “s—holes.” I don’t know what word the president actually used, but had he used the word “dysfunctional” instead of “s—hole,” that actually might have been a service to the people of many of these countries. I have been to 20 African countries. Corruption is Africa’s greatest single problem. That’s why those who truly care about Africans, many of whom are terrific people, need to honestly describe the moral state of many or most African countries.
What benefit is it to honest, hardworking Africans or Latin Americans or others to deny the endemic corruption of these societies? As Guatemalan columnist Claudia Nunez wrote on Trump in the Guatemalan newspaper Siglio 21:
The epithets he uses to describe certain groups are unfortunate and exemplify the decadence of the current political scene. But he has also said things that are true, for example, that it is we citizens of migration countries who have accommodated ourselves to the need to export people, as we have calmly allowed excessive levels of corruption to grow for decades.
3. Though many wonderful immigrants come from the world’s worst places, there is some connection between the moral state of an immigrant’s country and the immigrant’s contribution to America. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, 73 percent of households headed by Central American and Mexican immigrants use one or more welfare programs, as do 51 percent of Caribbean immigrants and 48 percent of African immigrants. Contrast that with 32 percent of East Asians and 26 percent of Europeans.
4. The press’s constant description of Trump as a racist, a white supremacist, a fascist, and an anti-Semite has been a big lie. It is meant to hurt the president, but it mostly damages the country and the media. To cite the most often provided “evidence” for the president’s racism, the president never said or implied that the neo-Nazis at the infamous Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations were “fine people.” The “fine people” he referred to were the pro- and anti-statue removal demonstrators.
5. Why are the left’s repeated descriptions of America as “systemically racist” not the moral equivalent of the word “s—hole”? The left’s descriptions of America and its white majority are at least as offensive, less true, and not made in private or semi-private conversations but in the open (in most college classes, for example).
6. The poor choice of language notwithstanding, can any countries be legitimately described as “s—holes”? As Ben Shapiro, a never-Trumper, wrote, “The argument that Trump is wrong to call some countries s—holes comes down to nicety, not truth—which is why Rich Lowry of National Review took Joan Walsh of CNN to the woodshed over whether she’d rather live in Haiti or Norway.” Walsh refused to respond, giving the specious response that she hasn’t been to either country.
7. That the president allows himself to speak openly to Democrats—whose overriding ambition is to undo his election—is testament to his self-confidence, if not his hubris. And his naiveté.
8. What people say in private is neither my business nor my concern. That’s why I wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal in the 1990s defending Hillary Clinton against charges of anti-Semitism for allegedly directing expletive-filled anti-Jewish comments in private against a Jewish campaign official she felt was responsible for Bill Clinton’s lost congressional race. Former President Harry Truman’s private use of the word “kike” was also mentioned.
In the Age of Non-Wisdom in which we live, many well-educated people (and, therefore, often the least wise among us) think private speech reveals all you need to know about someone. But in truth, private speech may reveal nothing about people. If everything you or I said in private were revealed to the world, we could all be made to look awful.
9. The Washington Post reports that the president also said he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries. That would seem to invalidate the racism charge. Had he just met with the prime minister of Singapore, as he had with the prime minister of Norway, he may well have said we need more immigrants from Singapore. As the never-Trump editors of National Review editorialized, “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.”
10. The left has lost all credibility in using the term “racist.” The University of California lists as an example of a “microaggression” the statement “There is only one race, the human race.” The left labels anyone who opposes race-based quotas, or all-black college dorms, or the Black Lives Matter movement “racist.” And it labeled Trump’s Warsaw-speech call to preserve Western civilization a call to preserve white supremacy. On race the left has cried wolf so often that if real wolves ever show up, few will believe it.
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