I wonder what our president would think of a man who immigrated to the United States at a young age not because he yearned to breathe the air of freedom or hungered to make America great again, but because he was ducking compulsory military service in the home country.
He made his fortune here—and not entirely honorably, it must be said; he supplied liquor and women to miners in the Klondike Gold Rush—and then he decided he wanted to go back home. But the homeland wouldn’t have him because of the draft-dodging. Would Donald Trump want such a man in his America?
The man I describe actually lived, but he wasn’t named Gonzales or Rodriguez and he wasn’t from Guatemala. He was Friedrich Trump. Donald’s grandfather.
Friedrich was from Bavaria. (The belly of European fascism—naturally.) Bavaria was a kingdom in 1905, when His Excellency Prince Luitpold denied Friedrich’s request that he be spared—wait for it—deportation. Trump grand-pere was not above playing the kind of sympathy card that today our president loves to mock.
“We were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria,” Friedrich wrote His Highness. “We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick. Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family.”
A different man might have the capacity to reflect for, oh, 10 or so minutes on the fact that his own grandfather—the immigrant whose fortune in whorehouses paved the way for the grandson to become one of America’s foremost pussy-grabbers—faced such fears. But a different man would not have imposed a policy of gratuitous cruelty toward children in the first place.
This is who he is—a hateful and vicious man. We’ve had drunk presidents and mediocrities and even a few genuine reactionaries, at least on some issues, but we’ve only ever had two hateful, vicious presidents. Andrew Johnson, and the incumbent—one the beneficiary of an assassin’s bullet, the other of Putin’s wily henchmen.
His need for conflict is such that even after he reversed the original family-separation order, he continued to scour the landscape for enemies and targets. Trump has done many disgusting things as president, but I would implore you to consider that his decision late last week to start talking again about murders and other violent crimes committed by people who came here illegally is the single most disgusting thing he’s done.
It’s not that those crimes aren’t real (although he exaggerates, of course—more on that later), or the victims don’t deserve our sympathy, or the perpetrators punishment. All those are givens.
But a president of the United States is supposed to try to reduce conflict at moments like that. They don’t always succeed or make the best choices. You may believe, for example, that Barack Obama spoke inappropriately after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Fine, if you do.
But take 2:36 to watch his remarks (after you finish reading me of course). He started by noting that he had to be careful of what he said lest it influence the Justice Department or affect its work (Donald Trump spends more time interfering in the Justice Department’s work than anything else). Yes, he said that thing about how if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon, which was too racially blunt for some people to handle.
But here are several things Obama did not do. He did not attack George Zimmerman. He did not say whether he thought Zimmerman should be arrested. He did not address Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law (and that was the question that was asked of him!). He did not suggest that the police chief of Sanford, Florida, should resign, which some were saying. He did not prejudge the case. And most of all, he did not unload a stream of rhetorical diarrhea aimed at the half of the country that disagreed with him. He never did those kinds of things.
Trump does them daily.
And this was an occasion when some people said Obama divided the country. On nearly every other occasion when a controversy demanded a presidential response, he at least tried to dispense some balm across our benighted Gilead. For that matter George W. Bush usually did, too, excepting some of those “if you’re not with us you’re against us” profanations. Presidents understand this to be central to the job. You’re supposed to try to be the president of the whole country.
Trump wants only to be the president of 35 or whatever percent who worship him. He hates the rest of us, and he needs to prove to the 35 how much he hates the 65 every week.
And he is, needless to say, lying. Undocumented immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans. From 1990 through 2014, states with higher proportions of illegally arrived immigrants have lower crime rates than states with smaller proportions. Trump tosses around 63,000 as the number of Americans killed by illegal immigrants since the 9/11 attacks. It’s a made up number; it was first circulated by Congressman Steve King, from the Bavarian section of Iowa, if you get my drift.
Trump was reportedly taken aback by all the fuss last week; he thought racist xenophobia was a sure winner for him. Trump shills and enablers swear it still is and say we should expect more up through November. Of course he will; this poison is all he has to offer. And to the long list of accomplices we can blame for him being in the position to dispense it, we can add Prince Luitpold, who should have allowed Friedrich to stay, positioning his grandson to destroy Germany instead of the United States.