As someone who has pummeled Donald Trump for what he said about Mexicans, I won’t defend him over what he said about Muslims.
But I’m also not interested in piling on someone who sticks his neck out and suggests a way to deal with a crisis – that radical Islamic terrorism has come to America. Political correctness distracts Americans and keeps them from asking questions about how this cancer got here, and how we get rid of it.
Trump has a suggestion: a temporary pause in granting visas to Muslims until U.S. officials “figure out what the hell is going on.” The media, Democrats and some Republicans responded by calling him a bigot.
As a Mexican-American columnist who writes often about immigration, I have little tolerance for bigotry.
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But hypocrisy is just as bad. Some of Trump’s critics are better at being self-righteous than they are at being self-aware.
About Trump’s proposed moratorium on Muslim visas, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said: “This sort of racism has been prevalent in Republican politics for decades. Trump is just saying out loud what other Republicans merely suggest.”
This is the same Harry Reid who in 1993 proposed an end to birthright citizenship for “anchor babies” born to undocumented immigrants. In 2008, he suggested that Barack Obama appealed to voters because the Illinois senator didn’t have a “Negro dialect.”
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said of Trump’s idea: “It’s not only shameful, it’s dangerous. We have to enlist help from American Muslims, Muslims around the world, in defeating the radical jihadists and the hateful ideology they represent.”
This is the same Hillary Clinton who, as a presidential candidate in 2008, tolerated and enabled a xenophobic whisper campaign by surrogates and associates who suggested that Obama was a foreign-born Muslim. She also failed to apologize when her husband, the ex-president, implied after the South Carolina primary that Obama had limited appeal beyond African-Americans. She only expressed “regret” that some were offended.
As for all those Republicans who leapt to the defense of Muslims, it’s better late than never. In the 14 years since the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans have been profiled, scapegoated, discriminated against, victimized by hate crimes and spied on by the U.S. government. About this, we have heard little from elected officials in general – and practically nothing from Republicans.
Does anyone think our intolerance problem is limited to Trump?
By attacking the GOP front-runner, the media and the political elites seem eager to convince us all that they’re enlightened. Good for them.
But I’d prefer that they be focused on keeping us safe, and not get distracted by yet another Trump sideshow. I’d prefer that they be smart, and figure out a better alternative to fixing a visa system that is clearly broken and puts Americans at risk. And I’d prefer that they be thoughtful, as they discuss what could be some messy and unpleasant policies to protect the homeland.
That’s what Americans need right now. Trump-bashing is cheap and easy. It makes a lot of people feel good, but it gets us nowhere.
Specifically, there is one argument that drives me crazy every time I hear it – that Trump’s moratorium on Muslim visas “plays into the hands of the Islamic State” by defining our war against that murderous gang as a conflict between Islam and nonbelievers while helping the terrorists recruit new members.
The bad guys are already recruiting new members. Every successful terrorist attack, anywhere in the world, is like a membership drive. And what does it matter that Americans refrain from characterizing this conflict as a religious war when the people intent on killing us absolutely believe that? You can stand outside in a storm and pretend it isn’t raining. But it won’t keep you from getting wet.
There are a dozen more important topics we should be talking about after the San Bernardino massacre.
Like why in the world would the State Department give a fiancee visa to Tashfeen Malik, the female terrorist born in Pakistan? And why won’t the State Department even now, citing Malik’s right to privacy, answer questions about her visa application? And why did United States Citizenship and Immigration Services compound the error by later granting her legal permanent residency? And how many more terrorists are already here on U.S. soil, waiting to carry out additional attacks? And how do we find them and neutralize the threat?
No, no, nothing to see here. Move along. Say, what do you think of Donald Trump?
Ruben Navarrette Jr., formerly of Sanger, is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.