Speaker Paul Ryan said today that Donald Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel constituted “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Ryan made this comment in the Anacostia neighborhood of Southeast Washington, D.C.
Ryan thus had two reasons to label Trump’s remark “racist.” By doing so, he could pander to his African-American audience and position himself, in the event Trump loses, to say he called Trump out.
But Ryan is wrong about Trump’s statement. It is not racist.
Trump did not say that a judge of Mexican heritage cannot treat him fairly. He said that this judge isn’t treating him fairly, and he implied that the reason is that Trump has made unfriendly comments about Mexico and immigrants from Mexico. (Ben Carson tried to make this distinction on Megyn Kelly’s program last night, but Kelly didn’t seem interested in letting him explain).
The difference is obvious and crucial. Consider two hypothetical statements by an inner-city Black: (1) white policemen can’t treat me fairly because of my race and (2) the white policeman who arrested me treated me unfairly because of my race.
I doubt that anyone would say the second statement represents “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Most would deny that it is racist at all.
So too with Trump’s statement. It is baseless (just as the inner-city Black’s hypothetical statement #2 might be) and it is unfortunate, but it is not racist.
Is hypothetical statement #1 is racist? Arguably. However, it has long been a premise of many a radical Black activist. I’ve rarely heard it labeled “racist” by liberals or members of the mainstream media.
In any case, Trump made no such statement about Judge Curiel. Later, Trump said a Muslim judge might not be fair to him. He didn’t say Muslim judges couldn’t be fair to him; just that a given one might not be. Moreover, his doubt is based on the fact that he suggested a temporary ban on Muslim entry into the U.S.
In our analogy, this is the equivalent of an inner-city Black questioning whether white policemen can treat him fairly given that he advocates, say, the removal of white policemen from the inner-city. Would the Black in this hypothetical be guilty of racism by virtue of his doubts about being treated fairly in this context? I don’t think so. Nor, I suspect, would many liberals or mainstream media members condemn the Black as racist for putting forth that proposal.
Naturally, leftist partisans like the venomous Dana Milbank are portraying Trump’s misguided attack on Judge Curiel as racist. Republican leaders should not join the chorus.