His first notorious comment concerned Mexican immigrants. A nasty comment, to be sure, but the key question should be not about nastiness but about truth. Let’s consider American history. Who were the Irish immigrants of the 1840s? Were they the cream of Irish society or were they mainly the poor and starving during the potato famine back home? Who were the Hungarian immigrants of the 1860s and the Chinese immigrants of the 1880s? How about the Jewish immigrants of the early 1900s?
Most immigrants are the poor and downtrodden of another country. They come here looking for a better life. Very often, both then and now, the immigrants are disproportionately young and male. I would venture that young men, especially away from the constraints of family and friends, have a much higher proportion of criminals than are found among the general public. Are they all rapists and robbers? Of course not, but Trump didn’t say they all are.
But the fact that many Mexican immigrants are illegal means they already started out by committing a crime against the U.S. And that illegality means they are harder to find and harder to catch if they go on to commit other crimes.
Was Trump so wrong? Probably not. Was he politically correct? Certainly not.
Now consider his comments about John McCain that drew so much criticism. I’m a fan of McCain. I tend to agree with him on many political issues. I also think he’s a rather smart guy (even though he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.)
But what is a hero? In general a hero is a winner. The Mets did not get a ticker tape parade this year even though one could make a good argument that they had a fantastic year, unexpectedly winning the National League pennant. But what counts are the final results and the Mets lost the World Series.
We honor and memorialize astronauts who are killed in space, but who are the heroes? The ones who successfully completed their missions. Yes, the ones who died were brave. But in the world we live in, heroes are those who succeed. (I don’t necessarily believe that should be the case, but it is the case).
What is the job of a bomber pilot during war? Clearly it is to bomb an enemy target and return safely to base. Unless you’re a Kamikaze pilot, your job is not to die. Do we and should we feel for those who die trying? Of course. Should we be proud of all our soldiers? Definitely. But the heroes are the ones who succeed.
That is all Trump said. Is John McCain a great American? In my humble opinion, yes. Did he do great things while a prisoner in the hands of Hanoi? As far as I know, yes. But none of that makes Trump’s comments about McCain incorrect.
Consider also Trump’s so-called outrageous proposal to track Muslims in the United States. Besides that fact that Trump made no such proposal – he was responding to a reporter’s “what if” question – everything depends on the content of a proposal.
Most European Union countries provide residents with national identity cards. Those cards distinguish between holders who are citizens and those who are not. In this country, it has been proposed by the chairman of the Oracle Corporation, among others. It is typically offered in the context of immigration policy, but sometimes in connection with gun control or health care reform.
Liberals tend to oppose identity cards but New York City has begun offering ID cards to residents without regard to citizenship or legal status in the country. That, the liberals seem to like. So again, everything depends on context.