Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"In my world, when people don't treat you fairly . . ."

You take revenge on them, of course! The only trouble with that bit of wisdom offered today by one Donald J. Trump is that if you are a public servant in a democracy, it's your job to be fair to everyone and to enforce the law impartially even when you feel wronged, hurt, misunderstood, or even "misconstrued." That's called placing principle and duty above petty personal vengeance.

There were two points about Trump's appalling statements the other week about the supposed "bias" of the "Mexican" U.S. Federal judge hearing the fraud lawsuit against his fraudulent Trump University that I worry have gotten lost amidst the focus on whether Trump is a "racist" or not.

As Michael Gerson noted last week, who the hell cares if Trump is a racist in his heart, or whatever passes for one in his case: what matters is that he is saying things that legitimize, enable, and foment morally abhorrent views — and actions — that every president in modern times has strived to counter in our pluralistic and democratic society. ("Is Trump himself a racist? Who the bloody hell cares? There is no difference in public influence between a politician who is a racist and one who appeals to racist sentiments with racist arguments. The harm to the country — measured in division and fear — is the same, whatever the inner workings of Trump’s heart.")

As bad as Trump's allegation that Judge Gonzalo Curiel has an "absolute conflict of interest" in hearing a private civil action against Trump — for no other reason than (a) Curiel is "Mexican" (which Trump later revised to define, in the case of the Indiana-born Curiel, as "very pro-Mexican") and (b) Trump has said things that I suppose could be defined as very "anti-Mexican" — what is arguably even worse was his not very veiled threat to use the power of the presidency to punish Curiel if he becomes president. Here's exactly what Trump said:

They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Ok? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case? Where everybody likes it.
Ok. This is called life, folks. . . .

The other point that should not be lost is what this kind of thinking reveals about Trump's sense of morality and humanity.

Trump automatically believes that it is impossible for a Federal judge, or anyone else, to put aside what he assumes to be their personal feelings. The syllogism he literally presented when challenged about his statements was

A "I'm building a wall"
B The judge is "Mexican"
C The judge has "an inherent conflict of interest"

Only a man utterly devoid of a sense of principle and duty himself — one whose only standard of reference is "winning" and "losing," personal gain, and self-interest — could fail to understand that for decent and civilized people, principles such as truth, duty, an oath of office, the rule of law, and (genuine) patriotism always assume a higher calling on one's conscience than petty vengeance, "what's in it for me," or score-settling.