Last week was a big week for presidential candidates who have Miami-Dade connections.
Monday, Jeb Bush, a Coral Gables resident, officially announced he’s running. A day later, he was joined by billionaire Donald Trump, a frequent visitor to South Florida who owns the swanky Doral Park Country Club.
As they entered the crowded Republican arena, Mr. Bush and Mr. Trump approached the very important Hispanic voter base very differently. While Mr. Bush showed off his cred by speaking flawless Spanish — and introducing his Mexican wife, Columba, Mr. Trump’s agenda largely was one of insults — to the Hispanic population, yes, but also to the rest of us who cherish the fact that this is a nation with a welcoming embrace.
During his boisterous 45-minute speech — he declared his candidacy for president as a Republican from the Manhattan towers that bear his name — Mr. Trump took no prisoners and had especially harsh words about immigrants.
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Following his usual style, the producer of the television show The Apprentice spoke pointedly, accusing U.S. leaders of being controlled by special interests and castigated China and Japan for their economic development.
But his most biting, and hostile, comments came on the subject of Mexico — and Mexicans.
Mr. Trump said that our southern neighbor is “financially drowning” the United States, and that it is a country that “does not send the best” of its people across the border.
Then this: “Mexico is sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists,” he said.
At least he was blunt, eschewing many candidates’ sneakier approach, the dog whistle. Remember Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens”?
If Mr. Trump is serious, then he clearly is not a serious candidate for president. And in a country — and world — still reeling from the hate-fueled massacre of nine people last Wednesday in a historic church in Charleston, South Carolina, his shallow words of bias have a particular sting.
Mr. Trump promised that if he’s elected president he will build “a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words.”
Rightly insulted, the Mexican government and a number of Latino leaders wasted no time in lashing out. Mexico’s Minister of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong called his diatribe “biased and absurd.”
Mr. Trump’s words are unworthy of someone who aspires to the presidency of a country of immigrants. It’s obvious he sees the substantial immigrant population from Mexico through a cracked and narrow prism.
Mr. Trump should know that immigrants come to this country to work hard, to raise their families after fleeing from political repression, poverty and sometimes hunger. They come in search of a chance for a better life. That’s why they cross the border.
Yes, some turn to crime, just as many native-born Americans do. And Mr. Trump’s threat to build a border wall? Nonsense. The solution to the immigration problem is true immigration reform and, above all, economic improvement in countries like Mexico.
At best, his words were gratuitous insults. At worst, they played to some Americans’ baser instincts. Neither is the sign of a candidate who really wants to lead this country.