In the past 48 hours, the media and Donald Trump’s opponents have latched onto yet another angle on which they hope to bury Donald Trump (if this sounds familiar, it’s because they do this every week).
The new hit angle? Donald Trump’s ‘racist’ attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge currently presiding over the Trump University class-action suit. Trump is concerned Judge Curiel may be biased against him, based on Trump’s positions, such as his widely-reported policy-plans to build a wall with Mexico.
First, a few quick facts:
1) Judge Gonzalo Curiel is Mexican-American (the son of Mexican immigrants). [To be sure, as a Latina, I am proud of Judge Curiel’s accomplishments (not many children of immigrants go on to become federal judges!) and am sure he is a fine individual, something with which I’m sure Trump agrees as well.]
2) Trump has made remarks that some interpreted as “anti” Mexican or “anti” Latino — namely, his June 2015 remarks (albeit factual remarks) that some of the illegal immigrants who cross through the Mexican border unvetted are criminals; his plans to build a wall with Mexico; and his plans to deport illegal immigrants (the majority of which are Latinos). To those with a brain, or those without an agenda, this is not at all anti-Latino or anti-Mexican but it is nonetheless indisputable that some Latinos did take offense to these remarks, largely due to (a) the anti-Trump media widely misquoting and misrepresenting what Trump actually said in June, and (b) radicals for whom anything short of “Let illegal immigrants come and stay” is anti-Latino.
3) He has awarded scholarship assistance to those here illegally. (It is natural to infer from such that the Judge is in favor of helping illegal immigrants.)
4) Judge Curiel has issued questionable rulings in this case. The most glaring one was on May 28th, when he unsealed previously-sealed documents (already an eyebrow-raising move). It’s worse, though… The reason? As Judge Curiel himself wrote in his order to unseal the documents, the reason was the public interest in the case, part of which was due to Trump’s remarks about the case. Huh?
Hm, that’s not normal.
The worst part? In unsealing the documents, the Judge, well, messed up, to put it lightly. You see, some of these documents were never supposed to be unsealed, containing sensitive, personal information about private individuals. Judge Curiel then had to scramble to reseal some of the documents he’d unsealed but, too late — they were already out in the public domain.
What a mess. That alone is arguably enough to warrant Judge Curiel recusing himself, as he is apparently no longer thinking clearly or able to preside over this case in a rational manner.
A few days later, Trump, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, noted Judge Curiel has an “inherent conflict of interest”, citing his plans to build a wall and Judge Curiel’s Mexican-American heritage, including the Judge’s membership in a Latino lawyers’ associations named “La Raza” (“the race”). Trump also mentioned the reports that have surfaced regarding Judge Curiel having known the plaintiffs’ lawyer for years. (Are they friends? What is their relationship? These are questions that deserve answers.)
Shortly thereafter, on June 3rd in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump said Judge Curiel should recuse himself. (Notice: Trump had not previously called for Judge Curiel to recuse himself — he only did so after the unsealing of documents containing private citizens’ personal information.)
All pretty benign. So what’s the problem here???
Critics have seized on this, feigning outrage, saying Trump’s stance is “racist” because, according to them, Trump is claiming — hang onto your horses for this one! — that Judge Curiel is unfit to serve because of his Mexican ancestry.
If you try to wrap your head around that gem, it will give you a glaring headache. The truth is (to anyone without a partisan, anti-Trump agenda) Trump’s stance has NOTHING to do with Judge Curiel’s ethnicity but rather with Trump’s policy positions / remarks. Trump is rightly concerned / questioning whether his positions / remarks have caused Judge Curiel to have any personal animus towards him. Consider, for instance, this analogy:
It isn’t saying the judge can’t be effective “because she is a single mom”… it’s saying the judge can’t be unbiased because of remarks the person made about single moms (a category to which the judge belongs). In Trump’s case, it’s a national origin category. Big whoop.
The most ironic part of all this is the media and Trump’s critics who, for a year now, have constantly insisted that ‘no Latino will vote for Trump!‘… ‘Latinos all dislike Trump because of his remarks/policy positions!‘ … yet now clutch their pearls and shout: ‘How dare you say this (Latino) judge might not like Trump because of his remarks?!’ Which is it? Make up your minds!
As I quickly mentioned on CNN’s “Out Front with Erin Burnett” last night, and again on Twitter:
The saddest part of this fake controversy? It’s un-American. The media and Trump’s critics are essentially saying a private citizen cannot ever exercise his speech rights to question a judge’s impartiality or ethics. (Ironically, these are the same folks who danced over Justice Scalia’s grave and attack Justice Clarence Thomas on every angle, repeatedly.)
It is downright frightening.
The truth is: judges are humans. Judges are not infallible. In fact, they routinely err. Often, they even breach criminal laws:
A 2015 New York World article entitled, “When Judges Are Judged,” notes:
So what’s with the un-American pushback against Trump’s First-Amendment right to simply express misgivings about the potential bias of a judge? Since when did it become an American value that we do not, cannot, and should not question the ethics of judges? Have you ever listened to a Supreme Court nomination hearing?!
Bottom line: As a Latina myself, if I were a judge presiding over a very unique case where a defendant had made remarks, which some Latinos interpreted or could interpret as anti-Latino, I would naturally expect my impartiality to be questioned. In fact, I would likely even consider recusing myself prior to any such request, even IF I knew I was not affected by, or acting upon, the conflict of interest, in order to preserve confidence in the case and in the judicial system. Do I think Judge Curiel actually is acting upon the conflict of interest? No, I don’t. But Trump has an absolute right to voice those concerns, ask questions, and it should not spark any controversy whatsoever.
Last two points:
As for the media feigning horror that Trump called Judge Curiel “Mexican.” Hmm, newsflash for the non-Latinos — we Latinos do this all the time. I often refer to myself as “Cuban” (even though I was born in the U.S.) and my U.S.-born Mexican friends and neighbors often refer to themselves as “Mexican.” It’s just a colloquial shorthand, nothing more.
Lastly, Trump has *never* stated Judge Curiel *is* definitely biased. When Trump states there is an “absolute conflict of interest”, and a Trump critic runs with that, it only reveals the embarrassing ignorance of the Trump critic. Saying there is a definite conflict of interest, does not mean you believe the person is ACTING on the conflict of interest. All Trump is saying is the POTENTIAL for impartiality is there. In fact, look up the definition:
So, again, what’s the controversy here??? The only ‘controversy’ is how the media and Trump’s critics continue to use fake, phony attacks to further their own partisan agenda. Quite frankly, it’s tacky.