Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: We have seen this type before


It may have been 40 or 50 years ago, but we Americans have seen the likes of Donald Trump before.

We have seen men who are willing to stoke the furnaces of fear and hatred as a means to forge political power; we have seen those with little skill or competence other than a canny, amoral capacity to divide “us” from “them,” and to prey upon the weaknesses of others.

We have also seen where that path leads, and it is always, always and without exception downward.

We have seen such men work to create the impression of chaos and crisis, so they can then use that sense of crisis to claim that they and only they can restore calm, and only if they are given unchallenged power. We have seen them, under the guise of law and order, attack and undermine the system of law and order itself, trying to arrogate to themselves the authority to dictate what the law says, who it protects and who it condemns.


Courts and judges? Who needs courts and judges? Courts and judges are for weak countries, indecisive countries, countries not facing betrayal from within.

We do have safeguards against such men and such arguments. The Constitution guarantees due process for all, citizen or newcomer. Longstanding laws guarantee those fleeing persecution the right to seek amnesty and protection in our courts. But under Trump we are told that if courts and judges try to enforce those rights, they must be abolished in the cause of safety and security. He and his must be given a free hand, unrestrained.

And then there are the lies, always the lies. Big lies, enormous lies, lies so numerous and repetitive that for some they create an alternative reality.

In actual reality, there is no sudden influx of illegal immigrants across our borders.  In actual reality, enforcement on our nation’s borders had never been more strict even before the current administration took office.

In reality, immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit fewer crimes per capita than the native born. In the list of gangs operating here in the United States, MS-13 is an American creation with a very small and localized, if brutal, impact; it is not some existential threat from abroad. Immigration is a net economic boon and, with white fertility rates in this country falling below replacement levels for the first time in our history, an increasing necessity.  White immigration rates are falling as well, with Europeans increasingly losing interest in the United States as a destination.

All of that is real. This statement from Trump’s event last week highlighting victims of immigrant crime, is not real. It is not true; it isn’t close to being true:

"Sixty-three thousand Americans since 9/11 have been killed by illegal aliens,” he claimed. “This isn't a problem that's going away, it's getting bigger,. Sixty-three thousand and that number they say is very low because things aren't reported. 63,000, and you don't hear about that."

Again, you don’t hear that number because it is not true. It is a wildly fantastic exaggeration, a number invented out of thin air to legitimize, justify and accelerate the very fear upon which Trump feeds. 

Trump’s attack on the lottery visa system, repeated in that Friday meeting at the White House, is equally nonsensical:

“We don’t want people in our country that don’t go through a process. We want people in our country based on merit,” Trump said. “Not based on a draw, where other countries put their absolute worst in a bin and they start drawing people. Do you think they’re going to put their good ones? They don’t put their good ones. They put their bad ones. And then, when they commit crimes, we’re so surprised.”

Every single point of that description is wrong. Countries have nothing to do or say about which of their citizens enter the lottery visa system; individuals nominate themselves. Those individuals aren’t the “their bad ones;” as a rule, they are highly motivated, hard-working and courageous enough to want to make a better life for in a foreign country. They also go through a rigorous vetting process by U.S. authorities, including interviews, assessing education and work experience, arrest and criminal records, and the ability to make a living.

Trump’s real problem with the lottery visa program is the entryway that it provides to those from non-white, European countries, allowing people from “shithole countries” to “infest” our nation, to use the presidential term.  He is motivated by racism and personal ambition, and increasingly makes little attempt to hide that fact. When this is all over, American history will judge our current president as among the worst of us, just as it has judged those who came before him.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.