Dear President Trump:
COMMENTARY is a 73-year-old monthly magazine of serious conservative thought and opinion. So my colleagues and I are loath to publish obscenities, including on our website. But such is the degraded condition to which you have reduced the United States, that reporting on your sayings and doings requires us to wade into the linguistic gutter, where you regularly dwell. The toxic discharge flows daily from your office and Twitter account into the stream of national affairs–and the homes of Americans struggling to raise children amid an already-vulgar culture.
Thank you for that, Mr. President, and thanks also to your moral-majoritarian sycophants. (This is what moral renewal looks and sounds like, eh, Rev. Falwell?)
Which brings me, Mr. President, to your latest contribution to the American conversation: “Why would we want all these people from shithole countries?” The people whom you had in mind were immigrants from Haiti as well as African countries. That’s according to multiple outlets reporting independently on the same incident Thursday, reports which your White House has not denied. Why these shitholers, you pressed the lawmakers assembled in the Cabinet Room, there to discuss an immigration compromise, and not more migrants from places like Norway?
Why the brown and black people, let us be honest, and not the ones from nice, Nordic stock?
In the coming days, your right-wing media allies will scramble to justify your statement. “Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is often coarse,” the more highbrow apologists will say, “but that doesn’t mean Americans shouldn’t have a debate about merit-based immigration policy.” Your thuggish, lowbrow apologists take you more literally; they are already flooding the Internet with images of misery in Africa and Haiti, to prove that your “shithole” characterization was right on the money.
The rest of us must insist, however, that this is not the time for policy discussions. Your remarks are not an occasion to debate merit-based immigration, aid to the developing world, or social cohesion and upward mobility among different sets of immigrants to the U.S. No, this is a moral moment. Or rather: It is a new moral low point for the American presidency. Any attempt to make this about policy would be a grave offense to the many millions of immigrants who have helped build up this nation since its founding.
I say this as an immigrant from Iran, a place which you likely consider to be another “shithole,” and as a proud conservative. I did not support you in the 2016 election, precisely because I worried about your temperament. Since then, I have strived to be fair and intellectually honest. I have given your administration credit whenever I felt it was due. But your latest outbursts are a reminder that no policy achievement can wash away moral disgrace. Here’s hoping your saner, more upright advisers can put a stop to the flow of discharge from your office. But I’m not holding my breath.