Columns

Pence goes to Arizona — and loses his way

SAN DIEGO — Politics is making me sick. I have written about pandering, broken promises, partisan spin, opinion polls, situational ethics, flip-flopping, echo chambers, red and blue states and all the rest for 30 years. And it has taken a toll. I’ve never been more cynical or more distrustful.

Spend most of your time in swamps, and pretty soon all you see is alligators. Over the years, I’ve been deceived and disillusioned by politicians in both parties. I’ve also often bet on the wrong horse and trusted the wrong people.

After a speech about eight years ago I was asked if I could name any politicians whom I respected.

“Yes,” I said. “I only have two. A Democrat: Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois. And a Republican: Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.”

So I settled on two Midwesterners from neighboring states. On immigration, each man had bravely challenged leaders of his own party.

Gutierrez was the first to disappoint me. Arrested twice outside the White House while protesting President Obama’s heavy-handed immigration policies, the congressman tried unsuccessfully to get Obama to use executive power to defer some deportations. In 2011, in an attempt to push the White House to adopt a more sensible and humane immigration enforcement policy, Gutierrez embarked on a 20-city tour he called the “Campaign for American Children and Families.” Several congressional lawmakers, including Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif., said at the time that administration officials had warned them not to attend. That is how upset the White House was with Gutierrez’s mutiny.

But after the Obama administration launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) in June 2012 — essentially tricking young undocumented immigrants into turning themselves in to authorities in exchange for a two-year deferment from deportation and a temporary work permit — Gutierrez took the crumb and declared it a steak dinner. In September, in exchange for a speaking slot at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., he fell totally in line and enthusiastically praised the same Obama administration that he had spent the last few years railing against. Awkward.

Now, it is Pence’s turn to disappoint. I’ve written about the Indiana Republican — who is now vice president — for more than a dozen years. He usually has a good mind, a good heart and a good supply of the kind of common sense that grows in farm country.

Pence came to my attention in 2006 when, while serving in Congress, he wrote a bill that would have let millions of undocumented immigrants stay in the United States legally. One member of a family would return to the home country for quick processing sessions — at what Pence called “Ellis Island Centers” — before coming back to the United States with a temporary work permit. Nativists hated the Pence plan, calling it “amnesty lite.” I hated the nativists, and so I reached out to Pence. We began a series of interviews and conversations. I became a fan.

But last week, in Phoenix, Pence made a fool of himself. Having hitched his wagon to a president who believes that Mexican immigrants are criminals from a poor, violent, and corrupt country — the kind of place that Trump has previously referred to as a “shithole” — who steal jobs and resources from real Americans, the vice president has embraced the crazy. Speaking to supporters, Pence lamented “open border activists.”

Apparently, the Hoosier doesn’t know much about borders unless perhaps we’re talking about the boundary between Indiana and Kentucky. The U.S.-Mexico border is fortified, militarized and patrolled by more than 17,000 Border Patrol agents. That is not “open.”

Pence also praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — who is now running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate — as a “tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law.”

In truth, Arpaio’s contribution to “strong borders” was limited to clownish stunts like having deputies raid a fast-food restaurant in Phoenix because Spanish was spoken in the kitchen. Arpaio wiped his feet on the “rule of law” when he defied a federal judge’s order to stop enforcing immigration law and profiling Latinos. The lawman-turned-outlaw was found to be in contempt of court. Trump gave him amnesty, i.e., a pardon.

Nonetheless, Pence welcomed Arpaio and told him: “I’m honored to have you here.” So, I guess, the vice president is also a little fuzzy on the meaning of the word “honor.”

You see why I’m sick. And as long as I continue to cover politics, I don’t expect to feel better anytime soon.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Police in traffic stop didn’t deserve scolding

SAN DIEGO — Elitism is ugly. If you want to know how ugly, just watch the widely circulated video of an arrogant, obnoxious and profane political appointee scolding a couple of police officers during a traffic stop in Tenafly, New Jersey https://youtu.be/S6vlu1FRaic

The cringe-worthy encounter occurred over Easter weekend, and the dashcam video — which has now been watched by more than 2 million people — was released a few weeks later by the Tenafly Police Department.

Caren Turner is now a former commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates bridges, tunnels, ports and airports in both states. Whatever power comes with that position appears to have gone straight to her head.

Soon after the video surfaced, Turner resigned.

Good to hear. Let’s just say that, during the eight-minute encounter along a busy freeway, this public official didn’t exactly cover herself in glory. Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole called Turner’s behavior “profoundly disturbing,” “demeaning” and “deplorable.”

He’s right on all counts. And as the officers repeatedly told Turner after she flashed her credentials, she was not even involved in the traffic stop. She was called to the scene by her daughter, who was one of the passengers in the vehicle. The car was stopped, cited and towed due to expired registration.

Does the Tenafly Police Department always tow cars with expired registrations? I’ve been pulled over for expired tags before, and all I got was a ticket. Why didn’t that happen in this case?

Turner managed to remain calm until the 6:45 mark on the video, appearing as if she just wanted to verbally joust with the officers. She insisted on knowing why the car had been stopped. The officers wouldn’t tell her. Since the driver was 18 and a legal adult, they said, they had already explained it to the driver. If she really wanted to know, they said, she could ask the driver.

As Turner became more agitated, she descended into the swamp of elitism. “You can’t put a sentence together,” she told the officers. She also felt the need to point out that two of the people in the car were “Ph.D. students at MIT and Yale.”

Turner came totally unglued at the 7:15 mark. When she was told by the lead officer — Matthew Savitsky, who did most of the talking — that she “may” now take her daughter home, she lost it. “You may not tell me when to take my child,” she screamed at Savitsky. “You may shut the [expletive] up!” She also called both officers “pathetic” and a “disappointment.”

The now ex-commissioner was way out of line. She made a fool of herself, and she came across as a high-falutin’ snob with a disdain for lowly civil servants.

However, there is more to this story. Tenafly Police Chief Robert Chamberlain has said that he was proud of the “composure, poise and restraint” shown by his two officers. But, as the son of a retired cop, it is clear to me that the officers could have handled the situation better and more professionally.

Savitsky could have de-escalated the incident and ended it in half the time. That’s also part of good police work. When Turner pressed him as to why the car was being towed, the officer said that he didn’t “appreciate” her “demeanor” and claimed that she was “being very demanding.” Finally, he told Turner, “You have no right to know what’s going on here. I’m under no legal obligation to tell you.” When she made a snide comment about how he had “ruined” the students’ weekend, he responded: “I didn’t ruin anything. I’m just doing my job.”

The back-and-forth was inappropriate. This wasn’t a debate. Just end the standoff. Say goodbye, get in your squad car and drive away.

Of course, none of this lets Turner off the hook. She was 100 percent in the wrong, and she gave us all a glimpse of what the better and smarter “1 percent” thinks of the rest of us.

Let me say a word to the students who witnessed this spectacle up close and in real time.

Listen up, kids: Life’s most valuable lessons don’t come in the classroom. You should pursue a Ph.D. in people skills with an emphasis on how to treat people with respect. That will do you more good than degrees from fancy schools.

But what do I know? Despite a couple of degrees from a fancy school, I’m just the son of a lowly civil servant.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

For journalists, dishonesty is not the best policy

SAN DIEGO — The dustup over an offensive rant by a comedian at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner should prompt journalists to take a hard look at themselves and their profession, and ask what has become of both in the era of Donald Trump.

For one thing, members of the media should investigate whether some of them have picked up bad habits from the people they cover.

Like how to lie. Enduring falsehoods is something that I have in common with my dad, a retired cop: People lied to us all the time, usually to get out of a scrape. It makes you cynical and distrustful — especially of the powerful, who sometimes have a lot to lose from telling the whole truth.

In the recent film “The Post,” Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee — played by Tom Hanks — says about officials in the Nixon administration who misled the public about the Vietnam War: “The way they lied, those days have to be over.”

Of course, those days are not over. Politicians in both parties still lie with ease and often without a second thought.

Yet what happens when the “lied to” become the liars? It has been my experience — over three decades of working in the media — that reporters, producers and anchors can fib with the best of them. And if you can’t trust the media, whom can you trust?

Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite — once regarded as “the most trusted man in America” — couldn’t get a job today. The idea that the public could put even an ounce of trust in the media seems quaint. Cable hosts have gone from covering the story to becoming the story.

And now it appears that some of them are not being totally honest and transparent with their audience, which only increases public distrust and feeds the perception that Big Media has its own agenda. One thing I hear from readers is that the media often talk down to them or keep them in the dark. Well, dishonesty is a clear sign of disrespect. And it sure doesn’t produce any light.

The latest round of media offenders who have cut corners includes Fox News’ Sean Hannity, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, and CNN’s Jake Tapper. They all seem to have been less than forthcoming — about their relationships, their personal views, the credibility of their sources, or their own biases.

Hannity interviewed and defended Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, without telling us that he was also one of Cohen’s clients. The conservative host — who is not a journalist but sometimes likes to play one on television — also tried to argue that Cohen’s work for him was limited to real estate deals. But that assertion unraveled when Hannity acknowledged that Cohen’s work for him went beyond real estate. These details would have been good to know when Hannity was registering outrage over what he considered unfair and heavy-handed treatment of Cohen by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Confronted with a series of ugly and homophobic entries that were posted on her personal blog from many years ago, Reid offered an elaborate take on “the dog ate my homework.” With Reid, it was something akin to: A homophobe hacked my blog. Nearly a week after the blog posts came to light, the liberal host acknowledged that there didn’t appear to have been a hacking and told her viewers: “I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things. But I can definitely understand, based on things I have said and have written in the past, that some people don’t believe me.” Less defensiveness and more contrition could have done wonders.

Finally, Tapper deserves scrutiny for not being upfront about his relationship with a controversial figure: James Clapper. According to a newly declassified congressional report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the former director of national intelligence leaked and lied. In early January 2017, Clapper allegedly gave Tapper information about the dubious Christopher Steele dossier. Then Clapper misled Congress when he denied talking about the document with any journalist. It doesn’t look good that Tapper defended the dossier when CNN published its story and Trump attacked the network, and that the host later interviewed Clapper, all without revealing the extent to which he was involved in the story. It also stinks that, a few months later, CNN hired Clapper as a contributor.

Of all people, journalists can’t afford to play fast and loose with the truth. It hurts our credibility, which in turn destroys our effectiveness. After all, what’s the point of having a voice if no one believes a word that comes out of your mouth?

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Cable TV loses clarity and provides static

Much of cable television has become toxic. The poison comes from overheated primetime shows that blend together things that don’t mix: news, analysis and opinion.

I’ve been a guest on these shows on multiple networks for more than 15 years, dating back to my first appearance on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” Bill O’Reilly and I would argue, but always with mutual respect. He never cut me off, shouted me down or dumped me from a segment. He often gave me the last word. O’Reilly was unpredictable, like the time that he told then-presidential candidate Donald Trump that changing the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants was unwise and unconstitutional. That kept things interesting.

Lately, I’ve lost interest in every single nighttime cable news offering. My wife — who has traveled this road with me over the years — calls the current roster of programs “clown shows.” But that is an insult to clowns.

In recent months, I’ve turned down invitations to appear on MSNBC shows where the producers wanted me to criticize Trump for his immigration crackdown, which is stoking fear and separating families. Glad to do it. But I don’t remember many segments on MSNBC during the previous administration where guests criticized Barack Obama for his immigration crackdown, which stoked fear and separated families.

I’ve also rejected requests from CNN, because the network seems so deeply invested in its increasingly personal mud-wrestling match with Trump that most of its anchors, reporters and commentators are incapable of giving the president even an ounce of credit when it’s due. They gloss over scandals involving Democrats, while piling on every misstep by the White House. When settling scores with Team Trump, truth comes second.

As for Fox News, where I appear most often, letting Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham drone on about immigration just about every night — in the most simplistic and dishonest manner — shows about as much sound judgment as giving your 16-year-old a bottle of liquor and the keys to the car. Both hosts are rude, snarky, condescending and full of themselves.

I wouldn’t mind them talking about immigration so much if they actually understood the subject. They don’t. For one thing, since both Carlson and Ingraham work in Washington, geography works against them. If you want to learn about immigration, you can’t do it from the banks of the Potomac River. You’re better off on the Rio Grande. The Fox News hosts’ schtick is shallow, dismissive and one-dimensional. Instead of challenging people, they go easy on them. No thinking required, feeling will suffice. The hosts are good communicators, but they don’t seem very smart. And they’re not making their viewers any smarter either. Worse, when they talk about immigration, they don’t mind pushing people’s buttons and coddling racists who think Latino immigrants hurt America.

These shows chalk up ratings by focusing on hot-button topics that are driven by emotion. They produce discussions that viewers come to with preformed points of view in search of validation. They oversimplify everything, which short-changes viewers and leaves them ill-prepared to confront opposing views on the rare occasions that they venture outside their bubbles.

Meanwhile, the audience has been divided into silos. Conservatives flock to Fox News. Liberals cling to MSNBC. And if you’re an anti-Trump Democrat who likes to pretend that you’re in the middle of the road, CNN welcomes you.

These shows should inform the public — not push agendas or pander to constituents. Producers, bookers and hosts have been reduced to brazen opportunists, keenly aware of the political leanings of viewers and feverishly tossing them red meat.

It is enough to make you want to become a vegetarian.

We probably won’t see a CNN host tell her viewers that there is no such thing as “Russian collusion,” or that the GOP tax cuts help the economy. Likewise, we’re not likely to hear a Fox News host tell the members of his core audience that there is no such thing as a “level playing field” in the trade debate or a “sanctuary city” when discussing immigration.

Such honesty, maturity and sophistication might cause viewers to change the channel. The networks can’t have that. With so many other choices about how to spend their time, folks might not find their way back.

Contact Washington Post Writers Group columnist Ruben Navarrette at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

This means war!

The so-called ‘level playing field’ — such that it is — will never be level, not in trade and not in life

It’s war! A trade war, that is.

The United States is now in open conflict with China over age-old questions of who sells what to whom and at what price.

After the Trump administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum in a desperate attempt to artificially prop up failing industries, China retaliated with $3 billion worth of tariffs of its own — on more than 120 U.S. products including pork, meat and fruit.

How do we know the U.S. steel and aluminum industries are failing? Because thriving industries don’t need much protection. Notice that Team Trump isn’t rescuing Google or Apple Computers.

Actually, it is Americans who need to be rescued — from the belief that there is any such thing as a level playing field. Those three little words represent the unicorn of the trade debate, a total fantasy that people like to talk about even if it will never materialize. Not ever.

In the global exchange of products and goods, the phrase “level playing field” has become “go-to” terminology.

President Trump loves the phrase. Last year, in discussing the devaluing of China’s currency, Trump promised that “eventually and probably very much sooner than a lot of people understand or think, we will be all at a level playing field.”

So do business leaders like Dave Burritt, CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation, who supported Trump’s tariffs on imported foreign steel and aluminum. “We are not protectionists. We want a level playing field. … It’s time for some fairness here. It’s past time.”

But support for the phrase is bipartisan. On his way to winning the U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb endorsed Trump’s tariffs as good for the economy and the country. Lamb said it was time to “take some action to level the playing field.”

The trouble is, the playing field — such that it is — will never be level, not in trade and not in life.

President John F. Kennedy had it right so many years ago. When asked by reporters at a press conference in March 1962 about political opposition to his plan to send more U.S. troops to Vietnam, Kennedy observed: “There is always inequality in life. Some men are killed in a war and some men are wounded and some men never leave the country. Life is unfair.”

Sometimes, that is what a president needs to say to the American people. Leaders tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

For Trump, the trade debate is about two things: pressuring other countries to bend to his will on a host of issues like immigration and drugs, by hitting them in the pocketbook; and trying to alleviate the anxiety of America’s working class.

To those ends, we can expect Trump and his supporters to keep advancing the narrative that the United States and its people are being taken advantage of, that the country is suffering from a “trade deficit” estimated to be several hundreds of billions of dollars, and that government remedies such as tariffs are sometimes needed to give U.S.-made products a fair chance at competing in foreign markets.

To Americans struggling with lost jobs, falling wages, shuttered factories and diminishing hope — particularly in Rust Belt states like Ohio or Michigan — Trump’s demand for a level playing field is music to the ears.

It’s also a convenient way to avoid a fact of life that can make their lives difficult and uncomfortable: competition.

If anyone knows how to avoid the nuisance of having to compete for what you want, it is Donald Trump. For his entire life, Trump has benefited from an unlevel playing field that was bent in his favor.

It started at birth when Trump became part of a wealthy family of high-achievers.

He later attended the University of Pennsylvania where he was admitted — according to Trump biographer Gwenda Blair — as a favor from a “friendly” admissions officer who had known Trump’s older brother.

He started his real estate business with a loan from his father, Fred Trump Sr., which is estimated to be in the vicinity of $14 million. And after his father died, he inherited the bulk of the patriarch’s estate, which was valued at about $200 million.

And eventually, as a presidential candidate in the 2016 election, Trump crushed his Republican competition with the help of an estimated $2 billion of free media.

Life has been good to Trump. And, at times, it has been harsh to his competitors who no doubt could have benefited from a level playing field.

They didn’t get one. Why? See above. Because — as Trump sometimes needs to be reminded — there is no such thing.


Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a contributor to USA Today and the Daily Beast, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” and the host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Can you mix marriage with politics? Depends on your gender

SAN DIEGO — I’ve written about politics for 30 years, and I’ve been happily married for half as long. And, from making my way through the trenches of both adventures, here is what I’ve learned: My wife and I will at times disagree about politics. And, when this happens, I’m always wrong.

Well, that explains the “happily married” part.

Even so, I’m beginning to think that for many people, marriage and politics don’t mix. The mainstream media can’t make up their minds about whether a public figure ought to be able to answer for the beliefs of his or her spouse. And things get even murkier when those beliefs spark actions — political contributions, even tweets — that put the public figure in a tight spot.

Are we our spouses’ keepers? The uncomfortable truth is that, to a large degree, the answer depends on whether the person expected to keep their spouse in check is a man or woman.

When we’re talking about White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, the answer seems to be “yes.” But when it is NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd, or former FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe, it changes to “no.”

There seems to be a double standard for men and women. It is considered unfair to ask a man to answer for the political beliefs of his wife. But, even in 2018, we can’t seem to get beyond making that absurd demand of women.

And since we’re discussing absurdity, let’s check in with the cable network that has — in the era of Trump — taken that concept to new heights by taking itself way too seriously.

During a recent appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Conway was asked by host Dana Bash to explain tweets written by her husband, George, a prominent Washington lawyer and frequent critic of President Trump.

Conway hit the roof, accusing Bash of trying to “harass” her and dismissing the question as sexist. She brought up Hillary Clinton’s offensive suggestion from a few weeks ago that “white women” let their fathers, boyfriends and husbands tell them what to think about politics. Then Conway declared it “fair game” to talk about the spouses of people who work at CNN.

The whole segment made me cringe. When did journalism devolve into sophomoric bouts of gossip, innuendo and sniping?

On the defensive, Bash insisted that her question had nothing to do with gender. “I would ask you that if you were a man,” she told Conway. “No, you wouldn’t,” Conway fired back.

Bash suggested that it can be “hard” for two adults who are married to have different opinions. Conway seized on the word “hard” — asking “hard for whom?” The married couple? Or the media?

Conway acknowledged that it could be “difficult” for her children — who she said were probably watching — to see their mom have to defend their dad. But, she jabbed, the kids are used to witnessing a “double standard for their mother.”

Why should Conway be expected to comment on her husband’s political views? Since when is a wife accountable for what her husband tweets? And what does all this matter anyway?

The rules to this game have changed, folks.

It seems like just yesterday that we were being told by the media that it was totally irrelevant that Chuck Todd’s wife, Kristian Denny Todd, had done extensive consulting and communications work with Democrats, including former Sen. Jim Webb and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and contributed money to Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. Conservatives say that this amounts to a “conflict of interest” for the NBC newsman. Todd insists that his wife’s work doesn’t influence his views, and he claims that they have both been transparent about who does what.

We were also assured that Andrew McCabe isn’t responsible for the fact that his wife — while running unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the Virginia state Senate in 2015 — took in more than $675,000 from Democratic political action committees controlled by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. It was McAuliffe, a longtime ally and confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton who, according to The Wall Street Journal, urged Jill McCabe to run for office. Curiously, this was all about the same time that it was reported that Hillary Clinton had used a private email server while serving as secretary of state – a lapse in judgment that would ultimately be investigated by the FBI, whose leadership included Andrew McCabe. What a small world!

When Todd was asked by radio hosts about his wife’s political work, he bristled: “I don’t control her political opinions, and she doesn’t control mine.”

That’s a great line, Chuck. Can Kellyanne Conway borrow it?

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Silly politicians, troops are for war

SAN DIEGO — In the Southwest, four governors are sending National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. To understand how dangerous this could be, you can listen to politicians or poets.

Consider what California Gov. Jerry Brown — the only Democrat in that cohort — said last week at the National Press Club in Washington. Reluctant to honor President Trump’s request for troops, but afraid to be seen as weak on immigration, Brown is in quite a pickle.

In his remarks to reporters, the governor of the Golden State downplayed his showdown with Trump. The president — who seems to enjoy using California as a foil — has accused the Democrat of undermining border security.

Last week, Brown — who claimed that California and the Trump administration are “pretty close to an agreement” — pledged to send as many as 400 National Guard troops to the border, but only on the condition that they not enforce immigration law or build a wall.

“Trying to stop drug smuggling, human trafficking and guns going to Mexico to the cartels, that sounds to me like fighting crime,” he said.

Hold on. Brown must think he is being clever, doing Trump’s bidding but on his own terms. Yet how are the California National Guard troops supposed to “fight crime” — which isn’t their job by the way — without interacting with illegal immigrants? Are troops supposed to arrest the human traffickers and not also take into custody the humans being trafficked?

“Trying to catch some desperate mothers and children, unaccompanied minors coming from Central America? That sounds like something else,” Brown said.

Agreed. To many Latinos, it sounds like someone is trying to bleach out the brown and make America white again.

Let’s consult with a band of Mexican poets who have — as naturalized U.S. citizens living in San Jose, California, since the 1960s — used music to decipher the Mexican diaspora.

To unpack the experience of working-class whites in the Rust Belt, you turn to Bruce Springsteen. But to decode what it means to be an undocumented Mexican immigrant living on this side of the line, you need to soak up the wisdom of Los Tigres del Norte — a band that has sold more than 30 million records.

In their cultural battle hymn, “Somos Mas Americanos,” an undocumented immigrant stands up to Americans who mistake workers for invaders and assume a war footing.

Soy extranjero en mi tierra. Y no vengo a darles guerra. Soy hombre trabajador.

(I’m a stranger in my own land. And I didn’t come to make war. I’m a working man.)

America is confused. We take in refugees from war-ravaged Syria — albeit a small number of them — but we won’t even give refugees from war-ravaged Central America an asylum hearing. We make a big show about keeping out illegal immigrants; and the party that is doing much of the chest-thumping — the GOP — is hooked on contributions from businesses that use illegal immigrant labor. We portray illegal immigrants as dangerous criminals, then we hand them our children and the digits to our home security code so they can make our lives more comfortable.

Does this make sense to anyone who isn’t binge watching Fox News and following the rants of dimwits in New York and Washington who don’t know the border from a burrito?

If tough-talking Trump and all the other anti-immigrant bullies are serious about stopping illegal immigration, they don’t have to send soldiers and build a wall. All they have to do is find the courage to bite the hand that feeds them. Start locking up employers, and the illegal immigrants they hire will skedaddle.

But beware. This isn’t as easy as picking on poorly educated non-citizens who don’t speak English and can’t defend themselves. Employers will fight back. And they know how to strike fear into the hearts of politicians with just six words: “I’m stopping payment on the check!”

Americans love to complain about illegal immigration, but they’ll never accept responsibility for it. Hire illegal immigrants? Who — us?

When Trump followed the lead of the last two presidents — one Democrat, one Republican — and ordered troops to the border, he let U.S. employers off the hook. He also told the world that it’s time to take up arms because the United States is being invaded. Truth is, a lot of the folks who come looking for work were pretty much invited.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Paul Ryan lost his way before finding the exit

SAN DIEGO — Paul Ryan has got to be looking forward to spending more time with his children, and less time defending a president who can’t stop acting like an adolescent.

For the speaker of the House — who says he will leave Congress after this term and not run for office again — making lunches and driving carpool is a step up from having to comment daily on Twitter tantrums or the credibility of porn stars.

As for Ryan’s credibility, it has seen better days. The Wisconsin Republican was so eager to remain relevant in his party during the Trump Era that he made a deal with the Devil. And, as usual, the Devil got the better end of the bargain.

With the GOP facing the prospect of big losses in November, media commentators wasted no time in accusing Ryan of deserting a sinking ship. There is no doubt that his departure makes for bad optics, and that he did his party no favor by announcing his plans seven months before the election.

But, in Ryan’s defense, what has the Republican Party done for him? Not much, other than electing Trump and inflicting him on the GOP establishment in Washington. Thanks for nothing, folks. Ryan doesn’t owe his fellow Republicans a thing.

The real letdown was suffered by political moderates who thought Ryan was a new and improved, kinder and gentler Republican 2.0. They should have known better. If you put your faith in politicians, you had better get comfortable with being misled, betrayed, conned and disappointed.

And for Latinos who bristle at racism, and who search for moderate Republicans they can support because Democrats have failed them, the disappointment du jour is Ryan. The speaker started out as one of the good ones. He was a Republican with a heart and a brain, when many in the GOP are missing one or the other — and sometimes both. And his compassion and reasonableness led you to give a hearing to his center-right policies on trade, taxes and smaller government.

As a protege of Jack Kemp, Ryan learned from the best. The late Republican congressman and U.S. Housing Secretary was loved and respected by Latinos and African-Americans because he didn’t treat them like villains or victims but as fellow citizens.

One lesson from the School of Kemp was to always give people respect and approach them as equals. Another was that the GOP could use its love of freedom and opportunity to lure voters of all colors and backgrounds into “a big tent” if it didn’t turn them off with exclusionary racial rhetoric that sounded like “us vs. them.” And on immigration, that it was fine to oppose illegal entry but that it was also a good idea to acknowledge the economic, cultural and societal benefits of legal immigration — and resist destructive efforts to cut it.

In speeches and online campaign material, Ryan would insist that he was against “amnesty.” Then he would go on to embrace it by saying that he favored “legalizing” the undocumented and wanted to “give people a chance to get right with the law.”

In January 2017, during a CNN town hall, Ryan was confronted by a woman whose parents brought her to the United States without papers at age 11, and who had been in the country for 21 years since then and now had a daughter of her own. The woman asked him: “Do you think that I should be deported?”

To which Ryan responded: “I can see that you love your daughter and you’re a nice person who has a great future ahead of you, and I hope your future’s here.” He went on to call for “a humane solution to this very legitimate, sincere problem.” And when asked about Trump’s promise to create a “deportation force,” the speaker said that sort of thing is “not happening.”

In June 2016, Ryan told reporters that Trump’s claim that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel could not be objective in deciding a case involving Trump University because the U.S.-born jurist is “Mexican” fit “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Yet, once Trump was elected, Ryan fell in line behind Trump in order to push a GOP agenda that included $1.4 trillion in tax cuts.

Such a tragic final act for one of the few Republicans left who believed in a big tent. Now all we’re left with are those who feel more comfortable in a circus tent.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Our need to ‘share’ too much created monster called Facebook

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of being “unfriended” by members of Congress, there was a lot not to “Like” about the legislative branch’s assault this week on a certain social media site.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat for hours over two days in separate hearings before House and Senate committees. The 33-year-old took questions from dozens of lawmakers — including many senior citizens who didn’t seem to understand how the site works.

I wonder if this was what it was like for my parents’ generation, when folks wrung their hands and worried themselves sick in the 1950s over this new-fangled abomination called “rock ‘n’ roll.”

I’m going to tell you what the Facebook hearings were really about. But first, we have to be clear on what they were (BEG ITAL)not(END ITAL) about.

The hearings were not about the privacy of Americans, who voluntarily relinquish that privacy when they choose to open a Facebook account and then choose to post personal data on their page to seek the approval of family, friends and complete strangers. As Zuckerberg told lawmakers, Facebook’s users call the shots as to who sees what — if for no other reason than that they can vote with their “delete” button and leave the site. They choose what to reveal — and to whom.

Nor were the hearings about the need for Zuckerberg to apologize for the fact that a Republican presidential candidate successfully used in 2016 much the same data-collection methods that were successfully used by a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012. The Republicans essentially beat the Democrats at their own game.

And nor were the Facebook hearings about getting closure on the 2016 election. That won’t happen. Neither Hillary Clinton nor President Trump will let the election go. Now congressional Democrats suggest that the reason that young people, African-Americans, Latinos, working-class whites and probably some members of the Obama administration didn’t vote for Clinton was because a sinister third party hijacked their Facebook data and created anti-Hillary propaganda.

Speaking of apologies, Democrats need to apologize to the American people for the original sin of picking as their presidential nominee such a flawed, unappealing and unelectable candidate. After all, does anyone really believe that we would be here at this exact spot if Clinton had been elected because she remembered that there are voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? And what if Clinton had won the election and done so in part because of successful mining of Facebook data? Democratic lawmakers would be giving Zuckerberg a medal — or at least a “thumbs-up” emoji.

I miss the ol’ days when lackluster presidential hopefuls — whether they were Democrats like Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney — owned up to their failures. Nowadays, losers blame everyone from the FBI to the Russians to the media to Facebook.

These hearings were about what most things in Congress are usually about: power and money. Zuckerberg has plenty of both, and the lawmakers want their slice. And they will shame, flatter, threaten and arm-twist to get it.

As for power, Zuckerberg has an audience of more than 2.2 billion monthly users and the ability to call together a couple dozen of Silicon Valley’s top technology leaders at a summit to discuss best practices — something that, by the way, more than one lawmaker asked him to do to advance their pet causes.

As for money, Forbes and Bloomberg both put Zuckerberg’s net worth at about $70 billion. He lost an estimated $15 billion due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But he made back $3 billion after his first day of congressional testimony.

Politicians need money like an opioid addict needs pills. So each time one of them told Zuckerberg during the hearings that he or she looked forward to “following up” with him, that could’ve been the signal. The bite is coming. This was no shake up. This was a shakedown. At least Tony Soprano did it with more style.

Again, we started this. We made Zuckerberg rich and powerful. All because of our insatiable need to share stuff and show off our “perfect” relationships, vacations, children and cuisine. How much of it is real? They ought to call it “Falsebook.”

For some people, it’s not about sharing but stirring. They like to know they’re having an effect on other people.

That reminds me. After this column runs, I’ll probably post it on Facebook. Hope you “Like” it.


Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns

Trump’s treatment of Mexico: Repeating the mistakes of the past?

About five years ago, a friend from Mexico who studies how marketing experts manipulate consumer habits put on a slideshow made up of symbols, and then asked me what word popped into my head with each image.

There was one symbol — which was actually a popular brand name — that conjured up the word “success.” For Mexicans in particular, this brand was gold-plated and generated positive feelings of accomplishment, power, and respect.

The brand name? “Trump.”

For our neighbors south of the border, those days are gone. The last time U.S.-Mexico relations were this bad, U.S. troops were marching south.

The notorious 19th century invasion and land grab that history records as the U.S.-Mexican War resulted in Mexico losing nearly half its territory. One memorable story involves the Niños Héroes, six teenaged military cadets who fought bravely to their deaths instead of surrendering to U.S. troops during the Battle of Chapultepec Castle. One cadet wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and leapt to his death. The war ended when the neighboring countries exchanged ratifications of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Now, seven decades later in 2018, President Trump seems to be spoiling for a rematch.

It is as if Trump has some sort of deep psychological hang-up with our Southern neighbor. He doesn’t belong in the White House. He belongs on a couch.

Those suffering the brunt of his psychosis include Mexicans in Mexico, Mexican migrants in the United States, and Mexican-Americans who have lived here for generations.

I have friends in all three tribes.

Consider the trauma of Mexican-Americans. You might think that most of these folks wouldn’t have much of a problem with Trump’s attacks on Mexico and Mexicans because they are often far removed — by time, distance, assimilation — from the lives of their Mexican ancestors.

After all, Mexico betrayed our parents and grandparents. If Mother Mexico had provided sufficient opportunity for its children, they wouldn’t have had to run away from home and start families of their own north of the border. Mexican-Americans have the right to hold a grudge against the homeland.

Yet many Mexican-Americans are offended by Trump’s anti-Mexico tantrums. They tell me that, when he talks in a demeaning way about Mexican immigrants, they feel as if he could be talking about their own parents and grandparents.

First, they were told — by the most anti-Mexican president since Dwight Eisenhower, who loaded Mexicans onto railroad cars during Operation Wetback in 1954 — that Americans need a “big beautiful wall” on the border to keep out Mexicans because they’re criminals and rapists, that they and their ancestors were far from “the best” that Mexico has to offer, and that the system of admitting legal immigrants to the U.S. must be revamped so that future arrivals come with more education and skills.

Whether the issue is drugs, trade, immigration or national security, Trump never passes up a chance to insult Mexico.

Now he has resorted to blackmail. Issues that have nothing to do with one another get mixed together. If Mexico wants the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) t continue, the president warns, it must stop the flow of drugs and immigrants into the United States.

You would think that someone who never tires of telling people how he is “really smart” would grasp the law of supply and demand. Mexico supplies what the United States demands.

Trump’s tantrums are no way to treat a reliable friend and trusted ally. Mexico isn’t just the United States’ No. 2 trading partner after Canada. It’s also a key ally in the war on terror, regularly passing along vital information that helps U.S. authorities thwart attacks and keep the homeland safe.

Recently, Donald Trump tweeted about a “caravan” of migrants coming from Central America through Mexico and headed toward the United States. On April 3, Trump warned Mexican officials — in a tone usually reserved for parents disciplining teenagers — that the caravan “…had better be stopped before it gets there.” Two days later, once the caravan had splintered, Trump tweeted: “The Caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our Border…”

The president is the one making a scene — and, in the process, destroying one of our most valuable relationships.

A president’s first responsibility isn’t to chart a course for the future but to not repeat the mistakes of the past. The escalation of insults, tensions, and provocations that led to the U.S.-Mexican War was a dark and dead-end road. Americans should not travel it again.

Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a Daily Beast columnist, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”

Posted by Ruben Navarrette in Columns