Trump Threatening to Take Our Country to A Dangerous Place

U.S. Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

U.S. Sen Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

“Mr. President, I thought long and hard about giving this speech and I don’t come to the floor lightly.  But, as the senior Latino in this Chamber, I felt I had to speak — for those who do not recall the past are destined to repeat it, and I do not want to let this opportunity pass without speaking out.

“The remarks of the presumptive Republican nominee for President about Judge Gonzalo Curiel are taking this nation and the Republican Party down a dark and slippery slope.

“The road to some of the darkest moments of history have been paved with the rants of petty demagogues against ethnic minorities for centuries.  And now, again, in this century Donald Trump is echoing those same racist rants and, by doing so, threatening to take this nation to a dangerous place.

“While Donald Trump’s racist themes throughout his campaign are a new low for one of America’s major political parties, they are not unique in history. This is page one from the dark chapters of history: Separate ‘us’ from ‘them.’ Tyrants and dictators have incited hatred against ethnic and religious minorities for centuries in order to consolidate power for themselves.

“Increasingly radical-thinking Republicans are not blameless in creating the environment that has led to this disaster – that has led to a new-McCarthyism that calls out people not for their beliefs but for their ethnicity.

“We have governed from crisis to crisis over the past eight years, not because we cannot find solutions to our problems, but because of political decisions to delegitimize the process and the President.

“They have fed into the rants of a petty demagogue, and now struggle to find safe ground.  They have given quarter to snake oil salesmen and conspiracy theorists.  And now we have the head of a major US political party attacking a federal judge because of his parentage.

“This isn’t a reality TV show or a real estate deal.  This is an attack on our independent judiciary.  We’re talking about a Presidential candidate tearing the fabric in which we enforce our laws and help citizens protect themselves from injustice.

“M. President, my mother believed, in every aspect of her life, in being treated fairly.  What she did not believe is that being treated fairly meant that she would always get what she wanted and — and if she did not get it — that it would be proof that the process and the system were corrupt, unfair and out to get her.

“To my mother and to me, lashing-out when we don’t get what we want – as Donald Trump seems to do often — can only be described as remarkably childish, thin-skinned, surprisingly egocentric, and frankly, for someone who aspires to lead this nation — dangerously anti-democratic if not outright demagogic – threatening the very safeguards our founders put in place to protect us from those – like Donald Trump — whose only view of the world seems to be in a mirror.

“His only response to adversity is to blame someone else and turn people against each other.  The fact is – leaders don’t turn people against each other.

“Mr. Trump needs to learn that there’s not always someone to blame for defeat.  That the fact that you lost doesn’t imply unfairness; it only indicates that you lost – and he should get used to it, though it’s a difficult concept for someone raised to believe there would be no losing, and if there were, it must be a mistake that can be rectified with power, money, or a lawsuit.

“Apparently, in Mr. Trump’s mind, if he loses, it must be someone else’s fault.  It’s him!  It’s them!  It’s those people!  He isn’t American!  He doesn’t have a birth certificate!  He’s a Muslim!  It’s all of them. He’s a Mexican judge and I want to build a wall, so he’s being unfair to me!

“That attitude may be childish and pathetic in a schoolyard bully, but in an American president, in a Commander in Chief, it’s downright dangerous.

“M. President, I travel my state and this nation and listen to people who wonder, as many of us do, how our political dialogue has become so dangerously coarse and brash and blatantly racist, how we seem to have reduced the greatness of this country to its lowest common denominator.

“We are talking about electing a president – a man or woman who will decide matters of war and peace and whether to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way.  The stakes are too high to allow a megalomaniac to pound his chest over a legitimate decision rendered by a judge confirmed by this Senate.

“Many of my colleagues have tried to distance themselves from the comments of their nominee, but they have not gone far enough.  They have not called him out as they should, politics aside, for the threat he poses to this nation if he is elected.

“Many of my colleagues must recognize – as do I — that a federal judge born in Indiana with a Mexican family background is not a Mexican judge but an American judge – just as a United States Senator like this one, raised in New Jersey with a Cuban family background, is a United States Senator.  And to imply otherwise — to ask that Judge Curiel recuse himself from a case because of where his parents were born – is, on its face, racist.

“They need to come to this floor and denounce the comments of their nominee.  In fact, all Americans should denounce this kind of blatant racism, the tone of the Trump campaign and the slippery slope that his statements, his actions, his demeanor, threaten to send us down.

“And he doesn’t seem to be able to stop himself.  He AndHe HeHehas doubled-down and said that it’s possible that a judge of Muslim decent might not be able to render a favorable decision in a Trump vs Whomever case because of the candidate’s policy to ban Muslims from entering this country.

“Anyone who won’t stand up and call this blatant racism has decided to put partisan politics ahead of our country.  This is how a new-McCarthyism comes to America, sold by a reality TV show host aided and abetted by a political party without the courage to standup to racism in its most cynical form.

“M. President, I’ve watched this campaign like most of my colleagues, incredulous at what we have heard — shocked, in disbelief, and with a deep concern that the level of discourse has degenerated into name calling and into out-and-out racism, and that my Republican colleagues and friends are pulling their punches — not going far enough to denounce the racist rants of their nominee.

“This is not the American political system I know or grew up with.  It is not how we run campaigns and should make us all uncomfortable.  But it’s not good enough simply to be ‘uncomfortable’ with what the presumptive Republican nominee says.

“We can’t just turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to a where Donald Trump threatens to take this nation should he be elected.  We cannot wait until it’s too late, and I believe my colleagues know it but have not yet found a way to articulate it.

“We – as a nation — have to face the ugliness of what he has said – and what he is – no doubt — yet to say.  We, as a people, must immediately and unconditionally condemn and reject the type of blatant racism we’ve heard in the last few days.

“Those who do not stand up to intolerance and hatred only encourage it and sow seeds of bigotry that will ultimately divide us as a nation and a people.  I urge all of my Republican colleagues and all Americans to reject the politics of settling-scores and grudges, and work toward changing the hateful rhetoric we continue to hear.

“We are a nation of immigrants, all of us.  We all know the reality of what it means to work hard to get an education, build a career, find our way to this Chamber or to the Federal bench.

“Many of us grew up in immigrant neighborhoods like Judge Curiel, having to navigate many obstacles, the veiled or not-so-veiled insults, the derogatory comment, the finger pointing, the racial stereotypes, always remaining rational and logical enough to take the long-view, to see beyond the mirror – beyond ourselves — make the best decisions we can, and take what comes.

“And, in doing so, becoming part of the larger whole, no longer a stranger but members of something larger than ourselves.  So when Donald Trump says — at a political rally, ‘There’s my African-American,’ we see only a fellow American, a citizen, one of us – not ‘one of them.’

“Today we are all Judge Gonzalo Curiel – and today we stand together as one nation, indivisible – no matter how hard someone tries to divide us.

“I repeat: The road to some of the darkest moments in history have been paved with the rants of petty demagogues against ethnic minorities for centuries – and Donald Trump is echoing those same racist rants, threatening to take this nation to a dangerous place. Let’s – all of us – speak out before it’s too late.”

Bob Menendez is the senior senator from New Jersey. The column is a reprint of remarks he made earlier today on the floor of the U.S. Senate.