Now it seems the GOP frontrunner would prefer that America’s largest minority love him from afar.
In the latest installment of this highly-charged Telenovela miniseries, “Mr. Trump and the Latinos,” the billionaire businessman abruptly pulled out of a planned Thursday forum sponsored by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The invitation came as a result of an earlier private meeting between Trump and USHCC President Javier Palomarez. Even that was controversial. Local affiliates complained that Palomarez met with Trump without consulting them.
As far as many Latinos are concerned, Trump is—by refusing to face his critics head on—coming across as nothing less than a coward. It’s unbecoming for someone who, on the campaign trail, struts around like he’s el mas macho.
At least that’s the point of view of the editorial board of La Opinion, one of the nation’s leading Spanish-language newspapers. In a harsh editorial this week, it declared:
“In the end, Donald Trump ‘chickened out.’ At the last minute. The Republican primary frontrunner cancelled his speech at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), part of a series of meetings between the presidential candidates and Latino entrepreneurs…This will definitely not help improve Trump’s image among Latinos. After bashing immigrants and hiding behind those who agree with him, he adds ‘coward’ to the many adjectives that describe him. His supporters are not likely to change much either, as they have long accepted his exaggerations, insults and lies by immaturely justifying them with the phrase ‘he says what’s on his mind.’”
Some are suggesting that Trump backed out because, given how he has treated Hispanics in this campaign, he was afraid to face tough questions from Palomarez, which is absurd. Even though Trump has been interviewed by dozens of first-rate print, radio, and television journalists and attacked by politicians in both parties, we are expected to believe that he went all weak in the knees at the prospect of being grilled by a civilian.
However far-fetched, that narrative has been conveniently adopted by some on the left. Immigration activists—many of whom argued that Palomarez should have never invited Trump to appear before the group in the first place and had planned to protest the candidate’s appearance—couldn’t wait to gloat that they had scared off their tormentor.
So, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s one point each for the activists and Palomarez but with no real benefit to the larger community of Latinos who are still entitled to an explanation and owed an apology. This episode gave them neither.
Meanwhile, there is another story floating about which suggests that Trump—who lights up crowds whenever he says it’s wrong for the United States to accommodate illegal immigrants—wanted special accommodations to be made for him.
According to USHCC spokesman Ammar Campa-Najjar, the format was supposed to be the same as it has been at earlier forums for other presidential candidates from both parties who have taken their turn in the hot seat. Trump was apparently concerned he would be “put on trial” and so he requested that the Q&A format be changed and some issues be treated as off-limits.
The organization refused, insisting that Trump would be treated no better or worse than any other candidate. And Trump walked.
Of course, in any relationship—even a hopelessly dysfunctional one like this—there are two sides to every story. Trump naturally has his own version of events.
The real estate developer claims that he had only told Palomarez that he would “consider attending” but had not formally committed to participating. He also said that he was bothered by the fact that Palomarez asked him to join the group and pay an initiation fee of between $25,000 to $2 million. He also wasn’t very happy that the organization was using him to drum up publicity and to “sell a lot of tickets.”
Finally, Trump—who it sometimes seems personally monitors anything anyone says about him anywhere at anytime—also took umbrage at what Palomarez recently told Politico.
“I don’t take great comfort … in meeting people like Donald Trump,” Palomarez said. “But it’s my job and I have to leave my personal feelings in the proverbial door.”
It’s delicious that Trump accuses the USHCC and Palomarez of using him to bring publicity to their candidate forum when the Republican has used Hispanics for months to bring publicity to his campaign.
Here is someone who has skillfully turned anti-Hispanic bigotry and fear-mongering into jet fuel. In record time, Trump has decimated the rest of the Republican presidential field and taken the lead in every poll. He draws thousands of people to rallies and other campaign events.
And to think it all started when, on June 16, Trump declared that Mexico was playing Americans for chumps by sending murderers, rapists, and other criminals across the border. Then Trump announced his intention, if elected, to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and eventually let “the good ones” back in. Later, in a sophomoric poke at Jeb Bush, Trump suggested that the reason the GOP establishment favorite wasn’t onboard with his hardline immigration ideas was because Bush’s wife was born in Mexico.
And let’s not forget the time that Trump, apparently miffed that Bush was speaking Spanish, declared the 2016 election as an “English-only” zone. That was before Trump tossed Univision’s Jorge Ramos—the nation’s best known Spanish-language journalist—out of an Iowa press conference for jumping the line, not waiting his turn, and offering speeches instead of questions.
And most recently, Trump suggested that President Dwight Eisenhower might have created a model worth emulating when he deported more than 3 million immigrants in a notorious forced relocation effort tactlessly known as “Operation Wetback.”
Some Americans are convinced that Trump is the right candidate at the right time. But as far as most Hispanics are concerned, what the candidate is most known for is a penchant for saying and doing the wrong thing. It’s little wonder that, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 67 percent of Hispanics have a very negative view of Trump.
Frankly, if Trump was suggesting new ways to treat Hispanics and reaching for a historical event that he thought was worth emulating, I’m surprised he didn’t go for broke and cite Franklin Roosevelt’s forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Give him time, I suppose. The campaign is young.
But this telenovela is growing predictable and deserves to be canceled. The latest back-and-forth between the USHCC and Trump got us nowhere. The relationship between Latinos and the GOP frontrunner remains toxic. The air between these two parties needs to be cleared. Instead, with every self-serving Trump spectacle, the pollution only gets worse.