With Donald Trump receiving near-unanimous criticism and derision for calling all Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, it was only a matter of time before some eager beaver conservative pundit rose up and declared to the world that Actually, Donald Trump Is Right. That pundit turns out to be Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, who made the case in a Politico column with the unintentionally funny headline: “Sorry, Donald Trump Has A Point.”
Here’s the passage from Trump’s 2016 announcement speech that Lowry is defending:
TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Lowry calls Trump’s remarks “typically crude” and acknowledges that pretty much every syllable this grotesque Plasticine troll utters will “make you want to take a shower afterward.” But then he casts the corporate retribution against Trump for his incurable crudeness as political correctness run amok:
Although this isn’t anything new. The companies fleeing from Trump were happy to be in bed with him so long as it suited their business interests. Now, they are acting on what has become one of the foremost principles of American public life: It’s no longer enough to be offended, you must punish the offender.
It’s true that these companies don’t look great, but I’m not sure what Lowry is arguing here. Should they have stuck with Trump or not done business with him in the first place? Should Trump not face consequences for his “crude” behavior? I wish Macy's and NBC and the rest had had the good sense to cut Trump loose when he was the chief spokesman for the fringe movement of racist lunatics who questioned the circumstances of the first black president’s birth. That being said, I can’t really get in a twist because they’re cutting him loose now that’s he’s called all Mexican immigrants rapists. Hold on – why is Lowry defending this guy again?
We'll get to that, but first we have to slog through some more filler:
As it happens, Trump’s new enemies are doing him an enormous political favor, at least in the short term. There are few things that benefit a Republican candidate in the current environment of left-wing bullying more than getting fired and boycotted for something he’s said. And Trump’s smash-mouth response — oh, yeah, I’m going to sue Univision for a cool $500 million — will be even more endearing to primary voters.
Lowry probably didn’t intend to insult Republican primary voters here, but that’s really the only way to read this. Trump’s lawsuit alleges that Univision, a privately owned media company, is violating his First Amendment rights by not airing his beauty pageant. That’s not “smash-mouth,” whatever that means. That’s dumb. The fact that Trump’s flagrantly idiotic and petulant foot-stamping over the backlash to his overt bigotry will “endear” him to Republican voters is not something to be proud of and it’s certainly not something to throw in the faces of Trump’s critics. It’s a reason to despair for the deplorable state of the modern Republican Party.
But hey, we’re already eight paragraphs into this garbage column and we still haven’t gotten to that “point” Lowry says Trump has. It’s not until paragraphs ten and eleven that we finally arrive at hot, molten core of this particular take:
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.”
This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who — through no fault of their own, of course — come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
Trump’s point – which he has restated and defended over and over in the past few weeks – is that Mexico is sending criminals, drug dealers, and rapists over the border to the U.S. That “point” is easily debunked: crime rates for immigrants are lower than for native-born Americans and immigrants are far less likely to be imprisoned. Lowry’s thesis is “Trump has a point if you assume he said something he didn’t actually say.”
He pads out the rest of the column with statistics on the education levels and economic situations of immigrants from Mexico, purporting to bolster an argument Trump never came close to making. Having “proven” Trump’s “point,” Lowry declares righteous victory on Trump’s behalf: “For all its crassness, Trump’s rant on immigration is closer to reality than the gauzy clichés of the immigration romantics unwilling to acknowledge that there might be an issue welcoming large numbers of high school dropouts into a 21st-century economy.”
So in the end, Trump doesn’t actually have a point – he is “closer to reality” on immigration than the unstated arguments offered by unnamed people. Lowry set the bar for point-having impossibly low, and he still had to do all the heavy lifting to get Trump over it. It was edifying, though, to see the editor of one of the conservative movement’s leading publications expend intellectual energy in defense of an unreconstructed bigot’s incoherent yammering about immigration.