There is an aspect of Donald Trump’s repetitive attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel that’s nearly as repugnant as Trump’s exhibitionistic racism, but it’s less easy to understand how he gets away with it.
No, I am not referring to the fact that the nominee of the Republican Party has threatened vengeance on a judge presiding over a civil case where Trump’s beloved dollars are at stake. If Bill Clinton had openly threatened to punish a judge or regulator over Whitewater if he ever got into the White House, he would have been exiled to Hope. If Mitt Romney vowed revenge on an SEC prosecutor or the head of the IRS, he would have been clamped in a platinum stockade.
Trump is getting away with murder, obviously, but that is not my exasperated outrage du jour.
What I find so grotesque is that Trump is getting away with insulting a man who has put his family’s safety at risk to serve his country and community.
As a high-profile prosecutor of the Mexican cartels at the peak of their bloodthirsty terrorist reign, Judge Curiel and his family faced assassination plots and continual danger. The word “hero” has been overused and abused, but Curiel’s service was heroic.
Trump, of course, boasts that he is the Master of Looking Out For Number One. Only suckers and losers and working-class people make “sacrifices.”
For those unfamiliar with Judge Curiel’s career, here’s a capsule: Gonzalo P. Curiel was born in Indiana in 1953. (Indiana — Trump may already know this if he owns property there – is one of the United States of America, not a foreign country.) His parents were from Mexico. After law school and some time in private practice, he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. He became the Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Enforcement Section in 1996. In 1997, Curiel was detailed to the Office of International Affairs at the Department of Justice. He then served as Chief of the Narcotics Enforcement Section of the Southern District from 1999 to 2002, when he went to the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office. In 2006 a Republican, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, appointed him to the California Superior Court.
In 1997, according to court documents obtained by The Los Angeles Times , a cartel gunman Curiel was trying to extradite to the U.S. received the OK from his bosses to have Curiel assassinated. He spent much of a year in hiding and had constant protections, his brother Raul Curiel recently told The New York Times . “It was kind of scary,” he said. “He had to be protected. He always had one or two bodyguards with him.”
Back in 2002, the Times reported that Curiel had been a key player in fostering a rare period of successful cooperation between Mexican and American prosecutors. Curiel was quoted on the role his Mexican heritage played. ”It couldn’t but help,” Mr. Curiel said. ”We were working without the disconnect of interpreters and barriers of culture. When it comes down to it, this involves the country of our parents.”
According to Donald Trump, Curiel’s Mexican heritage disqualifies him from presiding over his civic fraud trial. And Trump is now being widely denounced for the intentional racism coursing through those statements, not that it seems to hurt Teflon Trump in any tangible way. I don’t need to add to that clamor.
What gags me is how one of the most privileged and greedy men on the planet gets away with insulting and besmirching real, live brave people like Gonzalo Curiel.
Trump famously did the same to former POW John McCain a few months ago. “He’s not a war hero,” Trump belched. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
This from a man-child who said he was “not a fan of the Vietnam War” and who can’t quite recall the details of his deferment from service.
John McCain let Trump get away with it and maybe for good reason. But that set a terrible precedent. Veterans’ group put out statements scolding Trump, but it was water off his hair product. McCain, intentionally or not, gave permission to let Trump off easy.
And that is exactly what Republican officialdom has done ever since.
Listen to these weasely words from Speaker Paul Ryan about Trump’s bigoted plot against Curiel: “Look, the comment about the judge the other day just was out of left field for my mind… I completely disagree with the thinking behind that. And so, he clearly says and does things I don’t agree with, and I’ve had to speak up on time to time when that has occurred, and I’ll continue to do that if necessary. I hope it’s not.”
Holy powder-puff, Batman: We should all be scolded so gently.
“This is a man [Curiel] who was born in Indiana,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sniveled. “All of us come from somewhere else…That’s an important part of what makes America work.”
Let’s hope that there is someone left in the discredited world of politics with guts like Gonzalo Curiel showed who will successfully prosecute Donald J. Trump.
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