Editorial: Defending Trump

Published: 6/11/2016 9:59:53 PM
Modified: 6/11/2016 10:00:06 PM

We’ve had policy differences over the years with Jim Rubens, but have generally regarded him as a sober-minded and sincere advocate for his beliefs. Thus, it is distressing to see the former state senator and current U.S. Senate candidate publicly humiliate himself by becoming an apologist for the excesses of Donald Trump. It is worse than unseemly; it is simply craven.

As staff writer Tim Camerato reported last week, Rubens assures us that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is no racist — this despite his attacks on a federal judge who is presiding over a civil suit alleging that the now-defunct Trump University was a fraudulent enterprise. Trump claims he cannot get a fair hearing because the judge is of Mexican heritage and therefore must be biased in light of the fact that the candidate wants to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here.

“His decades of hiring practices prove” that Trump is not a racist, Rubens said. Of course, under that theory, slaveholders who used black labor on their plantations weren’t racists, either; just smart businessmen who knew how to keep labor costs low. And, as Camerato pointed out, federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. 

But if Trump is not actually a racist, the alternative explanation is as bad or worse: He is cynically manipulating for political gain the resentments of his supporters by scapegoating Mexicans and Muslims. Either way, it is not a pretty picture, and we hope Rubens at least felt the urge to take a shower after indulging in this particular defense of the indefensible.

Presumably Rubens has taken leave of his senses (temporarily we hope) in an attempt to carve out some space on the right in his Republican primary campaign against incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte has not exactly been writing a profile in courage on this score, either, claiming she will vote for Trump but not endorse him. This is hair-splitting of a high order, but at least she had the decency to take public exception to Trump’s comments about the judge.

This is not the only respect in which Rubens is performing contortions in order to ingratiate himself with Trump supporters. For instance, Rubens deserves much of the credit for keeping casino gambling out of New Hampshire as longtime chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, an effort that garnered him the New Hampshire Union Leader Citizen of the Year Award in 2013. Among other objections, Rubens emphasized the social costs of expanded gambling, including crime, bankruptcies, divorce and suicide. “I do not recommend monetizing human suffering,” he told a forum that year. So how does he now justify supporting a casino tycoon in the presidential race? Casino gambling was a state specific issue, Rubens told Camerato. Except, as a couple of coalition members told the Union Leader at the time, Rubens excelled at collecting and disseminating information about the ill effects casinos had in other states. Apparently it’s OK to monetize human suffering if it takes place outside the borders of the Granite State.

Then there’s climate change caused by human agency, something in which Trump says he’s “not a great believer.” Presumably that’s the only thing Trump thinks he’s not great at, but Rubens knows better. A former consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists, he has long expressed the view that human activity is changing the climate; at one time, he even advocated a carbon tax as a solution. 

An essay in this section a couple of weeks ago argued that fascism comes to democratic states when respectable politicians fall in line behind demagogic strong men. Historically speaking, it’s a powerful argument and one to which Rubens and others like him are lending credence.





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