The Slatest

Trump’s Mexican Judge Nonsense Is Really Not Sitting Well With Other Republicans

Donald Trump in Redding, California, on Friday.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

Over the weekend, Donald Trump declined to back down from his insulting suggestion that federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, an ex-prosecutor who was born in Indiana in 1953, cannot fairly handle a Trump University fraud case because he is “Mexican” and thus biased against Trump because of the candidate’s plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (Curiel’s parents were born in Mexico; his father apparently first arrived in the United States in the 1920s, before Trump’s Scottish-born mother. As a prosecutor, Curiel was believed to have been targeted for assassination by Mexican drug smugglers.)

A number of high-profile Republicans who have generally been craven apologists for Trump have denounced his latest outrage. Paul Ryan:

“Look, the comment about the judge, just was out of left field for my mind,” Ryan said Friday on WISN in Milwaukee. “It’s reasoning I don’t relate to, I completely disagree with the thinking behind that.”

Mitch McConnell:

“I don’t agree with what he had to say,” McConnell said of Trump.

“This is a man who was born in Indiana,” he said of Curiel. “All of us came here from somewhere else. Almost all Americans are either near-term immigrants like my wife, who came here at age 8 not speaking a word of English, or the rest of us whose ancestors were risk-takers who came here and made this country great. That’s an important part of what makes America work.”

Even Newt Gingrichthe most enthusiastic Trump apologist of all:

“This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made, and I think it’s inexcusable,” said Gingrich. He added: “If a liberal were to attack Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds that he’s black, we would all go crazy.”

John Kasich, who has never been a Trump fan but has been pretty quiet since dropping out of the presidential race, jumped back into the national conversation to denounce Trump’s remarks:

Rick Wilson, a GOP operative who’s also a longtime Trump skeptic, is urging down-ballot Republican candidates to break with Trump publicly:

Run as yourself. Run with some passion and iconoclastic fire. Stop trying to run a generic, please-the-base campaign where your political lanes are bounded. Run as a Florida Republican or a Colorado Republican or a Nevada Republican and separate your brand from Trump’s.

On the one hand, these denunciations are completely understandable: Trump’s statements about Curiel are not just abhorrent, they’re abhorrent in a way that’s likely to alienate a key demographic group. Trump’s also slipping in the polls a little, which must make Republican officials nervous that they’re backing a potential landslide loser. And Curiel has a background as a prosecutor who put away gang members; he’s not the kind of figure that the ostensible law-and-order party usually tries to make an enemy of.

On the other hand, this kind of rhetoric should not come as a surprise. We’re talking about Donald Trump, who launched his run for the presidency by asserting that many Mexican Americans are drug traffickers and rapists who are being dumped on the U.S. intentionally by the Mexican government. If Republican leaders don’t want Trump to repeatedly say dumb, insulting things on national television, why did they endorse him in the first place? Saying dumb and insulting things about nonwhite people is the whole point of his campaign!