Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned during a Sunday NBC News’ “Meet the Press” interview that Congress can’t reach a compromise on immigration reform “if everybody is out there calling the president a racist.”
After reports circulated alleging that President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and Central American and African nations as “s***hole countries” during a Thursday meeting, many pundits and politicians labeled Trump a “racist” or accused him of making “racist” comments.
But Paul argued that resorting to such name-calling wasn’t helpful — and would undermine lawmakers’ efforts to reach a deal on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and boosting border security and enforcement.
“And the only thing I regret from all of this — other than I think some people in the media have gone completely bonkers with, you know, just ad hominem [attacks] on the president — but what I regret is I do want to see an immigration compromise,” Paul said.
“And you can’t have an immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist. They’re actually destroying the setting,” he said.
Although Paul admitted he didn’t think Trump’s alleged comments “were constructive at all” to the immigration debate, he also said, “We shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend.” The GOP senator said he “personally” understands the president’s “feelings toward Haiti and towards Central America” because of his own experiences.
“I did about 200 cataract surgeries with a group of surgeons in Haiti and the same in Central America,” Paul said. “And when we asked Donald J. Trump as a private citizen to support those trips, he was a large financial backer of both medical mission trips.”
“So I think it’s unfair to sort of draw conclusions from a remark that I think wasn’t constructive, is the least we can say,” Paul added. “And I think it’s unfair then to sort of all of a sudden paint him [as], ‘Oh well, he’s a racist,’ when I know, for a fact, that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti.”
But if Democrats continue to dismiss Trump as a “racist” and refuse to come to the table to deliver immigration reform, Paul warned they’d be “actually destroying the setting.”
“And [Trump’s] a little bit of it, but both sides now are destroying the setting in which anything meaningful can happen on immigration,” Paul said.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young partially agreed with Paul’s assessment, telling “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that “it doesn’t help to label people” as racists.
“I think [Trump’s] being educated. And it’s not a matter of educating Donald Trump. It’s a matter of educating our entire society,” Young said. “And it doesn’t help to label people.”
Young said the country at large doesn’t “really grasp the complexity of the times that we’re in. And we’re trying to simplify it and personalize it. And that will not work.”
As if to punctuate the Paul and Young comments, former Rep. Xavier Becerra, who is now California’s Democratic attorney general, had no qualms about labeling Trump a “racist” during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
“In every respect, what [Trump] is showing us is that he is a racist,” Becerra said. “Let me put it to you this way — mental instability, mendacity, now bigotry. Having any one of those in the White House is dangerous. Having the combination? That’s lethal.”