Amidst the faux outrage over Donald Trump’s non-rebuke of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)–whom he rejected before, and rejected again later Sunday–there was a more legitimate controversy the media largely missed.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Trump reiterated earlier claims that the federal judge presiding in a fraud case against Trump University in California could be biased against him simply because he is Hispanic.
After attending Indiana University for both college and law school, and before becoming a judge, he served for 17 years as a federal prosecutor in California, specializing in narcotics–which, theoretically, should endear him to Trump, who has made stopping the flow of drugs a key point in his border policy. Curiel also happens to be Mexican-American.
Trump has not explained clearly why Curiel’s background means he would be unfair, and he has not said whether he plans to ask the judge to recuse himself.
If there are no grounds for recusal, Trump’s lawyers might well worry about his comments, because even if–as Trump maintains–he has a winning case in hand, the worst possible thing he could do is insult the judge. (Neither Trump’s legal counsel nor the campaign responded to requests for comment from Breitbart News.)
There is also a risk that Trump has, through his comments, raised the price of any settlement he might eventually have to pay in the case–a bad way to make a deal.
Neither Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) nor Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has weighed in on Trump’s comments on the judge, though they both slammed him for his supposed non-rejection of the KKK–what Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) misleadingly called an “embrace.” That is a bogus attack, and also a strategic mistake.
The KKK issue is more sensational, but it is is a classic mainstream media setup–the kind Rubio and Cruz would not be spared in the general election. By seizing on a false accusation of racism, they have legitimized that tactic.
The irony is that Trump’s dig at the judge is a legitimate target for criticism.
No one can seriously argue that Trump shares the KKK’s racist system of belief. This is no Jeremiah Wright scandal. But it is at least on a par with Barack Obama’s “typical white person” slur against his grandmother in 2008–a resort to racial labeling in a vulnerable moment.
The polls have not yet reflected any kind of backlash against Trump for his fumbling of the KKK question, much less his criticism of the judge, at least among Republican voters.
The GOP electorate may simply have decided that years of the media crying wolf–the false Tea Party “N-word,” Newt Gingrich’s “food stamp president,” and so on–they are not going to be prodded, yet again, into caring about another racially offensive remark, not even a real one.
Yet the issue could resurface in the general election–especially as the case continues in Judge Curiel’s court.