How Can Trump Turn Around His Rocky Relationship With Latinos?
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Our next guest is a conservative who has a suggestion for President Trump. He shared that suggestion with Steve Inskeep.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Henry Olsen makes that suggestion in the website American Greatness. He is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. And he proposes that the president address Mexicans and Mexican-Americans on the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday. Mr. Olsen, welcome to our studios.
HENRY OLSEN: Thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: What do you want the president to say?
OLSEN: I want the president to say that Mexican-Americans are Americans, too, and that their interests are American interests. And that since most Mexican-Americans are still of the working class, that he should explain to the country what his economic nationalism is and why it will work for all Americans.
INSKEEP: Would you remind us why it would be, in your view, that the president needs to say something to Mexicans?
OLSEN: Well, because the president has said a number of things that Mexicans rightfully consider to be insulting such as - with calling many Mexicans rapists and criminals when he declared his candidacy and making other comments during the campaign, especially less so as president - that he considered Mexicans less-than-equal American citizens. And I think he can address that.
INSKEEP: There was an occasion where there was a Mexican-American judge.
OLSEN: That's right.
INSKEEP: And he said the judge can't be fair to me because of his Mexican heritage...
INSKEEP: ...Was gone for some time.
OLSEN: Exactly. That was all the sort of things that he said that has given many people the idea that he is either racist or ethnically insensitive. And I think the president needs to combat that and do it in a way that draws attention. And that's what a speech on Cinco de Mayo would do.
INSKEEP: Now, it's interesting that you proposed that he take advantage of the Cinco de Mayo holiday to do this because the president has spoken out on Cinco de Mayo before. A couple of years ago, when he was in trouble for some of his remarks about Mexicans, he tweeted - and I'm quoting here - "happy Cinco de Mayo. The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics - exclamation point."
OLSEN: Yeah, that was not the right way to address this. That showed even more ethnic insensitivity. Look. The man's president of the United States. He is talking about a new economy that addresses the real challenge that all Americans face, particularly those who are not graduating from college.
That is a vast majority of Mexican-Americans. And I think he needs to talk and address to the country exactly what he's trying to do and expressly say that Mexican-Americans, who are also American workers, are people who are going to benefit from his program.
INSKEEP: You want the president to transcend his past remarks, as you put it, but you don't feel that he needs to apologize for anything. Are you saying that just because you don't think he'll ever apologize for anything?
OLSEN: I think what the president needs to do is make a positive case for what he's trying to do. If he wants to apologize, he can apologize. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But I don't think that - in fact, I think there's a lot that's right with that. But if this is an apology tour, it actually doesn't do what he needs to do.
INSKEEP: Now, I'm trying to think of you in the right way here. I think it's fair to say you're offering friendly criticism here. You're offering...
OLSEN: I am.
INSKEEP: ...Friendly encouragement.
OLSEN: I am.
INSKEEP: But do you have any reason to believe that the president believes anything that you're suggesting he say?
OLSEN: I think the president, in his best moments, has expressed that, you know, when he talks about that he loves all people. I think what the president needs to do is show which side of the president is the real president. I think a Cinco de Mayo speech that starts - not finishes - but starts the process of reconciliation and starts the process of building a moral case for economic nationalism will show what side of the president's statements the president is actually on.
INSKEEP: I'm thinking about not just the remarks but substance. As you know, there's been a dramatic increase in the number of people who are arrested for being in the United States illegally. And they've included some dramatic cases that have involved United States citizens.
Some recent reporting involves married people where one person is a citizen, the other person is not. They are told they need to come into an immigration office to get a document which will allow the spouse to stay here. And rather than get the document, the spouse is arrested. So that's a United States citizen who just lost their spouse. What can the president say to that United States citizen to make them believe he is not prejudiced against them?
OLSEN: I think what the president needs to do is talk about the rule of law. And certainly, what I would not be doing if I were the president is using ICE enforcement to target cases like that. There are certainly many other cases that don't tug on the heartstrings.
INSKEEP: You mean you'd rather focus on people who are here who are committing crimes, for example, and getting them out.
OLSEN: Or people who are unattached who haven't - don't have long histories within the United States. There are 11 million people who are estimated to be here without legal documents. Surely, the vast majority of those 11 million people are not people who are married to American citizens who have been here for a long time.
INSKEEP: Henry Olsen, thanks for coming by.
OLSEN: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: That's Henry Olsen with the Ethics and Public Policy Center speaking to Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.