Dean Obeidallah: Trump's presidency will be remembered for emboldening discrimination more than anything else
The pardon of Joe Arpaio and the ban against transgender military recruits is another way this administration demonizes minorities, he writes
Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @deanofcomedy. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
To Donald Trump, former sheriff Joe Arpaio is a “patriot” deserving of a pardon while transgender Americans who courageously risk their lives in the military to defend our nation are a “burden” and should be banned from our armed services. Both of these decisions share one thing: Trump is legitimizing discrimination against minorities.
Arpaio, who was pardoned by Trump Friday night, is the controversial former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff who had a permanent injunction issued against him by a federal judge in 2013 for continuing to racially profile Latino drivers even after being ordered to stop years earlier. The court’s order could not be more clear, instructing Arpaio to stop “detaining, holding, or arresting Latino occupants of vehicles in Maricopa County based on a reasonable belief, without more, that such persons were in country without authorization.”
But the former sheriff, a man Trump praised in 2012 for joining him in peddling the racist birther campaign against President Barack Obama, intentionally ignored the court’s order despite admitting that his officers had “violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during saturation patrols” – a procedure in which officers flood a targeted geographic area.
In fact, after the 2013 court ruling, Arpaio proclaimed to a crowd of cheering supporters, “After [the Justice Department] went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite.” Consequently, after a trial last month, Arpaio was found to be in criminal contempt of court for “willfully disobeying the law after a court ordered him to stop singling out drivers based on ethnicity and detaining them without charges.”
Despite this, President Trump declared on Friday that Arpaio was a “worthy candidate” for this pardon. He couldn’t be more wrong. Arpaio is a despicable man who has for years harassed, detained and imprisoned countless Latinos simply because of their ethnicity. Arpaio is neither a “patriot” nor “worthy” of special treatment; he’s a criminal and a bigot.
Let’s be clear, Trump’s pardon of Arpaio sends a message to the nation – including law enforcement – that profiling people based on their ethnicity and race is okay in Trump’s America. And it’s also a strong message to the “fine people,” as Trump called them, in the white supremacist demonstrations, that people who aren’t white deserve less constitutional protections.
But Trump wasn’t done legitimizing discrimination on Friday – he did more. He took a big step to legally sanctioning discrimination against the LGBT community by announcing a ban on transgender Americans who want to serve in our military. Transgender men and women currently serving can remain for the time being, but Trump’s order would allow them to be discharged at any moment depending on the decision of military leaders. (Trump avoided military service during the Vietnam War because of “temporary” heel spurs that astoundingly were worse in his 20s than today when he’s 71 years old.)
It was an unsurprising move. Trump first signaled, in a series of tweets, in late July his intention to ban transgender Americans from joining our military and even hinted at the immediate discharge of those now serving. He callously described these brave men and women as a burden, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
In announcing this policy, Trump reiterated his view that transgender Americans in the military would be a burden. In reality, however, a 2016 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon found the opposite, noting that 18 countries already allow transgender personnel to openly serve in their military and in “no case did the RAND team find evidence of an effect on operational effectiveness, operational readiness or cohesion.”
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But as we all know, facts don’t matter to Trump – especially when demonizing minorities, be they Muslims, the disabled, Mexicans, etc. This ban by Trump will – like Arpaio’s pardon – send a clear message that discrimination against a minority group is acceptable in Trump’s America.
Trump’s latest actions prove that the lasting impact of his presidency will likely be less about legislative accomplishments and more about his emboldening of intolerance, discrimination and even hate.