Trump’s actions louder than his loud words

Published 12:42 am Saturday, December 12, 2015

“You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.”

Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd in The American President

 The aforementioned movie is romantic comedy co-tarring Annette Bening and directed by Rob Reiner in the formula he perfected: Boy gets beautiful girl after mild conflict, and everyone lives happily ever after.

We first watched it on an international flight from Frankfurt. It was the 1990s. We were not yet worried there might be a terrorist on board. But the sweet, romantic comedy is set against a political backdrop that is so much our current reality.

Michael Douglas as the president is seeking reelection against a man who’s selling fear.

“He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character…”

There seem to be so many candidates peddling fear in this astounding and crowded election cycle. Chief among them is Donald Trump, who attempts to out-outrageous himself weekly. This week, he issued a call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Period. No exceptions. Not for Muslims who have lived here, been productive citizens, but left the country for a vacation or business trip. Not Muslims serving in the military abroad. His comments resonate with Americans who fear an attack like the one in Paris last month, or in our own country in 2001. While we have reason to be afraid, we also know that we have greatly increased our intelligence efforts in the years since the 9-11 attacks. Many, many plots have been foiled.

Broadly stating all Muslims are bad makes about as much sense as saying all Southerners are Rednecks who can’t read. As much as I dislike the politics of fear, I understand, like the fictional President Shepherd, that we have to defend the speech of both those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree.

But those who agree with Trump’s comments would do well to read up on his business investments. While he says he will stop all Muslims at the border, he seems not to mind doing personal business in the Middle East. His Trump Home products are in more than 160 stores from Libya to Pakistan, NBC News reported yesterday.

Trump’s office building on Fifth Avenue also houses corporate offices for Qatar Airways, which brings Muslims and other travelers into JFK International Airport on a daily flight. The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority leases space in that building. Wonder what would happen if his tenants left town?

The presidential candidate also lent his name to the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku in Azerbaijan, which brings him $2.5 million in management fees, according to his campaign’s financial disclosure forms. He also disclosed royalties ranging from $1 million to $5 million for licensing his name to two Trump Towers in Istanbul.

While the leading presidential contender’s rhetoric is anti-Muslim, his business practices are not. Should we pay attention to his actions or words?