Have you heard about Donald Trump’s latest remarks about immigrants?

“No. I’m waiting to hear it in the original German.”

That’s actually a revival of a joke that was making the rounds after my conservative friend and former fellow “McLaughlin Group” panelist Pat Buchanan announced his own ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination.

Never let mere facts get in the way of a good punchline, comedians have been known to say.

Now we have former President Donald Trump stepping up to demonstrate how facts don’t need to impede a presidential campaign, judging by his recent fact-free assault on one of his favorite targets, immigrants, including asylum-seekers. Buchanan couldn’t win the party’s nomination in those days with his platform, which called for a big fence along the Mexican border in much the same ways Trump campaigned for a coast-to-coast wall. Buchanan was only ahead of his time, he and I agreed after Trump’s victory, although Buchanan was a lot more delighted than I was.

Now, we can see how much in a video interview with Trump by the National Pulse, a right-leaning website. Later reposted by liberal MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, the interview reveals that Trump has refreshed his position with new unverified facts.

“Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons,” Trump said. “We know they come from mental institutions and insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now.”

In fact, it’s hard to see anything like this because neither Trump nor anybody else had found confirmation.

On at least three occasions this year, Trump also has claimed that the leaders of South American countries, which he would not name, are deliberately emptying their “insane asylums” and “mental institutions” to send the patients to the United States as migrants.

That’s a great story, if anyone can find any truth to it. And to think this comes from a man who was born and raised in New York City, the biggest multiracial and multicultural gumbo in the history of this land of immigrants.

I’d like to give Trump the benefit of the doubt by saying he doesn’t get out much, but we know that’s not true. Maybe he just isn’t paying attention. Or maybe he has spent too much time figuring out how to turn Americans against each other, for his own political benefit.

Even more disturbing is how Trump’s rhetoric has plainly drifted over into the tragically crazy fringe that comes straight out of the mania of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Yes, also new in this campaign, Trump’s attack invokes a theme from Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, “Mein Kampf,” in which the Nazi Party leader railed about what he called the impurity of immigrants, Jews and interracial couples.

“It is a very sad thing for our country,” Trump said. “It’s poisoning the blood of our country. It’s so bad, and people are coming in with disease. People are coming in with every possible thing that you could have.”

Well, Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, fortunately has a firmer grip on reality. He put out a timely statement that calls Trump’s comments racist and xenophobic, which to me was sadly and painfully obvious.

“Insinuating that immigrants are ‘poisoning the blood of our country’ echoes nativist talking points and has the potential to cause real danger and violence,’’ Greenblatt said in a statement. “We have seen this kind of toxic rhetoric inspire real-world violence before in places like Pittsburgh and El Paso. It should have no place in our politics, period.”

Agreed. A few people wonder why I, an African American, care about an assault against Jews, Latin American immigrants or any other group into which I was not born.

That’s easy. As my own elders preached to me long ago, don’t just stand by when you see another group of people attacked by bigotry. After all, when the bigots finish oppressing that group of people, yours will probably be next.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He may be contacted at:
Twitter: @cptime

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