In “Worst of the Trumps” Mr. Cohen says Syrian refugees are not a threat to America, they are the lifeblood of America. Ms. Collins, in “And Now, Presidential Dog Days” is remembering Seamus and introducing Alibi the horse and Ginger the chicken. Here’s Mr. Cohen:
When a presidential campaign often inhabits the gutter it’s not easy to establish its low point.
We’ve seen Donald Trump vilify Muslims, Mexicans and women. We’ve seen him indulge airy suggestions that rifle-bearing Americans might like to shoot Hillary Clinton. We’ve seen him belabor the lie that President Obama was not born in the United States — until he recanted. For Trump, the low road to the White House is paved with boorishness. But perhaps his son Donald Trump Jr. set the nadir this week when he compared Syrian refugees to a bowl of Skittles.
A caption accompanying a photograph of the candy said: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Trump Jr. tweeted, “This image says it all.”
Where to begin? With the fact that human beings are not Skittles? With the fact that after more than five years of war 4.8 million Syrians are refugees and 6.1 million are internally displaced and Trump Jr., even with his coddled New York existence, can surely make the calculation that this amounts to almost 2.5 million more human beings than live in the five boroughs?
With the fact that you do not flee your home because you have a choice (like choosing between Skittles and M&Ms after a Manhattan dinner party) but because you no longer have one? With the fact that, according to a Cato Institute study of refugees admitted to the United States between 1975 and 2015, the chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion? With the fact that Syrians want to work, make a living, put their kids in decent schools, and recover their dignity, just like the rest of us?
Or perhaps with the fact that comparing Syrians to Skittles carries echoes of the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher comparing Jews to mushrooms in a popular children’s book that posited the ticklish dilemma of how to distinguish poisonous toadstools from edible fungus; and has a mother saying to her son Franz:
“Yes, my child! Just as a single poisonous mushroom can kill a whole family, so a solitary Jew can destroy a whole village, a whole city, even an entire Volk.”
We all know, even the Trumps know, that the door into the United States was closed to desperate European Jews trying to escape the Holocaust.
If I may be pardoned for extending an awful analogy, I’d suggest to the Trumps that a better caption would read: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three of them would turn out to be Sergey Brin, Elon Musk and Pierre Omidyar, would you take a handful?”
The co-founder of Google, co-founder of Tesla, and founder of eBay were all immigrants. Steve Jobs’ biological father was a Syrian immigrant. In fact, earlier this year, the National Foundation for American Policy found that 51 percent of the country’s start-up companies valued at over $1 billion had at least one immigrant founder. A study by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of governors and business leaders, found that in 2013 more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including seven of the world’s 10 most valuable brands, were started by immigrants or their children.
The strength of the United States is its creative churn. In contrast to European states, it is hard-wired to reinvention through immigration. When Trump traffics in fear about immigrants, whether Muslim or Mexican, he guts America of its greatness and turns his back on its singular idea.
The American response to the Syrian crisis has been paltry — almost 12,000 refugees admitted since the war began, or 0.25 percent of the total. Part of the slowness has come from the rigor of the vetting process. But what do the Trumps care? They are concerned with just one message: Muslim equals danger.
Let’s see now. Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, was a German immigrant. He arrived in the United States in October 1885. For decades, the family lied: They said he hailed from Sweden. In his book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump says his grandfather “came here from Sweden as a child.” The family historian, John Walter, explained that Trump’s father, Fred, “had a lot of Jewish tenants and it wasn’t a good thing to be German in those days.”
Make up stories: It’s the Trump way. So here was a German-American posing as a Swedish-American opting not to rent to African-Americans.
Friedrich Trump, the immigrant, was young. He was penniless. He came not from Sweden but from Bismarck’s recently formed nation state in the middle of a turbulent Europe. A U.S. immigration officer allowed him into the United States in 1885 — not a decision without risk.
But an American decision taken in the spirit the Trumps now trample with cavalier untruth and vile innuendo.
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
I think it’s time to talk about the presidential candidates’ pets.
Look, you need a break. And everybody — or almost everybody — likes an animal story. I’m not quite sure about Donald Trump, but we’ll get to him in a minute.
Pets, particularly dogs, pop up all the time in White House lore. Richard Nixon might never have even gotten there if he hadn’t used Checkers the cocker spaniel as a diversion from a campaign finance scandal. Lyndon Johnson posed — for reasons we will never understand — picking up his beagle by the ears. The décor at one Obama White House holiday party was many variations on the theme of Bo. This tradition goes way back. James Garfield had a Newfoundland named Veto. Calvin Coolidge seems to have acquired four cats, seven birds, nine dogs, two lion cubs, a raccoon, a bear, a wallaby, an antelope and 13 ducks.
I used to enjoy occasionally pointing out that Mitt Romney had once driven his family to Canada with Seamus the Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car. A campaign consultant told me that the Seamus story elicited stronger reactions from focus groups than any other aspect of the 2012 campaign.
Donald Trump doesn’t have any pets, and the animal anecdotes about him seem to be … unsettling. Clinton has had a number of dogs and cats, but their stories are generally … kind of boring. While she was first lady, Clinton wrote a book called “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.” In it, you can learn that Socks the cat’s tail was one foot long.
Socks, the most famous of the Clinton pets, has since passed away. So has Buddy the Labrador retriever, who was replaced by another chocolate Lab named — yes! — Seamus. This is a total coincidence. Right now the Clintons have a couple of fuzzy little dogs along the poodle line.
If Trump has ever in his life had a pet, his campaign doesn’t know about it. There’s some question, in fact, about whether he’s ever even had an animal friend. For a while, there was a story about Trump begging for prayers for a Lab named Spinee who was undergoing major surgery. I am very, very sorry to tell you that this appears to be a total fabrication.
There are two colorful stories about Trump’s previous encounters with animals in books written by ex-employees.
The first goes back to the 1980s, when Trump was in his first bloom of glitzy celebrity and acquired a promising 2-year-old racehorse named Alibi. John O’Donnell, a former Trump casino president, wrote that the colt fell apart when Trump insisted, despite the trainer’s objections, that Alibi be worked out even though a virus was going through his barn. O’Donnell claimed Alibi got very sick as a result — so ill he eventually had to have some of his hooves amputated and was retired. Then, O’Donnell said, Trump announced that he was not buying a defective animal and backed out of the sale.
“Jack O’Donnell is a disgruntled former employee, and this is a totally unsubstantiated and false claim,” said a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.
You decide who’s right. The one thing we do know for sure is that when Trump first bought Alibi, he changed the poor horse’s name to D. J. Trump.
The other, much less depressing story involves a chicken named Ginger, who once played tic-tac-toe with Trump at a casino near Palm Springs. Like so very many things in our world, the casino had Trump’s name on it, but it was owned by someone else — in this case an Indian tribe.
Perhaps you have never seen a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken, but they’ve been around a long time. According to Gary Green, another former Trump casino executive who wrote a book, a computer under the board lit up a square, and if the chicken pecked it, said bird got some corn. Hey, it’s a job.
After the game was over — Trump won — Green ran an advertising campaign that featured Trump firing Ginger and starting a Chicken Apprentice contest for a replacement. While Ginger’s fate was not described explicitly, the casino started serving chicken wings as part of the promotion.
Beyond that, connections between Trump and the animal kingdom seem pretty sparse — if you ignore Jane Goodall’s recent comment to The Atlantic that his performances “remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance issues.” Bloggers have pointed out that Trump tweets a lot of unflattering dog references. (“… cheated on him like a dog …”) It is true that he does seem to specialize in insult via canine analogy. I once got a letter from him suggesting I resembled a dog. He did not seem to be thinking about my large, friendly eyes.
If he wins the election, we could have the first president in history to refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey.
Hell, he’ll probably invite The Snowbilly Grifter to cut its head off…