President Donald Trump’s tweets last week about four Democratic congresswomen, known in the national media as “The Squad,” calling for them to go back to their countries of origin caused a wide variety of reactions in Santa Barbara.
From calls for civility to outright condemnation, these are just a few opinions from some of Santa Barbara’s prominent voices.
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, condemned the tweets as “unequivocally, 100 percent racist” and called Mr. Trump a “master of distraction” in a press conference last week. He also accused of Mr. Trump of not working on the issues by distracting the nation with his tweets.
He expanded on his comments during an interview with the News-Press.
“We’ve never seen a president who is so divisive and anti-immigrant,” Mr. Carbajal claimed.
“This president has demonstrated great racism toward immigrants and even my fellow colleagues that are members of Congress,” Mr. Carbajal said.
He also placed blame on Mr. Trump for distracting Congress and the nation from working on issues.
“This president chooses to engage and go there instead of focusing on the important work that we hope to be doing in Congress,” Mr. Carbajal said. “This president continues day in and day out to focus everybody’s attention on his racist tweets.”
Mr. Carbajal also called on Republicans to condemn Mr. Trump’s tweets and comments.
“When you hear someone espousing racist rhetoric like this president, it’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. Both parties should be stepping up … and denouncing it,” he said.
Both Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to “speak out and denounce this behavior and type of rhetoric coming from this president.”
Despite his strong opposition to Mr. Trump, Mr. Carbajal voted to table Rep. Al Green’s, D-Texas, articles of impeachment against the president last week, along with the majority of his party.
“I did not vote against impeachment. I voted to table the articles of impeachment,” he said.
He called for continued investigation into the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia and is looking forward to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday. He also said that if impeachment were to happen, it should move forward in a “bipartisan way.”
“I continue to assess, not only on the need to continue to investigate this president, but if the facts are such, I believe we should forward in a bipartisan way. … If it warrants impeachment, we [Republicans and Democrats should] move forward together,” Mr. Carbajal said.
State Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, also condemned Mr. Trump’s tweets in her own tweet on July 16, “Republicans in Congress & the Legislature who do not denounce @realDonaldTrump tweets are complicit with his racism. Let’s stand up together for the diverse America we believe in, and against unacceptable racism, white nationalism, fear and division.”
The Jewish Federation and Jewish Committee Community Relations Committee, Santa Barabara, endorsed a Friday news release from their national partners, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which called the Mr. Trump’s comments “xenophobic, racist and highly divisive.”
They said that the comment “sends a message not just to the elected officials he named but to millions of immigrants, many of whom have long been naturalized, that they are less than full Americans with an equal voice in our democracy.”
The JCPA also condemned the president’s use of Israel in his attacks on the Democratic Party.
“While we appreciate his support of the Jewish state, we would respectfully request that he not use Israel as a wedge issue in a political fight with Democrats,” David Bernstein, JCPA’s president, said in the news release. “Support for Israel is a bi-partisan issue and must remain so in the future.”
The president’s comments and tweets were not robustly defended by a couple of Santa Barbara’s more conservative or non-liberal voices who instead sought to center the conversation on congressional inaction on important issues.
Bobbi McGinnnis, chairwoman of the Santa Barbara County Republican Party, criticized Congress for focusing more on Trump’s comments than moving forth with solving some of the issues facing the United States such as homelessness, mental illness and the crisis on the southern border.
She also told the News-Press that people should be looking at Mr. Trump’s record such as tax reform, low unemployment and the return of manufacturing jobs.
“[President]Trump is focused on the economy. We have the lowest unemployment. 3.9 million people are off food stamps. We have more manufacturing jobs than we have seen in 20 years,” Ms. McGinnis said. “That’s what I want Congress to focus on.”
As for the “Send her back” chants at Mr. Trump’s North Carolina rally last week, Ms. McGinnis downplayed the chants at first.
“People always get carried away at rallies,” she said, adding that she was “under informed on this.”
The Republican Party wants “prosperity, equal opportunity and equal rights” she said, but added that she spoke only for herself and was not stating an official position from the Santa Barbara Republican Party.
Celeste Barber, a former Santa Barbara City College English professor and self-professed free speech activist who was in the middle of the American flag controversy at SBCC earlier this year, called for civility and called on Congress to be “debating issues, not debating tweets.”
“They should not be debating name calling, berating one another. ,,, They’re not conducting the people’s business,” Ms. Barber told the News-Press.
“I would like to see civility among all our elected officials from president going down to local officials. We need to restore respect and civility for elected officials to one another,” Ms. Barber said, adding such behavior distract from foreign policy issues, such as denuclearization with North Korea and events in the Middle East.
Mark McIntire, host of the TV Santa Barbara program Freedom Matters, was the most vocal defender of Mr. Trump’s tweets and called the president “absolutely brilliant.”
“The man is absolutely brilliant. The way Trump is able to get into [their brains] and mess up their minds and make them hysterical and make them lie and make them cry. [It] distracts them from any agenda.” Mr. McIntire said.
He said the tweets were not racist — he denied racism exists, saying that there is no such thing as race in human biology.
“In a land where everybody is a racist, nobody is a racist,” Mr. McIntire said.
He also suggested that the tweets were not aimed at the “Squad.”
“They all personally responded as if they were attacked. He never mentioned their name and they all got huffy and all disturbed and all offended,” he said while calling them “Marxist witches.” “The man [Mr. Trump] is a genius. He’s galvanizing his base.”
He agreed with Mr. Carbajal that Mr. Trump is a master of distraction, saying that the point of politics was to deny the other side’s agenda.