longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His new book is called Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015. He is the president of the American Museum of Tort Law, which will open next Saturday in Winsted, Connecticut. It is the first and only law museum of any kind in the United States.
Following the mounting criticism over Donald Trump’s statements during and after a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Thursday, at which he did not contradict a question by one of his supporters about when the United States could "get rid of" Muslims, we speak with Ralph Nader about Donald Trump and xenophobia. "What if the man had said that about Jews instead of Muslims? About Christians instead of Muslims?" Ralph Nader asked.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, ran for president of the United States a number of times. Ralph, I want to start by asking you about the latest meeting yesterday, town hall meeting, Donald Trump held in New Hampshire. During the Q&A, the first person to stand up said President Obama is Muslim, not even American, and asked when the U.S. could get rid of Muslims. This is what the person said. He’s called on by Donald Trump, who responds.
DONALD TRUMP: OK, this man. I like this guy.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: I’m from White Plains. Amen, OK? We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
DONALD TRUMP: Right.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: You know he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man.
DONALD TRUMP: We need this question; this is the first question.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: But anyway, we have training camps brewing where they want to kill us.
DONALD TRUMP: Mm-hmm.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: That’s my question: When can we get rid of them?
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And, you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump. And I want to get to what he then said afterwards, what his—what his campaign said. They issued a statement to The Washington Post saying, "The media wants to make this issue about Obama. The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians." So he certainly didn’t back off his response or what his supporter said in this Q&A. Your response to this, Ralph? And then, overall, just talk about what we’ve witnessed this week with the Republican debate. But respond to Trump first. What should he have said?
RALPH NADER: Well, what would he have said if the man said Jews instead of Muslims? What would he have said if he said Christians instead of Muslims? So, obviously, Donald Trump is tone deaf about the rights of Muslims in this country. We have—supposed to have equal rights under the law. What kind of stereotype racism does he require in his audience before he stands up against it? Donald Trump—
AMY GOODMAN: Would you call him a racist?
RALPH NADER: Pardon?
AMY GOODMAN: Would you call him a racist?
RALPH NADER: Well, we’ll let him answer that question. He certainly is not rejecting racist comments that are made, and that’s the first sign that he—
AMY GOODMAN: What about his call for 11 million immigrants to be deported from this country?
RALPH NADER: Well, that is so absurd. But, you see, he gets away with absurdity. He has an immunity that would tank any other political candidate, because he’s so outrageous, and the press thinks he’s outrageous, so they give him a pass. It’s really amazing. It’s sort of like the way the media did with Ronald Reagan: They had such low expectation levels of him that when he exceeded them, you know, it was a surprise.
But Donald Trump is fulfilling some important functions, Amy. He’s disrupting the slick corporatism of the other candidates. He, for example, has said, "Why do we, the big rich guys, why do we give money to politicians? Well, because then they do whatever we want them to do." That’s a great quote. And he was asked, "Well, why did your companies go bankrupt four times?" He said, "Well, that’s a competitive advantage. All the other companies do that." So, you know, he’s exposing the fraud of bankruptcy law when it comes to corporations, compared to student loan defaults. And so he’s making these statements which are very valuable.
Who knows where it’s going to end up, but it’s all a circus. He’s the chief circus barker, clearly. And all these issues that you talk about on your program, and other serious programming, go by the wayside. I mean, we’ve trivialized the campaign to select the leader of the so-called greatest power in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, we just have a minute. We talked to you right after Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the president. Now he is ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls in New Hampshire and in a number of polls in Iowa. Your response to what this means?
RALPH NADER: Well, he’s tapping in to what we all knew: There is a left-right coalition behind Main Street, against Wall Street. They don’t like crony capitalism. They don’t like violation of civil liberties. They want criminal justice reform, whether it’s left or right. They’re very worried about empire abroad and all the waste in the government, in the Pentagon and elsewhere. So he’s tapping into it.
He now needs to broaden out. He’s got to have a corporate crime policy, not just a Wall Street—anti-Wall Street policy. And he’s got to deal with military and foreign policy. Everybody that I know of in the progressive world are waiting to see how he’s going to take on Hillary Clinton, the master corporatist and the master militarist, the latest being the turmoil in Libya, spilling over Africa. That was Hillary’s war, against the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Gates.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, I want to thank you for being with us.