Both of Maine’s senators and many others denounced President Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar slur while describing immigration from Haiti and Africa.
Participants in a private White House session with members of Congress said Thursday that Trump repeatedly called African nations “shithole countries” during the meeting, an assertion that Trump denied in a vague comment on Twitter on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, didn’t hesitate to denounce his words Friday.
She called them “completely inappropriate” and “highly unfortunate and out of bounds.”
Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King, called them “truly regrettable and inconsistent with my understanding of what America is all about” in a written statement Friday.
The two senators were far from the only public figures to lash out at the president’s language.
Zak Ringelstein, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate this year, said Trump’s “racist words are a disgrace to everything America actually stands for.”
“It is time that we all confront the fact that we have a white supremacist in the Oval Office and that we will be a stronger, freer country when Congress finally has the backbone to impeach” Trump and remove him from office, Ringelstein said.
Taking a less harsh stance, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican, said he’s focused on “immigration reform and securing our borders” and the president’s comments “are not helpful” to the effort to address the issues involved.
Phil Bartlett, the state Democratic Party chairman, said the president’s words “are divisive, racist, and entirely counter to the values of our nation. We hope that Republican leaders across the state will step up to condemn his remarks without hesitation.”
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a 1st District Democrat, said in a written statement that Trump’s description of African countries was “absolutely sickening, even for him. It’s frightening to have someone in the White House with this kind of ignorance and lack of compassion.”
Not everyone is as upset, however.
Republican U.S. Senate contender Eric Brakey, a state senator from Auburn, said the media are blowing Trump’s comment out of proportion.
“I don’t care much for the president’s crude phrasing, but his point was that our U.S. immigration system is not — and cannot be — a program for fighting global poverty, and with that, I wholeheartedly agree,” Brakey said.
“When it comes to charitable giving to support those across the world, we are a generous nation,” Brakey said. “That doesn’t mean we can support a policy of open borders. For our own safety and economic well-being, our immigration system must serve America’s interests.”
Craig Olson, a Democratic congressional hopeful in the 2nd District, said the president demonstrated again that he is “disconnected from the reality of the role and responsibility of a world power like the United States.”
“His personal biases and utter disregard for the hardworking men and women that come to the United States to build a life that far exceeds what they could build in their home countries is unconscionable,” Olson said. “It appears as though the lack of a Trump organization business in a country means it is not worth our assistance.”
“Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to this kind of rhetoric, but I am even more appalled by the Republican Congress and our current representative’s silence on Mr. Trump’s belittling of anyone not like him. Shame on them,” Olson said.
Ben Pollard, a Democrat vying to replace King in this year’s Senate race, said, “The poorest countries in the world deserve America’s compassion, and it is sad to see our head of state treating them with disdain. I believe our country should respond to the migration crises with more support for humanitarian assistance and economic development to alleviate the extreme suffering in nations that migrants are most desperate to flee.”
Danielle VanHelsing, an independent congressional candidate in the 2nd District, said Trump’s comments “are incredibly inconsiderate and clearly have an unambiguous racist tone. He is the most unprofessional, disrespectful president in history and is undeserving of the office.”
Another 2nd District independent with her eye on the congressional seat, Tiffany Bond, said it’s unrealistic to think that Trump is going to be anything other than himself. People knew who they were voting for, she said.
Lucas St. Clair, a Democrat taking aim at Poliquin’s seat, said the president “has lost sight of what it is that makes our country great and that the United States remains a shining city on a hill for much of the world.”
Collins said there is widespread agreement in Washington to press ahead with immigration reform. Lawmakers are trying to come up with a plan that fits the bill, she said.
First, she said, it has to protect the so-called Dreamers, children who came to America without proper approval and have grown up in the United States.
During a visit to Schooner Estates, a senior complex in Auburn, she said she spoke to one university student who came as a toddler and didn’t know he wasn’t a citizen until he went to get a driver’s license.
“It’s only fair to give him a pathway to citizenship,” she said.
She said, too, that the nation needs to toughen its border security — not necessarily with a wall but with sensors in remote areas and other steps that would help — and to overhaul the lottery system to allow more room for merit and skills the country needs.
Plus, she said, the U.S. ought to revamp its policy about bringing family members into the country. She said it ought to be limited to immediate family, not a way for distant cousins to wind up with green cards.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins during a visit to Schooner Estates in Auburn on Friday. (Steve Collins/Sun Journal)