Opinion: Is this the worst idea Trump has ever had? Almost

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program, “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

As the son of a Palestinian immigrant father, there has always been something personal for me about former President Donald Trump’s frequent peddling of hate and lies against non-white immigrants. I’ve often wondered if my late father — who came to the United States in the mid-1950s — would’ve chosen this nation to live in if a bigot like Trump was a leading politician at the time and made demonizing immigrants the cornerstone of his campaign.

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah - CNN

That same question came to mind again after I observed Trump’s latest effort to gin up hate against people whose only “crime” is believing in the famous poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty that promises our nation was to be a refuge for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

This incident occurred Saturday afternoon when Trump — at a gathering of conservative Christians — shared with the crowd his “Hunger Games”-themed idea of pitting migrants against each other in physical combat. Trump first asked the audience if they had ever heard of Dana White, the head of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

From there, Trump boasted that he had told White: “Why don’t you set up a migrant league of fighters and have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league — these are the greatest fighters in the world — fight the champion of the migrants.” Trump then added, “I think the migrants’ guy might win, that’s how tough they are.”

You would think at a Christian event Trump would have spoken of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who encouraged compassion for those in need. Perhaps Trump could have quoted from the famous passage in the book of Matthew, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat … I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

But Trump — his recent Bible sales venture notwithstanding — is not about these core tenets of Christianity. Trump is only about what he believes can help him return to power.

Obviously, Trump’s point in his migrant UFC proposal was that despite the toughness of the professional UFC fighters, the migrants coming to America are actually stronger, tougher and more dangerous. Trump wants his supporters to view migrants as a threat from which only he can protect them.

This is the same theme Trump has leaned on since he launched his first presidential run nine years ago, when he told the crowd that migrants coming over the Southern border were “bringing crime; they’re rapists.” The irony, of course, is now that Trump has been convicted of 34 felonies and is charged with crimes in three other jurisdictions, he is the one bringing crime.

During the 2024 presidential campaign, Trump has escalated his demonization of migrants with comments such as claiming they are “poisoning the blood of our country”— which was condemned by many as parroting not just white supremacists but also Adolf Hitler, who raged about the “contamination of the blood” in “Mein Kampf.” Trump has also repeatedly claimed that migrants have been responsible for a spike in crime when in reality, in 2023, our nation was at or around its lowest violent crime rate in more than 50 years. Plus studies show immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than people born in the US.

But facts have never mattered to Trump. All that matters is what Trump believes will help him personally.

Trump did though say one thing that was accurate Saturday.  That moment came when Trump told the audience that the UFC president didn’t like the migrant fight league idea, adding, “But actually, it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had.”

Trump is telling the truth there: Musing about a migrant fighting league is vile — but it’s not his worst idea. That is reserved for a few other Trump ideas including his effort to overturn the 2020 election to remain in power despite losing — which has resulted in Trump being charged with numerous criminal charges in both federal and state courts.

There’s also Trump’s idea to invite his supporters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, for a “wild” time and then directing the angry crowd to the Capitol to “stop the steal.” This is a big reason why the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol concluded in their final report that “the central cause of January 6th was one man, former President Donald Trump,” adding, “None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”

And we can add to “worse” ideas than the migrant fighting league Trump’s repeated celebration of the Jan. 6 attackers, including recently praising them as “warriors” and vowing to pardon his supporters who sought to end our democratic republic on Trump’s behalf.

Trump proposing a dehumanizing physical battle between migrants who would then fight the UFC champions — which conjures up Roman gladiator matches — is simply more evidence of Trump’s depravity. It’s also another reason why Trump must be defeated this November. A convicted felon who attempted a coup and has politically weaponized hate should never be permitted to serve as president of this great nation ever again.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com