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Republican Former Commerce Secretary Calls On GOP To Oppose Trump

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now another leader in the Latino community with a different point of view. He opposes Donald Trump and wants other Republicans to come out against him. Carlos Gutierrez was the U.S. secretary of commerce in the George W. Bush administration. He's a business executive, a former chairman of Kellogg. He's now at the Albright Stonebridge Group here in Washington, D.C., which is where we reached him. And I asked Carlos Gutierrez about the moment during the primary season when he first realized that Donald Trump might actually end up becoming the Republican nominee for president.

CARLOS GUTIERREZ: I think it was probably after Indiana. I think that was kind of the turning point where, you know, it looked like he did have a real shot at the nomination. But, you know, as it's become more and more inevitable, it's become more and more worrisome. And I'll tell you - for me, what really just knocked it over was not only the judge, but it was when he was at that speech talking about my African-American. It was like, this is it. This has gone too far. And, you know, who is left to insult?

MARTIN: It does seem that he has had a particular focus on Latinos. And including, you know, the policy question of sort of building the wall, but, you know, even dating back to his comments saying that, you know, Mexico is not sending us our best - they're sending us, you know, criminals and rapists and so forth - and then his comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. And so he says that he is just articulating what a lot of people feel and that the people's sensitivity around this is political correctness. And what do you say to that?

GUTIERREZ: Well, I think this idea of oh, it's political correctness and let's change it - well, once in a while, it's common sense and common decency to be politically correct. He didn't say this Mexican-American may have a conflict. He said he's a Mexican. And he says it with such disdain. You know, it's what he says and the way he says it, which is absolutely insulting.

And he shattered the whole idea that we don't judge people on the basis of where they come from or where their parents came from. That's an American value. And we're building towards that. And we're getting better at it. And we're improving. And the whole society is moving forward, and now this man want to take us back. And frankly, I don't want to go back with him. And I know that there are a lot of Republicans who feel the same way.

MARTIN: But does it surprise you, though, that so many members of your party have fallen in line? I mean, many of them have taken exception to these remarks, but at the end of the day they are supporting him. What does that say?

GUTIERREZ: You know, it's this whole thing of party unity. And you don't want to upset party members. And you don't want people to blame you for Hillary Clinton's election. I understand all that. But I think there comes a point where you have to put country first and party second, and this is one of those moments. You know, we need to speak up. And if the party made a mistake, we need to recognize it. We'll be bigger for it. But this could be a huge strategic loss for the Republican Party in the short-term and long-term.

MARTIN: But before I let you go, our earlier guest, as I mentioned - Jacob Montilijo Monty, who's an immigration lawyer in Houston - said he also finds Donald Trump's comments repugnant. But he also said that he feels that it's possible that he could be the one figure who, because of his appeal to these groups who are so hostile to immigrants, that perhaps he could be the person who could actually seal the deal on immigration reform because he would be trusted by those folks. Do you find that credible?

GUTIERREZ: Well, not necessarily. You have to think about, again, other repercussions, collateral damage. What kind of people does he bring into his administration? What kind of people has he attracted to his campaign? 'Cause those are the people who are going to be recommending policy and executing policy. And so he's going to be surrounded with people who were attracted to that message to start with. I think it's going to be very difficult for him to do anything if he were to become president. I just don't think he has the support anywhere to get anything done.

At some point, you have to say, has this man crossed the line? And yes, I think he has crossed the line. And I think the way he has treated Mexicans and Hispanics and African-Americans, women - I mean, I still remember the Megyn Kelly comments - handicapped people, POWs - it's not just racist talk. It's bigotry and it's bullying. This man is a bully. I mean, do we want a president who bullies his own people? I don't.

MARTIN: So there's no chance you'd vote for him?

GUTIERREZ: No. No, not at all. I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror.

MARTIN: That's former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. He's currently chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, D.C. He was with us from his offices. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for speaking with us.

GUTIERREZ: A pleasure. And I hope the same amount of time doesn't go by before we do it again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.