ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Republican party strategist Ana Navarro addressed students and members of the public at the University of Michigan on President’s Day (Monday) afternoon. She discussed President Trump, gun control laws and then answered questions from the audience.
Navarro was born in Nicaragua and immigrated to the United States in 1980 following the Sandinista revolution. In 1993, she earned her B.A. in Latin American studies and political science from the University of Miami. Navarro served as national Hispanic co-chair for Governor Jon Hunstman’s 2012 campaign. She also serves as a political contributor to CNN, ABC News and Telemundo.
“I am still mourning the loss of 17 young people in Florida last week,” said Michael Barr, Dean of the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. “We again are saying never again. It’s my honor to introduce our guest Ms. Navarro. She dates her affiliation to the Republican party to the age of eight. While we come from different political parties, I just love listening to her talk.”
Then, Ana Navarro took to the podium of the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre inside the Michigan League. The lecture was presented by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
“This is the first time I am in a school campus since the Stoneman Douglas shooting last week,” she explained. “It is about an hour from where I live. As I stand here, I feel like I should apologize for my generation and the ones that came before me. We’ve become so political so beholding. Yes, I am referring to the NRA. We do nothing after these tragedies that keep happening. They are teenagers who lives were interrupted. We have failed them. They are impossible to ignore. I don’t know if anything is going to happen as a result of this. We all have to demand more. We owe it to the victims and their loved ones.”
The Republican strategist said she would contact her state and federal legislators to do something in response to the school shooting. In addition, Navarro announced she would participate in the “March for Our Lives” march in Washington on March 24.
“I’m not a journalist. I am a commentator,” she told the crowd. “I am an old time Republican in exile. I’ve been called much worst. I am an anti-Trump. I don’t think he qualifies as a real Republican. I don’t think he qualifies as a decent human being. Donald Trump has staged a hostile takeover of the Republican party.”
Navarro went on to explain the current political landscape in America. She also threw in some jokes along the way during her 45-minute speech.
“It’s a very dysfunctional family sitting around the dinner table. We are a house divided. Being a Republican feels like a Charles Dickens novel. It should be the best of times because Republicans have a majority in the Senate, the White House, and the majority of governorships. Yet they haven’t been able to get together and accomplish much. Trump says one thing, Republican leadership says another. Jeff Sessions he’s taken him on like a human piñata. The bar is flying between him and different Senators. He’s got on again off again bromances.
“It’s hard to predict where the party is going. You’ve got party elders abounding the battlefield. Some like Corker and Flake have a very hard road ahead of them. They don’t want to be part of this dysfunction. 2019 you will see the Republican party lose some seniority legislators. Some of them will be replaced by less seasoned Republicans. Some will be replaced by democrats. I’m very interested to see what happens with Mitt Romney. He’s getting elected in Utah. If the opportunity lends itself for a challenge with Trump, I’m interested in seeing what happens. Running for president is like herpes, you never get rid of it. He might still have some powder left in him.”
The GOP strategist described President Trump as somewhat of a flip flopper.
“A month ago Trump was sending a bill of love on immigration. A week later we were debating the word s***hole to describe predominately black or brown countries. The fear of the unknown with Trump. It’s better to stay with the devil you know. A year in office, none of that has changed Trump. It’s incredible hard to change a man. Trump loves his base and his base loves Trump. It’s like a rash. The more you scratch the more it spreads.
“We’ve seen America split in two by cultural wars…fake news. We saw two of the worst shootings in history. In 2018, we saw a third. There were 13 new indictments in our election from Russia. It’s like being in a hamster wheel and you keep running. Sunday the president of the United States attacked Oprah. Happy President’s Day guys.”
Navarro reminded us that Congress is two weeks away from the deadline on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program provides certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children some protection from being deported.
“We are allowing a million young people that we are keeping their lives and dreams in limbo. We must help these kids. We can’t leave them alone. This has got to be something we keep fighting for. These are some of the best people I know. They are living in distress and absolute fear. To me, that’s just not the America I know.”
So what has changed throughout all of this?
“America is woke. We’ve seen it in the ‘Me Too’ movement and the marches. America is aware, engaged, far more informed. People are voting and making a difference in their pocketbooks. They are calling advertisers and saying we won’t buy your product. We have seen Americans starting to take their country back and showing America is already GREAT.”
Following her lecture, there was a question-and-answer session for U-M students and the public.
Q: What gun control laws should we pass? Which ones have a chance of getting passed in this Congress?
A: “I think we should pass a law where people can’t buy AR15s. If you need a gun like that to go hunting, you need to go back to hunting school. We are not hunting dinosaurs folks. Within the realistic things, I think we should raise the age. You can’t rent a car until you’re 25. This mentally disturbed kid was able to legally buy a gun in Florida at the age of 18. We have to put more money into mental health. Red Flag laws where adult family members can do more to make sure that folks they think might be dangerous do not have access to guns. Invest more in school security. Now its been normal that kids do active shooter drills. How can that be normal in the greatest country on earth? It’s not enough to be pissed, you’ve got to translate that into votes.”
Q: President Trump coined the term “fake news” to describe news reports that he doesn’t like. What’s your take on the subject?
A: “First, I think its stupid. It’s one of these branding things that Trump is very good at. The only thing that’s fake news are the things that are not good for him. I think in journalism we are seeing the worst of times and the best of times. Television folks have gotten too chummy with the White House and get invited to state dinners. A lot of the good journalists have remembered what it’s about: Fact finding not allowing yourself to be bullied. I think we’re seeing a lot of stars. What we’re seeing is people want to believe what they already believe. They only read and listen to and watch what reaffirms their beliefs. its very hard to combat. Is there fake news? Yes. But it’s not being done by legitimate news organizations.”
Q: Is the new tax bill that President Trump signed good for Americans?
A: “The short term answer is yes. The long term answer is we don’t know. Will it lead to more jobs and spending more money? This will put that theory to the test. Will people take their bonuses and spend them? We don’t know the answer. When some of the measures expire in a few years, its going to be a different scenario. Most republicans are troubled by the spending and the deficit. So far, we are seeing good results.”
Q: How do you deal with being overwhelmed by the news?
A: “Now I have separation anxiety from my electronic devices. With trump, you could be on a three hour flight without Wi-Fi and any given thing could have happened in those three hours. I have people I know who are good journalists who I follow. I use Twitter not as a social tool. but as a professional tool. To me, the quickest way to consume is through Twitter. There’s just so much going on in the news world.”
Q: What do you think about white supremacist Richard Spencer? Should he be allowed to speak on college campuses such as the U of M?
A: “Part of me thinks let them come and nobody show up just ignore them. Part of me thinks no, I am going to protest against the son of a b****. Depending on the day, I go back and forth on it. You have to allow it but I’m also a believer in the social good and welfare, if it’s going to cause violence and danger, I think you have to weigh those things. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the students at each college to make that decision.”
Our own Mike Wrathell asked the GOP strategist about the legacy of the Sandinistas.
A: “Corruption. civil war. divided families. We have folks living in exile. A lot of professional drain from the country. They are settling elsewhere like my family and so many others. It is the second poorest country in western hemisphere. It’s been a terrible 50 years. It’s one of the reasons why I talk about appreciating the rights of democracies. I’ve seen it taken away.”
Navarro was asked about her future plans in terms of politics and/or journalism.
“I have a lot of different opportunities that come my way. People are talking to me about doing my own show. I am wrestling about these opportunities. I think its really important to enjoy the moment. I got some good advice early on. Figure out what kind of life you want to live. I live in Miami–you don’t have to shovel snow. We don’t pay state income taxes. I’ve got a pretty good life. No, I don’t want to run for public office. I like having a little bit of privacy.”
There were about 100 University of Michigan students in the audience. I wanted to get their opinion on her lecture.
“I think it surprised me how warm and candid she was,” said Darragh, a U-M chemical biology graduate student. “Also what surprised me too was the sadness that of the undertone about the NRA legislation. I think our government is owned by the lobbyists. I was going to ask where does the party go next?”
Follow Ana Navarro on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Ana-Navarro-1500169186928411/; on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ananavarro and look for her reports on CNN, ABC News and Telemundo.
For more information about the “March of Our Lives” march in Washington, visit www.marchforourlives.com.