We start a new month on this Monday after a weekend of anger and violence that leaves a shaken nation with a corrupt leader searching for answers within a deeply-divided society in search of a soul.
The anger that brought America to protests and riots currently concerns the Minneapolis police officer now charged with murdering George Floyd by holding him down by the next with his knee but the anger has been seething throughout the nation for far too long.
Wannabe dictator and failed president Donald Trump spent Sunday out of sight, hiding out part of the day in a secure White House bunker and using his lies- inflated “tweets” to add fuel to the fire that consumes a nation.
President Trump stayed safely ensconced inside and had nothing to say, besides tweeting fuel on the fire.
Never in the 1,227 days of Trump’s presidency has the nation seemed to cry out for leadership as it did Sunday, yet Trump made no attempt to provide it.
That was by design. Trump and some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing new to say and had no tangible policy or action to announce yet, according to a senior administration official. Evidently not feeling an urgent motivation Sunday to try to bring people together, he stayed silent.
Like most bullies, Trump is a coward who hides behinds his bluster. When the going gets tough, he shrinks away and hides.
America is at a low ebb. Pain and destruction strangle hopes and dreams of people across the country. People are dying — alone from a terrible virus or from a knee on the neck in full public view. Cities burn, destroying businesses and inflaming divisions. Tens of millions are out of work. The president makes it all worse.
Through all this, President Trump has spewed division with ill-chosen tweets about looting and “shooting” or “vicious dogs” and overpowering weapons. He has attacked Democratic leaders as their communities burn. He flails rather than leads, his instincts all wrong for what confronts the country.
At a time when presidential leadership is most called for, at a time when Americans look to a president for words to unify and heal, many hope this president will resist that call — an extraordinary condemnation of the way Trump leads in crisis.
“He should just stop talking,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on CNN Sunday. “This is like Charlottesville all over again. He speaks, and he makes it worse. There are times when you should just be quiet. And I wish that he would just be quiet.
This weekend exemplified many of the characteristics that have defined Trump’s five years as a presidential candidate and president — chaos and unrest, fear and anger, division and disruption. Some of these themes and qualities helped draw Trump’s supporters to him and keep them faithful, giving him a chance at reelection in November despite the carnage on his watch this spring.
Yet these same attributes make it challenging if not impossible for him to inspire unity, according to officials and strategists in both political parties.
Increasingly, we see more and more concern now from Republicans who have stood by and let Trump run roughshod over what is left of their party.
Tom Rath, a longtime GOP official and former attorney general in New Hampshire, notes:
The rioting in the streets has put an exclamation point on what this president cannot do: To bring people around and say we are all in this together. On his automatic transmission, there is one speed. It is not conciliate. It is not comfort. It is not forge consensus. It is attack. And the frustration right now is that nobody is in charge. Anarchy rules.
Trump’s record of racially insensitive and sometimes outright racist comments over the years has led many Democrats and even some Republicans to conclude that he does not fully comprehend the nation’s history of racism and the corresponding tensions that live on today.
Even Al Cardenas, a Florida-based Republican strategist and a former chairman of the American Conservatives Union, admits Trump is out of touch:
Obviously the unrest and the anger is well justified. Hardly goes a week by when some white person, whether it’s a white supremacist or a racist law enforcement officer, does not kill a black person needlessly. … What the country needs and wants from the president, they’re not going to get. This president, I don’t believe, relates to the racism, relates to the pain. At least I haven’t seen it.
Trump dumped more fuel on the fires of anger this past weekend when he threatened White House demonstrators with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons I have ever seen” and claimed Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” because one told him that shooting protesters was “good practice.”
Not so, says Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser. “Trump hides behind his fence,” she said. “There are no vicious dogs and ominous weapons. There is just a scared man who is afraid and alone.”
Columnist Colbert I. King says Trump, who lies constantly, told a massive one over the weekend when he claimed Bowser “wouldn’t let the D.C. police get involved” in dealing with the protesters in the nation’s capital.
Trump claimed he learned that “fact” from an unnamed source.
Whether Trump’s unnamed person exists is unknown. What is clear, however, is that Trump’s accusation against Bowser and the police force was indisputably false. In fact, Trump’s lie was exposed the moment it left his mouth.
Led by D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham, and with Bowser’s knowledge and consent, the city’s police had already joined with the Secret Service and other federal law enforcement authorities to deal with White House and public demonstrations — as have D.C. mayors and police chiefs in the past.
In a news conference with Bower, Newsham said he provided Secret Service officers with equipment they did not have, including riot helmets. “Wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved” Trump declared. The Secret Service issued a statement that said, “The Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police were on the scene.”
Why would Trump tell such a baldfaced lie?
Simple, because lying is the only thing that Trump does with any consistency.
Trump’s behavior isn’t just unpresidential. It’s bizarre. And we shouldn’t try to act otherwise.
What can you say about a person who persistently tells lies that are blatant and easily shown to be untrue? What about a president who — in the middle of angry protests and a pandemic burning across the nation — finds time to cast himself as a victim and pick a fight with a mayor who has done nothing to him? And doing it with a lie?
What’s the real story with Donald Trump?
Jennifer Senior, writing for The New York Times, has some answers:
From the beginning, the police have received a lot of perverse messages from Trump, encouraging them to embrace the bitter angels of their nature. Three summers ago, he gave a speech on Long Island, disparaging officers who cradled the heads of suspects as they tucked them into their squad cars: “You can take the hand away, OK?” (A bank of police officers, seated behind him, started to laugh and cheer.)
One of Trump’s most revealing tweets since the rioting began was a boast about the prowess of the Secret Service — and to threaten to sic “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons” on the crowds outside the White House if things intensified. He’s Bull Connor with a comb-over. Or Walter E. Headley, Miami’s former police chief, who in 1967 said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase that reappeared in a Trump tweet on Friday.
And this is the point, is it not? Trump, who made his political bones by peddling apocrypha about our first African-American president’s country of origin, thrives on racial divisions. Us-them. Conflict zones are his comfort zone, perfect for firing up his base.
That, writes Michele Goldberg, is the Trump way:
Most American presidents, faced with such domestic instability, would seek de-escalation. This is one reason civil unrest, for all the damage it can cause to communities where it breaks out, has often led to reform.
Now, however, we have a president who doesn’t much care about warding off chaos. We now have a leadership that’s been crystal clear that it’s perfectly OK if we descend into utter civil war.
Some of the tropes are familiar, but we haven’t seen this movie before. No one knows how dark things could get, only that, in the Trump era, scenes that seem nightmarish one day come to look almost normal the next.
Trump this weekend attempted to name Antifa “a terrorist organization.”
As usual, Trump doesn’t realize that he cannot take such an action.
If he could, all he had to do was look in the mirror, point at the image he sees, and declare that he, and he alone, is the most serious terrorism threat this nation faces.
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