Donald Trump isn’t even trying to be president of the United States anymore.
Well, at least not the president of the side that won the Civil War.
Instead, Trump said it was a “beautiful scene,” when National Guard soldiers used tear gas to disperse U.S. citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to call for police reform and to mourn the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
He compared this use-of-force to a “knife cutting butter.”
Trump’s comments at an evangelical megachurch in Dallas came in the same week he swore to halt any effort to rename military installations that bear the name of Confederate officers who committed treason against the United States of America.
“My administration will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled military installations,” he tweeted, reminding us his knowledge of history could fit on the back of a postage stamp, with room enough to spare for several of the more ponderous Russian family novels.
He conveniently ignores the fact the Senate Armed Services Committee had added bipartisan language to an annual defense spending bill that “would begin the process of renaming those installations.”
This latest racist tirade also came in the same week that Trump’s campaign announced it would hold its first post-quarantine rally on June 19, or Juneteenth, a date sacred to black Americans because it’s the anniversary of the end of slavery.
Heaping insult upon injury, the campaign said the rally would be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the worst racial massacre in U.S. history. It’s an offense to every American, but especially to the black and brown Americans who serve, bleed and die in service to the country.
Trump abruptly backtracked, announcing late last week that the rally would be moved to June 20. But it doesn’t change the original sentiment. It just means the campaign didn’t want to put up with more bad headlines.
It’s no secret that Trump is more than willing to use dog-whistle tactics to excite his almost exclusively white base, and will gin up old grievances to reignite the culture war, if he thinks it will gain him political advantage.
How else to explain his chaotic performance in Dallas, where Trump snubbed the city’s black police chief, the county sheriff and state attorney general, who coincidentally all happen to be elected Democrats.
The White House improbably tried to defend the oversight, saying the administration wanted to hear from diverse voices on police reform. They were presumably not present at the $10 million campaign dinner with “two dozen donors who (ponied up) at least $580,600 each for a meal and souvenir photo,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
Speaking to the newspaper, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said that by passing over him and his colleagues Trump “would not be getting the full picture of advice from law enforcement. I don’t know who he’s going to get it from. I mean, we are the people on the ground.”
Despite polling showing that large majorities of Americans support the protesters and disapprove of Trump’s handling of the issue, he has unrelentingly thrown in with law enforcement, and tried to brand the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters, as he did in one recent campaign text message, as “liberal thugs” who are “destroying our streets.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called for removing 11 Confederate statues that are on display in the U.S. Capitol building, a move supported (or at least not opposed) by senior House Republicans. That announcement came after both the Navy and the Marines banned the display of the Confederate battle flag.
So with much of the country moving in the other direction — even the NFL and NASCAR have left him behind — there’s something desperate and pathetic about Trump’s latest antics.
It’s as if Trump has given in, admitted he’s out of ideas, conceded that he doesn’t know how to behave in a country he doesn’t recognize, and is simply running the old playbook in hopes that it will work.
And he’s just given up on being president of all of us. He’s just president of his base now, and doesn’t care who knows it.
A relic, just like the Confederacy.
— An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. He can be contacted at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @ByJohnLMicek. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.