Nothing spoils a president’s day like showing up to pose for smiling, thumbs-up photo shoots at the two latest American cities emotionally grieving over weekend mass murders to find most of the people are in such a bad mood they don’t even want you in their town.
Nobody had to tell President Trump twice. He got the hell out of those ungrateful cities of Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, spewing insulting tweets behind him at local Democratic officials. So many community leaders made it clear Trump wasn’t welcome that no public events were scheduled to avoid any embarrassing incidents either by protesters or by Trump.
The White House denied access for media coverage of Trump’s interactions at hospitals in Dayton or El Paso for fear of similar humiliations. It later released its own photographs and a video focusing on Trump smiling and shaking hands to a triumphant orchestral soundtrack. Included was a disturbing photograph of the smiling First Lady holding a baby like a prize at the fair with Trump beaming and giving a thumbs-up. The life of the orphaned two-month-old was saved by his Latino parents who were killed shielding his tiny body from the El Paso shooter. Think of it as extreme family separation.
Objections to Trump’s visit were particularly raw in the bicultural border town of El Paso, where other survivors of the worst mass shooting of Latinos in U.S. history refused to meet with Trump. The Walmart mass shooter had posted an online manifesto declaring his intention to kill Mexicans to stop what both he and Trump call a Mexican “invasion” of the U.S. Trump also describes Latino immigrants as an “infestation.” Infestations require exterminators.
At his hate rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, in May, Trump referred to Latino immigrants, asking: “How do you stop these people?” When thousands cheered a supporter shouting, “Shoot them!” Trump chuckled and said: “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.” And only at a Trump rally.
Trump is increasing his openly racist rhetoric to gin up Republican support among white supremacists for 2020. He tells people of color, including American-born Congressional representatives, to go back where they came from, and declares African Americans living in city neighborhoods aren’t even human beings.
Those who’ve warned about Trump inflaming dangerous racial divisions in America he couldn’t control now have fresh evidence how deadly that can be in the only country where military-style weapons to kill human beings in large numbers are sold legally. The El Paso mass murder killing 22 people and wounding 26 others was followed within hours by the Dayton mass murder killing nine and injuring 27.
The most consistent features of Trump’s presidency have been his virulent racism and a constant stream of public lies. The Washington Post's running tally of Trump’s falsehoods just passed 12,000. His biggest whopper yet: Trump denies his racist rhetoric is dividing America. “My rhetoric … brings people together.” Well, it does bring racists together.
The subcategory of false promises following mass shootings should include Trump’s recent claims about Republicans supporting “very meaningful background checks.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to allow a Senate vote on House legislation closing background check loopholes, is “totally on board,” Trump said. “I think Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge.”
No surprise, but none of those statements are true. McConnell, up for re-election in 2020 in Kentucky where his approval ratings are underwater, quickly rushed out a public statement that he hasn’t endorsed any legislation on background checks. Nasty right-wing Republicans including Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson oppose background checks. By the time the Senate’s summer vacation ends in September, Republicans think the heat will be off so they can do nothing to reduce mass shootings like they always do.
By then, Trump will forget the thought ever crossed his squirming, chaotic mind. It happened after Parkland. Trump held a televised meeting with Parkland students and parents bragging he had the courage to cross the NRA and recommend a variety of gun safety measures. But after meeting with the NRA, the only proposal Trump could remember was arming teachers, which not even Republicans were crazy enough to pass.
Besides, with mass shootings increasing, the bare minimum of universal background checks should be just the beginning. After the two most recent mass shootings, 70% of Americans, including 55% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats supported banning military-style assault weapons, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.
Clearly, the only way to slow our country’s frightening descent into racial division and deadly violence is to defeat both Trump and the Senate’s Republican majority in November. Otherwise, decent Americans desiring peaceful lives and safe communities will be the ones experiencing terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.
Joel McNally writes a regular column for The Capital Times.
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