It has become routine: President Donald Trump spends a golfing break at one of his properties. Tragically, horrific gun massacres also have become part of the routine, two of them just the other weekend, one of them clearly the consequence of a white supremacist who had gone over the edge, armed with the most lethal handheld weapons of mass destruction.
By the time the president finally emerged after sending platitudinous tweets of support for El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, he faced the assembled reporters to declare, “Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”
With all due disrespect, Mr. President, we should take care of it by standing up to the National Rifle Association, which you have not done, and by prohibiting the devastating warfare armaments that enable some pathetic loser to become a killing machine. And you — that means you, Donald Trump — need to understand that your language has consequences. You, sir, are what passes for the country’s national leader, and when your careless rhetoric inflames resentment into hatred, domestic terrorism becomes inevitable. Unfortunately, you have resorted to outright racism lately.
What’s even worse than a bigot? A passive-aggressive one. And there are millions of them. In the old days longed for by the Make America Great Again crowd, people openly wore their prejudice on their sleeves, sometimes on the sleeves of their robes. Perhaps there has been progress. Now they must at least pretend they are not intolerant.
Perhaps even worse than the passive-aggressive bigot is the opportunistic one. Trump whips up fury at anybody who dares question his every move, past or present. That also includes a huge number of white people, members of the press or political opponents. In that regard he is “an equal opportunity demagogue.” But he reserves his most venomous spew for his adversaries of color, those who are told to go back to where they came from or have their home districts pronounced “infested.”
The latter is the case of Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who is leading an investigation into all things Trump. Therefore he must be demonized not only as a political enemy but as a nonpliant minority individual. So Cummings’ hometown, Baltimore, is attacked by Trump, and his supporters lap it up.
Trump’s recklessly expressed racism is uncommonly dangerous in a country that is now on the brink of permanent divisions. Already we are suffering from these ever-increasing explosions of murderous violence. We need a chief executive who will leads us away, before they consume us.
The Trumpster started his day on Twitter as usual, by proposing legislation that would expand gun purchase background checks, perhaps combined with his exclusionary immigration reform package. That reduces the victims of the slaughters, particularly the Mexicans in El Paso, to political pawns.
However, a few hours later, he delivered a White House address: “Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he declared. “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.” Mr. President, we know a good place to start.
While his speech to the nation seemed flat, he said all the right words. At least it was an attempt at statesmanship, far better than his usual hatesmanship.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.