Donald Trump has come under heavy fire (figuratively, of course) over the past 48 hours for the extent to which his anti-immigrant rhetoric and generalized vitriol have served to divide the country and stoke racial tensions.
The shooter who gunned down 20 people in El Paso, Texas, over the weekend posted a white nationalist screed online prior to committing one of the most heinous acts of domestic terrorism in US history. Hours later, a gunman killed nine (including his sister) in Dayton, Ohio.
If you haven’t read the El Paso gunman’s manifesto, we don’t recommend it. But if you have, you know it echoes (in some cases almost verbatim) Trump’s tweets and rally rhetoric. That is a fact.
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At the end of the multi-page rant, the Texas shooter claims his views “predate” Trump, an apparent effort to deflect blame from the president. He even uses the phrase “fake news”. But that’s likely to fall on deaf ears considering the language in the rest of the document, which contains at least one reference to “send them back”.
Trump on Monday addressed the nation from the White House and it was a laborious, painful affair, complete with the characteristic sniffling, heavy breathing and bouts of acute dry mouth that have plagued the president during similar on-script speeches in the past (e.g., the Jerusalem announcement).
It is impossible to overstate how insulting it is to a grieving nation’s intelligence to hear this president say things like:
The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.
The fact is, his voice is the one that should be the loudest and count for the most, but instead, Trump has spent four straight years making what can at best be described as “controversial” statements about race and immigration. At worst, the president’s rhetoric is racist and has, whether he knows it or not, radicalized some impressionable Americans.
Here is Trump attempting to make it through his speech:
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The president went on to call on both parties to “find the courage to answer hatred with unity and love”, a statement so absurd coming from Trump that even the president’s defenders will likely find it difficult to reconcile with the message he pushes on every other day of the week.
“We will always have and we always will win”, Trump stammered, before declaring that “it is not up to mentally ill monsters” to decide whether the country succeeds or fails. (The cynical among you might argue that it is, in fact, up to a “mentally ill monster”, namely the one giving the speech.)
The president then took the irony up another ten or so notches. “[We will work with] social media companies to develop tools to identify mass shooters before they strike”, he said. A nice sentiment, but Trump is arguably the king of spreading vitriol on social media. (Do note, again, how hard of a time Trump had reading from the teleprompter.)
In the final insult, Trump closed his address by saying “May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo”.
The Ohio shooting happened in Dayton.