On Tuesday, against the wishes of mayor Greg Stanton, Donald Trump arrived in Arizona. He stopped by the border town of Yuma, hoping to re-energize momentum for his long-cherished dream of a border wall. Later the president heads to Phoenix on Tuesday to preach national unity at a campaign-style rally,. He hopes to stir the enthusiasm of core supporters losing hope, and with understandable cause. In the wake of his abysmal handling of the Charlottesville tragedy that claimed the life of Heather Heyer, many have had their faith in his crisis-riddled presidency shaken.
With word on the street having been that Trump was planning to make a spectacle of pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who willfully disobeyed a court order to stop selectively persecuting people of Hispanic origin using his power and was found guilty last month of criminal contempt case, the big focus today on Trump’s lack of respect for ethnic groups other that his own has been the Hispanic community.
Last summer, Trump came under fire for suggesting the judge in his Trump University fraud case recuse himself for being Hispanic, an event that should not be forgotten as he lords it around Arizona today.
Shortly after, he was under fire again, this time for having patronizingly called Gregory Cheadle, who is a black Republican, “My African-American” at a California campaign rally. At the time, Cheadle said he was not offended by Trump’s comment.
Cheadle recalled that event last week, as he heard the now-President Trump praise “the good people on both sides” of the lethal melee in Charlottesville that claimed the life of victim Heather Heyer. He couldn’t help remembering that possessive word, “my” .
His backing for the president is on “life support,” he said.
Cheadle is not the only one. Many of his fellow Republican supporters in the African-American community are also displaying unease. Take Shermichael Singleton, for example. Mr. Singleton was fired from his job as a senior adviser for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in February, after writings of his being critical of Trump turned up. Even then, he still remained in the camp of the president. Those days, however, seem to be gone.
“It’s difficult to continue to have hope for President Trump,” Mr. Singleton said. “It’s difficult to focus on complex policy issues when you have a country that is falling apart.”
About a dozen interviews with black conservatives like Mr. Singleton, pointed to a moral dilemma, for any group of people other than white men: How can we defend the Republican Party against accusations of racism, when its highest ranking member is a president who has done all he can to encourage the Nazis?
Even other Republicans have expressed their concerns. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Monday that “I do believe he messed up in his comments on Tuesday (8/15/17) when it sounded like a moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity,” Ryan added.
And relations between Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, have disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks. Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration at all.
What was once an uneasy arrangement of political bedfellows has degraded into a feud, of mutual resentment and at times outright hostility- a state of affairs that equally applies to the state of things this evening in Phoenix.
As Trump began his speech, many thousands of citizens assembled outside, to protest his unwanted presence.
The speech itself was a mess. Trump has never been much for staying on topic, and tonight was no exception. Several minutes were given to an unhappy rant about fake news. He bizarrely spoke of living in nicer apartments than the “elites”. He defended the remarks he made last Tuesday regarding Charlottesville. He made some valid points about immigration, and summarized them by complimenting our current policy.
Anger was displayed on the health care issue. He bemoaned the fact that he’d been asked by his handlers not to mention “any names” but ranted about the “senator who didn’t vote to repeal Obamacare(R-AZ John McCain) and took several swipes at Jeff Flake, Arizona’s other Republican senator. He attacked the Democrats for a while, but that’s a good thing. A reproach from Trump will be worth its weight in gold in years to come. We stood firm in a bloc to save the Affordable Care Act and the millions of lives it watches over. #RiseAndOrganize.
He made the strange claim that “No other president has ever accomplished this much, during the first seven months.” His misery on the subject of Confederate monuments was palpable. He unleashed his rage against NAFTA, saying he was “pretty sure we couldn’t reach a deal”. He loudly boasted of having withdrawn from the Paris accord.
Throughout the speech, Trump seemed more than anything to be seeking applause. He took very long pauses, waiting for it, time and time again. The room was mostly silent. Parts of the speech were obviously scripted and were read that way. He wanted to bring others on stage with him, in the style of the pro wrestling events he was doing ten years ago.
He gave a shout out to several of his cronies in the Senate, as well as John Kelly, who many have lauded as the last hope of this White House. Finally, he recited off a few variations on Ronald Reagan’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, with forced enthusiasm, and it was over. He seemed tired, and old. His audience looked bored, and at times amused. The whole thing was a lot of great big talk.
Trump’s big talk has an unfortunate way of running into stubborn realities.
On Monday night we were all emphatically assured that the United States was going to win the war in Afghanistan, thanks to Trump’s orders for a troop surge. But earlier Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson immediately played down the idea that the U.S. military would walk away from Afghanistan- where it has been for sixteen years- with a victory. Victory is not the modus operandi of the Trump administration.
At the end of it, the day felt like a waste. Nothing of importance was done or said at all. And as the rally ended, things began to get violent. Pepper spray has been fired, rocks and water bottles have been thrown, barricades are being broken, and police in riot gear have just arrived. Vote blue next year, if you’re tired of this.