After nearly four years in office, if nothing else is clear to me about President Donald Trump, it is that he is incapable of adequately expressing empathy. Whether it was telling Sgt. LaDavid Johnson’s widow that “he knew what he signed up for” after the soldier was killed in combat, or comments seven months after Republican Sen. John McCain died that “he was not a fan” of the Vietnam War hero, while adding that perhaps the Senator had died and gone on to “greener pastures — or perhaps far less green pastures.” Or, more recently, after the death of Civil Rights legend and Democratic Congressman John Lewis, “I never met John Lewis, actually. He did not come to my inauguration. Nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have, he (Lewis) should have come. I think he made a big mistake.” Such comments, mind you, are the printable ones from the easily offended commander-in-chief.
As such, I am not surprised that the president is not planning to meet with or talk to the family of Jacob Blake, the young Black father who while unarmed, was shot seven times after calling the police to assist him in breaking up a fight in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month.
My lack of surprise stems from the fact that there is a clear line in the sand drawn between Trump Republicans (not all) and the majority of Democrats on the issue of police practices in America. Trump Republicans believe that the police are more often than not justified in using deadly force and support their unwritten rule: “comply or die.”
Thus, it is the politics of this issue that drives President Trump’s perspective. In a year in which the strong economy has weakened to near recession levels due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Trump has decided to borrow a page from Republican presidential campaigns past like Barry Goldwater ’64 and Richard Nixon ’68 and base his talking points on “Law and Order,” which then and now meant “get the Blacks and their white allies under control.”
The “Law and Order” strategy makes sense for Trump because it’s all that he has mind you, when the country he leads has lost millions of jobs while millions of Americans have contracted a disease that he joked was a “Democrat hoax” designed to “hurt my re-election,” one that would “magically disappear if ‘Sleepy Joe’ and the Democrat Party” win in November. To date, over 180,000 Americans, more than the combined combat totals in Korea, Vietnam, and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, have died from what our president calls a hoax.
Further, the president has chosen sides with regards to the police pandemic, too, and his side is unfettered support for law enforcement officers.
There has not been one single time in almost four years when President Trump has condemned the police killing of an unarmed Black person. Not when lawful gun owner Philando Castille was murdered despite telling officers that he had a valid concealed weapons permit; not when Botham Jean was eating a bowl of ice cream in his own apartment when an officer entered wrongfully and shot him dead; not when Breonna Taylor was shot in her own home after the police were serving a warrant on the wrong address. Even after the George Floyd incident, while Trump called the death “horrible,” he did not weigh in on the legal case one bit.
And we know that President Trump has no problem weighing in on active cases; yesterday afternoon, he threw his support towards Kyle Rittenhouse (pic below), the 17-year-old white male whose mother drove him across state lines–armed with an AR-15–which he used to kill two white males that were protesting Jacob Blake’s shooting. Said Trump, “…(Rittenhouse) was trying to get away from them, I guess, looks like. And he fell and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation, but I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
One must ask if Trump is the “Law and Order” president, why the selectivity and refusal to condemn Rittenhouse for his unlawful acts?
Again, the problem is that Trump knows that the majority of his support comes from white men and women who believe that any act done by any law enforcement officer is justified and if not, can be chalked up to a mistake, much as Trump alluded to when he analogized police shootings to “a golfer ‘choking’ (missing) a putt” during his press conference yesterday.
Unlike the golfer who can claim a “mulligan” and hit the ball again, an officer who has killed or maimed a man like Jacob Blake deserves to be arrested because death allows no do overs.
The other day, a conservative lawyer with whom I am well acquainted posted on my Facebook page that “I don’t see Chuck Hobbs or his thousands of followers condemning the riots across America.” This is false, and the assumptive lie is the same as the one conservatives are leveling at Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who prior to Trump’s press conference yesterday said “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”
Biden’s words condemning riots could not be more clear, but the differences between Biden and Trump is that Biden not only supports law enforcement when they are right, but will condemn them when they are wrong.
This past weekend, Biden spoke for over an hour with the Blake family–with family lawyer Ben Crump also on the phone.
President Trump, on the contrary, has said that he will not call the Blake family because unlike Biden, he refuses to talk if the family’s lawyers are on the phone. Even this minor point reveals that on the issue of police brutality and empathy for victims, the difference between the candidates is clear.