Trump seemed to be trying to project force at a time when his presidency seems irresponsible and the nation is out of control. If it happened abroad and not in the White House, Americans could perceive a ridiculous act of self-deception from a man who wants to be strong.
“I thought I was seeing a scene of something in Turkey, and not in the United States,” retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who commanded National Guard troops in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
And after using St. John’s Church, the “church of the presidents,” which had experienced a basement fire during Sunday’s protests, Trump received immediate criticism from religious leaders, including Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Diocese. Episcopalian of Washington.
“The President has just used the Bible, our sacred text from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches in my diocese, without permission, as the backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” Budde said in “AC360. “
Trump’s showmanship talent was motivated in part by anger at media coverage saying he had taken refuge in a bunker under the White House on Friday night amid protests in Washington, Kaitlan Collins and Kevin reported. CNN’s Liptak. It shows how far Trump will go to protect his own thin skin and how his power often plays motivated by assaults on his dignity.
But his behavior is also alarming, considering the vast power he has under his command, the uses of demagogic tropes and the ability to clasp the traditions and structures of civil and democratic government. So while Trump’s shift to the rhetoric of despotic leaders he so admire had elements of farce, it opened a sinister new chapter in his presidency and a challenge to American standards.
Trump’s strongman transparent act
Standing in the White House rose garden in front of American flags, with the explosion of sudden audible explosions, Trump threatened to invoke a centuries-old law to deploy federal troops in the states.
“I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters,” Trump declared, warning that the country was under the control of “professional anarchists, violent mobs … arsonists, looters, criminals. , riders, protesters, Antifa and others. “
The illumination and emptiness of Trump’s words was evident in the television footage showing the crowd looking young and a mix of races and ethnicities demonstrating peacefully moments before.
Before Trump spoke, Attorney General William Barr, an almost unrestricted promoter of presidential power, was grim in Lafayette Park adjacent to the White House, untied, hands in pockets looking out at the crowd.
The sight of peaceful protesters fleeing amid the smoke and the explosion of riot police crowd control bullets and shield-bearing soldiers was itself a stain on America’s core values.
The day came when the defense secretary of the president, Mark Esper, began to refer to the American cities affected by protests and looting as “battle space” and the representative of Trump, Republican Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was censured by Twitter for asking if it was okay to “hunt down” antifa fascist activists “like the ones we do in the Middle East.”
Trump’s highly inflammatory move came at a time of extraordinary tension amid concurrent national crises, with riots sparked by the murder of Floyd that exposes the country’s racial wounds, which Trump has spent years exacerbating.
More than 104,000 Americans are dead in a pandemic that Trump ignored until it was too late. Nerves and national morale are strained by a dive into an economic abyss that has seen 40 million Americans lose their jobs in coronavirus closings. In these circumstances, and without evidence that he has any plans to improve the impact of the trio of challenges facing the United States, Trump’s swagger is a transparent distraction.
In many ways, suggesting that he is some kind of holy warrior for tough guy justice was his most shameless game for his political base so far, after notably including an inflammatory reference to the Second Amendment in his Rose Garden comments.
While Trump’s critics are concerned about the echoes of the dictatorship, his show of force is likely to go well with his most loyal supporters, who embraced his stark vision of the United States under the assault of anarchy in 2016. His speech and action were already praised. Fox News and among prominent conservatives on social media Monday night, in a way that is likely to encourage Trump to further flex his powers.
However, the fact that he ordered American troops against peaceful protesters for a simple photo shoot shows how far he can be willing to go to use all the tools of the presidential power in the service of his reelection. That understanding alone opens up haunting visions of more democratic security barriers being crushed along the way. The fact that this is a prosecuted president who feels liberated by his acquittal from the Senate and who has already used presidential power to try to hinder his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, is even more cause for alarm.
Trump’s extraordinary challenge to states
The president threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which according to some interpretations gives him the power to send regular troops to the streets to restore law and order.
“If the city or state refuses to take the necessary steps to defend the life and property of your residence, I will deploy the United States Army and resolve the problem quickly,” Trump said.
The act has been invoked several times to strengthen local law enforcement, including during the 1967 Detroit riots and the 1992 Rodney King riots.
But in Trump’s hands, the act raises the possibility that the commander-in-chief, protecting his own political interests, may try to send soldiers to the states against his will.
It seems an almost incredible prospect, and in Trump’s hands it would represent an unprecedented politicization of the military that would be familiar to autocratic nations.
Several governors told CNN on Monday night that Trump has no power under the act to deploy troops without his request.
But the lesson of the past three years is that scenarios that seem unthinkable have a habit of coming true under a president who has little concern for constitutional restrictions and believes that the power of his office belongs to him.
Earlier, on a day when he also spoke on the phone with a true autocratic strongman, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has used his powers against his own people, Trump had rebuked the governors for being weak and in a conference call demanded to make full use of them. the National Guard to “dominate” the streets amid the riots.
While he did mention Floyd, who died a week ago in the latest example of police brutality against black Americans, in his speech, it was only in passing in a speech dedicated to fostering the impression of tough-guy leadership. He did not attempt to calm the anger, fear, and alienation that haunted the nation. Trump, who has a history of racist rhetoric in and out of the office, gave little sign that he appreciates black men and women believing that their country, amid some brutal police surveillance, sees their lives as cheap.
How Trump’s impulses often exceed expectations of traditional political behavior was exposed by the way the day began with calls for him to make a speech in the Oval Office. But his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, warned that “a national leadership of the Oval Office will not stop Antifa.”
The comment reflects how the White House believes the crisis is primarily due to the actions of the unaffiliated group, and has provided no evidence that it is organizing all the protests.
The president’s rhetoric and arrogance, while betraying the inability to use mainstream politics to solve difficult problems, will likely be endorsed by his supporters in the conservative media and among his base as strong leadership.
It is not difficult to see how its propagandists will launch into media criticism of their comments to portray journalists as accomplices to domestic terrorists who despise the need to protect religion.
Bishop Budde, however, stated that Trump had “sanctioned the use of tear gas by riot police officers to clean up the cemetery.”
“I am outraged. The president did not pray when he came to St. John’s or acknowledge the agony of our country at this time.”