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Trump’s delusion and reality: White House has abandoned leadership to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity

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President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, listen to the US national anthem during the third night of the Republican National Convention SAUL LOEB AFP

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Terry H. Schwadron
Terry H. Schwadron

It’s such obvious hypocrisy that we need to blink twice at its glare.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence leaned heavily into the convention electioneering vision that Joe Biden’s America would bring about lawlessness without end in the streets.

But they never acknowledged in their convention presentations to mask-free audiences on federal property (electioneering that itself violates the Hatch Act) that the violence they see is happening right here and now – on their watch.

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If they and Team Trump supporters are right about the overwhelming need for Law & Order, why isn’t that overwhelming force in play right now? If the overnight fires being set in the streets of Chicago, Portland and now Kenosha, where is the response that Trump claims would happen in the future.

Where is the reckoning between what Team Trump says should be and what actually is?

And then, if they are right about having successfully guided America through the dangers of coronavirus, why are deaths still rising beyond 180,000 Americans? Trump was praising FEMA for quick response to this week’s hurricanes after having taken emergency money from FEMA to pay for Wall construction.

And, if their jobs-oriented economic recovery program is V-shaped and on track, why did another million workers just apply for unemployment, and why are millions out of jobs, healthcare, reliable food supplies and even the basic protective gear to allow a safe return to schools and work? Or that hurricanes are gaining strength in climate change, a topic never mentioned in the convention?

In other words, where is the reckoning between what Team Trump says should be and what actually is?

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It’s always someone else’s fault – Democratic mayors or governors or The Left, or without even being in office, Joe Biden and crew.  Republicans were so busy patting themselves on the back this week, treating coronavirus as passed and gone, decrying violence by leftist protesters who may, in fact, include right-wing groups and touting a would-be economy that forgets the very people that the party says it wants to help that we are left wondering why Trump and Pence want their jobs altogether.

Where Is Trump?

Trump’s 70-minute acceptance of nomination stemwinder speech last night was big on fear and self-congratulations and weak on explaining why his words are so far off the mark. If Trump’s analysis of what we face daily were on the mark, we wouldn’t find ourselves facing seemingly insurmountable problems.

He will send in the National Guard into Kenosha, he said, but he didn’t— the Democratic governor did. Trump promised to cure us of the pandemic when what he has done is lean on FDA scientists to speed quack theories and premature treatments and undermine the preventive use of masks. Trump promised international strength as he distances from allies, and he re-promised his role as job creator when jobs have disappeared for millions.

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The reality is that this White House has abandoned leadership to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity—playing to fear-mongering on the one hand, and the NBA on the other. Why do we have sports figures halting their play to remind us that we need to reconsider our societal approach to policing? Why possibly do we need Tucker Carlson to defend vigilantes carrying guns to protect businesses, as he did this week in response to the arrest of a 17-year-old teen on charges of murdering protesters?

Could it be that talking trash and cleaning it up are different efforts, requiring an understanding of complexities, and taking in information, doing the harder work of coordinating effective responses – and above all, actually listening to understand what is at issue?

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If Team Trump is the only answer to Law & Order needs, what is this administration doing other than threatening mayors and governors? Where are they about either getting both left and right-oriented militia groups to stand down or to get to the real issues fueling protest altogether? Where are they as leaders to help the public keep in perspective the acts of relative few middle-of-the-night violators as against the tidal wave of peaceful protests about policing and systematic racism in America?

Instead, they hide behind pointing to the prospect that under Biden, there will be lawlessness without acknowledging that what they see as a future danger is happening right now.

Actually, the Justice Department is entering into investigations in individual cases, like justifications for police in Kenosha to shoot seven times at point-blank range into the back of Jacob Blake as he reached into his car, where yes, there was a knife on the floor. There were also three little boys in the car.

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Where are they – and more importantly, why shouldn’t we be judging them as the group that can’t keep order on the streets – or get the issues at the basis of it all into a better place for a more peaceful resolution?

How about we stop beating the drum about what might happen with Biden and consider what is happening with Trump?

Can They Do Better?

In the case of Portland, deployment of federal troops—unmarked federal customs agents and marshals—worsened the situation. In its bluster, this White House assumes that it can do a better job of policing than local authorities. It assumes that the only issue on the table is the aftermath of protest, not its underlying causes.

It is easy to call out slogans. It is hard to set things right.

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Isn’t this government learning that from pandemic or hurricanes or immigration or healthcare or dozens of other pending issues? We’re busy now giving a hand when the president or vice president actually even acknowledges that there have been coronavirus deaths, as if that passes for “all of government” coordinated planning.

One truth here is that there are signs of militias, including those associated with white supremacist themes, that have popped up regularly in these overnight confrontations, often leaving the police who show up to quell unrest caught between anti-government factions on more than a single side. But that’s not the fear that is being stoked by the speeches by Trump and Pence, who rather draw broad conclusions that pit Black Lives Matter against peacekeeping efforts by police.

This is the administration that has stopped examination of police department tactics altogether, that has moved the civil rights division towards anti-affirmative-action defense, that only seeks out Black citizens at election time. When and how do they get judged – as compared with the threat that things will be worse under Biden, who they say will destroy white suburbs, schools, business and tax structures.

There is basic hypocrisy in the messages this week from Trump and Pence: The other side is to be judged by the future effects of its policies. Trump-Pence is to be judged on the worthiness of its mottos.

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It takes some huge gall to ignore reality.

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