Trump pops in to fan the flames

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - P NEIL STEIN­BERG nstein­ | @NeilStein­berg

olice know an ar­son­ist will some­times re­turn to the fire he has set, to en­joy the com­mo­tion and sa­vor the flames. But ar­son­ists don’t run up in full view of ev­ery­body and pour more gaso­line to the fire.

That’s ba­si­cally what Don­ald Trump did in Kenosha on Tues­day. Though begged to stay away by the mayor of Kenosha, the gov­er­nor of Wis­con­sin, and lead­ers in Illi­nois, Trump has an elec­tion to win. Since claim­ing he beat the COVID-19 pan­demic that he in fact com­pletely botched won’t work as the death toll rises, he’s shift­ing to his stan­dard go-to move: whip­ping up fear.

In 2016, it was Mex­i­can rapists and South Amer­i­can refugee car­a­vans. That’s old hat — the fear­some be­comes fa­mil­iar, which is why it’s much eas­ier to go gro­cery shop­ping now than it was in April.

So Trump is fan­ning the flames of ur­ban chaos, the ri­ots that be­gan af­ter the killing of George Floyd and con­tin­ued in Kenosha af­ter Ja­cob Blake was shot in the back seven times a week ago Sun­day.

Most lead­ers hurry to scenes of trou­ble in­tend­ing to com­fort and unify. But most lead­ers aren’t nar­cis­sis­tic so­ciopaths. Trump is deep­en­ing the di­vi­sions in Amer­ica to­day, un­der the im­pres­sion that he can dis­as­so­ci­ate him­self from the bed­lam hap­pen­ing on his watch and some­how pin it on his op­po­nent, Joe Bi­den, while of­fer­ing him­self as the so­lu­tion. He’s ba­si­cally run­ning against him­self, promis­ing he’ll do a bet­ter job in 2021 than he’s do­ing in 2020.

To­ward that end, Trump toured burned­out blocks in Kenosha and met with busi­ness own­ers. Together they posed be­fore the rub­ble, the busi­ness own­ers masked, Trump, of course, un­masked.

Out­side the Kenosha County Court­house, Amer­i­cans did what they do best: shout at each other.

“Black Lives Mat­ter!” chanted sev­eral hun­dred BLM sup­port­ers.

“All lives mat­ter!” replied the Trump sup­port­ers. At least it was peace­ful, at press time.

If Trump’s trip seems like a lot of ef­fort to ap­peal to sup­port­ers who will be­lieve lit­er­ally any­thing he says, re­mem­ber the pres­i­dent is trail­ing badly, the coun­try ex­hausted by 3½ years of non­stop tantrums and crazi­ness. Trump needs to light a fire un­der ev­ery Amer­i­can who lies awake at night ter­ri­fied at the idea of a Black fam­ily liv­ing down the block.

Trump didn’t meet with Blake or his fam­ily — cit­ing some­thing about lawyers, an ex­cuse vaguely echo­ing the IRS au­dit that has kept his taxes pri­vate. But he met with law en­force­ment of­fi­cials who, tired of be­ing held ac­count­able for ev­ery Black man they shoot, en­joy ful­some praise from the pres­i­dent. Flat­tery will get him ev­ery­where.

Through it all, Trump kept up his bil­low­ing smoke­screens of blather. On his way to Kenosha,

he em­bel­lished a dis­jointed tale he’s been telling about peo­ple “in the dark shad­ows” send­ing teams of rad­i­cals to fo­ment vi­o­lence.

“A per­son was on a plane, said that there were about six peo­ple like that per­son, more or less,” Trump said, de­scrib­ing “a plane go­ing from Wash­ing­ton to wher­ever.” “And what hap­pened is the en­tire plane filled up with the loot­ers, the anar­chists, ri­ot­ers, peo­ple that ob­vi­ously were look­ing for trou­ble. And the per­son felt very un­com­fort­able.”

You’ve heard the term “blither­ing id­iot.” But how of­ten do you hear any­body, never mind the pres­i­dent of the United States, ac­tu­ally blither? We should be used to it by now.

Trump’s base wants to dis­miss the sen­si­ble de­mand that po­lice not cav­a­lierly kill Black peo­ple, and the eas­i­est way to do that is to cast all protest as loot­ing and riot — it jus­ti­fies the hate and fear they feel al­ready.

When Kyle Rit­ten­house, a 17-year-old Trump sup­porter, drove across state lines to bran­dish an AR-15 he can­not legally own and, prose­cu­tors say, killed two pro­test­ers, he was im­me­di­ately trans­formed into a Min­ute­man de­fend­ing Amer­ica. Trump, asked to speak out against his sup­port­ers mur­der­ing pro­test­ers, not only re­fused, but tried to jus­tify the shoot­ings. This is the same pres­i­dent who will de­nounce a Black man for steal­ing a tele­vi­sion from a store. But a white kid who kills two pro­test­ers on gen­eral prin­ci­ples gets not only a pass, but a round of ap­plause.

While he was in town, Trump gave $1 mil­lion of your tax money to the Kenosha po­lice; that’s $142,857 for each bul­let pumped into Ja­cob Blake’s back.


A sup­porter of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­gues with Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers Tues­day out­side of the Kenosha County Court­house.

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