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As the death toll rises in El Paso following a mass shooting fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment, local and national observers and editorial boards are calling out Trump’s failed attempt to call for unity and denounce the same hatred that has fueled his policies and rhetoric since the start of his presidential campaign.
Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, said, “Words have consequences, and for years Trump has demonized immigrants, stoked fear against communities of color, and centralized his campaign and policies around hatred and prejudice. His disengaged teleprompted speech in which he dispiritedly condemned white supremacy stands in stark contrast to years of dehumanizing statements and support for others who tout white supremacy. As we expected, Trump failed to deliver the call for unity that our nation needs. Coming out of such horrific attacks, Trump’s actions and rhetoric continue to reflect the same xenophobic sentiment that plagues his presidency and will be remembered as a dark time in American history.
“Unfortunately, the Republican Party continues to support and embolden an out of control and dangerous President. Rather than standing with the American people, Republican elected officials continue to stand by him, refusing to denounce his rhetoric, to call this massacre incited by white nationalism what it is, or to decry his cruel policies. It’s time for the Republican Party to stop enabling and excusing President Trump’s xenophobic actions, words, and calls for violence, to take action, and to stand with the American people who elected them to office.”
The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg, “Trump Is a White Nationalist Who Inspires Terrorism”:
Surrendering to political necessity, Trump gave a brief speech on Monday decrying white supremacist terror: “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” He read these words robotically from a teleprompter, much as he did after the racist riot in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when, under pressure, he said, “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.”
…If history is any guide, it won’t be long before the president returns to tweeting racist invective and encouraging jingoist hatreds at his rallies. In the meantime, everyone should be clear that what Trump said on Monday wasn’t nearly enough. He has stoked right-wing violence and his administration has actively opposed efforts to fight it. Further, he’s escalating his incitement of racial grievance as he runs for re-election, as shown by his attacks on the four congresswomen of color known as the squad, as well as the African-American congressman Elijah Cummings. One desultory speech does not erase Trump’s politics of arson, or the complicity of the Republicans who continue to enable it.
…Trump probably couldn’t bottle up the hideous forces he’s helped unleash even if he wanted to, and there’s little sign he wants to. If the president never did or said another racist thing, said Johnson, “it’s still going to take years for the momentum of these movements to slow and to die down.” As it is, Trump’s grudging anti-racism is unlikely to last the week. The memory of the mayhem he’s inspired should last longer.
The New York Times’ Ross Douthat, “The Nihilist in Chief”:
The president’s bigoted rhetoric is obviously part of this. Marianne Williamson put it best, in the last Democratic debate: There really is a dark psychic force generated by Trump’s political approach, which from its birther beginnings has consistently encouraged and fed on a fevered and paranoid form of right-wing politics, and dissolved quarantines around toxic and dehumanizing ideas. And the possibility that Trump’s zest for demonization can feed a demonic element in the wider culture is something the many religious people who voted for the president should be especially willing to consider.
But the connection between the president and the young men with guns extends beyond Trump’s race-baiting to encompass a more essential feature of his public self — which is not the rhetoric or ideology that he deploys, but the obvious moral vacuum, the profound spiritual black hole, that lies beneath his persona and career.
…So in trying to construct a new conservatism on the ideological outline of Trumpism, you have to be aware that you’re building around a sinkhole and that your building might fall in.
The same goes for any conservative response to the specific riddle of mass shootings. Cultural conservatives get a lot of grief when they respond to these massacres by citing moral and spiritual issues, rather than leaping straight to gun policy (or in this case, racist ideology). But to look at the trend in these massacres, the spikes of narcissistic acting-out in a time of generally-declining violence, the shared bravado and nihilism driving shooters of many different ideological persuasions, is to necessarily encounter a moral and spiritual problem, not just a technocratic one.
But the dilemma that conservatives have to confront is that you can chase this cultural problem all the way down to its source in lonely egomania and alienated narcissism, and you’ll still find Donald Trump’s face staring back to you.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, “Trump can’t decry racism and white supremacy if he is their chief promoter”:
Calling out hatred, racism and white supremacy were a must. Unfortunately for the nation, the president’s credibility on this is less than zero. You can’t be mourner in chief or healer in chief when you’ve spent your entire political career stoking the hate and championing the white supremacy you now decry.
…“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” said Trump from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House. He’s so right. And that can’t happen as long as the president of the United States is their chief promoter.
The Washington Post editorial board: “Trump should vow never again to spew his loathing from the bully pulpit”:
PRESIDENT TRUMP controls the greatest loudspeaker in the world. On Monday, he said from the White House that “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.” He added, “Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.” Well put. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has recklessly used racism, bigotry and hatred for many years, in coded formulas and direct speech. To truly honor the victims of El Paso and Dayton, Mr. Trump should vow never again to spew his loathing from the bully pulpit.
Mr. Trump has stigmatized Mexicans since the day he announced his candidacy for president, and has spoken as though all Muslims are dangerous. He denounced Latino migration as “an invasion of our country,” demonizing undocumented immigrants as “thugs” and “animals.” At a rally in May in Panama City Beach, Fla., he asked, “How do you stop these people? You can’t.” Someone in the crowd yelled back one idea: “Shoot them.” The audience of thousands cheered — Trump smiled. Shrugging off the suggestion, he quipped, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.” When avowed white supremacists marched in Charlottesville in August 2017 and one of them drove his car into a crowd, killing a peaceful protester, Heather Heyer, Mr. Trump condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” as though others besides the white supremacists were to blame.
…The president’s words have wide and deep consequences. When he smears all Latinos or Muslims, announcing walls or visa bans to keep them out; when he denounces the news media as “enemies of the people,” using Stalinist terms; when he says four congresswomen of color should “go back” to the countries they came from — all these spread fear, exclusion and hatred.
Los Angeles Times editorial board: “Trump’s cynical response to mass shootings falls far short of what’s needed to protect the U.S.”:
After a weekend of numbing carnage — more than 30 dead and more than 50 injured in mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, — President Trump stepped forward Monday morning with a tweet calling for a bilateral embrace of “strong background checks,” whatever that means, and “perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.”
So in the space of a single tweet the president called for laughably light legislative changes — neither gunman would likely have been stopped by a background check — and then turned his message to outrageously cynical politics. What does immigration reform have to do with what has become our national pastime, killing each other en masse and often with military-grade firearms and semiautomatic handguns? Trump infamously sees everything in terms of a deal, so it shouldn’t surprise us that he would seek to gain a political advantage in his fight to reduce immigration by trading on the bodies of the dead.
The truth, though, is that the bloodiest of the two massacres apparently was propelled by the shooter’s desire to counter “the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” as his “manifesto” phrased it — a theme that echoes the language Trump has used since his 2016 election campaign, which began with a speech that described Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and drug smugglers. Since then, Trump has repeatedly referred to migrants “infesting” and “invading” the country; he’s called asylum seekers and immigrants living here without authorization “aliens” and “illegals.”
So “marrying” immigration reform to a background-check bill would reward the Texas gunman by using his despicable act of anti-Latino violence as a lever to achieve his goal, which just happens to align with the president’s own animus toward people from what he infamously described as “shithole countries.”
Miami Herald editorial board: “We call BS on President Trump’s sudden turnaround on hatred — until…”:
Nope, we’re not buying it.
And we won’t buy President Trump’s repudiation of hate and white supremacy until he takes responsibility for kicking over the stone of hatred, which has always existed, with his words and with his deeds.
Until he acknowledges that he has energized the people who arm themselves with weapons of war and massacre the very people he himself has targeted. After all, the people shot to death in Gilroy, California, El Paso Texas and Dayton, Ohio, were mostly people he has dehumanized with his rhetoric.
Until he acknowledges that his family — including his wife — is one of immigrants and that America’s success is largely based on the ingenuity and hard work of people who wanted to come to this country — including those who did so involuntarily.
Until he says, No, there are not “fine people” on both sides.
Until he tells “red-blooded Americans” carrying out hateful acts that they are not making America great again.
Until he doesn’t call for national unity in one breath, as he did Monday, then declare that, “Fake news has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.”
Until he lifts his Muslim ban as proof that he understands that the worst acts of hatred now are coming from people who look like him. Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that most of the arrests for domestic terrorism this fiscal year have been rooted in white supremacy.
Until refuses to use his campaign rallies to incite his white base to hate brown-skinned immigrants.
…Until he decouples gun control and immigration. He’ll get political points for merely expressing concern about both. But linking these divisive issues is not the way to get anything substantive accomplished — which may be his point.
Until his next tweet doesn’t condemn African-American representatives and by extension, their African-American constituents, but asks, rather, “How can I help?” For instance, at a time when black homeownership has plummeted, Trump is also gutting fair-housing laws.
…Until he acknowledges who he has been and what he has become — a racist, a sexist and a bully — and says he is going to change his ways. Introspection is always difficult, so we don’t have high hopes.
We are not holding our breath that President Trump will do any of this.
Until he does, his condemnation of deplorable acts of hatred has no credibility whatsoever.
The Hartford Courant editorial board: “The blood of El Paso was shed under the shadow of Donald Trump’s hatred”:
The blood of El Paso was shed under the shadow of Donald Trump’s hatred.
He may not have pulled the trigger. He may not have gone out and armed himself with assault weapons. He may not have written a racist screed shortly before 22 people were gunned down in a bloodbath on Aug. 3.
But Mr. Trump’s legacy of hate hangs like a specter over this crime, along with a growing wave of white nationalism and prejudice sweeping our nation.
“This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics,” wrote Richard Wiles, an El Paso sheriff who is in charge of the jail where the suspect was being held, according to the Washington Post. “I’m outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the color of their skin.”
…Hatred is fire. You cannot set it into motion and then throw your hands up in mock surprise when you don’t like what happens. Mr. Trump’s tweeting “hate has no place in our country” is the quintessence of irony. We are not a hateful nation, but there is too much hate in too many hearts. Pulling on those hateful heart strings helped get Trump elected. And when you throw a match in dry tinder, the responsibility for whatever burns is on you.
…The Democrats would do well to get the pretenders off the stage, pull their collective act together and engage the nation in a serious conversation about making sure every American has health care, that we get weapons of mass carnage off our streets and that the land of opportunity is a phrase that applies to all Americans. And — most important of all — how we restore decency and dignity to a nation that has been robbed of its soul by a purveyor of hate.
…The blood of El Paso was shed under the shadow of Donald Trump’s hatred. It is time to get serious about making sure this cancer spreads no further.