Trump just had to rip off the scab and poured salt into the wound
I wrote about Trump's latest tantrum for Salon this morning:
Have you ever noticed that whenever President Trump gets a slight bump in the polls he goes on a tear as if to prove once again that he is the baddest of bad boys and nothing will ever tame him? He clearly yearns desperately for approval but unless that approval is wrenched from people against their will in defiance of everything they have previously believed in, he's left unsatisfied.
But who knows what really drives the man? All we can do is observe his behavior and hope he doesn't completely go off the deep end. This past week-end, he came close.
First, Trump tweeted out the scariest tweet of his long twitter career and that's saying something. He threatened to murder millions of people if the North Korean foreign minister said something he didn't like:
Meanwhile, when he wasn't threatening Armageddon, he decided that the one pressing issue he absolutely had to address was the protests by NFL players against police violence against African Americans. That he decided to do it in the same week there were large demonstrations in St Louis over the not guilty verdict for a cop who was filmed planting a gun on a suspect after he was taped saying he was "going to kill this motherfucker " was probably not an accident. After everything that happened after Charlottesville, he just had to rip off the scab and pour salt into the open wound.
This is what the president of the United States said at a rally in Alabama last Friday night:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!’ You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.”
It should be noted that this isn't the first time Trump has sneered at this protest that began with former San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick using the sports ritual of "taking a knee"when a comrade in down on the field to protest the death of unarmed black men at the hands of police. In Louisville Kentucky last March he was going on about how he was going to fix the inner cities and promised that people who go "from welfare to work" there will "find a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity" when he abruptly digressed to talk about the "San Francisco Quarterback" who he claimed nobody wanted to hire because it would get them a nasty tweet from Trump. He said many times that the NFL's ratings were down because of Kaepernick's protest.
After his comments on Friday before his adoring all white Alabama crowd, NFL players and owners were hugely insulted.
After all, he called these athletes "son of a bitches" and used the bully pulpit to agitate for them to be fired from their jobs for failing to stand for the national anthem. This is, to say the least, unusual. Or it was until the Trump administration which has been making a habit of calling for black people to be fired if they say or do something Trump doesn't care for. (Using foul insulting language at rallies is nothing new for him. Recall that he once even called Ted Cruz a pussy.)
When the most popular athlete in the country, Stephen Curry said he wouldn't go to the White House with his Warrior teammates because he objected to the president's rhetoric and attitude, Trump angrily tweeted in response:
In response to this bizarre presidential twitter tantrum many more players took a knee during the anthem on Sunday, some teams didn't even come out of the locker room until it was over, some sat on the bench and still others, including team owners, linked arms in solidarity with those who were protesting. It was an intense moment and even people who don't care about sports knew that an extraordinary cultural event was taking place.
Rather than try to calm the waters, the president spent the day tweeting complaints about the player protests being unpatriotic and telling fans to boycott the games. A non-profit group that supports Trump immediately took up the cause buying ads accusing the NFL of "disrespecting the country" and called the protesters "hateful individuals." And in one of his greatest acts of chutzpah yet, he pretended that all the people who linked arms during the anthem were doing it to show solidarity with the anthem, not the protesters:
Trump personally spoke to the press and reiterated his position three times on Sunday in addition to the more than a dozen tweets over the week-end. It was all he could talk about.
But he couldn't spare a moment to address the catastrophe that is unfolding for 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricane Maria.Not one word in his torrent of tweets and press appearances for what officials are describing as "apocalyptic" conditions. The whole island is still without power and little hope of repairing it any time soon. Food is scarce. Dams are breaking and towns are flooding. It is an emergency.
It's possible that Trump doesn't even know that the people on this devastated island are Americans. It's probable that if he does know that, he thinks they shouldn't be. They are all Latinos and they speak Spanish, after all, which he thinks disqualifies people from American citizenship. He certainly isn't giving them the same kind of attention he gave to Texas and Florida when they were hit by hurricanes and he raced to the scene with his wife by his side to offer solace to the victims. These Americans got one perfunctory tweet last week that was likely written by a staff member.
To add insult to injury, late Sunday night Trump announced a new indefinite travel ban that includes people from North Korea and Venezuela in a nakedly superficial attempt to pretend that it isn't based on religion. Apparently, the new policy is to ban people from the United States for any reason he likes now.
Donald Trump got good reviews for briefly acting like a normal president. He knows what it will take to raise his poll numbers and he has good reason to believe that his supporters will stick with him not matter what. But he simply cannot stop being divisive. It is the single defining feature of his presidency. He is threatening the world and tearing the country apart and it's not getting better. It's getting worse.