I have often been offended by remarks made by the President. But comments this week pointedly reveal the man’s heart and his character. As we move closer to the November election, it is important for us to examine the President’s words and the context in which they are spoken and not to dismiss them quickly as his cavalier speaking style free from political correctness, or to forget them altogether in the ever-present onslaught of new indignities.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News, President Trump prattled on with divisive rhetoric tinged with racism and outrageous claims, making sinister, unsubstantiated accusations drawn more from conspiracy theories than actual events. He asserted, for instance, that “people you’ve never heard of,” are controlling Joe Biden, “people in the dark shadows” (are there light shadows?); that Democrats are trying to “destroy” the suburbs with low income housing projects under the watchful gaze of none other than Cory Booker—New Jersey’s Black Senator; that the DNC never mentioned law enforcement during their convention (they did); that a plane “almost completely loaded with thugs” wearing “dark uniforms” had been headed to the Republican National Convention to do “big damage.” This is the President of the United States saying these things on the record.
In addition, he declined to condemn the killing of two protesters in Kenosha by an out-of-town self-styled vigilante who is also a Trump supporter; defended violence committed by other supporters who fired paint balls and pepper spray against Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland; and that protests against police brutality were actually a secret “coup attempt” by anarchists “trying to take down the President.”
But, of all the unfounded claims he made, it was his comment in response to a question about the shooting of Jacob Blake that stood out in clearest relief about his governing intentions and abilities. Of all the outrageous things he has said and done in his presidency, this is perhaps the most telling of his heart and his character.
“The police are under siege,” President Trump said, “They can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple – or a choker – you know, a choker. They choke. Shooting the guy [Blake] – shooting the guy in the back many times. I mean, couldn’t you have done something different?…But they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3ft putt.”
Ingraham countered, seeming incredulous. “You’re not comparing to golf,” she said, “because, of course, that’s what the media would say.”
“No,” said Trump. “I’m saying people choke.”
There is so much in this exchange (with Laura Ingraham, no less!) that exposes the depths of Trump’s shameful racism and tone-deaf insensitivity, that it is hard to know where to begin. First, he has yet to say the name of Jacob Blake publicly—a not-so-subtle way to dehumanize the 29-year-old Black man who is paralyzed from being shot in the back seven times while his children watched from just inches away. Second, he uses the term “choke” as a synonym for “panic” to describe the motivation behind the actions of the cop who shot Blake. In light of the tragedy of both Eric Garner and George Floyd, the use of the term “choke” is beyond irony, beyond callous. It is tone-deaf tastelessness. And he used it, unabashedly, over and over in multiple interviews. So much for the Comforter-in-Chief.
Then, his callousness reaches new heights (even for him) when he compares the policeman’s action to a miscue in a golf match—an inartful comparison, at best, from a sport that is overwhelmingly white. To be clear: Missing a putt is not equivalent to shooting someone in the back seven times. The only thing missed here is yet another opportunity to demonstrate compassion.
This tasteless, tone-deaf comparison starkly illustrates the President’s total lack of empathy and his absolute disdain for the life of Jacob Blake—and by implication, for Black men in general. It is perhaps the most glaring example yet of how ill-equipped the President is to lead our nation in these volatile times. He must not be re-elected.