Americans waited, waited, and waited for President Donald Trump to act presidential and offer much-needed words of healing as cities across the nation saw widespread looting, fires, and chaos erupt on streets over the killing of George Floyd.
A week later, the President finally spoke, but not the words Americans had hoped for, not even an ounce of compassion that could have alleviated the heart-pressing pain felt not just by African Americans, but all decent Americans who saw raw injustice committed by bad cops.
Instead, Trump, invoked inflammatory language and encouraged governors to “dominate” protestors.
The self-proclaimed law enforcement president, Trump, should know that “dominating” protestors isn’t law and order. It’s more aligned with the actions of autocrats common in nations Americans would not want their leaders emulating.
The president has shown to be an unfit, incompetent leader to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, declaring a premature false victory over the virus which kept him from taking all the necessary precautions early on that could have made a difference in saving lives.
The president now has also shown that he is unfit to be a healer, a leader to unite the people during national grief and turbulence.
Trump has failed to rise to both history-making occasions, the pandemic and the riots (to be distinguished from righteous, peaceful protest), which he should be held accountable for in the upcoming elections
Basic Expectations of a President
In times of national crisis, the most basic function of the president is to convey to the country that he’s with the people, listening to our grievances. This has been the role all presidents in modern history assumed onto themselves as the right thing to do.
Why is this so important? It renders stability and order while the country works to find solutions. In this case, ending police brutality, and in the larger framework, improving race relations and economic equality.
But this president has never stopped campaigning — appealing only to his base, among them the likes of white supremacists who fail even to acknowledge there is a problem.
The president has attacked African leaders like Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have taken on peaceful protest to raise awareness of police brutality. Now the president has called protestors (lumping righteous peaceful protestors with looters) “thugs” and threatening to send in the military after them.
So what exactly are leaders demanding professional policing ought to do to ? Pretend that these abuses and killings are not happening, contrary to fact.
The President has been part of the problem
Perhaps the reason the president hasn’t even bothered to make an honest effort to unite Americans during this crisis is because he has been a catalyst arousing racial animosity and division since entering the White House. Tension has been building and the damn finally busted.
In absence of leadership, former presidents Barrack Obama, George W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter have had to make public statements to quell the rage. It’s awkward and almost unheard of that former presidents must step in to affect damage control after their tenure.
U.S. military cannot be used to advance President’s political agenda
Other prominent leaders like former Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis (served under the Trump administration) and Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have had to make rare statements speaking out against Trump’s handling of the widespread civil unrest.
Retired Gen. Mattis said, “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
Mattis is referring to the incident when U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops used excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters from the area so Trump could walk to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op carrying the bible.
Mullen wrote in the Atlantic that the president “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”
Trump’s own Defense Secretary disagreed with the President about deploying the military for law enforcement in states. He said that this scenario should be only used as a very last resort.
Deploying National Guardsman is one thing. They’re traditionally used for domestic crisis. But calling on the full military to do citizens law enforcement work should have all Americans frightened for the potential of abuse, especially in an election year. It just reeks of dictatorial maneuvering.
Trump’s failure to lead in these two successive and overlapping crisis should be enough to want better leadership this election. Enough is enough.