Trump walks political knife-edge on racism

Looking drained in the ornate White House room, Donald Trump expressed “horror” over twin gun massacres that killed 31 people and urged the nation, with unusually powerful language, to unite against racism.
Visually, the address from the oval-walled Diplomatic Reception Room ticked all the boxes for a consoler-in-chief moment following the shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio.
But there was just one problem: the president is being blamed for stoking the very white supremacist extremism that he spoke out against.
Whether telling critical, non-white congresswomen to “go back” to their countries, branding the majority black city of Baltimore as “rodent infested,” or repeatedly whipping up crowds of supporters over the “invasion” of Hispanic illegal immigrants, Trump has put racial controversy at the heart of his 2020 reelection bid.
So when it emerged that the shooter in El Paso, Texas, had published a rant justifying his murder of 22 people as response to a “Hispanic invasion,” Trump’s traditional job of consoling a mourning nation suddenly got a lot more complicated.
From the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion to the 9/11 terrorist attacks or the latest hurricane disaster, US presidents have often been called upon to reassure the country after national tragedies.
When the vast country is so shaken, a calm voice from the elegant, historic White House can be a crucial first step in restoring confidence.
But the United States is arguably more bitterly divided today than at any time since the Vietnam war era some four decades ago. And while a political truce is a prerequisite for presidential consoling, Trump operates mostly in one gear: attack.
When he visited the scene of California’s deadliest ever wildfire last year, Trump played the part. But even then, the habitual fighter couldn’t stop himself from using the occasion to launch political barbs at the state’s Democratic authorities.
Fairly or not, footage of him playfully tossing paper towel rolls into a crowd after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 came to symbolize what opponents say is his profound inability to empathize.–DT

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