Talk is cheap. Case in point: Someone finally managed to convince or implore Donald Trump to make a few relatively presidential, moderate, and not entirely self-centered remarks about the recent massacres in El Paso and elsewhere, with El Paso clearly having been inspired, at least in part, by the president’s own hateful and inflammatory statements and tweets.
The White House, of course, denies that there could be any possible connection between several years of Mr. Trump’s rants about the “invasion” of “rapists” and drug fiends allegedly threatening our southern border, and a 21-year-old white man’s decision to do something about it. But it remains a fact that the man who killed at least 22 people in that El Paso Walmart left a “manifesto” explaining that he wanted to stop the “invasion,” so he drove hundreds of miles to El Paso — a border town that is 83 percent Latino, according to the Census Bureau — in pursuit of that goal.
Why would this guy drive for hours to a city with one of the highest Latino populations in the country, if not to stop the “invasion” that his president has been condemning for several years?
Mission accomplished: A lot of the dead were Latino, and at least seven were Mexican nationals.
The El Paso shooter did write that his hateful, white-supremacist views “predate Trump.” But a picture is worth a thousand words. (OK, another cliche. I’ll try to do better.) So I would ask Mr. Trump’s excusers: Why, if this massacre had nothing to do with Mr. Trump, did the shooter leave a photo of his guns, laid out on the floor to spell out “Trump”?
Huh? What other meaning could that photo possibly have?
It must be a powerful inspiration for a young nobody when the most powerful person in the world goes on TV or on Twitter, over and over again, and verifies, justifies, normalizes your own dark feelings and urges and hatreds.
In his “manifesto” the El Paso shooter also rails against “traitors” and condemns “race mixing” and “interracial unions.” “Yet another reason to send them back,” it says — a clear echo of the “Send her back!” slogan that’s been shouted at recent Trump re-election rallies, a reference to a Muslim congresswoman, born in Somalia, who has been critical of Mr. Trump.
Then there was that re-election rally in Florida. “How do you stop these people” coming across the border? Mr. Trump asked. “Shoot them!” shouted one of his true believers. The crowd laughed. Mr. Trump smirked. It was wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Not a word of peace from him. No scolding, not even tongue in cheek. No appeal to the better angels of our nature, but that’s no surprise.
And it’s no surprise that, when Mr. Trump finally did come out with a few civil words to the millions over whom he presides, it was stilted and rote to the max.
“In one voice,” he said on Monday, “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”
Maybe Ivanka wrote it, but it sounded more like another dog whistle to his rabid core of supporters than a president trying to lead his nation during a time of trouble. The tone was, “I’m only saying this PC stuff because I have to. You understand.”
And his faithful followers surely do.
Reach Glenn Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org.