As a political neophyte in 2016, Trump exploited a vein of discontent with the economy and the feeling that the Washington establishment was ignoring millions of people. His victimization of Mexican and Muslim immigrants in this campaign played on a fear of foreigners. Some Democrats believe his victory was also born out of a racist backlash against the country’s first black commander-in-chief who benefited from his racist and bogus accusations at the birthplace of ex-President Barack Obama.
Already, what looks like another Trump attempt to take over the White House is shaping up to be an even more sinister affair, not least because a twice impeached president who has already incited insurgency and attempted to overthrow American democracy. to stay in power would be seeking to regain the impressive powers of the presidency.
In recent days, Trump has seemed to sense an opening, with President Joe Biden coming under heavy criticism for his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and with the resurgence of the pandemic, to accelerate his own political aspirations. The former president didn’t offer any political plans or helpful suggestions, for example, on how to deal with the country’s biggest crisis – the Covid-19 emergency that he botched so badly during his tenure. On the contrary, his statements and attacks more often than not suggest that a new presidential campaign would be a vehicle for personal revenge and hurt vanity of being rejected by voters after a single term. It was clear this weekend when the country solemnly celebrated the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the former president unleashed a series of political assaults on his successor.
There was something quite sad that the most recent ex-president felt unable to join Biden and ex-presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama in official commemorations of the attacks. Trump was never interested in being a member of the ex-president’s club. And his political mark as a foreigner often rests on attacking establishment pillars like former presidents. But her absence has highlighted yawning divisions in a nation that is now unable to join her in marking the most unifying event in modern history: the national response to the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. .
How Trump politicized the 9/11 commemorations
Trump visited police and firefighters in New York on Saturday after being criticized for avoiding national observances and later moonlighting as a commentator at a boxing match. But even then, he couldn’t risk political digs, bragging about his previous campaign and administration, lying that the 2020 elections were “rigged” and hinting that he would organize another presidential campaign.
“I know what I’m going to do, but we’re not yet supposed to talk about it from a campaign finance law perspective,” Trump told a caller, before adding, “I think you’re going to be happy. , let me put it that way. I think you are going to be very happy. “
The former president also brutalized Biden over the withdrawal from Afghanistan – a topic that deserves debate and criticism, but perhaps not on a day dedicated to commemorating the victims of the 2001 attacks.
“I hate to talk about it that day,” Trump said, but then embarked on a protracted attack on Biden and claimed that if he had been in charge the situation would have been different – even though he was paved the way for the withdrawal by capitulating to the Taliban’s withdrawal demands in a deal with the group.
Those who expect Trump to behave with decorum or become “presidential” have long been disappointed. But his conduct in recent days has been drastic even for a former president who spent four years demolishing presidential conventions and political and legal standards.
Bush draws an analogy between terrorists and domestic extremism
While Obama, Clinton, Bush and Biden attended the official events of September 11, Trump was spending his time sending out a flurry of political statements.
“This is the 20th year of this war and should have been a year of victory, honor and strength. Instead, Joe Biden and his inept administration have surrendered in defeat,” Trump said in the one of them, sent through its political action committee.
“We will live, but unfortunately our country will be injured for a long time. We will find it difficult to recover from the embarrassment this incompetence has caused,” the former president wrote.
Trump supporters may point out that Bush gave a politicized speech at the Pennsylvania memorial site dedicated to the victims of the fourth hijacked airliner on 9/11 that was shot down when heroic passengers stormed the cockpit. But Bush was defending democracy – not attacking it like Trump did for much of Saturday. The 43rd President compared domestic violent extremists to the September 11 hijackers and clearly drew an analogy between the attacks and the storming of Congress by Trump supporters on January 6 that followed a President’s rally. coming out and undone.
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” said Bush. “But in their contempt for pluralism, in their contempt for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same filthy spirit.”
Far from facing such extremism, as Bush advised, Trump still seeks to co-opt it, not only with his electoral fraud lies that have convinced millions of people, but also in his continued militarization of the race. His attacks on the integrity of the 2020 election left millions of his supporters believing that a general election that even Trump’s Justice Department declared did not contain serious corruption had been stolen. It’s not only a serious threat to faith in the American political system, it’s an important part of what it means to be a Republican in 2021. A new CNN poll released on Sunday found that about six in ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents believed that supporting Trump and believing he won in 2020 was at least a fairly important part of identifying with the party.
The ex-president’s power in the GOP – meaning he would be a prohibitive frontrunner in any new campaign for his nomination – can be seen in the way candidates who wish to have his support must come to terms with his bogus claims of electoral fraud. Those who are telling the truth about what happened in November 2020 and the Capitol uprising like Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney – will likely end up with primary races backed by Trump. The House Republican Conference, led by its leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, has become a wing of the Trump political movement, embracing its lies about the election, whitewashing history and embracing its authoritarian conservatism.
Some of Trump’s most damaging behaviors come when he militarizes the race in the service of his political goals. In a statement last week, for example, the former president condemned authorities in Richmond, Va. – the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War – for the removal of a statue honoring General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who took up arms against the United States in a war to defend slavery.
“Our culture is being destroyed and our history and our heritage, good and bad, are being extinguished by the radical left, and we cannot let that happen!” wrote the former president. It was not the first time that Trump has defended Confederation. He did so during the 2020 campaign when he seized the removal of statues of racist historical figures to fuel the fears of those of his constituents who fear their traditional white culture was overwhelmed amid the growing diversity of the country. country.
Trump’s belief that Lee was a great general is also challenged by history – and he appeared to unwittingly expose himself to criticism by claiming that if Lee had commanded troops in Afghanistan, “this disaster would have ended. by a complete and utter victory many years ago. “Of course, the commander-in-chief who fought this war from 2017 to January was none other than Trump himself.
Trump’s statements lack the immediacy and platform he has enjoyed as president, in part because his insurgent rhetoric has prompted him to be kicked off social media platforms. But they are relayed by his spokespersons and supporters on Twitter and Facebook. The ex-president also appears to have an open invitation for softball interviews with Fox News opinion leaders.
Some of his most notable interventions in recent days have come as he underscored the anguish of several relatives of the 13 U.S. servicemen killed in a suicide bombing last month outside Kabul airport who support him and criticize Biden.
Under normal circumstances, it would be more than appropriate for a former president to comfort those who mourn the dead. But Trump has done so in politicized statements that leave the impression that he is exploiting their grief.
It adds to a growing impression – evident in his mismanagement of the pandemic when he trashed public health boards and throughout his presidency – that there is nothing the former president will not do about it. support his personal goals, including in a possible new bid for the White House.
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