The rioting has escalated in America’s major cities over the last several days and promises to only get worse tonight. A new autopsy report of George Floyd’s death is out pointing directly at the police officer crushing his airway and restricting blood flow to the brain. That report will absolutely further inflame tensions tonight, even as the officer responsible has already been charged and sits behind bars. We’ve reached the point where almost all the rioting is about anarchy and selfish looting, not rational discussion about Floyd’s death or the fact that justice is being served.
Given that, it’s unrealistic to think this will all just stop. As the fires have raged and people continue to lose their livelihoods, some on the right are beginning to ask where the President is. After all, one of the biggest themes of his election was a return to law and order after the rioting that took place under Barack Obama. If there was ever a time for Trump to address the nation and let it all hang out, this would be it. It would present him as taking the bull by the horns and saying what others won’t say. It would also present the perfect opportunity to savage Antifa and formally declare them a terrorist entity. That’s the “tough guy” image he’s tried to build for so long. Why not lean into it now?
But instead, we’ve just gotten tweets like this.
LAW & ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
Here’s the problem. Screaming on Twitter does not make one the law and order candidate. Action does that, and right now, Trump is lagging behind. Further, one can not present himself as the law and order choice in five months if they are currently the incumbent not restoring law and order when given the chance.
The counter to this is that the optics would be bad. Democrats would use the visual of troops clearing the streets as proof that Trump is a dictatorial figure who despises free speech.
Trump’s base doesn’t want federal troops sent in.
They see he’s being baited into that and know the optics and outcome will be devastating.
Democrat run cities own these riots. Let it remain on them. Let them answer for it on Election Day when their opponents place blame.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) June 1, 2020
Frankly, who cares? They are going to call him a dictator who despises free speech no matter what he does. Right now, you’ve literally got half of liberal Twitter accusing him of wanting his own Tienanmen Square while the other half are accusing him of hiding in his bunker. He can not win with these people, so why try? The only factor that should be weighed here is getting these cities under control because it’s the right thing to do.
I also think from a political standpoint, it’s incredibly naive and short-sighted to believe that Trump letting these cities burn won’t blow back on him. If your goal is to get Trump re-elected in November, he needs to preserve his chief argument, which is that he’s the tough guy in the room willing to make the hard decisions. If the chaos continues, it plays into Joe Biden’s campaign strategy as a “return to normalcy” from “four years of chaos.” Cities burning is not normal, nor will it be accepted as only a local problem by a lot of voters.
Right now, he’s not projecting the image he’s so long tried to cultivate. Rather, we are getting stuff like this from his advisors.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 1, 2020
Listening sessions aren’t going to solve anything here. Trump has already shown himself to be supportive of criminal justice reform and willing to speak out against police brutality. What magic bullet is going to come from such a photo op? Besides, what will that do to quell the riots and destruction going on as you read this?
Trump’s current strategy has all the markings of Jared Kushner’s weakness. Whoever it is, Trump needs to stop listening to them. As Dan Bongino and Tom Cotton pointed out this morning, there are tangible, viable things Trump can do.
There needs to be:
-FEDERAL ARRESTS of ANTIFA organizers & riot organizers
-Contined mobilizations of National Guard units in a support role
-Retired & capable law enforcement should be offered an opportunity to return in a support role
-use of video to track down looters STAT
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) June 1, 2020
Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight.
If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division.
We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 1, 2020
The FBI and DOJ are talking a big game, but haven’t done much. The arrests we have seen have been at the state level.
The question of using federal troops is a good debate to be had. I’m not advocating Trump do that, but that option needs to be on the table at this point, and drawing a red line for their use would add clarity to the situation. While the balance between freedom of expression and government preservation of order is a delicate one, we’ve now reached the point where this chaos can’t be allowed to continue. There are things troops can do besides shoot people. The presence of manpower alone to block off streets would be a big boost for law enforcement.
Regardless, at the very least Trump needs to actually speak directly to the American people about what he plans to do. Giving a little-watched speech at NASA three days ago is not that. He has an opportunity to place himself firmly in control and ensure that blame is placed where it belongs. The current tepid approach is not working, nor will it benefit him long term. The suburbs that the GOP lost in 2018 are influenced by feelings of safety. Trump needs to be that presentation of safety to them, contrasting himself with the inaction of local and state officials who choose to excuse the violence.
This is a prime opportunity for the President to show he can keep his promises, an opportunity he didn’t ask for but that exists nonetheless. He shouldn’t waste it.
Maybe Trump is about to make the move? After this article was set to publish, this news broke. All caveats about CNN’s reporting being unreliable apply. If it is true, I hope he doesn’t hold back.
NEW: Two officials tell CNN that WH aides were instructed to begin preparing for a possible statement by Trump from the Rose Garden. Plans are still tentative, but the statement could come at 6/6:30pm ET.
— Vicky Ward (@VickyPJWard) June 1, 2020
And there’s this in regards to Tom Cotton’s suggestion.
Trump is considering invoking a federal law, the Insurrection Act, that would allow him to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to respond to George Floyd protests in cities across the country. https://t.co/bkTqhyKLoV
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 1, 2020