Donald Trump Is a Divider: Why His 'Tough on Crime' Rhetoric Is All Wrong

Election '16

The man Republicans will nominate this week as their presidential candidate sees himself as a U.S. generalissimo. Donald Trump would be, he said last week, the law-and-order president. He would be a tough guy at a time when crime is down. He would strong arm at a time when reconciliation is required. 

What Trump didn’t say, because he lacks the insight to know it, is that he would also be the nation’s most self-involved, egotistical president ever. Rather than bearing the important mantle of consoler-in-chief after tragedies like those in Orlando, Dallas and Baton Rouge, a President Trump would be tweeter-in-chief, bragging about how he, and only he, had predicted it would happen.

Precious few Americans want a bully as a leader, someone who barks, “You’re fired,” who calls people names, ridicules the physically handicapped, and builds walls between races. Americans want a president who brings people together, who inspires, offers hope and can give solace to the nation in times of crisis. All of that was missing from Trump’s responses to national shocks like the gunning down of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the massacre of five police officers in Dallas, and the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Trump’s reactions showed he’s a businessman with a heart of stone, a man who would widen the divides of this country.

As the self-proclaimed law-and-order candidate, Trump on Tuesday spoke about the slaughter of the five officers in Dallas and the wounding of seven others. He said:

“Our whole nation grieves and mourns for the loss of five heroes in Dallas. Law enforcement. These were great, great people. Great people. We pray for their families. We pray for their loved ones. We pray for all the wounded survivors. We pray for our country. So important. The police are not just part of our society. The police are the best of our society. Remember that.”

Trump went on talking about police. He didn’t mention the two civilians who were wounded, including a black woman, Shetamia Taylor, who was protesting the Sterling and Castile killings at the peaceful Black Lives Matter rally the night of the officer assassinations and who has repeatedly credited Dallas police with saving her life and the lives of her sons.

But Trump gave Taylor no time in his speech. He focused on the police, except for a brief mention of the recorded incidents in which police killed two citizens. Trump did not speak of Sterling and Castile as human beings. He didn’t ask for prayers for them or their families. He didn’t discuss the frustration, fear and anger in the black community as interactions between African Americans and police end in death far too frequently—more than 1,000 times last year, with young black men nine times more likely to be killed by police than other Americans. He didn’t mention that only the recordings of these incidents have made the rest of America pay attention to what black people have been saying for a long time.

Here’s what Trump said about the Sterling and Castile killings: “It was tough. It was tough to watch. For everybody here, it was tough to watch.” So, to Trump, the problem was the watching. It was a shame Americans had to watch some shocking video footage.  

The hard thing wasn’t that a Baton Rouge, La., father, known in his community as the "CD man" because he sold CDs outside a convenience store, was taken too soon from his children. The hard thing wasn’t that a beloved Minneapolis, Minn., school cafeteria supervisor, who knew all the kids’ names and fed them like a grandma would, was taken from them too early, shot multiple times, point blank in front of his girlfriend and her toddler.

The hard thing, for Donald Trump, wasn’t that for the African-American community this was two more names on a wall of horror that includes from just the past few years infamous cases such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Eric Harris and Walter Scott.

That the hard thing for Trump was the watching is another example of Donald the Divider. He began his campaign by slandering undocumented immigrants as drug runners and rapists. He physically mocked a handicapped reporter. He slammed Muslims by claiming he saw “thousands and thousands” in New Jersey cheering the fall of the twin towers on 9/11, despite the fact that this urban lie has been repeatedly debunked. He mocked the appearance of his primary opponent Carly Fiorina and ridiculed a female Fox New anchor who asked him tough questions.

President Obama handled the Sterling, Castile and Dallas tragedies very differently. He met with both police officials and Black Lives Matter representatives at the White House. He tried to hear and understand both sides. He spoke with the families of Sterling and Castile and went to Dallas to comfort the families of the slain and wounded officers.

And in Dallas, President Obama said:

“Today, in this audience, I see people who have protested on behalf of criminal justice reform grieving alongside police officers. I see people who mourn for the five officers we lost, but also weep for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In this audience, I see what’s possible.

“I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving equal respect, all children of God. That’s the America I know.”

Obama is a president who speaks of unity. He is a president who offers comfort and hope. He is a president who believes in the best of all Americans and who intends to help bring those qualities forward.

President Obama also cited the Bible during that speech. He talked about the Lord telling Ezekiel he would give him a new heart, quoting the Lord, “I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

Then President Obama said, “That’s what we must pray for, each of us—a new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens. That’s what we’ve seen in Dallas these past few days, and that’s what we must sustain ... with an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged and worry more about joining sides to do right....We can decide to come together and make our country reflect the good inside us, the hopes and simple dreams we share.”

Later, Obama said, “Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down. It is found by lifting others up.”

Donald Trump is excellent at putting people down—he is excellent at slander, at ridicule. He can tweet-slam with the best of ’em. Such bullies are terrific as tyrants. And tyrants are great at gruesome, cracked skull-style law and order.  

But frankly, Americans need a president with a heart of flesh.

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