Trump Can’t Even Pretend to Want to Fix Police Brutality
Seemingly recognizing that a majority of Americans appear to back the racial justice protesters who have taken to the streets across the country following the police killing of George Floyd, the president’s team has sought to temper his “law and order” message and even to suggest that he is considering reforming the nation’s policing system.
There’s just one problem: Donald Trump has long fetishized violent, discriminatory policing, and has made clear that his view on the matter has not changed.
Trump’s advisers in recent days have discussed shifting toward a more unifying message, and—as the peaceful demonstrations continue to build momentum for change—press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Monday that the president was considering police reform measures.
Describing Trump as “appalled” by the movement to defund the police, as Minneapolis says it will in a significant victory for the protesters, McEnany nevertheless suggested the president was sympathetic to the need for at least some kind of change. “He’s talking through a number of proposals,” she said. “He definitely, as he’s noted, recognizes the horrid injustice done to George Floyd and is taking a look at various proposals.”
Emphasizing that Trump believes “our law enforcement are the best in the world,” McEnany also implied that the president agrees with demonstrators who have called out systemic racism in policing. “The president has been very clear: There are injustices in society,” McEnany said. “He definitely believes there are instances of racism.”
Alas, Trump’s own public statements in recent days have made clear he “definitely” does not—and that, if there are “injustices in society,” he believes the police are the victims. The same day McEnany was suggesting Trump was open to police reform, Trump was explicitly rejecting changes to the existing law enforcement system.
“They’ve enforced the laws,” Trump said during a meeting with law enforcement officials. “They’ve done a fantastic job of it.”
“There won’t be defunding,” he continued. “There won’t be dismantling of our police. And there’s not going to be any disbanding of our police. Our police have been letting us live in peace.”
Trump allowed that there may be some bad cops—just 99 percent of them, he said, are “great, great people.”
But on Tuesday morning, he made clear that he’ll even defend the not-so-great ones, no matter how outrageous their conduct. In the deluge of clips chronicling over-the-top, often unprovoked violence by armor-clad police against protesters, video of Buffalo cops knocking a 75-year-old man backward onto the sidewalk and walking past him as he bleeds from the head has been among the most shocking.
But Trump on Tuesday tweeted a conspiracy theory about the elderly man, who remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition, baselessly suggesting he was an “ANTIFA provocateur” who was attempting to “scan police communications in order to black out the equipment.” Tagging the conspiratorial, pro-Trump One America News in his unhinged tweet, the president went on to casually imply that the man’s injury was a hoax. “I watched, he fell harder than was pushed,” Trump wrote. “Could be a set up?”
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?
Surely, suggesting that a hospitalized 75-year-old protester injured by police deserved what he got—and had maybe even embellished a little bit—is not the message of “healing, rebuilding, restoring, recovering” that his advisers had hoped to steer him toward as he falls further behind Joe Biden in the polls.
But the notion that they ever could have moderated this president, that they could have suppressed his nature, was always going to be foolhardy. The unyielding truth of Trump is that he never changes.
The idea that the guy who called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five and has maintained their guilt even after their exoneration would suddenly stop pathologizing black Americans is as fanciful as the notion that he would see the need for a more accountable, less aggressive police force.
This is, after all, the president who encouraged officers to be “rough” with those they arrest during a 2017 speech to law enforcement in Long Island. “Please don’t be too nice,” he said at the time. That’s a message his true believers still want to hear.
Tucker Carlson, one of the president’s favorite Fox News personalities, opened his program Monday by saying the national turmoil was “definitely not about black lives,” suggesting black protesters would “come for you,” and describing the police reform measures demonstrators have called for as “authoritarian social control.”
But, as the New York Times pointed out Monday, that perspective appears increasingly out of step with a majority of Americans.
Recent polls have indicated that most Americans view racism as a “big problem” in America, including in its law enforcement, and view demonstrators’ anger as justified.
Trump has never believed that, and has made clear in recent days that he never will—regardless of what those tasked with selling Americans on another four years of this president would have you believe.
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