Do Not Take the Bait

On Sunday, July 14th, Donald Trump began a barrage of racist tweets that has stirred up yet another political storm.  Four Democratic female congresswomen of color were attacked by Trump.  They accused him of following an “agenda of white nationalists” and asked that Americans “do not take the bait” of his divisive rhetoric.  Are Trump’s tweets another manifestation of his poor judgement or part of a sinister plan?

On July 14, Trump tweeted: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”   It was understood that the “Progressive Democrat Congresswomen,” Trump referred to are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.  All are women of color.  Only congresswomen Omar, who is from Somalia, was not born in the US.

The congresswomen called Trump’s remarks a “blatantly racist” attack on elected leaders, and an attempt to distract from the corrupt and inhuman practices of his administration.  “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on,” said Pressley.  They urged American voters, “do not take the bait.”

There’s always a danger of crediting Trump with forethought.  Trump’s tweets may not have been strategic but rather the random actions of a disturbed mind — cognitive dyspepsia.  Nonetheless, if Trump’s actions were part of a sinister plan, he could have several objectives:

1.Divide Democrats: In the past few weeks, the Washington press has talked of a “split” between House Speaker Pelosi and the four female congresswomen identified by Trump: Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib — nicknamed “the squad.”   Trump may have intended his remarks to accentuate this split: “The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them. That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”

Trump’s tactic isn’t working.  On July 16th, the squad joined all Democratic members of the House — and four Republicans — in condemning Trump’s racist remarks.  On July 16, congresswomen Ocasio-Cortez appeared on the CBS Morning News (https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/ocasio-cortez-downplays-tensions-between-pelosi-and-the-squad/2019/07/17/8a1a31a4-a88d-11e9-9214-246e594de5d5_story.html?utm_term=.86d1bcc32ebe) and downplayed reports of tension between Pelosi and the squad.

2. Draw a broad distinction between Democrats and Republicans: In the 2020 presidential campaign, if Donald Trump can’t point to his accomplishments he can paint imaginary distinctions between Democrats and Republicans.  For example, Trump hasn’t built his wall and his immigration policy, in general, is a disaster.  Nonetheless, on the campaign trail, Trump will claim that Democrats are “for open borders” and would let dangerous people into the country.

This tactic is working with Trump’s base.  They are chanting, “Send her back,” at rallies.

3. Distract from the failures of the ICE raids.  Beginning on July 1st, Trump promised that on Sunday, July 14th, ICE agents in 10 large cities — such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — would apprehend 2,000 undocumented immigrants who’d been ordered removed from the United States. The raids occurred but the total number of ICE arrests was miniscule.

This tactic is working.  The MSM isn’t talking about the failed ICE raids.

4. Distract from Trump’s recent failures, in general.  Trumps tweets began on Sunday, July 14th, after a week when he had suffered a series of losses.  On July 7th, the British tabloid, the Daily Mail, published a confidential memos from the British ambassador to the United States: “For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity.” “I don’t think this Administration will ever look competent.”

During the week of July 8, there were press reports about the inhumane conditions at the border detention facilities — some observers likened them to “concentration camps.”  Then, Trump lost his effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.  Next, his Labor secretary, Jeffrey Acosta, was forced to resign.  Then the ballyhooed ICE raids fizzled.  (And, on July 16th, North Korea threatened to renege on commitments made to the United States on denuclearization.)

Once again, Trump’s tactic of distraction is succeeding.  The press isn’t talking about “Trump the failure” but instead about “Trump the racist.”

5. Distract from the Jeffrey Epstein indictments.  Since (alleged) pedophile and procurer Jeffrey Epstein was rearrested, on July 6, there have been rumors that Donald Trump is overwrought about the consequences of new information about Epstein’s New York activities.  Trump and Epstein were once close friends.  In 2002, Trump described Epstein as a “terrific guy” who is “a lot of fun to be with;” “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do.”

Writing in the Palmer Report (https://www.palmerreport.com/analysis/rape-accusation-donald-trump-roaring-focus/19296/ ) Robert Harrington reminds us that in 2016, “Jane Doe” accused Trump of raping her, when she was 13, at Epstein’s New York mansion.  Counterpunch (https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/07/17/epstein-jane-doe-and-trump/ ) reported: “[Jane Doe’s] lawsuit included witness corroboration of her account that she was raped by both Epstein and Trump. The lawsuit was dropped days before the November election after the claimant had been threatened”  These writers note that Epstein kept videos of “episodes” in his New York mansion — videos that were seized by the FBI — and speculate that some of these may include Donald Trump.

If Trump is attempting to distract us from this, it’s not working.  Epstein’s case is still banner news for everyone except, it appears, his base.

How sick are Republicans?  Will they “take the bait” and ignore evidence that connects Trump to Epstein?  Perhaps Trump’s base prefers “Trump the racist” to “Trump the predator.”