President Trump decided to seize upon a weeks-old statement from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who was explaining the Islamophobia visited on all Muslims because of something a few did. That’s not the least bit alarming, but Trump and his social media flunkies turned this into a slight on the memory of 9/11. So naturally, he tweeted an unhinged video featuring the 9/11 attack — politicizing the event about which he was so offended, supposedly.
This comes in the context of ongoing death threats against Omar. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) repeatedly condemned Trump’s actions. On Sunday, she put out a statement: “Following the President’s tweet, I spoke with the Sergeant-at-Arms to ensure that Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to safeguard Congresswoman Omar, her family and her staff. They will continue to monitor and address the threats she faces.” Pelosi continued, “The President’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger. President Trump must take down his disrespectful and dangerous video.”
Where to begin? Trump disrespects 9/11 by pretending to be offended by Omar and then doubles down on the very sort of Islamophobia she was decrying. On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) had this exchange with Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: I want to ask you. President Trump posted a video on Twitter attacking Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her speech in which she described the 9/11 terror attacks as saying some people did something.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement condemning the president for what he's doing, but she also seemed to have a message for Congresswoman Omar too saying in her statement: "The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground and any discussion of it must be done with reverence."
Did you take any issue with the way Congresswoman Omar characterized 9/11?
NADLER: No, I did not.
She characterized it only in passing. She was talking about discrimination against Muslim Americans. And she just said that, after that happened, it was used as an excuse for lots of discrimination and for withdrawal of civil liberties. No, I did not take — I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not — but not with that one.
And for the president to — 9/11 occurred in my district. I’m very familiar with it. I know a lot — I know people, a lot of people, who suffered from it.
I was involved, I was instrumental in getting funding for small business grants for victims of 9/11, for people with small businesses in the area.
The president — he wasn’t president, but Donald Trump actually took a $150,000 grant from the Bush administration. They let him take a $150,000 grant meant for small businessmen for 40 Wall Street, the small business 40 Wall Street.
He stole $150,000 from some small businessperson who could have used it to help rehabilitate himself. And that’s why we appropriated it, why I got Congress to appropriate that money. To use it for his own small business of 40 Wall Street, he has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all.
So what was the point of all this, other than to put Omar further at risk and stir the pot of venom his base drinks from? There isn’t one. There isn’t even a political advantage to this. He’s not going to win over a single person outside his base, but when he vilifies and endangers a woman lawmaker, the gender gap, already gigantic, grows larger. Another batch of suburban voters will likely acknowledge, yeah, he really is horrible.
So much of what Trump does this days seems senseless. He latest threat to transport asylum seekers to big cities is not only of questionable legality and phenomenally expensive but actually counterproductive, as Chris Wallace made clear on “Fox News Sunday.” Hey, enter in El Paso and get a ticket to New York City! What’s more, the cities he thinks he is punishing welcome immigrants, as mayors from Oakland and Seattle have reaffirmed.
He’s planning to cut aid to the very countries from which migrants are fleeing. He fired the top echelon at the Department of Homeland Security. He hasn’t spent money for useful purposes, such as building more detention centers or expand the number of immigration judges. Instead, he says inane things such as “Get rid of judges!” and robs money from military construction to build some of the wall, which has nothing whatsoever to do with asylum seekers presenting themselves at ports of entry.
Is he trying to make things worse, to justify some new authoritarian move? Is he simply overwhelmed and incapable of solving problems? Maybe some of both, but the result is an intensifying sense, even to Republicans in Congress, that any semblance of reasoned governance has evaporated. The hysteria is not in service of a policy but in lieu of one. It’s what Trump does to manufacture material for Fox News hosts, who repeat his nonsense on air, which makes Trump feel he has “won” something. One shudders to think what will happen if we face a genuine international emergency.