“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘There’s a great thing that’s happening for our country,’” President Trump said in the Rose Garden Friday, celebrating a May unemployment report that showed “only” 21 million people — 13.3 percent of the workforce — out of work.
“This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody,” Trump continued. “This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”
For about the millionth time in the past four years, America asks: What the hell is he talking about?
Trump has long presumed to speak for the dead and their thoughts as they “look down” at us. But implying, as Trump appeared to do, that George Floyd is having “a great day” in the afterlife because of the May jobs report? Trump’s effrontery has no end.
His racism and encouragement of strong-arm police tactics contributed heavily to the rage now gripping the nation — but he has the gall to suggest that the slain Floyd would see an unemployment report showing black joblessness rising to a decade-high 16.8 percent as a “tremendous tribute to equality”?
There are no words.
PBS White House reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who is black, asked Trump about his plan to combat racism.
He replied that a strong economy is “the greatest thing that can happen for race relations, for the African American community.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander asked: “How would a better economy have protected George Floyd?”
Trump didn’t answer.
Alcindor pointed out that black unemployment had increased in May. “How is that a victory?”
Trump waved his hand dismissively. “You are something,” he said.
Just 48 hours earlier, Trump’s former defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, had delivered a resounding denouncement of his former boss: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”
And here was Trump, in the Rose Garden, doing exactly what Mattis had described. Trump declared that it “was like a piece of cake” to crack down on demonstrators outside the White House (who were hit with rubber bullets and tear gas to clear room for his Bible-wielding, church-side photo op).
Though his defense secretary and top military brass reject using the military against demonstrators, Trump again offered troops to governors because “you have to dominate the streets.” Of the crackdown in Minneapolis, where Floyd was slain, Trump said: “I love it, we had such success … one night, it was over.”
After celebrating the militarized suppression of protests, he concluded: “We’ve come together.”
It’s as if he’s been living in a bunker for two weeks — which, at times, he has been, whisked there by the Secret Service. But he would have us believe he was merely “inspecting” the facility. Much as he would have us believe the tear gas used in Lafayette Square wasn’t tear gas.
Trump has long relied on alternative facts, but as the crises mount, he seems to have lost any overlap with reality. He announced that we’re “largely through” the pandemic. He said that “our country’s never lost 105,000 people … we’ve never lost anything close to this.” (About 750,000 died in the Civil War.) And he said the May jobs report (he previously had dismissed the monthly unemployment figures as “fake” and “phony”) was evidence of “the greatest comeback in American history.”
That’s quite a boast — less a “mission accomplished” moment than a declaration of total victory — considering where things stand. The unemployment rate remains at a level not seen since the Great Depression. Nearly 15 million fewer people have jobs now than when Trump began his presidency. Experts expect a second wave of the pandemic. And Trump’s forceful suppression of peaceful protest has earned rebukes from the likes of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who hopes colleagues will be more “honest with the concerns” about him, and evangelical Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, who calls the suppression not "cool.”
But Trump, in his rambling, 50-minute appearance Friday, declared that “we’ve made every decision correctly.” He announced that “this isn’t a terrible recession” or even a recession at all. He forecast a “very good” summer and “spectacular” fall. He spoke of the coronavirus as a thing of the past, telling people to “wear masks if you want.”
And, he boasted in the third person: “Nobody’s ever done for the black community what President Trump has done.”
Don’t believe him? Just ask George Floyd.
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