Poor form here by People mag in not letting us hear the specific question that was put to Bush. Was Trump’s name invoked or was this a broader query about, say, the direction of the country “over the last few years” or whatever? Either way, Dubya must have intended his answer as some sort of reflection on the current POTUS, which isn’t surprising given the animosity between the Trumps and the Bushes. When was the last time a president from one party lamented the erosion of civility under a successor from the same party?
I don’t think he’s accusing Trump, specifically, of racism, though. He’s probably referring to incidents like the shootings of two Indian men in Kansas by a guy allegedly yelling “Get out of my country” or the wave of bomb threats being phoned in to Jewish Community Centers across the country. Trump was asked about hate crimes in his first “60 Minutes” interview as president-elect in mid-November and called on the perpetrators to knock it off. He denounced the threats against Jewish centers a few days ago and is reportedly planning to do so again tonight on the big stage. A speech about nationalism, which is what this evening’s quasi-SOTU will be at bottom, is a perfect opportunity for that insofar as it’s a chance for Trump to emphasize defining identity along national, not racial or religious, lines. Americans are Americans, period. I think there’ll be something in there like that — but if you believe the attorney general of Pennsylvania, Trump made things harder on himself in a meeting earlier today:
Asked about the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks and threats across the nation, President Trump on Tuesday told a group of state attorneys general that “sometimes it’s the reverse,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said of Trump’s comments in his and other officials’ meeting with the president.
“He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’ and he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two to three times in his comments,” Shapiro said. “He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible.”
Asked for further information about the purpose of the president’s comments, Shapiro only said, “I really don’t know what he means, or why he said that,” adding that Trump said he would be speaking about the issue in his remarks on Tuesday night.
Those comments by Shapiro produced this hair-raising headline at the New York Daily News: “President Trump suggests anti-Semitic threats across U.S. are coming from within Jewish community.” Er, no, I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. He’s suggesting, as he suggested last week, that some of the threats might be false flags generated by his critics to feed the “climate of hate under President Trump” narrative that the media’s been pushing. And he’s not totally out of left field on that: Fake hate incidents do happen, after all. The number of threats against Jewish centers now exceeds 100, though, and more than one Jewish cemetery has been vandalized recently. According to FBI stats, hate crimes involving religious prejudice are consistently and overwhelmingly more likely to target Jews than any other group. Some of the recent threats may be hoaxes or copycatters but there’s no reason to doubt that most are legit, as Trump himself will implicitly recognize tonight by addressing the topic again. So why keep bringing up the “false flag” hypothesis? It’s silly to do that and hand adversaries like the Daily News ammo under those circumstances, as inevitably it’ll lead people to ask, “What percentage of incidents would have to be fake before Trump declares that the real ones aren’t worth worrying about?” Hopefully he’ll drop that line of argument going forward.