A bad idea, even though a man who ran on “white identity politics” and who marveled not long ago at the “very fine people” on both sides of the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville isn’t anyone’s first choice to preside over a celebration of the civil-rights movement. Why cede the space to Trump? John Lewis did more than most people to earn the right to be there for this moment. He should go and honor his comrades. He doesn’t need to pose for selfies with the president.
What is Trump supposed to do, meanwhile? If he declines the invitation, he’s a racist. If he accepts the invitation, which he did, he’s … still a racist whose very presence evidently makes the museum a no-go zone for Lewis and Thompson. He can’t win. Like it or not, he’s the president and a presidential visit is appropriate for the occasion.
Reps. Bennie Thompson and John Lewis statement on not attending opening of Mississippi Civil Rights Museum:
“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum." pic.twitter.com/8S3kK6Oecg
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 7, 2017
“Right now we’re not going,” said Lewis to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “but there’s a possibility that the head man may not show up, may cancel.” It’s not the first time he’s boycotted an event because of Trump. He made a stink about skipping the inauguration too because, he insisted without evidence, Trump isn’t a legitimately elected president. Other local leaders don’t want Trump there either, though:
“Is this place worthy of a presidential visit? Yeah. Is it proper with this President at this particular juncture? No,” [Mississippi Democratic Party chair Robert] Moak said. He added that though the opening is meant to be a “special event,” “Trump’s visit will tamp that down.”…
Mississippi NAACP President Charles Hampton said it is a “very inappropriate time to invite Trump.”
“I’m the same age as Trump. Trump doesn’t care nothing about black folks and poor people in particular,” Hampton said. “If he could, he would wipe all us right off the map.”
One Democrat, Rep. David Scott of Georgia, disagrees and wants Trump to show up for an interesting reason: “The president clearly needs to be educated and informed on racial policies. He has to begin to become more sensitive and understanding of the fact that much of what he’s done has given the NAACP and so many in the black community a negative impression of him.” POTUS did visit the Smithsonian’s new African-African history museum in February and used the language of education himself, saying afterward, “I’ve learned, and I’ve seen, and they’ve done an incredible job.” That trip came off without a hitch. Presumably this one will too. Trump usually and wisely sticks close to the script in situations when he knows his words carry unusual weight, as yesterday’s statement on Jerusalem demonstrated.
Usually. But not always. Fingers crossed.
As for the hostility to his visit, I can believe that he’s earned special enmity from black leaders for things he’s said and done and that the presence of another Republican president would be tolerated. But surely the reception wouldn’t be any warmer than “tolerated.” Let’s please not forget that when George W. Bush paid his respects at Coretta Scott King’s funeral he was welcomed with a scolding by various speakers. That’s not to say he shouldn’t have gone or that Trump shouldn’t go to the museum’s opening; both decisions were correct. But it is to say that the chilly reception for Trump is really just a matter of degree vis-a-vis other GOPers.