El Paso's Democratic rep: Trump isn't welcome here

Via RCP. First of all, the president of the United States should be welcome anywhere in the United States.

Except Baltimore, maybe. You can understand why they wouldn’t want to have him around at this point.

Second, lefties and assorted other anti-Trumpers need to make up their minds about what they want from him here. Some were howling yesterday that he needed to denounce white nationalism immediately and sincerely. Others wanted a show of real grief and a promise to tone down his own rhetoric going forward. Others still were rolling their eyes and urging him to play golf and stay away from microphones, as he’s incapable of making a bad situation better. This morning at the White House he did condemn white supremacy (although he’s done that before). If the goal is to get him to feel the country’s pain and be more aggressive in policing alt-right terrorists, why the hell would you tell him, “Stay out of El Paso”? The message should be, “Come, and unite with us.”

Of course, that assumes that he really is willing and able to lead a national effort to neutralize white-nationalist jihadis. Today’s speech was a solid, if perfunctory, first step but George “Mr. Kellyanne” Conway is right that it’s easy to imagine Trump veering off-script from here.

We saw that movie after Charlottesville. Odds are high that, as criticism of him this week mounts, he’ll get frustrated and start tweeting about why, say, the media isn’t making more of a fuss about the Dayton shooter’s hard-leftism. In fact, he already started shifting blame from the El Paso shooter to more familiar enemies this morning before his speech:


It may be true, as doves often claim, that the U.S. would be a less frequent target of jihadi terror if it were involved in fewer wars in the Middle East. But if a bomb went off somewhere in America and a Muslim leader rushed out to a microphone banc afterwards to say “Change your foreign policy or there’ll be more terror!”, Americans wouldn’t greet that statement as a thoughtful, germane statement of cause and effect in the moment. They’d treat it as a justification, if not a threat. “Change your behavior or else.” The standards are different for the president.

Dan Drezner tried to hash out in a column today why Trump is a bad fit for moments like this. It’s not just that alt-righters are a cheering section for him, it’s that he doesn’t really do the ceremonial “head of state” part of the job. (He does do the “head of government” part.) He’s a nationalist; nationalism is about advancing your tribe’s interests, not feeling the pain of the “national family” or whatever. (What “national family”?) That was the ideological backdrop of his Baltimore tweets too: Crime in Baltimore isn’t his problem, it’s the other tribe’s problem. Let Elijah Cummings figure it out. I think the most fundamental difficulty in getting him to lead a sustained effort against white nationalists, though, is that they treat him as a hero and he knows it and it’s next to impossible to convince a narcissist that people who idolize him are truly bad people whose influence must be reduced. They like him; how bad could they really be?

Hopefully I’m wrong and Conway’s wrong. We’ll see in a few days. In the meantime, if he wants to go to El Paso, officials there should encourage him. That’s the only way to incentivize a transactional politician — reward him with praise and credit when he does good, punish him when he does bad.

Jazz Shaw May 05, 2021 4:01 PM ET