Yesterday he said he “was not happy” about the chanting on Wednesday night and that he “felt a little bit badly about it,” which seemed out of character for him, frankly. Normally he loves when his crowds go after his political enemies; he’s complained before about protesters at his rallies being treated too gently. Plus he’s naturally reluctant to criticize his base, particularly when they’re being given the “deplorables” treatment by his enemies. He believes his key to a second term is historic turnout among righties next fall, in numbers that not even Democrats plus swing voters can match. If chanting “send her back” helps put them in the mood for that, well, there you go.
What happened between yesterday’s statement of tepid disapproval and today’s statement of defiance? It’s easy to guess. Watch:
Trump has a habit of listening to advisors in the short term, when he’s uncertain about how to handle a new situation, and then reverting to his own instincts once he’s had some time to sit with the matter. This happens in ways large and small. He deferred to his economic aides, led by Gary Cohn, by avoiding new tariffs during his first year in office while he gained his bearings on how to be president of the United States. After a year in the job, he decided it was time to do things his way. He greenlit a bombing run on Iranian targets a few weeks ago on the advice of his aides as retaliation for Iran shooting down a U.S. drone — and then, after a few hours of chatting with dovish friends, with the attack impending, he called it off. This “send her back” business probably worked the same way. Per CBS, he heard lots of disapproving chatter from voices close to him about the chanting in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday night’s rally:
CBS News has learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Mike Pence…
CBS News learned that Mr. Trump spoke to several members of his inner circle about how to react to the chant. He weighed the pros and cons of softening his tone, worried supporters would not like it.
Congressional Republicans asked him to tone it down too. With the weight of opinion among his friends and family firmly on the side of discouraging further chanting, and having not had time to think through the matter himself, he probably just deferred to their position. He did the same thing in 2016 when he initially discouraged the “lock her up,” probably also on the advice of more moderate confidantes. But he doesn’t like letting the media shame him or his fans, even when they should feel some shame; and he’s probably spent the last 24 hours talking to sycophantic populist friends, all of whom are doubtless telling him that the “send her back” chant is great, that Omar is terrible, and that he shouldn’t do anything that risks turning off his fans ahead of the election.
And so here he is today, not quite walking back his disapproval of the chanting yet but obviously irritated that he’s been put in a position where he’s expected to discourage it. We can’t be more than a week or two away from him deciding that “send her back” is a fine message after all. Especially if/when it happens at the next rally and he sees firsthand how eager people are to embrace that message.
In lieu of an exit question, a reminder from the WSJ that it’s not just Republicans who dislike the Squad:
It has all grated on several of their Democratic colleagues. Some avoid being in pictures with squad members, fearing that it will lead to campaign ads. Others say it doesn’t matter; such ads are being photoshopped anyway.
“I’m tired of the controversy,” said Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat. “I came here because I want to get things done and believe there are good people and good ideas in both parties. I just want to get back to work.”
On Wednesday evening, three of the four squad members sought to patch up relations with other Democratic freshmen and requested a meeting over drinks in the Longworth congressional office building. It did little to mend relations, according to several people familiar with the matter. Representatives of the four declined to comment.