Neither Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, nor El Paso Mayor Dee Margo [see update below] are Trump supporters. Both, however, had to set aside personal political animus towards the president and carry out their professional duties to acknowledge he would be welcomed in their cities in the aftermath of mass shootings.
Make no mistake, it is clearly a bitter pill for both of the mayors to swallow. Both made that crystal clear in their remarks to the press Monday and Tuesday. Both put their best foot forward and decided to do their jobs. When a disaster happens, whether it is man-made or a weather event, the President of the United States is expected to visit the location and be the comforter-in-chief. Like him or not, President Trump rises to the occasion and does well in that role. The First Lady, too, does really well with those who are grieving and hurting. To deny this simple fact is to deny reality.
Something that stood out to me as I listened to the Mayor of Dayton was her encouragement of protests during the president’s visit Wednesday. At the time I thought that was an unusual thing to say. Normally, elected officials, especially the ones at the top of the power pyramid, call for calm and ask for community unity when the leader of the free world visits their city or town. Not so in Dayton. The mayor acknowledged that protests were planned and she welcomed them.
When asked by a local reporter about the protesters that were expected to be at City Hall for the President’s appearance, Whaley cracked a brief smile before welcoming such demonstrations.
“Well Mike, as you’ve covered me for a long time, you know I have lots of protesters all the time and even my friends protest me from time to time. So, I’m glad that they’re using their right to free speech. And look, I know he’s made this bed and he’s gotta lie in it. His rhetoric has been painful for many in our community and I think the people should stand up and say they’re not happy if they’re not happy that he’s coming.”
Mayor Whaley plans to tell the president “how unhelpful he has been”, or at least that is what she told reporters. She didn’t think his remarks to the nation Monday went far enough. “His comments weren’t very helpful to the issue around guns.”
When asked about the president’s response to gun violence and mass shootings in general, Whaley said she was unsure whether the president really knew what he personally believed about the societal problem.
“I think watching the president over the past few years on the issue of guns,” the mayor said, “I don’t know if he knows what he believes, frankly.” She asserted that she has been “disappointed” in his response to the mass shooting in her town thus far.
The mayor encouraged protests and the #resist crowd obliged. There was even a baby Trump balloon appearance outside Miami Valley Hospital, complete with an anti-NRA belt.
Crowds gather outside a hospital in Dayton, Ohio, where President Trump is set to visit, holding up an inflatable "baby Trump" balloon and signs that say "do something," "no gun no trigger," and "go back where you came from" https://t.co/1RDYTyZEm4 pic.twitter.com/6PAmAmfAyJ
— Deena Zeina Zaru 👩🏻💻 (@Deena_Zaru) August 7, 2019
President Trump and First Lady Melania were met on the tarmac by Governor Mike DeWine, Mayor Whaley, Senator Rob Portman, Senator Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Mike Turner. All of them have spoken about gun law reforms and their sense of urgency that discussions with the president must begin. DeWine has 17 proposals (!) that he has brought forward.
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) August 6, 2019
Representative Turner’s district includes the downtown area where the mass shooting took place. His daughter was across the street from the location of the shooting. He now supports a ban on the sale of “military-style weapons”. The Republican has a 93% rating with the NRA and earlier this year voted in a more gun-rights friendly manner.
Turner, in a statement, said he also will support a limit on magazines and “red-flag” legislation to take guns away from those police deem dangerous to the community.
“I strongly support the Second Amendment, but we must prevent mentally unstable people from terrorizing our communities with military-style weapons,” the Dayton Republican said in a lengthy statement released Tuesday.
Turner, who has regularly received a 93 percent rating from the National Rifle Association, voted earlier this year against two House measures aimed at strengthening the federal background check system to buy a gun, and he has generally backed gun-rights measures during his nine terms in the House.
It should be noted that Mayor Dee Margo of El Paso specifically said he is trying to keep politics out of the president’s visit. He is welcoming the president because it is his job to do so as the mayor. He has brushed off questions about protesters.
In her own way, not at all intentional, Mayor Whaley did unite her community. Trump supporters turned out among the Trump opponents.
Update: Originally, the article started with a contention that both mayors are Democrats. Dee Margo is a Republican. That sentence has been removed and we apologize for the error.