First question: Why did a duly sworn police officer pump seven bullets into the back of an unarmed Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin?
Second question: Why did a Kenosha far-right wing militia group call for “volunteers” to “protect property” without any legal standing to do so?
Third question: Why did 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse illegally cross a state line with a semi-automatic assault rifle?
I was 17 once and I would have never placed a deadly weapon in that kid’s hands, but there was Rittenhouse, parading up and down Sheridan Road ordering people around and reportedly pointing his rifle at bystanders. It came to a tragic end when the teen allegedly shot and killed two men trying to disarm him.
Rittenhouse awaits extradition to Wisconsin where he faces homicide charges. The shootings are under investigation, so any claim of “self-defense,” as President Trump suggested, is premature.
The militia’s invitation was never about property. It was vigilante code for “you may get your chance to pull the trigger, don’t miss out!”
The protests in Kenosha came about after a routine police call: domestic disturbance, one of the most volatile situations there is as experienced cops know. After three minutes, a police officer shot Jacob Blake as his children looked on. Yes, Blake should have obeyed police commands, but the cops knew him, had Blake’s license plate number and likely could have taken him into custody without violence after things cooled off.
This is what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about. Critics, however, have speciously labeled BLM a “Marxist terrorist group.” That other infamous Marxist terrorist group, the National Basketball Association, fully supports BLM. And it’s not just Black NBA players; it’s white players, the white commissioner, white team owners, major corporate sponsors, and game officials. Many other high-profile sports organizations, corporations and celebrities have joined the NBA in backing BLM.
All of this mayhem could be mitigated with real presidential leadership. But when the president decides violence and chaos, dividing and not uniting, serve a cynical political purpose, we can only expect more of the same.
This president has no interest in facilitating a productive dialogue between national police leadership and America’s Black civil rights leaders to find peaceful ways forward. That would send the wrong message to the white nationalists among his base. So he blames Democrats for what’s taking place on his watch.
One of the main themes at last week’s Republican National Convention was “law and order.” We heard it over and over from President Trump and other speakers. It was more code for “only we can protect you from the Black and brown people coming to the suburbs to get you.”
Images of violent clashes provide the president a platform from which to stoke race-baiting, all of Trump’s bombast a smokescreen for his monumental leadership failures.
The president says he wants to protect Americans, but when he had a chance to do it, he bungled the national COVID-19 response, and after more than six million confirmed cases the death toll is now approaching 200,000. The economic fallout was entirely predictable back in February, but Trump let it happen anyway. Thus, we have Great Depression unemployment numbers while millions face eviction and hunger.
The destruction of property and looting should be prosecuted, but it’s not an excuse to destroy the democratic right of peaceful assembly as Trump and his lapdog, Attorney General Bill Barr would have it. Crackdowns on protesters expressing legitimate grievances is the hallmark of every dictatorship that ever existed.
And if I’m pushing law and order, Mr. President, I’m also making sure my administration is squeaky clean, free from any hint of lawlessness or corruption. But the impeached Trump’s is perhaps the dirtiest presidency in modern American history, its disregard of the law, its self-dealing, and its nepotism on display every day. As one pundit noted, last week’s RNC staged at the White House was one giant violation of the Hatch Act.
Trump doesn’t care about his own law breaking nor, apparently, does Barr, Republicans in Congress, or his supporters. But if we are not a nation of laws, we are no longer a nation at all, at least not the one the Founders envisioned and enshrined in the Constitution.
This is why so many prominent Republicans support Joe Biden. They recognize the danger Trump’s regime poses to America’s democracy.
It will come as no surprise that Kyle Rittenhouse is a big Trump fan. I wonder how many other Kyles with itchy trigger fingers are out there, those doughy denizens of the conspiracy theory, militia and racist websites, guys with AR-15s and tactical gear who want to play cop, judge, jury and even executioner in America’s streets.
Trump has their backs, as he signaled Tuesday. He also has the backs of cops who shoot first and ask questions later.