Over the past two weeks, as violence committed by and against cops has dominated national headlines, there’s been little distinction between the president’s rhetoric and that of the mainstream right. Sure, Obama has peppered his praise of law enforcement with statistics about racial disparities in the criminal-justice system. But Newt Gingrich and Republican senator Tim Scott have done essentially the same. It’s difficult to see what more conservatives could have wanted from Obama’s recent remarks (other than the announcement of his immediate resignation and/or the phrase “all lives matter”).
Which puts the right in a tough spot. What’s the point of having a (liberal) black president if you can’t blame him for acts of violence committed by black extremists?
But on Monday, the Republican nominee found a way to do just that, ingeniously squaring the far right’s view of Obama as a closeted Black Panther with the president’s utterly mainstream rhetoric about race and policing.
After Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy read Donald Trump a statement from a Cleveland police union president — which accused Obama of having “blood on his hands” — Trump replied, “Well, it’s true. I watch the president and sometimes the words are okay, but you just look at the body language and there’s something going on.”
The president may say the right things about cops, but something about the way he looks when he says those words leads Trump to suspect, “There’s something going on.” (That last phrase is Trump-speak for “insert the paranoid right-wing conspiracy theory of your choice here, dear wing nut.”)
Moments later, Brian Kilmeade reminded Trump that his good buddy Newt recently acknowledged the disparate treatment that black people receive at the hands of police.
“There’s definitely something going on there, also,” Trump replied. “And that has to do with training … But there is something going on that, maybe, Brian, we can’t recognize it or we can’t see it, unless you’re black.”
If only we had a president who could see it. What a unifier he would be.