Pence Masks Up While Trump Keeps Dog-Whistling

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Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 19, 2020. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Pence Masks Up While Trump Keeps Dog-Whistling 1

This was another one of those weekends where the Signal and the Noise merged into one ghastly Trump tweet-fest. Trump—the self-proclaimed “law-and-order president,” who recently demanded that those who destroy Confederate statues get up to 10 years in prisontweeted out a video showing a group of golf cart-riding MAGA enthusiasts in a Florida retirement community. One of them shouts “White power! White power!” at a group of anti-Trump protesters. This geriatric punk doesn’t say it softly: He says it at least twice and he shouts it loudly, fist raised. There’s simply no ambiguity in his words.
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After Trump was criticized for sharing the video and he deleted the tweet, the White House claimed the president had not heard the words of the supporters whom he was praising. What utter rot. Of all the words spoken in the video, the clearest by far were “white power.” How stupid does Trump think the world is, that people will take his denial at face value?

Imagine if Angela Merkel had retweeted a track of her supporters repeatedly shouting out “Heil Hitler!” and then claimed not to have heard the offending remark. The world would be aghast, and Merkel’s political allies would ditch her like the hottest of hot potatoes. But in the endlessly degraded political moment that is America in 2020, Trump’s shameful tweet has largely been ignored by Republicans. As per usual with Trump’s white-nationalist dog-whistling, most GOP senators—basking in the confirmation of their 200th federal judge since Trump took office—seemed content to accept that Trump simply hadn’t heard what was on the video. Tim Scott, the sole African American GOP senator, was among the only Republicans to publicly call out the president for the tweet.

If the Mitch McConnells of this world are unwilling to call out the content of Trump’s Twitter feed, at this point they should at least question the mental acuity of a leader who seems to continually “misspeak” about white nationalism and “not hear” racist language when it comes out of the mouths of his supporters. Either Trump is mentally with-it and peddling white supremacist trash as an electoral strategy—or he’s so out of it that he can’t tell a racist on a golf cart from a choir boy.

Personally, I’d say both might be true: Trump is using racially explosive rhetoric to lock in his base, and his acuity is fading fast.

Take his seeming inability to understand the importance of wearing masks to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trumpland stands on the verge of a public health catastrophe, with much of the country seeing such rapid increases in Covid-19 infections that hospitals are already filled to near capacity and activating their emergency surge plans.

A public health model from the University of Washington has indicated that if most people in the United States wore masks, tens of thousands of lives could be saved over the next three months. Vice President Mike Pence is now making belated, half-hearted arguments in favor of mask-wearing; this weekend, he wore a mask at an in-person event in Texas where a large church choir performed for him and 2,200 other attendees. (The clarity of this message was undermined by the fact that none of the choir members wore masks while singing.) Still, while Pence has started to come around, Trump remains stunningly absent from the public discourse on this issue.

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With infection rates spiking this weekend, Trump had an absolute obligation to address the disastrous situation. At a bare minimum, he should have thrown his political capital behind the government’s own public health experts who are urging Americans to wear masks indoors. There are, after all, a lot of people in hard-hit states such as Texas, Arizona, Florida, and the Carolinas who might actually take heed were Trump to explain why they ought to mask up.

Instead, he went on a juvenile Twitter rampage—tweeting out the Florida “white power” video, a doctored image of “Sleepy Joe” Biden in an old-fashioned nightcap, scenes of crowds waiting to see his speeches, insults about Biden being a “low IQ person,” and dozens of law-and-order missives about monuments. That included at least 15 posts with United States Park Police images showing both African American and white men accused of vandalizing an Andrew Jackson statue in Washington, D.C.

He also tweeted out a slew of attacks on the Affordable Care Act. On Thursday, the Trump administration filed paperwork with the US Supreme Court urging the justices to strike down the entirety of the ACA. If the court does so, around 20 million Americans could lose access to health care. In the legal brief, the administration made no mention of the fact that we are in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century.

That tells you everything you need to know. This bottom-of-the-barrel regime—this gang of racists and conspiracy freaks, grifters, and con artists—has nothing constructive to offer in terms of public policy. The Trump administration is, quite simply, a wrecking ball.

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