June 3, 2020

Trump and the Protests

“President Donald Trump’s warning [Monday] that he would deploy the United States military to any state that refuses to take aggressive action against rioting rests on a longstanding presidential power that gives wide latitude to the White House… Legal experts say the president does indeed have the authority under the Insurrection Act of 1807 to dispatch the military in states that are unable to put down an insurrection or are defying federal law.” AP News

Also on Monday, “Attorney General William Barr ordered protesters to be cleared from a park near the White House, setting the stage for authorities to break up a peaceful demonstration ahead of President Trump's surprise visit to a nearby church… Critics hammered Trump for using police, armed with flash grenades and shields, to clear protesters from the Lafayette Square area to provide him cover for Monday night's brief event outside the church, where the president posed with a Bible.” USA Today

Both sides agree that Trump has the authority to deploy the military, but caution that doing so would be unwise without the support of state governors:

“The president pretty clearly has the authority to send in the military under the Insurrection Act… Invoking this law would not constitute imposing a dictatorship or waging a war on the American people any more than when George H. W. Bush did it during the Los Angeles riots in 1992, when Lyndon Johnson did it during riots in 1968, or when Dwight Eisenhower did it to enforce federal desegregation law in 1957. There is no justice and no liberty without order and the rule of law…

“That said, it’s hard to see how Trump could, as a practical matter, invoke the Insurrection Act over the objections of state and local officials. Having hostile and competing authorities trying to police the same out-of-control streets is not a formula for success. The main utility of talking of the Insurrection Act may be in prodding states to be more forceful in their response.”
The Editors, National Review

“As it stands today, the Insurrection Act gives the president sweeping power to use the military for domestic law enforcement — even if local and state officials don’t seek his help — while leaving the factual determination that the military is necessary entirely to him. As has been true for many other delegations of national security powers to the president, scholars have warned Congress for years of the need to impose more aggressive checks and accountability mechanisms — to no avail…

“But there is also widespread concern that domestic use of the military is bad policy, if not affirmatively corrosive to the rule of law — and that the military’s job is to fight foreign enemies, not police American streets. This concern is supported by both military and political experts, not to mention advocates on the ground.”
Steve Vladeck, NBC News Think

Many on both sides are also critical of the photo op at St John’s Church:

“It was disgusting and horrific to see anarchist protestors try to burn down St. John’s Church in Washington the other night, but also unsettling and unseemly to have the President declare himself on the side of peace-loving protestors as tear gas rained down on nonviolent protestors 100 yards from the President just so he could walk over to St. John’s and hold a Bible in the air…

“President Trump has run a series of good ads with a tag line along the lines of ‘you may not like him, but you like his policies.’ It’s true. But women and independent voters increasingly don’t like his policies related to this sort of stuff because they are tired of the chaos and tie his [policies] to making the chaos worse. Using the Bible for a photo-op at a church after having tear gas fired off at nonviolent protestors to clear a path will win the President the votes of people who are already going to vote for him. He had the opportunity to move the needle with persuadable voters in a significant way and he did not.”
Erick Erickson, The Resurgent

“According to a Morning Consult poll conducted on Sunday and Monday, only 43 percent of evangelicals believe Trump has handled the George Floyd protests well, and that number is even lower among Catholics and people of color…

“Over the past week, as Americans have grieved the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis—and the country's long pattern of deadly racial violence—clergy of many religions and denominations have joined the ranks of protesters nationwide. They show up to march and yell, to hand out granola bars and water bottles, to open the doors of their churches when protesters’ eyes are burning from tear gas. Many of those same clergy are now filled with anger that, as they see it, the president is using the places where they worship as mere political props.”
Emma Green, The Atlantic

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The killings of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery all could have happened in the Obama administration… Trump was never the cause of the problem; he is the result of the problem. As Bryan Stevenson explains (for the thousandth time), there is not one single thing about the death of George Floyd that is remarkable or new. Not the killing in plain sight, not the complicity of the officers on site, and not the fact that it was captured on video. ‘Everything we are seeing is a symptom of a larger disease,’ Stevenson says…

“Donald Trump didn’t cause the death of George Floyd and the resulting outrage, but if he has his way, he will now cause a historic suspension of civil liberties, the arrests and deaths of peaceful protesters, mounting assaults on journalists, and the militarization of policing around the country.”
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

“Monday evening’s images of peaceful protesters in Washington, DC’s Lafayette Square being attacked and gassed by federal law enforcement officers were chilling… what’s even more alarming is the context. The officers began their assault just after 6:30 pm — less than half an hour before a 7 pm curfew that had already been ordered by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was set to take effect. Legally speaking, the crowd should have dispersed then and there would have been no problem with the president strolling across the park to do his photo op at St John’s Church…

“Trump’s politics are full of these little dominance rituals. To verbalize agreement with Trump because you genuinely agree with what he says proves nothing — it’s willingness to say things that neither you nor anyone else believes that truly proves your devotion. Monday night’s use of force was similar in structure but more alarming in practice. Would law enforcement officials fire tear gas at an unarmed crowd that wasn’t breaking the rules?... Doing it at 6:36 pm or so served no real purpose except to make the law enforcement action flagrantly abusive. And that itself sends a powerful message.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

“I’d say that the Nixon comparisons are off-base. Trump is the incumbent, so he’s not especially apt to pick up the support of undecided voters upset by the status quo. And Nixon was skilled at identifying issues that would put him on the side of large majorities, even at the cost of intensifying social fault lines. Trump is good at the inflaming part, but there’s just no evidence that he has any feel for where majorities are. Instead, while Nixon was willing to ignore ‘Goldwater conservatives’ to appeal to the broad middle of the electorate, Trump specializes in appealing to only his strongest supporters

“The idea that anyone other than Trump’s most dedicated supporters would find walking a block and back heroic seems … unlikely.”
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

From the Right

“Trump has a chance to prove he's not all bluster and broken promises to the law-and-order voters who gave him the Republican nomination, and the polling clearly shows he's blowing it. Even though the nation overwhelmingly supports peaceful protests and justice for Floyd… More than 7 in 10 overall voters support calling in the National Guard to supplement city police forces, including nearly 2 in 3 Clinton voters and nearly 9 in 10 Trump voters. And nearly 3 in 5 overall voters support calling in the military to supplement city police forces, with the backing of 46% of Clinton voters and 77% of Trump voters…

“Imagine a world in which Trump stopped tweeting, held solemn public remarks honoring Floyd, and promised to continue his legacy of criminal justice reform with a bill ending qualified immunity for police. When rioters inevitably hijacked the peaceful protests, he could immediately send in the military to shut the whole thing down without being accused of race-baiting. Instead, he ran his mouth while failing to prove he's a law-and-order president.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“I believe there are a significant number of people in this country who are outraged at the rioting, and want civil peace restored. These are natural conservatives; a conservative president ought to be able to speak for them and act on their behalf. And they are listening to and watching this president, and coming to realize that in the clutch, he’s choking… They may be thinking that the best interests of conservatism would be served by going into opposition for four years, and trying to rebuild, instead of spending the next four years having to defend this man…

“[However] If these riots continue, none of what I say here will matter in November. Trump can be as bad as he wants, but if ordinary people see the Democrats and their media lackeys making excuses for the rioters, they’ll vote Trump.”
Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

“As one American city after another has exploded into seemingly endless nights of violence in 2020 — every last one of these cities run by Democrats for years — the memories of the late 1960s and the political impact of riots surges. It recalls that the violence of that period pushed one issue to the forefront: law and order…

“There is no one who thinks that the murder of George Floyd was anything other than outrageous. But you can be certain that by the time election day arrives there will be plenty of talk about the repeated inability of Democrats in all these city halls and state houses to get order restored… Just as the repeated violence of the period between 1965 and 1968 helped to elect Richard Nixon — there will without doubt be a political impact with all of this rioting and violence in 2020.”
Jeffrey Lord, American Spectator

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.