opinion

‘Very Fine People’

Trump’s Despicable Terror Double Standard

Dean Obeidallah
11.01.17 1:07 PM ET

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

There have been four deadly terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on Trump’s watch. After three of them, Trump stayed silent or took days to respond. But in response to the fourth, he took to Twitter within hours calling for a new policy to address the threat.

You know why: The first three involved white supremacists, while the fourth involved a Muslim immigrant.

To Trump, everything is a calculated partisan exercise—even his response to terrorism. Despicably, deplorably, Trump is more concerned with serving up red meat to his dwindling base than with keeping you or your family safe.

In March, 28-year-old self-professed white supremacist James Jackson travelled from his home in Maryland to New York City for the express purpose of murdering African Americans. He did just that to 66-year-old redeemer Timothy Caughman before he was arrested.

Jackson explained himself afterward: He wanted to kill black men to keep them from dating white women because “the white race is being eroded.”

This was an act of terrorism—and that’s not just my view. The Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance formally charged Jackson with terrorism.  As Vance stated, Jackson “prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate.”

Not a peep from Trump.

Then there was the white supremacist terror attack in Portland, Oregon that left two dead in May. The attacker there was Jeremy Joseph Christian, a 35-year-old white man, who had been spewing hateful comments about a young Muslim woman in a hijab and her friend on the train. Two brave Americans who stood up for these young women were stabbed to death by Christian, whose history of white supremacist views had been well-documented.  He had been a “vocal participant” in an alt-right rally where he had been observed giving a Nazi salute. Christian had also posted on Facebook Neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic material, including catchphrases by well-known white supremacist Richard Spencer.

Again, Trump stayed silence. And only after days of growing media criticism over Trump’s silence, did the official White House official POTUS account tweet: “The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

And then there was, of course, the August terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia where Heather Heyer was killed and others were wounded when a white supremacist intentionally drove his car into a crowd of people protesting hate and bigotry.  Trump was silent for three days before a tidal wave of criticism shamed him into speaking.

And even then, Trump defended his silence: "I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct.” He continued, in a combative press conference,  to stunningly blame “both sides” adding that there “were very fine people on both sides.” Trump even passionately defended the Confederate statutes that the white supremacists had taken to the streets in support of keeping up.

Did Trump call for any policy changes to address these three deadly terror attacks? Nope.

But after Tuesday’s terror attack in New York City by a Muslim immigrant from Uzbekistan Trump didn’t wait for all the facts. He didn’t need to be shamed by the media into commenting. He didn't have to thoughtfully weigh competing options.

Instead, Trump took to Twitter within hours to tweet: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”  

(Even after the horrific mass murder in Vegas that left 59 American dead, Trump refused to call for changes to our laws to save American lives. Instead, Trump offered up the standard NRA line days after that tragedy: “We're not going to talk about that today.")

Wednesday morning, Trump again did the unthinkable—politicizing the New York City terror attack by personally blaming it on Senator Chuck Schumer. Trump shockingly  tweeted: “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.”

The truth is that while Schumer championed the bipartisan Diversity Lottery program, it was signed into law in 1990 by Republican President George H.W. Bush.  But we know facts don’t matter to Trump—especially while demonizing political opponents or minorities.

And by early Wednesday afternoon, Trump declared to the press before a cabinet meeting his intention to end the  Diversity Visa Lottery. He also added passionately that we must stop being “politically correct” and “get smarter and tougher” in dealing with this threat. Again, a far cry from his reaction to white supremacist terrorism.  

In the coming days we may see Trump go even further, perhaps calling for an expansion of his Muslim ban to additional nations. He may call for more unconstitutional profiling of American Muslims simply because of our faith. He may even call for a moratorium on all immigration for a period of time.

But what Trump won’t do is ever use the term “white supremacist terrorism” or call for sweeping policies to counter that threat. (In fact, he cut funding to counter it.) The reason being Trump knows his base loves the Muslim- and immigrant-bashing but they would never forgive him for cracking down on white supremacists.

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