Groundhog Daze

The title of today’s post is derived from waking up every morning to some unprecedented statement or action by Donald Trump which, in a different environment, would disqualify any other candidate for president of the United States.  I call it the “All You Need to Know” syndrome.  This morning there are more examples to add to the list.

Last night, at what the Washington Post called a “historic” event, two ex-presidents joined the incumbent at a Radio City Music Hall, star-studded gala that raised a record $26 million dollars in support of Joe Biden’s re-election and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.  There were three takeaways from this event, two of which are being widely reported.

#1.  This morning, Jamie Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee pointed out “every penny is being spent on opening field offices to register new voters and to make sure they show up on election day.” He felt no need to explicitly add, “In contrast to the Republican National Committee…”  This is one case where, by simply reporting facts about the Trump takeover of the RNC and the distribution of “campaign” donations, print and broadcast news is carrying this water for the Biden campaign.

#2. Mark Leibovich, staff writer at The Atlantic, reminded “Morning Joe” viewers that “while Biden was flanked by the two living, two-term, former Democratic presidents, Donald Trump stands alone on the stage.”  In other words, do not hold your breath waiting for a GOP fundraiser featuring Trump and George W. Bush.  Scarborough jumped in and added, neither would you see a former Republican vice-president (including Trump’s own), presidential nominee or vice-presidential nominee, with of course the exception of Sarah Palin.  Leibovich added two more categories to the list, former Speakers of the House John Boehner and Paul Ryan or soon to be former Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  In this game of “Can You Top This,” Scarborough completed the tabulation with Trump’s three secretaries of defense, two secretaries of state, first two chiefs of staff, etc.

The one that everyone missed, which in hindsight may prove to be the most important, was the pro-Palestinian protests outside the event and an interruption of Biden’s and Barack Obama’s comments about the Israel/Gaza conflict.  This “all you need to know” moment required an observer to read between the lines.  It seems Palestinian sympathizers have regularly appeared at almost every Democratic rally or event since the beginning of primary season.  On January 31, Ed Pilkington of The Guardian reported, “This month all of Biden’s big set-piece speeches marking the launch of his re-election campaign have been disrupted by pro-Palestinian protests.”  To be fair, the same did happen at one Nikki Haley rally.  On February 1, Filip Timotija of The Hill led his coverage of a Haley event with the following.  “A small group of protesters interrupted the former governor’s campaign event in Columbia, S.C., with chants of “Free, Free Palestine,” before some of them were escorted out of the event.” 

However, when I Goggled, “pro-Palestinian protests at Trump events,” the search produced more articles about last night’s fundraiser or other confrontations with Biden or his surrogates.  At the bottom of the web page, there was a report attributed to New Hampshire Public Radio about protesters outside a Trump appearance at the University of New Hampshire.  The demonstration was organized by UNH’s Palestinian Solidarity Group which implored both Biden and Trump to end what they believe to be “genocide” of Palestinian civilians.  When asked why she was there, protest organizer Adeena Ahsan, a UNH graduate student told NHPR reporter Sarah Gibson “they weren’t just protesting the current and former presidents’ foreign policy positions. They also wanted to push back on their school’s decision to give Trump a platform.”  She added, “We think it’s insane that we are paying for this, not the city of Durham, not Trump’s campaign up front — our tuition is going towards this.”

There may be a lot of reasons Palestinian supporters do not have the same presence at Trump or GOP rallies as similar Democratic events.  Maybe, they believe that Biden, the current president, can do more for their cause than a mere candidate.  Maybe, they think the Biden administration is more receptive to their concerns about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  But there is one more big difference, which is all you need to know.

When the protesters interrupted President Biden at last night’s Radio City Music Hall event, he replied, “That’s alright, let them go. … there are too many innocent victims, Israeli and Palestinian.”  Obama used the disruption as a teaching moment about the job of being president.

One of the realities of the presidency is that the world has a lot of joy and beauty, but it also has a lot of tragedy and cruelty,  I think people understandably oftentimes want to feel a certain surety in terms of how those decisions are made. But a president doesn’t have that luxury.

When he was again interrupted, Obama drew the comparison that exemplifies the choice we have this November.

No, no listen. You can’t just talk and not listen. … That’s what the other side does. And it is possible for us to understand that it is possible to have moral clarity and have deeply held beliefs, but still recognize that the world is complicated and it is hard to solve these problems.

We do not have to imagine how Trump would respond to these protesters.  We have his record.  “Can’t you just shoot them?  Just shoot them in the legs or something?” he asked former Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the occasion of Black Lives Matters protests in front of the White House.  In July 2017, in a speech to Long Island law enforcement officials, Trump said, “Please don’t be too nice,” implying he approved of roughing up suspects during arrests.  In August 2020 he considered sending the National Guard to Portland, Oregon to quell protests, stating, “We could fix Portland in, I would say, 45 minutes.”

Why do Palestinian supporters show up at Democratic and not Republican events?  They know they may be removed from the venue or lectured to by a former president.  They also know they will leave the event alive and unharmed.  Would they be as sure of that same outcome at a Trump rally when he is only a candidate?  Do they think a negative outcome will be less likely if he once again controls the departments of defense, homeland security and justice?  That is all they need to remember when they vote this fall.

For what it’s worth.