In the aftermath of the synagogue murders in Pittsburgh, it was nice to hear the president of the United States say the proper words about anti-Semitism.
He said he’s against it.
It would have been nicer if he didn’t follow that statement by joking within hours about nearly cancelling a campaign rally because he was having “a bad hair day.” Or throw in comments that same evening about the questionable strategic moves of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, only days after bodies lined a synagogue sanctuary.
It’s nice that this president declares in general terms that he’s against bigotry. But it might be nicer, as we head down the home stretch to next Tuesday’s midterm elections, if he said something specific about it – such as deploring the record of Iowa Rep. Steve King, a fellow Republican who’s up for reelection.
King’s been around for eight terms despite – or maybe because of – his record of racially charged remarks over the years, most recently his endorsement of a white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto and King’s meeting with Austrian white nationalists.
King’s actions, and his words, have drawn the embarrassment of fellow Republicans, and even some GOP rebukes, though not from Trump. King blames the backlash on “fake news.”
Gee, where did he pick up such a phrase?
King once tweeted a political cartoon depicting President Barack Obama wearing a turban. Two weeks ago, he endorsed Canadian political commentator Faith Goldy in her race for mayor of Toronto. A white nationalist, Goldy has previously given voice to the manifesto recited by neo-Nazis.
Last spring, King re-tweeted an anti-immigration message from a prominent Nazi sympathizer who’s described himself as an admirer of Hitler. Then, the other day came reports that King met in August with members of an Austrian political party associated with neo-Nazi movements. The meeting came after King visited Holocaust sites – on a trip funded by From the Depths, a nonprofit organization committed to perpetuating the memory of the Shoah.
In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue murders, it’s been heartening to see the outpouring of grief and support for victims’ families from people of all racial and religious backgrounds. But it’s been depressing to note the Anti-Defamation League’s reports of increased anti-Semitic acts around the country over the past couple of years.
So it’s nice that this president declares he’s against acts of anti-Semitism. But he’s the same guy who found “good people” among the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville; the same guy who’s campaigned for a ban against Muslims; the same guy who opened his presidential campaign talking about Mexican “rapists”; the same guy who looks at a caravan of desperate souls trying to walk to the United States from Central America – many of them women and children fleeing violence and poverty – and declares it an “invasion.”
Every one of those remarks is simply a variation on a theme, which is intolerance.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent book, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, is now in paperback.