As the unduly elected father figure of his country, the president of the United States now reaches out and abuses his very own children. This time it’s the children of the city of Baltimore, under attack because Donald J. Trump cannot abide criticism from anyone, much less Rep. Elijah Cummings.
It is one awful thing to criticize this president, but far worse to criticize while black. This we have learned most recently from Trump’s attacks on four congressional Democrats, all women of color, whom he told, “Go back” to where they came from.
Now he’s upped the ante.
In his tweet of Saturday, July 27, Trump called Cummings’ district “a disgusting rat and rodent infested mess.”
Then, reaching for new levels of incivility, he said, “No human being would want to live there.”
What drove Trump to his latest frenzy? Cummings dared to criticize conditions at the Southern border, which the president called “clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded.”
Never mind that people who have actually paid attention have called conditions there a disgrace to American values.
But conditions in Cummings’ West Baltimore, Trump declared, are “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than those for immigrants held at the Southern border.
In West Baltimore, they don’t separate terrified children from their distraught parents.
In West Baltimore, they don’t stack 200 people into claustrophobic cages, some of them seated on the floor, some standing, wherever they can find a little space, wondering when they might be released.
In West Baltimore, they don’t force people – grownups and children – to go days without showers, or brush their teeth, or change their clothes.
In West Baltimore, they don’t have children standing over toilets so foul and so fetid that children are throwing up inside them.
In West Baltimore they don’t lock up people who have run from their home countries out of sheer terror for their lives and found themselves treated in America like…well, like rats.
But, according to first-hand observers, and according to people who have lived through it, all these conditions have been documented at the Southern border.
As Cummings declared last week, “What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces, can’t take a shower? Come on, man. What is that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings.”
In Trump’s tweets, he said Cummings’ West Baltimore “is considered the Worst in the USA.”
It’s undeniable, there’s some dreadful poverty in West Baltimore, and a lot of people out of work, and there’s the resulting crime and sheer desperation.
Other presidents might look at this and wish fervently to help. After all, the president is the nation’s father figure, and these are his spiritual children. Such presidents might even wish to send federal aid to help such a needy area.
This president sent his remarks about Cummings and West Baltimore at 7:15 Saturday morning. At 11:15 Saturday, according to the official White House schedule, Trump was on his way to the Trump National Golf Club, Potomac Falls, Va.
He does this a lot.
In fact, he does it so much that you could clean up parts of West Baltimore with all the money spent by American tax payers to finance all of the golfing this president and his various entourages – official and unofficial, including deep-pocket campaign contributors – have cost all of us.
How much, altogether?
A few months ago, Newsweek put the figure at $102 million. So did Huffington Post. This month’s Harper’s Magazine says it’s up to $106 million. Before he’s done, says Forbes Magazine, “Trump’s golf trips could cost taxpayers over $340 million.”
Imagine how much good such money could do for Baltimore – or scores of similarly impoverished cities.
At last count, the president had gone on at least 194 different golf outings – all but three of them to Trump’s own courses. This, from the guy who told campaign crowds, “I love golf, but if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again. I don’t ever think I’d see anything. I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off.”
Instead, he shoots his mouth off. He attacks an American city. In the process, he attacks his own children.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books, most recently “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age” (Johns Hopkins University Press).
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