Having recently trashed the city of Baltimore, the least President Donald Trump might have done is take an actual glance at the place, just once, to see if he got it right.
But no, not a chance.
When Trump called Baltimore “disgusting … rodent-infested … where no human being would want to live” several weeks ago, he was talking about a certain section of Baltimore.
The part of Baltimore represented by Rep. Elijah Cummings, whose congressional investigation of Trump has royally ticked off this president.
The part where, not to put too fine a point on it, working-class and poor black people live.
The part of Baltimore Trump visited Thursday evening, Sept. 12, is a different Baltimore than the one this president trashed. It’s an eastside Baltimore. It’s a distinctly upscale Baltimore. It’s a Baltimore where people with money go to spend some of it without necessarily worrying about the price of things.
It’s a Baltimore with the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, where the rooms go for money that could cover a month’s rent in Elijah Cummings’ West Baltimore.
But Trump never got anywhere near that part of Baltimore. After all, it’s a good three or four miles from the eastside Baltimore where the president spoke. You wouldn’t expect him to go such an exhausting distance in his limousine to take a look at the section of an American city he trashed in front of the whole country.
Nope, Trump prefers to do his trashing from a distance, sight unseen, all sympathetic impulses untapped.
Instead, he went straight to the hotel where House Republicans gathered for a three-day retreat. They’re feeling a little nervous these days. Some are retreating straight out of politics.
They lost their House majority in the 2018 mid-terms, and they’ve watched Trump’s poll numbers teeter, and a bunch of them have already announced they’re retiring rather than face tough reelection chances next year.
And on Thursday, here came Trump in his motorcade, past hostile demonstrators as he headed east toward the Marriott. Some people chanted angrily. Some held up blistering signs. One had a huge inflatable rat, to remind Trump what he’d said about this city.
Well … a part of this city, anyway.
But like any American city, the city of Baltimore is more than one city. There’s the city of haves and the city of have-nots. There’s the city where people are getting along pretty well financially, and you can find them in places such as glittery Harbor East, where Trump spoke, which is filled with upscale places to eat and shop and spend the night in hotels, if they wish.
And there’s the city described so mercilessly by Trump several weeks ago.
So let’s be clear about this. Nobody in West Baltimore needs Donald Trump to tell them they’ve got problems.
What marks this president so tone-deaf, so heartless and so clueless about his role as the leader of the entire nation is his approach to people who need help.
He mocks them.
No other president in recent memory has ever trashed an American city. If they pointed out problems, such as intractable poverty, it was to assert their desire to help those who need it most.
Some of them even show up at such places. They walk the streets – the way Bill Clinton once walked Sandtown-Winchester in West Baltimore, the way George W. Bush once went to blighted North Chester Street in East Baltimore – to declare their concern and to say they want to help.
This president had a chance to make such a statement Thursday night.
He finds it more helpful to trash.
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).