No one wanted the president to go to Kenosha. Not the governor of Wisconsin, Tony Evers. Not the mayor of Kenosha, John Antaramin. And probably not a majority of Kenoshans. And so Donald Trump decided that the only thing that made sense was for him to go to Kenosha. Look, Trump was coming off a grueling weekend of golf and tweeting. He needed to do something. And what better way to not ease racial tension than for President George Wallace, I mean Donald J. Trump, to go to Kenosha.
Trump doesn't really understand how to be president, but he also doesn’t really understand how to pretend to be president. It's like he’s never seen an episode of The West Wing or even Veep. Trump knows he needs to win Wisconsin in order to stay president and not go to jail, but since Trump doesn’t really understand what the president does, there’s an odd somewhat tragic and slightly hilarious disconnect. Trump is like an actor in a play about the presidency, but he’s forgotten all his lines.
The president, or as I like to think of him, the easer of racial tensions—just kidding—distinguished himself Monday by defending alleged killer Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with six criminal counts involving the deaths of two protesters. Trump defended the murderer by saying lamely, “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.” There is no evidence that the president’s hot take is correct.
But Trump couldn’t leave well enough alone, so he decided to head to the place no one wanted him: Wisconsin. Trump was asked by a reporter, “Your trip to Kenosha could exacerbate tension and increase violence. Do you give consideration to that?” And Trump responded, “Well, it could also increase enthusiasm. It could increase love and respect for our country.” Trump did once claim to have received a “very beautiful letter” from Kim Jong Un, so this all makes a lot of sense.
Before going to Kenosha, at Monday’s briefing, Trump told reporters, "I spoke with the pastor, wonderful man, the family's pastor, and I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved. They wanted me to speak but they wanted to have lawyers involved and I thought that was inappropriate so I didn't do that."
Needless to say, Jacob Blake’s family doesn’t have a pastor, according to Jacob Blake’s father.
But that wasn’t the weirdest thing he said Monday morning. That prize goes to this quote: “A person was on a plane, said there were about six people like that person, more or less, and what happened is the entire plane filled up with the looters, the anarchists, rioters, people looking for trouble. The person felt very uncomfortable on the plane.”
Then Trump got into his bulletproof-windowed SUV and went and posed in front of some really damaged buildings in order to highlight the damage to the buildings in Kenosha, because buildings are people too? Yes, Trump paid his respects to the buildings but not to the families of the two murdered men or the man who was shot in the back by the police, Jacob Blake. Trump didn’t have time for them.
After that, Trump held a Kenosha round table. He was joined by the terrifying Bill Barr and the oldest of old white guys, Sen. Ron Johnson, and the guy who looks like Paul Ryan and also holds Ryan’s old seat, Rep. Bryan Steil. He was joined by some local Wisconsin state representatives too.
Trump gave his usual lazy teleprompter Trump speech. It was, as many of Trump’s speeches are, filled with lies. It was also vaguely pro-police brutality, which is a hard needle to thread but the president managed to do it. There was then the usual North Korea-esque parade of compliments, where all the other people in the room had to tell Trump what a good job he was doing.
Trump denied the existence of systemic racism by saying, “We should talk about the kind of violence we've seen in Portland and here and other places… you have anarchists, and you have the looters, and you have the rioters… that’s what you should be focused on.” Trump never condemned Kyle Rittenhouse, but then he didn’t “wish him well” the way he did with accused child-sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell.
And then he went on to lie about the National Guard, according to PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor: “Officials in Wisconsin continue to stress that Pres. Trump is not telling the truth when he says law enforcement in Kenosha has been federalized. Gov. Evers deployed Wisconsin National Guard troops & got National Guard troops from other states. FBI & US Marshals are also helping.”
It was the typical Trump visit filled with lying and racism and some reality television flare. Did it inflame tensions in Kenosha? It’s too soon to know, but as Kellyanne Conway said earlier in the week, to the polymaths at Fox & Friends, “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.” So perhaps easing racial tensions was never the president’s goal.
Trump went to Kenosha because he needs to win Wisconsin so he won’t have to face prosecution for his numerous crimes. And as a Trump trip goes it wasn’t particularly insane, except for the fact that he went there in the first place against the wishes of local leaders begging him not to come. But the law-and-order president has no time for such frivolity as the will of lawmakers. And then of course, Trump did ignore all of the actual human victims of the crimes. But he did have fun wandering around posing for pictures in front of a burned-out lot because nothing says law and order like the president who respects neither, doing a fascist photo shoot in Wisconsin.