Trump: He Just Can't
Get Out Of His Own Way
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
By Ray Cunneff
August 17, 2017
Only a couple of hours after the van attack in Barcelona, Spain that killed 13 and injured 50, Donald Trump issued an almost appropriately presidential Twitter response:
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona,
Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help.
Be tough & strong, we love you!
His nearly immediate condemnation of the Barcelona assault as a “terror” attack stood in stark contrast to how he reacted to Saturday's vehicle attack at a white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed 32 year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer and injured 19 others.
In that case, although there have been numerous examples of Trump jumping to conclusions before the facts were in, he claimed it took him two days to issue an ambiguous condemnation of the violence because he wanted to make to make sure he got all the facts right, then claimed "both sides" were responsible for the violence.
In the almost universal outcry that followed, Trump's handlers apparently convinced him to repair the damage on Monday with a robotic reading of a carefully scripted statement condemning the neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacists, looking unhappy and utterly insincere throughout.
Then on Tuesday, at a press conference that was supposed to be about infrastructure, Trump completely undid Monday's damage control by doubling down, returning to his earlier "two sides" false equivalency between the violent hate groups and a figment of far right imagination he called the "alt-left", something that doesn't exist in any organized way.
The various groups that took part in Saturday’s “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville against plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, cheered the president's remarks, some going so far as to say they were glad the woman died and to threaten that there would likely be more deaths before they got what they wanted. And the president seemed alternately indifferent or oblivious to the firestorm he'd created on both sides of the aisle.
Donald Trump just can't help himself, repeatedly stepping on his message and agenda, regurgitating often ludicrous conspiracy theories, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And he did it again today.
Not long after issuing his seemingly presidential Barcelona tweet, he tweeted again 45 minutes later, repeating a thoroughly debunked anecdote that he cited several times during his campaign, saying people should “study what General Pershing” did to terrorists when he caught them.
Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump
Study what General Pershing of the United States
did to terrorists when caught. There was no more
Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
The reference is to a story about U. S. Army General John “Black Jack” Pershing that Trump told during his 2016 campaign. He claimed that in the aftermath of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, during the Moro Rebellion, Pershing “took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood” and shot and killed 49 Muslim rebels. (For Muslims, ingesting pork is a sin, and pig's blood is considered unholy.)
To the 50th rebel Pershing supposedly said, "You go back to your people and tell them what happened" And Trump said, "For 35 years, there wasn’t a problem”.
But the story is not true. Historians can find no record of this incident. Snopes, a myth-busting site, came to the same conclusion: "We haven't yet found any references to this alleged incident in Pershing biographies, nor does it match the way Pershing is generally recorded as having dealt with the Moros in 1911".
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol tweeted:
Trump should visit Section 34 of Arlington
National Cemetery to personally apologize before
the gravestone of Gen. Pershing.