As you know, at a rally on Wednesday, when Trump engaged in his nine-zillionth fact-challenged attack on U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (about whom he never tires of talking because she is both black and Muslim), the president’s admirers started chanting “Send her back,” presumably meaning back to Somalia, where she was born. (She is now a U.S. citizen.)
Trump now claims that he disagreed with this “send her back” chant, and disapproved of it, although “sending” Omar back to Somalia, is not so different from Trump’s own position, which is that she should just “go back” there, rather than stay here and criticize anything in America, including the way he is running the country.
Watching the tape of the “send her back” moment, it’s clear that Trump did nothing to silence the chant, nor to express any disagreement at the time. Exactly what if anything he disagreed with is also unclear, not only to me but apparently to Trump.
Trump could, of course, have expressed his disagreement. He was holding the microphone. He didn’t do that. Trump suggests that he tried to show his disapproval. This is roughly impossible to reconcile with what occurred. We’ve seen Trump when he feels like telling someone to shut up. This was not that.
Trump claimed that he showed his disapproval by resuming his speech as quickly as he could, to cut off the chanting of “Send her back.” I repeated his “explanation” in an addendum to my own post of yesterday, because I hadn’t watched the tape. But it was a lie.
I’ve now reviewed the footage. Not only did Trump not quickly resume his speech (he waited for 13 seconds, but hey, it’s not the number of seconds that counts) he waited until the chanting of “Send Her Back” had ended on its own. He did nothing to stop it. He waited till it stopped. What would he have done if it had kept going, picked up support, grown louder? We’ll never know.
The only thing you can give him credit for — if credit is the word — is that he didn’t lead or join the chant of “send her back.” Just waited till it stopped on its own. No Nobel nomination for courage or civility will be forthcoming for this, but at least he didn’t lead or join the chant calling for a sitting member of Congress to be deported for being insufficiently grateful for being allowed to live in Trump’s America. An America which, one gathers, Rep. Omar believes still has room for improvement.
So I wanted to clarify that, because until I watched the tape I had taken Trump at his word that he had done something to end the chant. That was a lie.
But over rest of the day my mind drifted back to a famous incident involving the honorable Republican nominee and war hero Sen. John McCain, who ran against Barack Obama in the 2008 election. In this incident, as McCain led a rally — in Minnesota, as it happens — he engaged in a back-and-forth exchange with a woman in the audience. She said that she was worried about the idea of Obama as president, and that she didn’t trust Obama “because he’s an Arab.”
(I assume she meant that Obama was a Muslim, which he wasn’t, but his step-father was Indonesian. Obama spent four years of his youth in Indonesia, his stepfather’s homeland. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country. Anyway, Obama was and is Christian.)
McCain didn’t exploit the moment. He didn’t exhort the crowd to express their feelings about the possibility of an Arab or a Muslim president. He didn’t leave it hanging. He didn’t embarrass the poor woman any more than she had already embarrassed herself. He didn’t hesitate at all after her inaccurate statement about Obama. He just took the microphone from her and said “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man that I just happen to have difference with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
Read that quote again. It’s kinda wonderful. It’s on this video here. It’s only a minute but if you watch it from the beginning, you get to see McCain do two classy things.
Before you see McCain with the ‘Obama’s an Arab’ lady, you’ll also see McCain take a question from a man who said he was “scared of an Obama presidency,” to which McCain replied that Obama, “is a decent person, and a person you do not have to be scared of [having] as president of the United States. But if I didn’t think I’d be a heck of a lot better president, I wouldn’t be running. And that’s the point.”
Maybe that was the point. But the point now is that just eight years before the Republican Party nominated Trump, they nominated a man who went out of his way to tell the audience and the world that his opponent with the funny name was not scary, not an Arab or a Muslim, just someone with whom he had important differences of opinion on where America should go in the quadrennium to follow.
Rest in peace, John McCain, a very decent person. What would you have done if someone had advised you to tell a gaggle of young women in Congress to go back where they came from?