President Donald Trump led chin first on his visit to the site of the most recent skirmish between Black Lives Matter protesters and the general citizenry of Kenosha, WI. On the heels of labeling himself the “law and order” candidate at last week’s Republican convention, the visit alarmed some, appeased others, and drove the media further into the black hole of insanity.
Wisconsin’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, wasn’t warm and fuzzy with anticipation for the president’s visit. Earlier this week, he wrote to Trump, asking that the president reconsider or reschedule, citing that his presence would “only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
America could almost hear the stationery crumpling in the Oval Office and hitting the official trash receptacle.
But several Kenosha County Board members buoyed the president in his decision in their own letter:
“Please do not cancel your plans to visit Kenosha to meet with citizens and business owners devastated by the violence that took place this past week. Kenoshans are hurting and looking for leadership, and your leadership in this time of crisis is greatly appreciated by those devastated by the violence in Kenosha.”
And so it was wheels up at 11:05 and a whirlwind visit of fewer than four hours to the latest BLM debacle, replete with a visit to ground zero of recent riots and off to a local high school for a roundtable discussion on safety.
What didn’t happen was a visit with the family of the man shot seven times by police. Jacob Blake’s family opted for a vigil for their now-paralyzed son in front of the house of Blake’s former girlfriend, where the incident took place. She had called police after he allegedly sexually assaulted her, again, and stole her car keys. The birth of a BLM hero?
The first punch landed minutes after Air Force One as Trump addressed assembled media and told them they were the cause of increasing violence by fueling the flames. One question was whether or not the president wanted to bridge “racial gaps.” Trump went back to the message: “The black community, they want police to help them stop crime. The Hispanic community, they want police. They don’t want crime. They don’t want to be mugged.”
After touring the local devastation that BLM and Antifa protesters inflicted on residents and businesses, the Wisconsin Safety Roundtable convened. Those present included local affected business owners, to whom Trump promised financial assistance to rebuild. With the U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), U.S. Representative Bryan Steil (R-WI), local government officials, and one old friend, former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, in attendance.
Trump praised the decisiveness of Kenosha and Wisconsin’s swift response in calling in the help they needed from the National Guard. He offered, “We’re all safe because of law enforcement. We have to condemn anti-law enforcement rhetoric,” and Kenosha was “Decisive, tough, and willing to bring people in.”
The administration also reassured local business owners present that there would be help from the federal government. Trump pledged $1 million to Kenosha law enforcement, $4 million to help small businesses rebuild, and another $42 million for state resources, saying, “law enforcement and prosecutors … when you grab them and have to put them back on the street, that’s not helpful.”
Still in a Huddle
The 900-pound gorilla in the room was the absence of talk about the reason Kenosha exploded: The shooting of Jacob Blake by police and the charges against the teenager Kyle Rittenhouse. Trump did not spend much time on either subject. He did assure that he had been in touch with the Blake family’s pastor, and it was a better decision to have the investigation done locally – without lawyers – and did say, “I feel terribly for anybody that goes through that.”
For young Rittenhouse, the idea was the same: Let local law enforcement complete the investigation without interference. These two problems were not going to be solved in a four-hour visit. But, what did happen was a megaphone message to other cities about how to keep peace and protect citizens.
Perhaps Trump’s message of law and order and optimism was just what Kenosha needed, and as for the president, who was well-received, he said it best: “There was love on streets of Wisconsin.”
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.