Baltimore: Why Trump called it ‘disgusting’ and ‘infested’
Guess who just spent three days sending a torrent of angry, “racist tweets,” said Timothy O’Brien in Bloomberg.com. Yes, that’s right—it was the President of the United States. Reportedly upset by Rep. Elijah Cummings’ strong criticism of how people are being treated at border detention facilities, President Trump this weekend targeted the 68-year-old African-American chairman of the House Oversight Committee with a “racially charged salvo of alternately bigoted, hostile, and inaccurate insults.” Cummings himself is a “racist,” Trump tweeted without explanation, and his majority-black Maryland district, which includes Baltimore, is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Human beings obviously do live in Baltimore, said Charles Blow in The New York Times, but “rendering nonwhite people as subhuman” is a favorite trope of our blatantly racist president. Before and after he was elected, Trump has repeatedly used the degrading adjective “infested” to describe places where black and brown people live. As with his call for four nonwhite U.S. congresswomen—three of them U.S.-born—to “go back” to their “crime-infested” countries of origin, Trump’s rant against the “disgusting” city of Baltimore reveals how deeply, and sincerely, white supremacy is “fused to his sense of the world.”
If acknowledging Baltimore’s poverty and chaos makes one a “racist,” then President Trump has plenty of company, said Seth Barron in the New York Post. In a piece this March titled “The Tragedy of Baltimore,” The New York Times indicted the city—which boasts the highest homicide and overall crime rates in the U.S.—for “a failure of order and governance the likes of which few American cities have seen.” In 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders toured Cummings’ district and commented, “You would think that you were in a Third World country.” As for the supposedly telltale word “infested,” Cummings himself in 1999 described his own district as “drug-infested.” Are all these people racists? Or are they all, including Trump, simply “right about Baltimore?”
Oh, please, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com. Trump’s visceral “association of African-Americans with crime and filth” isn’t limited to Baltimore. It dates back to his real estate days, when denying apartments to blacks “was the basis of the Trump business model.” More recently, as Michael Cohen testified before Congress, Trump while driving through Chicago remarked that “only the blacks could live like this.” For the first time, we have a U.S. president who routinely enjoys “disparaging parts of his own country” as “disgusting hellholes.” Trump is “not even trying to be everyone’s president,” said Zachary Wolf in CNN.com. Trump’s “whole strategy” for 2020 is to “use race to divide the country” and hope angry whites turn out in sufficient numbers to re-elect him.
“It overly flatters Trump” to assume his embrace of overt racism is part of some grand political strategy, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. More likely it’s a howl of “naked fear” from a president who sees himself badly trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 polls. He is also unnerved by continuing efforts by House Democrats to get his tax returns and records of foreign business relationships. “He has reason to be very afraid.” Baltimore does have its problems, including rodents, said The Baltimore Sun in an editorial. But at the risk of stooping to his level, we’d say this to “the most dishonest,” most immoral, and most incompetent man ever to occupy the Oval Office: “Better to have a few vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.” ■