Ghosts of rhetoric past
President Trump will visit Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday to "grieve with them, pray with them, offer condolences" after back-to-back mass shootings that left 22 victims dead in El Paso and nine in Dayton, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. Trump also wants "to have a conversation" about ways to head off future mass shootings, he added. "That's a tough assignment for a president who thrives on division and whose aides say he views discord and unease about cultural, economic, and demographic changes as key to his re-election," The Associated Press notes.
Officials in both cities are wary of Wednesday's visits. El Paso residents and lawmakers have asked Trump to stay away, saying his anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric contributed to the shootings, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Tuesday that while she will meet with Trump on Wednesday, she was disappointed with his short-lived calls for post-shooting unity Monday. "Everyone has it in their power to be a force to bring people together, and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart — that's up to the president of the United States," she said.
On Tuesday night, Trump tweeted that one of his El Paso critics, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D), "should respect the victims & law enforcement — & be quiet!" O'Rourke "is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him," Trump added, an apparent reference to their dueling El Paso rallies in February. And as CNN noted Tuesday night, Trump's rhetoric at that February rally seems unlikely to endear him to El Paso residents on Wednesday.
In a USA Today/Ipsos poll conducted Monday and Tuesday, 50 percent of respondents — including 23 percent of Republicans — said Trump bore some responsibility for the shootings, and 69 percent said racism and white nationalism was a contributing factor.