Speed Reads

George Floyd protests

Trump allies aren't sure he can, or even should, try to unite the country amid George Floyd protests

As protesters took to the street across the U.S. Sunday for another day of demonstrations against racial injustice, police brutality, and the killing of George Floyd, "President Trump stayed safely ensconced inside and had nothing to say, besides tweeting fuel on the fire," The Washington Post reports. "That was by design. Trump and some of his advisers calculated that he should not speak to the nation because he had nothing new to say and had no tangible policy or action to announce yet."

Trump and his advisers considered, but decided against, an Oval Office address, and "aides first want him to embark on a listening tour of sorts to develop constructive ideas," the Post reports. One "group of advisers discussed plans for a series of 'listening' events," The New York Times adds. "But others have counseled that the president should take a hard line." The Times continues:

Some in the president's circle see the escalations as a political boon, much in the way Richard M. Nixon won the presidency on a law-and-order platform after the 1968 riots. One adviser to Mr. Trump, who insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations, said images of widespread destruction across the country could be helpful to the law-and-order message that Mr. Trump has tried to project since his 2016 campaign. The adviser said that it could particularly appeal to older women at a time when Mr. Trump's support among seniors has eroded amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected them. [The New York Times]

"It is an open question," the Post notes, "whether Trump aspires to unite. There is ample evidence that he does not, as he built a political strategy around pitting groups against one another and declaring winners and losers."

And then there's the question of whether he is even capable of being a unifier. Most previous presidents, facing national crises, "have found a way to rise to the occasion, even if it meant swallowing hard and suppressing some of their own anger and frustration," Rutgers history professor David Greenberg told the Post. "There's no mystery that Trump is not sticking to the normal presidential script here."

"Trump is far more divisive than past presidents," GOP donor and Trump supporter Dan Eberhart tells the Times. "His strength is stirring up his base, not calming the waters."