Donald Trump exploits the terror attack in New York for his own political ends. He rages against immigrants, the rule of law and the wounded state’s top politicians and he does so shamelessly and shrewdly.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost. [...] There's a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.”
Her boss, U.S. President Donald Trump, agreed: “At some point, perhaps that [time for debate] will come. But that’s not for now.”
This is what they said—after October’s Las Vegas massacre. The shooter was a white American, the “political debate” revolved around the lax gun laws in the U.S., and nothing happened, as always.
After the terror attack in New York, Trump waited only two hours before shamelessly exploiting it for his own political ends. He distorted the facts. He mocked the American rule of law. He sowed discord. He attacked the political leaders of the wounded state.
He only gave his condolences to the mayor, a Democrat, a day later. It was typical Trump behavior. As he did in earlier catastrophes, both overseas and at home, he adopted the wrong tone, was clumsy instead of presidential. However, this time he has gone one step further, shamelessly and shrewdly.
“You play into the hands of the terrorists,” stated an indignant Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor from Queens, about New York exile Donald Trump, who is also from Queens, but has been long the subject of ridicule in his hometown. “[Y]ou disrupt and divide and frighten people in this society.”
That is all Trump wants. His motives are transparent. He wants to rile up the nationalistic and populist voters, to cement his position of power and distract from the Russian scandal.
The Geneva Conventions As an Annoying “Problem”
He has come up with a new point of contention. He has threatened to cancel the visa lottery used by the alleged attacker in 2010 to make it to the U.S. from Uzbekistan without regard for the fact that the attacker only became radicalized later, and that only 50,000 immigrants per year benefit from the lottery after strict background checks. It would not curb the danger of terrorism, but it would hinder (legal!) immigration, and who wants immigrants anyway? Not the white base, not Fox News, not Trump.
He does not blame only the visa lottery for the attack, though. He has the chutzpah to hold New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, responsible. Trump claims that the lottery was his idea. Nevertheless, George H.W. Bush signed the bill into law in 1990, with the blessing of both parties. A lie in a lie in a lie in order to smear the opponent.
Moreover, Trump wants to dump the attacker in Guantanamo, the detention camp for terrorists. A quick reminder: Guantanamo, which was set up after the 9/11 attacks to imprison “enemy combatants,” is actually supposed to close for several reasons: because human rights abuses occurred there, because it was of little help in the eternal war against terrorism, because it hurt the United States' image and became the symbol of the guilt incurred by the country during the “War on Terror.”
However, Trump considers the rule of law “a joke, and [...] a laughing stock,” as he stated contemptuously on Wednesday. He prefers “quick justice” and “strong justice,” thus remaining true to himself and to his anti-democracy idols. During the election campaign, he had already labeled the Geneva Conventions as an annoying “problem” which did nothing more than prevent America’s soldiers from torturing and “[chopping] off heads.”
These are the words of an autocrat. Or of someone who admires autocrats. Or of someone who does not know what he is talking about. Sometimes, this is what happens with terrorism, mourning and tragedies: They bring out the worst in people.