Divided we stand
The latest American carnage has prompted ever-louder condemnations of President Donald Trump as a divider. On a day when he was traveling to visit people shattered by the Dayton and El Paso massacres, Trump hurled defensive scorn.
On Twitter, he jeered at presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who had called Trump a racist who invites violence: "Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O’Rourke ... should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!" Trump also bragged in the tweet of being the more popular of the two in O'Rourke's home state of Texas.
Former Vice President Joe Biden ramped it up, too. “How far is it from Trump’s saying this ‘is an invasion’ to the shooter in El Paso declaring his attack is a response to ‘the Hispanic invasion of Texas’? Not far at all,” Biden said in a speech in Burlington, Iowa.
Part of Trump's defense consists of calling attention to the Dayton, Ohio, shooter's views as expressed on social media. Slain killer Connor Betts described himself as a leftist, expressed “pro-Satan” sentiments, and stated support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Trump insisted his rhetoric "brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well." He added: "My critics are political people" who are looking for "political gain." He also carped about a newspaper headline.
While in Dayton, Trump broke from past practice and did not allow himself to be photographed at a hospital. He avoided reporters there. Anti-Trump protesters appeared, but so did a few opponents to changing gun laws in reaction to the latest massacres. One sign read: "Red Flag is Dystopic Future."
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, confronted Trump about gun control and endorsed his refraining from visiting the scene of the shooting or making a speech. "A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive and that’s the last thing we need in Dayton," she said. Once out of town, Trump tweeted condemnation of her news conference with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who he falsely said ran for president, as a "fraud." "As we said, the victims and first responders were comforted by his presence," Whaley tweeted in response.
Using a public disclosure document, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) tweeted a list of San Antonio donors who gave the maximum to Trump 2020. He's an identical twin of Julian Castro, who's running for president. The congressman said, rather conventionally, that these contributors were fueling a campaign of hate that labels Hispanic immigrants as "invaders."
National GOP operatives raised a fuss and evoked a threat. Donald Trump Jr. joined the pile-on by comparing it to Dayton shooter Connor Betts having created a rape-and-kill list when he was in high school.
"No one was targeted or harassed in my post," Castro said of Junior's odd contrivance. "You know that. All info is routinely published."
Raising their sights
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted on Wednesday that any new gun regulation bill, such as a grant program to develop special protection orders to take guns from those deemed dangerous, must include universal background checks.
“We Democrats are not going to settle for half measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side,” Schumer said in a statement. “Democrats in the Senate will seek to require that any [protective order] bill that comes to the floor is accompanied by a vote on the House-passed universal background checks legislation.”
Keeping the other cheek turned against North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's provocative missile tests and vague threats, Trump sought on Wednesday to claim a victory — by crowing that South Korea will pay the U.S. more for its defense.
“South Korea is a very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defense provided by the United States of America," Trump tweeted. "The relationship between the two countries is a very good one!”
But South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said cost-sharing talks had not officially started.
Zero Venezuela progress
Despite months of White House talk about getting a failed dictatorship to give up the ghost in Venezuela, amid an exodus of millions from the nation, posturing from outside allies of the entrenched Maduro government continues with no change in sight.
This week's announced U.S. embargo met with hostile responses from both Russia and China, as the Newsweek website reports.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the U.S. committed "gross interference in Venezuela's internal affairs and severely violates basic norms governing international relations."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Kazkharova said Tuesday that "Washington continues to wage economic terrorism against Caracas in its customary 'cowboy' manner."
Hamptons fete blasted
Longtime Trump social acquaintance Stephen Ross, a billionaire best known for his Related Companies construction business, is facing flak on social media for his planned up-to-$250,000-a-plate Trump fundraiser in the Hamptons slated for Friday.
The backlash comes from people who pay for his high-end fitness memberships, at SoulCycle and Equinox, as well as from one player for the Miami Dolphins, Politico reported. “Just contacted @Equinox to cancel my membership after many years,” comedian Billy Eichner tweeted. “Money talks, especially with these monsters.”
What else is happening:
- While in El Paso, the second stop on his condolence trip, Trump met and praised Army Pfc. Glendon Oakley Jr., who is credited by El Paso police Chief Greg Allen with saving children during the weekend attack.
- New York Democrats should insist on support for gun-safety measures as a condition for supporting party candidates for president, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Newsday's Joan Gralla reports.
- A 41-year-old Detroit man who spent most of his life in the U.S. but was deported to Iraq in June, died Tuesday, with a lawyer saying he was unable to obtain insulin in Baghdad to treat his diabetes.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that the U.S. will be "on the doorstep, pen in hand" to sign a new trade deal with the U.K. once Brexit is done, which it isn't yet.
- A cafe server was fired from the Washington National Cathedral three days after telling a Texas tourist she didn't appreciate the customer's Trump 2020 campaign pin.