Nearly everything about President Donald Trump's response to protests sweeping the nation is wrong.
His approach and tone have been divisive, mean-spirited and blatantly partisan. At a time when America desperately needs measured, unifying and healing leadership, this president instead fuels the flames.
Trump initially said little about the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody a week ago. Instead, he responded to Floyd's death and resulting protests with a series of polarizing tweets.
Then during a brief address in the Rose Garden on Monday, Trump told reporters that he is an "ally'' of peaceful protests even as a peaceful demonstration was being broken up by law enforcement a few yards away. Demonstrators were forcibly pushed out of a park across the street from the White House before the 7 p.m. curfew. Trump went on to declare himself the "law and order" president and vowed to "dominate" the streets with military force.
After Trump spoke, it became clear why the park had been cleared. Without taking questions from reporters, the president strolled across that park for a surprise visit to the historic St. John's Church, which was boarded up because of damage caused by rioters. In front of the church, he stood awkwardly with a Bible in his hand for a quick photo op, then walked back to the White House. He made no reference to Floyd, the church or the peaceful protesters police had just cleared away.
Faith leaders and some lawmakers quickly denounced the appearance as a political stunt in which Trump used the Bible as a prop. The Rev. Mariann Budde, formerly of Minneapolis, who is now bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., said she was "outraged" by Trump's visit, adding that it "did not serve the spiritual aspirations or the needed moral leadership ... . It did not address the grievous wounds that we are dealing with and the agony of our country."
The rioting that has left Minneapolis, St. Paul and other American cities damaged and on edge must not be condoned. Yet at times like these, presidents who've come before Trump have found effective ways to bring people together. What the nation doesn't need is a tone-deaf strongman who shows little regard for the underlying issues that have made George Floyd's death a flash point.