President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday to tour the damage caused by rioters and meet with a few local officials to praise and support law enforcement. Both actions by themselves might have merited praise if this were a normal presidency.
But Trump brings baggage wherever he goes and spreads divisiveness like, well, a dangerous virus. Empathy and healing are not in his toolbox. His two White House predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, sought to unite the nation in times of crisis. When he thinks it will help his political fortunes, Trump seeks to divide.
In recent days, the president has failed to adequately address the police shooting that sparked the unrest the first place — the Aug. 23 incident in which Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back. He said officers sometimes "choke" because they have to make split-second decisions, remarkably comparing such errors in judgment to a golfer missing a 3-foot putt.
At the same time, Trump seemed to defend a 17-year-old Illinois supporter of his, Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with fatally shooting two men at a demonstration in Kenosha last week, saying the situation is "being investigated" and that it appeared self-defense could have been the motive.
And on Monday, Trump condemned what he called "domestic terrorism," failed to mention Blake until asked by reporters, and didn't acknowledge the underlying causes of the nation's racial strife.
Admittedly, there's still much to learn about the Blake and Rittenhouse cases. Investigations are continuing, which is why both Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden should choose their words with care.
Biden, who has often called for calm, took an aggressive approach on Monday, rightly condemning the violence that's broken out at some racial justice protests while also blaming Trump for not urging his own supporters to stop acting as "armed militia."
Trump, however, continuously displays tone-deafness, lack of interest or denial of the racial issues that the rest of the country is grappling with.
Yes, there have been "anarchists" and "rioters" who have taken advantage of the mostly peaceful protests to loot, destroy property and commit other crimes. And yes, those bad actors should be identified and prosecuted. But necessary changes in policing must also be made to prevent the loss of so many African American lives.
The president has falsely accused both Biden and Democratic leaders in Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin of somehow supporting violence that has occurred in those states.
In a statement about the horrific shooting death of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement, "For weeks, we have also seen small groups of demonstrators from all ends of the political spectrum who are intent on committing acts of vandalism and violence. Tragically … a life was lost in downtown Portland. … Our hearts go out to this person's family. We will find those who were responsible, and they will be held accountable."
Citizens can support the peaceful protesters who want to reform policing and seek racial justice while also condemning the violence that's broken out during some of the protests. It shouldn't be an either-or choice for the nation or its president.
At least until January 2021 and possibly beyond, this is Trump's America. He needs to prove that he can provide the kind of strong presidential leadership that can lead to reconciliation and progress.
The nation — and the voters — are waiting.