Trump is playing with fire

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calls President Trump's tweets that some states should be liberated "grossly irresponsible" and "dangerously bombastic."

Posted: Apr 18, 2020 4:51 PM
Updated: Apr 18, 2020 4:51 PM

President Donald Trump is playing with fire. Just 24 hours after he told the nation's governors, "You are going to call your own shots," when it comes to reopening the economy, the President posted a series of incendiary messages on Twitter that seemed to incite his followers to revolt against the current orders to stay at home.

"LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" one tweet shouted in capital letters. He issued similar tweets calling for the liberation of Minnesota and Virginia, including a disturbing addendum for loyalists to "save your great 2nd Amendment," adding, "It is under siege!" It is unclear why Trump brought up gun rights in apparent references to pandemic mitigation measures, but the language is familiar. Who can forget his comments at a rally in 2016, when he considered the possibility that Hillary Clinton might win the presidential election? "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks," Trump said before adding, "Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don't know."

When he talks about "liberating" a state, he's calling for a reprise of what occurred in Michigan on Wednesday, when thousands of protesters, many of them carrying Trump signs, wearing MAGA hats and chanting "Lock her up!", protested stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a life-and-death effort to slow a pandemic that has already killed thousands in her state, one of the worst-hit in the country.

What exactly is Trump trying to do? This is not an out-of-range dog whistle. We can all hear it. Trump is calling for open revolt in three states -- all of which are potentially competitive in 2020 and run by Democratic governors. The three states are also home to thousands of people diagnosed with Covid-19, a disease that has killed tens of thousands of Americans, with the potential to kill millions in the US if allowed to freely run its course in the population.

Even judged against Trump's own record, these incendiary messages are beyond the pale for many reasons.

First, the president is undercutting the guidelines he personally announced a day earlier. None of the states meet the requirements he outlined from the podium on Thursday for starting to reopen the economy. The step-by-step approach requires careful consideration before restrictions are loosened, to avoid a resurgence of the relentless coronavirus. By contradicting his own guidance, crafted with the help of public health experts, the President undercut the credibility of the entire mitigation effort. Mass protests can spread the virus while sending the message that it's safe to ignore stay-at-home orders. Trump's tweets, if heeded, are likely to cause more deaths.

Second, Trump is calling for disobedience during a most unstable time. People are understandably feeling tense and unsettled; for many, their incomes are vanishing. Anger and frustration lie just below the surface. It wouldn't take much for peaceful protests to turn violent. Trump's allusion to gun rights makes the prospect of violence more ominous.

Third, Trump may discover that once he incites his supporters, he may not be able to rein them in should they decide to act. These are times unlike any we have experienced. Emotions are running high. That is a tempting canvas for a demagogue seeking to design his own version of reality, but there's no guarantee Trump can control what he sets loose.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee accused the President of "fomenting domestic rebellion." He wasn't the only one who saw that as the message. After Trump's string of tweets, right-wing extremists questioned whether the President was calling for a "boogaloo" -- a term derived from 4chan that extremists use to describe an armed insurrection.

Why is Trump undercutting his own message just 24 hours after issuing it? Why is he risking a resurgence of the virus that could threaten his reelection?

Trump, understandably, is anxious about what the shutdown is doing to the economy and to his political future. He hates that the experts are telling him that reopening too soon would lead to an even greater disaster. The experts tell him one thing, but some corporate executives, along with the hosts on Fox News, have a different message: Reopen and don't believe the scientists.

The Michigan protests were organized by a pro-Trump political group and praised on Fox. Prime time hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and others gushed about the protesters' love of freedom. Laura Ingraham exulted, "Time to get your freedom back!" Pirro told Hannity that "The American spirit is too strong, and Americans are not going to take it," predicting that protests would spread across the country.

Trump appears to be torn. In the White House, he hears Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx tell him to move slowly on reopening. On television, his ego massagers tell him that's a mistake.

But there's more. Trump has a populist's sixth sense for exploiting the frustrations of the masses. The shutdown has already destroyed tens of millions of jobs, leaving countless Americans bereft of income and afraid for the future. Trump doesn't want to be held responsible for any of it. By inciting unrest in battleground states with Democratic governors, he is telling people where to lay the blame for their woes, while carving out a path for his reelection.

It's a crafty ploy, but one doomed to fail. He remains President. He will be held accountable. His desperate effort to shift responsibility could make the situation worse. By waving a lit torch in the midst of a disaster, he may just start a fire on the wreckage.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
Lauderdale5672174
Lowndes5186106
Lafayette482792
Lamar471162
Washington4700122
Bolivar3915105
Oktibbeha384279
Panola357274
Pontotoc356552
Monroe3463101
Union334755
Warren334692
Marshall333264
Neshoba3310149
Pearl River313891
Leflore2969104
Lincoln290185
Sunflower275868
Tate264759
Alcorn257850
Itawamba257058
Pike254876
Hancock246957
Prentiss240047
Scott238743
Copiah235649
Yazoo235054
Tippah233845
Simpson230166
Leake226764
Coahoma219054
Grenada213970
Covington207171
Marion203371
Adams200065
Winston196260
George195937
Wayne193029
Attala190958
Newton185142
Chickasaw179943
Tishomingo179059
Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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