Jacques: Words really do matter, Mr. President

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Kudos to President Donald Trump for his quick response to the horrific shootings that rocked the country over the weekend. Thirty-one innocent people were murdered in the senseless attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. 

Trump strongly condemned the ideology that seemed to motivate the shooter in El Paso, who had posted a “manifesto” against Hispanic immigrants and climate change prior to heading to the Walmart in that border city. 

"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," Trump said Monday.

Candles, flowers and signs were left outside of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas., and Dayton, Ohio, on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019.

That needed to be said. It’s a vast improvement over Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville aftermath a year ago that left a woman dead and many others injured when a man ran his car into a group protesting the white nationalist rally taking place. It took Trump two days to call out the KKK and neo-Nazis who had created mayhem that day. 

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His initial response was that “many sides” were to blame for what happened, which sparked outrage from Democrats and Republicans. 

Trump seems to have learned something from that experience. 

But his opponents aren’t likely to take much comfort in his prepared remarks this week. And that is Trump’s own fault. 

His conciliatory and somber tone Monday is far different from what he usually projects. Especially now that Trump is in full campaign mode, he enjoys riling supporters who flock to his re-election rallies. 

Immigration is one of the hot-button issues. It was central to his election in 2016, and he’s making it a flash point this time around, too. 

At a Florida rally in May, Trump spoke about the “invasion” of immigrants, as he often has, and a migrant caravan near the border. He asked the audience, "But how do you stop these people?" 

Someone shouted, "shoot them." Trump chuckles in response, and quips, "only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement."

The media and Democrats, who already have been making the case that Trump is a racist, have seized on this incident — and others like it. 

Trump is not to blame for what the deranged shooter did in El Paso, but he must take responsibility for what he says. As president, his words carry a lot of weight. 

This came up during the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit last week, with CNN moderator Don Lemon asking pointed questions about Trump’s “racist tweets” and “bigotry.” 

Trump, who has had run-ins with Lemon previously, retaliated that Lemon (who is black) is the “dumbest man on television.”

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This follows several other incidents that revolved around race, even though Trump maintains that he is the “least racist person anywhere in the world.” 

He has called out four minority Democratic congresswomen— including Detroit’s Rashida Tlaib -- to “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.” And he has publicly argued with Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, labeling his district, which includes Baltimore, “rat and rodent infested.”

When Trump goes on these tirades, it detracts from the real issues that most Republicans care about, including meaningful immigration reform and a strong economy. 

On Monday, the president said, “Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided.”

Perhaps he should take more time to ponder those words.