Thursday, December 7, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He accused John Lewis of not wanting to honor civil rights heroes like... John Lewis.

Trump decided over the weekend to attend the opening of a civil rights museum in Jackson, Mississippi. As a result, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and several other Democratic politicians announced they would not attend. Trump was unable to let the rebuke go unchallenged. Today, the White House released a statement: “We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the president in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”

John Lewis was chairman of SNCC, helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, was beaten at the Edmund Pettus bridge. In other words, he is one of the civil rights leaders whose sacrifices the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum depicts.

Trump's sudden decision to attend the opening is apparently part of his tactic of appearing near Alabama this week, to show a kind of implicit support for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, while still being able to say that he is not campaigning for the accused child molester.

This is not the first time that Trump, who describes himself as "the least racist person," has proven sensitive to criticism from Lewis. In January, when Lewis cast doubt on the legitimacy of Trump's victory, Trump lashed out with tweets in which he incorrectly assumed that Lewis's affluent suburban Atlanta district was "in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)."

Why does this matter?

  • It's bad for a president to use the memories of civil rights heroes for unrelated political gain.
  • The absurdity of criticizing John Lewis for not honoring John Lewis and others like him is pretty clear.