President Donald Trump threatened to shut down government in his speech
Polls suggest his most loyal supporters still strongly support Trump
Donald Trump just showed why even some Republicans question whether he has the temperament and the capacity to serve as President.
In an incredible performance at a raucous Arizona rally Tuesday, Trump rewrote the history of his response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture wars.
Trump in effect identified himself as the main victim of the furor over the violence in Virginia, berating media coverage for a political crisis that refuses to abate over his rhetoric on race.
“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump said, blaming “weak, weak people” for allowing the removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy.
In defending his responses to the Charlottesville violence, Trump selectively omitted his reference to “many sides” or “both sides,” comments he made that drew bipartisan condemnation for equating neo-Nazis with their counterprotesters.
Trump insisted at the start of his speech that all Americans must realize that they are on the same team, must show loyalty to their country, and that he wanted everyone to love one another.
Trump's Phoenix speech
But his performance was a fresh indication that he still feels far more comfortable, and perhaps motivated, to act as a political flamethrower who pulls at national divides than a President who wants to unite the nation.
Throwing gasoline onto political controversies, Trump threatened to shut down the government unless Congress funds his border wall and all but promised a pardon for Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court in a case related to racial profiling.
Taking on the establishment
He criticized Sen. John McCain, who is battling cancer, and turned on GOP senators he blames for his paltry legislative record. And he predicted talks to renegotiate NAFTA would fail.
It was a remarkable real-time glimpse into the inner frustrations of a sitting President, who apparently believes he is being persecuted by accurate media coverage of his conduct and can never get a break from critics.
“The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” he said.
Yet Trump’s freewheeling speech, taking down establishment enemies one-by-one, was warmly received in his crowd, and will likely prove highly popular with the loyal core of voters who drove him to the GOP nomination and the White House. Those voters will lacerate media coverage of a speech that broke free of behavioral norms for the presidency, voter anger certain to be fueled by news outlets sympathetic to the President.
In effect, Trump’s rhetoric on Tuesday amounted to an implicit warning about the wrath of a substantial sector of the Republican voting base should any party leaders seek to isolate or reject the President.