Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
“Our children are dying! Trump is golfing!” Those seven words, which appeared on one of the thousands of signs at Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C., succinctly summed up the sentiment of so many. As one high school student told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Saturday night, Trump should’ve been in the nation’s capital – not at Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida estate.
While we didn’t hear from Trump regarding the rally, the White House did issue a statement offering support: “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today,” it read, adding, “Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President’s.”
But if keeping our children’s safe was truly Trump’s “top priority,” why did he play golf instead of attend? After all, it’s not as if Trump has not had plenty of opportunities to play golf at one of his properties – he’s spent over 100 days at his golf properties since assuming office.
The bottom line is that Trump should have appeared at the rally and spoken to these young Americans. Sure, Trump would’ve been booed by some, but no doubt he would’ve been cheered by many others. And even those in the crowd who disagreed with Trump politically may have given him some respect if he made it clear he was committed to enacting laws that would save student lives.
To make matters worse, not only did Trump not attend the rally, his motorcade driving him to play golf at his country club reportedly took a different route so that Trump would not see the local “March for Our Lives” protesters. The White House did not respond to media requests regarding the unexpected route change.
If Trump, however, truly viewed the safety of our children as a “top priority,” then why didn’t he at least tweet support for them on Saturday? Or tweet praise for them on Sunday morning, the day after? Trump tweets about nearly every issue he feels passionately about and wants to bring to the attention of his supporters. For example, last week Trump praised lawyer Alan Dershowitz for saying on Fox Business that Trump didn’t collude with Russia and he exchanged fighting words with former Vice President Joe Biden, bragging that if they fought, Biden “would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”
And on Sunday morning, Trump let loose a barrage of tweets about a range of issues. Trump tweeted there was “NO COLLUSION” between him and Russia, called the media “Fake news” and referred to his former opponent as “Crooked Hillary.” But he has not tweeted one single tweet about the young people, and their adult allies, who took to the streets in Washington, D.C. and in other cities at hundreds of sister rallies to demand action on gun violence.
If Trump had chosen these young activists over golf, he would’ve heard some of the best and brightest young minds speak their truth. Take Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting, who told us that about the gun massacre at her school last month: “In a little over 6 minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured and everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered.” She then stood on stage in silence for six minutes, the length of the shooter’s rampage, to make a point that it took that short of a period of time to slaughter her friends and change the lives of her fellow students forever.
Trump should’ve been there to watch the amazing 11-year-old Naomi Wadler take the stage and movingly declare: “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead the evening news.”
But Trump chose a four-iron over standing with these young activists.
When Trump looks back, I wonder if his choice of golf over the rally will have been worth it? The one theme heard at rally after rally, including the one I attended on Saturday in Hackensack, New Jersey, was that these young people are registering to vote and coming after those politicians who have chosen to ignore them or prioritized the National Rifle Association over their lives.
Delaney Tarr, one of the student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, put it best: “This is not a publicity stunt, a single day in the span of history. This is a movement relying on the persistence and passion of its people.” She added a line that Trump and other politicians ignore at their own peril, “We will take action every day, in every way, until they simply cannot ignore us anymore.”
And come Election Day 2018 and 2019 and when Trump runs for re-election in 2020, these young people (hopefully) will be putting into action the words of a chant that was heard numerous times at the rallies: “Vote them out! Vote them out!”