The President went after U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and his Baltimore-based district on Twitter saying, “Cumming(s’) District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place…No human being would want to live there.”
As I see there are four problems with the President’s Tweets
1. are problems in Baltimore, this isn’t how to address them.
Much of the right-wing defense of Trump has centered on the fact that there serious problems in Batimore with crime, corruption, and cleanliness. This is fair enough, but the way the President chose to address them by insulting the city and its residents, throwing out some hyperbole and offering no real solutions.
The President is President of the whole country and the words he uses matter. He identified that part of the country he leads is hurting and he just poured salt in their wounds without offering any relief.
2. Constitutionally, it’s not primarily Elijah Cummings’ job to fix local problems in Baltimore.
Another popular defense of the President has been that Elijah Cummings hasn’t fixed Baltimore’s local problems. However, under Article 1, Section 8 of the Federal Constitution, Congress has many enumerated powers. Fixing crime, poverty, and the local problems of the city of Baltimore are not one of them.
To say Elijah Cummings is responsible for all that’s wrong with Baltimore or that he should have fixed it is to adopt the position that the federal government should replace local governments and solve all their problems through big government interventions into local affairs. That wasn’t a position that anyone would consider conservative until this President came into office.
Also, if you take the position that Cummings is responsible for fixing all the local problems in Baltimore, then President Trump is also responsible for bringing forward a legislative solution to fix a part of his country that id, according to the President, unsuited for human habitation. In fact, as a private citizen, Donald Trump blamed President Obama for not doing enough to solve Baltimore’s problems. By the President’s standard, he, not Congressman Cummings, owes the city a solution.
3. The President’s attacks are illogical.
Trump also seems to contradict himself on his whole attack. First, he says Cummings isn’t doing enough and then complains, “Why is so much money sent to the Elijah Cummings[‘] district when it is considered the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States.[?]”
Either Cummings isn’t doing enough to fix the problems in his home district or he’s getting too much money for his district. It can be one or the other, not both. In addition, if a congressional district has lots of problems that the federal government undertakes to solve, that’s going to require a lot of money. There may be appropriations to Cummings’ district that are worthy of criticism but the idea that because district has problems, the federal government shouldn’t send money or should send less money than a district that doesn’t have problems is utterly nonsensical.
4. The President’s latest attacks are part of a troubling pattern of disrespect for minorities and women
The President’s tweets at Cummings came after Cummings criticized the Trump Administration’s policies on the border and issued subpoenas for White House emails sent from personal accounts.
Trump does hit back against all his critics, but there’s special dismissive bile that Trump dispenses to those who challenge him and happen to be women or minorities. Cummings isn’t the first member of Congress who Trump has told to focus on his own district. He also told U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, that in 2017. We saw Trump’s “go back” tweet to the Squad of four minority female critics. Infamous examples of Trump going after women include his attack on Carly Fiorina’s face in the 2016 presidential campaign and his statement that Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever “ when she challenged him on the debate stage.
Any one of these incidents could be dismissed as a misstatement or “he didn’t really mean that,” but taken together it shows a pattern. It’s not just that that President is rude, crude, and demeaning to his office, but that he shows a particular disrespect to women and minority critics and suggests that they don’t even have the right to criticize him.
If we could point to instances where he suggested that a man only disagreed with him because he hadn’t had sex in a while, or if the President responded to the incessant criticism of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., by telling him to focus on the problems in Burbank, we could say he was at least equal opportunity in his disrespect.
However, the President is willing to attack minority and female opponents in ways he would never go after White Male critics. This contempt may help jazz Trump’s base, but the right’s tolerance of it may damage conservatism for decades to come.