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News24.com | ‘You always have a bad apple’

  • Donald Trump restarted his flagging re-election campaign
    with a speech rejecting nationwide claims of police racism.
  • Joe Biden claimed Trump has run away from a
    meaningful conversation on systemic racism and police brutality for weeks.
  • While election watchers are reluctant to make any
    predictions, Trump’s polling numbers have suffered a marked dip.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday rebooted his
flagging re-election campaign with a speech starkly rejecting nationwide
protesters’ claims of police racism, saying only a “few bad apples”
are to blame.

Far from reaching out to protesters’ searing anger,
he offered only a vague proposal to “encourage” officers to meet
“the most current professional standards for the use of force”.

“You always have a bad apple, no matter where
you go,” said Trump, who is making law and order a new keystone of his bid
to win a second term on 3 November. “There aren’t too many of them in the
police department.”

“We have to work together to confront bigotry
and prejudice wherever they appear, but we will make no progress and heal no
wounds by falsely labelling tens of millions of decent Americans as racist or
bigots,” Trump said.

The Republican has struggled to find the right tone
to address the explosion of protests over the last two weeks in the wake of the
death of an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd, while being arrested in
Minneapolis.

That crisis, coupled with the economic devastation
of the Covid-19 shutdown – and the fact that the pandemic continues to kill up
to 1 000 people a day – has left the country crying out for healing.

Trump, whose political style is built largely on
fierce division and exciting his right-wing base, faced pressure to encourage
unity in Dallas.

‘He’s further divided our country’

Critics say he is incapable of rising to the
moment, pointing to the contrast between shows of empathy from previous
presidents during crises and Trump’s instinct for fighting and insulting foes,
even in the midst of calamity.

“For weeks we’ve seen President Trump run away
from a meaningful conversation on systemic racism and police brutality.
Instead, he’s further divided our country,” Democratic presidential
candidate Joe Biden said on Thursday.

“Today’s trip to Texas won’t change any of
that. President Trump is more interested in photo ops than offering a healing
voice as our nation mourns.”

Despite his poll numbers being underwater five
months ahead of election day, Trump is betting that he needn’t change tack.

His base has remained loyal throughout the
extraordinary turmoil, and he has made clear his priority is getting back on
the campaign trail.

Immediately after his remarks in Dallas, the
president heads to his first campaign fundraiser since the Covid-19 lockdown
began – a $580 600 per couple event. Then he flies to his golf course resort in
New Jersey for the weekend, another post-Covid first.

On 19 June he will restart his mothballed series of
rallies – raucous, often two-hour love fests between Trump the
entertainer-in-chief and thousands of his most loyal supporters – with an event
in Oklahoma.

Magnet for controversy

Some Americans may want calm after months of rancour,
but that’s one thing the former reality TV star is not giving.

Even the choice of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for his
resumption of rallies generated controversy.

June 19 is known as “Juneteenth”, the day
marking the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa, however, is notorious
as the site of a 1921 massacre of African-Americans.

As he left for Dallas, Trump lambasted Democratic
leaders of Washington state, where he said “domestic terrorists” had
taken over Seattle, referring to protesters.

He also doubled down on his latest culture wars
battle, insisting again he will refuse demands to change the names of US
military bases honouring leaders of the slave-owning, rebel South in the Civil War.

Back in Washington, there were new tensions between
the White House and the military when the chairperson of the joint chiefs of
staff, General Mark Milley, apologised for appearing alongside Trump during a
controversial walk to a church, minutes after police violently dispersed
protesters.

“I should not have been there,” Milley
said in his unexpected comments.

Hitting the trail

The choice of Texas for Thursday’s trip was notable
because this has been a Republican state for decades, but things are changing.
Trump won narrowly in 2016 and a Quinnipiac poll last week put him only one
percentage point ahead of Biden.

In 2016, polls and politics watchers in general got
it wrong about Trump, who ran a chaotic campaign against the ultra-professional
Hillary Clinton yet still scored a famous electoral college win.

This has left many election watchers gun-shy. Even
so, current polls make grim reading for the Republican.

The FiveThirtyEight average shows Trump’s approval
rating at just 41%, having taken a big hit from his handling of the Covid-19
and racism crises.

The RealClearPolitics average for a presidential
election match-up puts Biden at 49.8 to Trump’s 41.7.

Worse for Trump – given his hope of repeating his
electoral college win, even if losing the overall popular vote – Biden leads in
almost every swing state.

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