July 9, 2020

19° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Close this
Winnipeg Free Press



Trump fans flames consuming U.S.


As legend has it, Emperor Nero fiddled while his city burned during the Great Fire of Rome.

The story is most likely apocryphal, but it resonates today because U.S. President Donald Trump has been busy tweeting while much of his nation burns amid the worst outbreak of social unrest in decades.

At a time when a president would traditionally be expected to offer calming words and dial down the rhetoric in hopes of healing a bitterly fractured nation, Mr. Trump has fanned the flames of violence by issuing incendiary tweets and, on Monday, threatening to deploy the military to states if they do not stamp out protests.

The commander-in-chief is now being mockingly dismissed as the agitator-in-chief for his inflammatory response to widespread protests over the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died, handcuffed and begging for air, while a white police officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes.

Mr. Trump has called the protesters "thugs" and threatened to have them shot. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," he tweeted, parroting a former Miami police chief whose words spurred race riots in the late 1960s.

The next day, the president tweeted that if protesters breached the White House’s fence, they would "have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen."

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. on Monday.


U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

On Monday, he portrayed himself as the law-and-order president and warned the nation’s governors — "Most of you are weak" — he would deploy the military. Later, police under federal command dispersed peaceful demonstrators with tear gas so he could walk to a nearby church and pose for a photo-op while clutching a Bible.

"You have to dominate," the president scolded governors during part of his call. "If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time — they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks."

Indeed, authorities cannot sit on their hands and allow cities to burn. But arresting looters and arsonists is a far cry from the unprecedented threat of unleashing the American military on American soil to crack down on American citizens, the vast majority of whom are exercising their democratic right to engage in peaceful protest.

Trump has tried to blame violence that has marred some protests on antifa — short for anti-fascists — an ideology held by disparate groups and individuals, some of whom use extreme tactics. It’s possible some such extremists may be involved. But it is ludicrous to suggest a small number of fringe radicals could exert widespread control over thousands of demonstrators at protests that have sprung up in dozens of cities from coast to coast and sparked sympathy uprisings in Canadian and European cities.

It is long past time for the president to do what elected representatives are expected to do in times of crisis — attempt to heal a nation that is crying out for leadership at a time when long-simmering anger over police treatment of African-Americans is boiling over, leaving streets in chaos and buildings and vehicles in flames.

Mr. Trump must also stop using his overworked thumbs to pour fuel on the flames of anger. When he warned the governors to dominate or risk "looking like a bunch of jerks", he would do well to remember that, in trying to dominate his people, Nero ended up as one of history’s most infamous jerks.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.