June 24, 2020 at 6:00 am EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Trump the snake oil salesman
Tulsa rally, gay news, Washington Blade
There were many empty seats at Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla. (Screen capture via C-SPAN)

Anyone watching and listening to Trump at his failed rally in Tulsa had to think of a snake oil salesman or a carnival barker. He put on a two-hour rant many think might have missed the mark even for his cult of followers.

Two hours of screaming lies presented by an unhinged person masquerading as a president. He actually spent nearly 15 minutes talking about walking down a ramp at the West Point graduation and why he drank a glass of water like he did. Telling the small crowd it was to avoid getting water on his tie with the sheen. Seriously this man is our president. Clearly the video of him bent over and gingerly walking down the ramp and using two hands to drink a glass of water got under his skin.

I felt sorry for his staff after the event. Just seeing how he looked captured as he stepped off the helicopter on the White House lawn, I realized even he, who has a great way of fooling himself, saw the trip to Tulsa as a disaster. Prior to the event he and the campaign kept bragging about a million people having reserved tickets. They set up a big stage outside the arena where he and the vice president would speak to the overflow crowd and then ended up with fewer than 10,000 people inside, the fire department in Tulsa said 6,200, in an arena that seats nearly 20,000. They cancelled the overflow event because no one was there.

The speech was a diatribe against every perceived and real enemy. It was a clumsy distraction from the real damage Trump suffered in the preceding week. The Supreme Court handed him three defeats in a row. One was a vote on LGBTQ rights, which went 6-3 in favor of the community saying the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers the LGBTQ community and employers cannot discriminate against them based on sex, which the court interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Then by a 5-4 vote, “The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as dreamers.”

In a third setback the court refused to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to the California law that “prohibits state officials from telling federal ones when undocumented immigrants are to be released from state custody and restricts transfers of immigrants in state custody to federal immigration authorities.”

In addition to the Supreme Court decisions a federal judge rejected Trump’s effort to stop publication of the tell-all book by John Bolton, former National Security Adviser. Then on Friday night Attorney General Barr asked the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, to step down. When Berman refused, Trump himself had to step in and fire someone who was leading an investigation into one of his sycophants, Rudy Giuliani, and other Trump friends. This after telling reporters he knew nothing about the firing and that it was all Barr.

So against this backdrop he flew to Tulsa to reenter campaign mode, the thing he likes best. Unfortunately for him the effort was a disaster and we have heard no new rallies announced. The New York Times reported, “TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank.” While this hasn’t been confirmed as I write this column it is disturbing in many ways. While I don’t want the Russians or the Chinese to interfere in our elections, I also don’t want any other social media groups to interfere with dirty tricks. Some Democrats laughed at this but those same groups can turn on Democrats at any time.

We need to ensure fair elections avoiding dirty tricks and accept that Trump seems perfectly capable of destroying himself. He appears to be doing just that during the dual crises our nation is facing. One the coronavirus and the other the protests against police brutality and demands by Black Lives Matter groups, joined by decent people everywhere, for long-denied judicial and economic equality for Black and Brown Americans. We can rid ourselves of the snake oil salesman if Americans vote in record numbers on Nov. 3.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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