Trump’s DHS secretary accuses Portland mayor of “legitimizing” violence

“Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was tear-gassed by federal agents,” Wednesday night, July 22, 2020, “as he spoke to a group of protesters next to a federal courthouse,” CBS News reported. Wheeler is a Democrat.

The following morning, appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Chad Wolf, Trump’s acting Homeland Security secretary, said “The mayor chose to go to that violent activity. He has legitimized criminal behavior by doing that.” Read story here.

Wolf’s comments are disgusting and repulsive.

Obviously, this is election-year rhetoric. Even so, it crosses a line. During periods of civil unrest, part of a mayor’s job is to try to calm things down, and that usually involves going to the scene and talking to protest leaders and protesters. There isn’t a shred of evidence, or any reason to believe, that Mayor Wheeler was doing anything else. He was doing his job.

To falsely and bizarrely conflate that into a partisan accusation that he’s encouraging the violence isn’t uncivil, it’s uncivilized; it isn’t just dirty politics, it’s sewer politics; it isn’t only hyperpartisan, it’s weird, irresponsible, provocative, and just plain nuts.

It’s also ridiculous and intellectually dishonest to blame the mayor and his party for long-existing social forces beyond their control. (For USA Today’s article about the role of Portland’s “dark history” of racism in fueling the protests, click here.)

Unfortunately, that’s what the GOP is today, under Trump. This isn’t an isolated running-off-at-the-mouth by a rogue official; it’s what his entire administration is.

This isn’t Eisenhower’s respectable and respected Republican Party anymore. While some things the GOP claims to stand for — limited government, personal liberty, free enterprise — make timeless good sense and are well worth supporting, the party itself has ceased to be a responsible voice in our political discourse, as Wolf’s remarks demonstrate.

Our country needs healthy political competition, but this kind of politics is profoundly unhealthy. If you vote for Republicans today, you’re voting for juvenile nonsense. America needs and deserves better. The campaign signs sprouting all over my neighborhood plead for, “Any Functioning Adult 2020.” Biden, and other Democratic candidates down-ticket, aren’t perfect but don’t have to be; they’re functioning adults, which is good enough, compared to the alternative.

The problem isn’t just Trump himself. It’s hard to find Republicans acting like adults in Congress, statehouses, or legislatures, because most have fallen in line behind Trump, in fear of his supporters.

A crushing defeat of these GOP candidates, up and down the ticket, ultimately will be healthy for the country and Republican Party. It will force the party’s leaders to rid their organization of Trumpism and rebuild it on a foundation of traditional Republican values. They made a terrible mistake by rallying behind an uncivilized and unethical demagogue. But it’s a mistake they can correct, if they have the motivation, and nothing motivates politicians like getting their butts handed to them by voters.

Hand them their butts.

Photo: Mayor Ted Wheeler isn’t the ogre Trump officials are trying to portray him as. He’s a decent man trying to do his job.

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