Bravo! Democratic El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and other public officials refused to attend President Trump’s visit with victims of the recent Walmart shootings there. And bravo, too, for their saying publicly that they didn’t want to stand next to a president whose racist rhetoric is emboldening America’s domestic terrorists.
It’s past time for legislators and local officials to stop abiding by the ridiculous demand by Trump, Fox News, the NRA and others who support the status quo that they shouldn’t “politicize” mass shootings out of respect for the victims right after such attacks.
That strategy had long been used by gun-industry lobbyists and their allies in government to temporarily silence critics after mass shootings. The NRA crowd wanted a post-massacre truce to win time, until the victims were buried and public attention shifted to another issue. Not anymore!
After the El Paso mass shooting that left 22 people dead and a growing epidemic of mass shootings that has killed more than 250 people so far this year, Escobar — as well as Texas Democratic presidential hopefuls Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro, among others — spoke out immediately after the massacre.
“I declined the invitation [from Trump] because I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” said Escobar. “I refuse to join without a dialogue about the pain his racist and hateful words and actions have caused our community and country.”
Escobar was referring, among other things, to Trump’s false claims that there is an “invasion” of Latin American immigrants into the country — in fact, Pew Research Center figures show that the number of undocumented people has fallen from what it was in 2007 — and that most illegal immigrants from Mexico are criminals and rapists.
Not surprisingly, a manifesto written by the 21-year-old white mass shooter in El Paso echoed Trump’s language, saying that, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
White supremacist attacks against Hispanics, Jews, African Americans, Muslims and other minorities have increased by 35 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.)
“You use the office of the presidency to encourage and embolden white supremacy,” Democratic hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden said, referring to Trump. “You use words like ‘infestation’ and ‘invasion’ to talk about human beings.”
Granted, Trump went on television from the White House on Monday and, reading from the teleprompter, called on the nation to “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”
But which is the real Trump? The one who constantly tweets racist remarks about Latin American immigrants and warms up his audiences with promises to build a wall on the border to stop an invasion that doesn’t exist? Or the one who made the “condemn” statement — probably written by his staff — after the El Paso shooting?
There’s only one way of knowing for sure, and that will be if Trump stops making racist remarks that dehumanize undocumented immigrants and others and starts making it much more difficult for potential murderers to buy automatic weapons.
In his post-El Paso remarks, Trump blamed video games, violent Hollywood movies and mental illness for the epidemic of mass shootings.
But Japan, South Korea and European countries also have violent video games and movies. They also have mentally ill people. Yet they don’t have America’s mass shootings. Why? It’s not that easy for a potential mass murderer to get an automatic weapon in those countries.
Trump, following the NRA’s talking points, also falsely claims that guns are needed for private citizens to defend themselves from mass shooters. In El Paso, that proved to be utter nonsense: Texas is one of the most heavily armed states in the country, and only law-enforcement officials were able to stop the shooter.
Granted, Democratic hopefuls have a lot to gain by blaming Trump for the latest mass shootings.
But it’s time for Republicans, too, to tell Trump to stop using racist rhetoric and to start pushing for gun-safety laws. If Trump doesn’t stop his irresponsible racist demagoguery, domestic terrorism will continue to rise, and many more innocent people will die.
Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show at 8 p.m. Sunday on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera