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Editorial

The hypocrite in chief takes on domestic terror

President Trump at a “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, N.C., July 17.
President Trump at a “Make America Great Again” rally in Greenville, N.C., July 17.(Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images)

Hypocrisy is an ugly thing. Hypocrisy that plays out even as families and communities mourn the deaths of 31 human beings killed in back-to-back mass shootings is simply shameful.

And when it’s the nation’s commander in chief who plays hypocrite in chief, well, it’s right for a grieving nation to be skeptical of his motives and his promises — and put the burden of proof on him to show he means anything he says.

“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online, consumed by racist hate,” President Trump said in televised remarks from the White House Monday. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.

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“These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul,” he added.

Those are fine sentiments. But in his words — and even more importantly, in his deeds — Trump has yet to live up to them.

Trump’s actual record on law enforcement is thin. His sudden epiphany about the dangers of domestic terrorism notwithstanding, the nation is reaping the result of the president’s neglect, starvation, and disparagement of those institutions and programs that might actually make an impact on countering the dangers within our borders.

The Department of Homeland Security, which ought to be a lead agency in disrupting domestic terrorism, has been operating with an “acting” secretary since April (and its fourth leader in under three years). A unit aimed at countering violent extremism, including domestic terrorism, with local grants was revamped and rebranded, and some grants were cancelled outright. The future of the grant program, which ended in July, remains uncertain.

“We have asked the FBI to identify all further resources they need to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism,” Trump said Monday.

Yes, that would be the same FBI Trump has rarely missed an opportunity to criticize, to accuse of “spying” on him, and to blame for so many of his accumulated political woes. Suddenly those front-line troops can have “whatever they need” to fight domestic terror.

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Of course, there is no federal charge of “domestic terrorism,” which has long hamstrung law enforcement’s ability to target such crimes.

Trump’s solution? Directing the Justice Department to propose legislation “ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.” Thus Saudi Arabia becomes our new role model for criminal justice.

Trump called for a “red flag” gun law to ensure that those who “pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms.”

Of course, he had already promised meaningful gun reform at a White House meeting just after the February 2018 Parkland, Fla., school massacre. But a year later, when two background-check bills passed the now Democratic House, Trump threatened a veto. The measures are still stalled.

While his early Monday morning tweets focused on his favorite target, the mainstream media (“Fake News has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years”), his prepared remarks zeroed in on “the perils of the internet and social media” which he insisted “will not be ignored.”

Yes, Trump is a born master of deflection. Nothing is his fault. It’s all about violent video games and the Wild West of social media and the Internet and “fake news” and people with mental illness. He’ll never own up to his own history of inflammatory racist remarks, or the role it has played mainstreaming hate speech.

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If Trump is to be a credible leader, he needs to change his own tone, then back up the vagaries in Monday’s speech with enhanced federal resources against white supremacist violence and domestic terrorism. It’s not enough to talk like he’s suddenly enlightened; he needs to actually govern that way.

Until then, when the teleprompter is turned off, the good people of this nation are right back where we started — fighting hatred and gun violence not with the man in the Oval Office but in spite of him.