by Lauren Wynn
Tonight, President Trump will travel to Phoenix, Arizona for a campaign rally. Beleaguered by weeks of conflict and criticism over his rhetoric and his response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, the attention-addicted POTUS returns to the site where he announced his immigration policies to thunderous applause seeking what any junkie seeks: another fix.
Three questions are swirling around this visit:
1. Will there be violence?
According to local news reports, a wide range of organizations plans to protest Trump’s visit — from the First Congregational United Church of Christ to Antifa, from Arizona Stands (Standing Rock) to Cosplayers Against Hate. On the flip-side, Bikers for Trump, the Maricopa County Young Republicans and, of course, Trump’s faithful base plan to turn out in support.
Despite requests by the Mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton, to delay the rally, which he fears could spark tensions following so closely on the heels of Charlottesville, the Trump campaign has barged ahead with its plans seemingly deaf to his pleas. The instigator-in-chief, intent on feeding both his ego and the fires of dissent among his base, will be met on the tarmac by Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey; however, it appears as if Ducey and most other elected officials plan to steer clear of the rally itself.
The city’s Chief of Police, Jeri Williams, promised that sufficient protections will be in place to prevent a repeat of the deadly violence witnessed in Charlottesville, stating:
“We plan on creating a situation where people are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights while still providing access and options for public safety to get in and to people.”
Let’s hope she’s right.
2. Will Trump continue to push for the ouster of Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who is up for re-election?
Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has been a thorn in Trump’s side since day one. As one of the few Republicans to eschew endorsing Trump, Jeff Flake has remained a steadfast and outspoken critic of the President.
Not surprisingly, Trump has gone after Flake on Twitter and has even hinted at endorsing his opponent – Dr. Kelli Ward (aka Chemtrail Kelli) – as punishment for going against the goads.
Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
The Republican Party leadership has pushed back
Jeff Flake is an excellent Senator and a tireless advocate for Arizona and our nation. He has my full support. -MM
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) August 17, 2017
The GOP says they won’t tolerate such attacks on incumbent lawmakers, but a Trump mega-donor is spending mega bucks to help Kelli win her bid to unseat Flake. While certainly shy of the $300,000 donated by Mercer, the Senate Leadership Fund is running this ad targeting Trump rally attendees in an effort to discredit her:
Flake is just another in a long line of Republicans who have borne the wrath of Trump for daring to oppose him. If Trump calls him out at a rally in his home state it will be game-on for the GOP — either stand up for one of their own or cave-in to pressure from the Oval Office. Let’s hope they choose wisely.
3. Will he pardon controversial Arizona figure, former Sherrif Joe Arpaio?
Many expect Arpaio to be in attendance and there has been much speculation about the President pardoning him. Arpaio has been convicted of criminal contempt for his refusal to cease racial profiling activities. In an op-ed yesterday, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wrote:
Let’s be clear: A pardon of Arpaio can be viewed only as a presidential endorsement of the lawlessness and discrimination that terrorized Phoenix’s Latino community. Choosing to announce it in Phoenix — especially in the wake of Charlottesville — would add insult to very serious injury and would reveal that the president’s true intent is to further divide our nation.
Whether that is truly Trump’s intent, no man can know, but such a blatant thumb-in-the-eye to the courts that have thwarted his travel ban would speak volumes of both the character and motivation of this president. Nowhere have I seen the sentiment surrounding this ill-conceived visit more eloquently expressed than in Jennifer Rubin’s Op-Ed today in the Washington Post:
The Phoenix visit and potential pardon demonstrate once again that Trump is incapable of leading and unifying a great, diverse country. His yearning for adulation and incapacity for empathy or graciousness cast him in the perpetual role of instigator, divider and provocateur when he should be healing, uniting and inspiring a country he was elected to lead and which he is committing to continued war. Never has a president been so ill-suited to the moment and the needs of the country.
I wholeheartedly agree.