Perusing a pair of assessments–actually, three: What's the actual state of play at Trump campaign events?
A pair of assessments–actually, three–are well worth your consideration.
For starters, we recommend Seth Stevenson's report at Slate: "What's It Like Covering Trump?"
Stevenson discusses the profoundly irresponsible way Candidate Trump behaves toward the press at his large events.
He behaves himself very badly.
Eventually, someone could be hurt, or worse, due to Trump's behavior. It only takes one unbalanced soul to create a tragedy in response to irresponsible conduct like this:
STEVENSON (3/21/16): I also could not abide large, repeated doses of in-person Trump. It infuriated me when he’d pause between telling blatant whoppers to point at the media pen and say, “Those are very dishonest people, I have to tell you.” On cue, his minions would spin around and boo us.Trump has been doing this for months. It's deeply irresponsible conduct. We're glad Stevenson wrote about it.
Sometimes, he gets personal with the press. At one rally, Trump referred to NBC News reporter Katy Tur as “little Katy, third-rate journalist” while she was in the pen, surrounded by his riled-up groupies. In February, Tur tweeted about another special moment on the trail:
Trump trashes press. Crowd jeers. Guy by press 'pen' looks at us & screams "you're a bitch!" Other gentleman gives cameras the double bird.
“Sometimes we get tense,” another journalist told me. “I’m surprised there hasn’t been an incident of someone throwing a blunt object and hitting a reporter in the head. I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.”
It's our impression that the press corps has largely avoided discussing this conduct for one or two fairly obvious reasons, partly involving the desire to maintain their own safety. That said, we think Trump's irresponsible conduct should be described and discussed.
By light years, Trump is the most unbalanced person ever to attain the political status he currently holds. Clearly, that's one major part of the story from his events.
On the other hand, a Tucson police officer named Brandon Tatum has now offered a second perspective on the Trump events.
Tatum says he attended Trump's recent Tucson event as a curious private citizen. On-line at the Washington Post, Lindsey Bever discusses a ten-minute videotape Tatum has posted:
BEVER (3/21/16): Brandon Tatum, an officer in the Tucson Police Department, went to a Trump rally on Saturday as a civilian to see what was going on. In a subsequent video, he said he thought there was going to be “a full-fledged riot” at the event—but not because of Trump’s supporters.In some detail, Tatum paints a very unflattering portrait of some of the protesters and disrupters at the Tucson event. How accurate is his portrait? We can't answer that.
The protesters were the problem, Tatum said.
“These people were acting so outrageous,” he said in the video, which went viral after it was uploaded to Facebook. “You were just thinking that somebody was going to lose their temper and there was going to be a full brawl.”
You can watch Tatum's videotape at the link offered above. We'll cite one specific remark he made, then link to a third report.
Tatum, who seems to be maybe 30, is black. He says he attended the Tucson event out of curiosity, not as a Trump supporter.
Near the start of his tape, he describes chaos and F-bombs from Trump opponents as he entered the arena.
"Very, very uncomfortable feeling," he says. "I mean, people were directly yelling at me as if I'm a criminal, and all I'm trying to do is just hear what the man has to say."
He then describes the atmosphere he found inside the hall:
TATUM: When I got inside, you know, it was peaceful. Initially– The shocking thing is, is that everybody inside seemed to be peaceful. There wasn't a lot of hatred and maliciousness going on and lashing out at the protesters. Initially, there was nothing like that, and I didn't get that impression at all. When– But the thing that stood out to me was these protesters. I mean, from the door, and then some of them snuck inside...Tatum, a black Tucson policeman, thought the protesters were outrageous. His statement about the attitude of the Trump supporters reminded us of this piece from the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post.
That piece was written by Sierra Thomas, a 21-year-old black college student from Virginia. Recently, Thomas interrupted a Trump event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thereby getting herself thrown out of the arena.
We were struck by the highlighted part of Thomas' report. It was echoed by Tatum's report from Tucson:
THOMAS (3/20/16): The organizers’ plan was for demonstrators to go into the event separately and sit by ourselves, so we wouldn’t attract attention and could pop up at different times to interrupt Trump. I walked inside and made small talk with the people sitting next to me, even though almost every second sitting there waiting was a challenge. They were very friendly, up until the moment I started protesting. Throughout the afternoon, I was texting with [the person who organized the disruption], and he helped me calm down and stay strong, saying, “Don’t let them shake you, and don’t be scared.”By her own account, Sierra Thomas was there to interrupt Trump's event. According to our own tribal wisdom, she was sitting in the midst of a group of racists and bigots, not to mention the xenophobes, nativists, authoritarians and misogynists who were crowding the hall.
But how strange! Despite this perilous situation, Thomas–a well-intentioned young black woman–said everyone was very friendly until she interrupted the speech they had come to hear. Tatum, a youngish black police officer at a Tucson event, seemed to describe the same tone inside that hall.
Thomas' memoir is fascinating in various ways; we expect to discuss it further. From her and Tatum, we draw a key cultural lesson:
Increasingly, the racists and bigots seem devilishly skilled at hiding their ugly and evil intentions. What other conclusion could a tribal true believer reach?