Mike Pence: Rioting and looting is not peaceful protest
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Mike Pence: Rioting and looting is not peaceful protest 03:20
(CNN)One takeaway from this year’s Republican National Convention is clear: America is a very dangerous and scary place.
A dystopian theme continued all four nights, with dark descriptions of American cities ravaged by rioting, looters, gangs and hoodlums. President Donald Trump and other surrogates also spoke regularly about the nation’s efforts to forcefully combat terrorism from extremist factions like the Iranian government and the Islamic State.
But two major threats US intelligence and law enforcement continue to warn about were strikingly missing from the GOP’s condemnation: Russian Vladimir Putin’s multi-front aggression and the continuing plague of white supremacy and other far-right extremism the FBI says poses a danger to the public.
Trump silent on injured troops
Read MoreIn the same week Republicans gathered to nominate Trump and Vice President Michael Pence for a second term, news broke that multiple US military personnel had reportedly been injured in Syria after being rammed by a Russia convoy. One US official told CNN the injuries occurred when one of the Russian vehicles apparently deliberately collided with the American vehicle, causing the crew to suffer “concussion-like injuries.” The Pentagon slammed Russia’s military for what it called “deliberately provocative and aggressive behavior.”Although senior US military officials publicly condemned Russia’s alleged aggression, Trump, Pence and the litany of Republicans speaking live at this year’s convention were silent on the issue. Throughout the week of festivities, Trump and other speakers repeatedly expressed their support for the military and frequently used images of troops in uniform as part of their partisan campaigning to project an air of patriotism, but none addressed reports that the Kremlin had been accused by the Pentagon of deliberately injuring American servicemembers. In addition to this week’s news about the US-Russia encounter in Syria, the President and his party were silent on reports that Russian military intelligence offered the Taliban bounties to kill US soldiers. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the reports. However, the US military’s top general in the Middle East said that, although the intelligence about Russian bounties of US troops was not necessarily strong enough to hold up in a court of law, “it was proved enough to worry me.” Although a cloud of suspicion over Trump’s near uniform capitulation to Putin — including frequently siding with the Kremlin over US intelligence agency claims about Russian election interference — has hung over his first term as president, Trump’s unwillingness to use his convention acceptance speech to call out Russian aggression stands in remarkable contrast to how former president and conservative hero Ronald Reagan used his public platform. In both his 1980 and 1984 GOP convention acceptance speeches, Reagan laid into the Soviet Union, and blasted his Democratic predecessor for being weak towards Moscow. “Our European allies, looking nervously at the growing menace from the East, turn to us for leadership and fail to find it,” Reagan said in 1980, at once casting the Soviets as an enemy while also slamming President Jimmy Carter as soft on Kremlin aggression.
Ignoring some domestic threats
Throughout the week, Trump, Pence and other speakers regularly seized on unrest in some American cities, which has occurred against a backdrop of hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers to peacefully protest against racial injustice. The President criticized Democratic leaders in cities where rioting and looting has occurred, as he attempted to portray a “law and order” message. But one key theme throughout the week was cherry-picking by Trump and his surrogates in describing threats facing the homeland. Left unsaid was any forceful criticism of white supremacists, suspected militias, and other radical nationalists that authorities believe have been responsible for bloodshed under Trump’s watch. A vague reference to violence caused by suspected right-wing radicals came from Pence during his convention address, but he was widely criticized for grossly misleading the public. In his speech, Pence honored a law enforcement officer who was killed during unrest in that city in the wake of Floyd’s death, but Pence failed to mention that the person suspected of killing the officer is believed to be a right-wing radical. As the RNC was underway, a heavily armed 17-year-old, who some have described as a vigilante, was arrested and accused of homicide after allegedly opening fire on protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Black resident Jacob Blake. A lawyer for the shooter told NBC his client was acting in self-defense, but prosecutors are moving forward with charges of first-degree murder. Both the shooting of Blake and the killing of protesters has fueled national outrage about excessive use of force by police and the ability of armed pop-up militias to take the law into their own hands and gun people down. But as he ridiculed looters and gangs, Trump was silent about this national controversy playing out in the same week he accepted his party’s presidential nomination. This month also marked the one-year anniversary since a suspected white supremacist opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Twenty-three people were slaughtered and nearly two dozen injured after the shooter traveled over 600 miles to conduct a mass attack in the border community. In January of this year, three suspected white supremacists were arrested and charged with multiple firearms and immigration-related offenses. Authorities believe they were planning to attend a pro-gun rally in Virginia, which was expected to draw a significant crowd of extremists. Virginia, of course, was also ground zero for another controversy has hovered over Trump’s presidency as questions continue to be raised about his apparent placating of violent actors who also represent a segment of his political base. In 2017, violence erupted at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which featured a large gathering of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites and pro-Confederates. A 32-year-old demonstrator was killed by a suspected white supremacist who drove his vehicle into a crowd of protesters. Following the incident, widespread anger erupted in many parts of the nation after Trump described the racist gathering as including “very fine people on both sides.” Trump and his surrogates have insisted he’s not a racist — indeed, a significant amount of time was expended at the 2020 Republican National Convention by speakers using those very words in the President’s defense. However, despite their robust defense of Trump, and the President’s claims of being tough on crime, neither Trump nor the slate of other Republican speakers used their platform at a national political convention to firmly call out white supremacists, which the FBI says remain a dangerous threat to the public. And while Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, has made right-wing extremism a campaign issue — indicating the President’s controversial response to Charlottesville caused him to challenge Trump for the presidency — every American should wonder why it is the current occupant of the Oval Office hasn’t made ending this kind of threat a priority.