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The pitiful day a U.S. president used a political rally to mock Baltimore’s homicide rate

The pitiful day a U.S. president used a political rally to mock Baltimore’s homicide rate
President Trump mocked Baltimore's homicide rate during a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday. (Associated Press)

Slightly more than 15 minutes into his speech at a rally in Cincinnati Thursday night — right after claiming the crowd was record size but bemoaning how local authorities had limited the arena’s lawful capacity — President Donald Trump set his sights once again upon Baltimore. Basking in the crowd’s adulation, he started listing the dangerous countries where the murder rate was, he believed, not as bad as Charm City’s. El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. Then he sought his supporters’ response. " I believe it’s higher than ... give me, give me a place that you think is pretty bad," he excitedly announced. “Give me a place. This guy says Afghanistan,” he said smiling and pointing to a member of the audience. “I believe it’s higher than Afghanistan.”

The crowd took it all in appreciatively, smiling, some cheering. They laughed when their leader joked how fact-checkers might contradict him Friday. Like Mr. Trump, they appeared wholly indifferent to people dying in Baltimore.

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We have seen much in our day. Crime, poverty, drug abuse, racial discrimination, human trafficking, hate crimes. We have witnessed soldiers marched off to wars, some justified, others not. We have reported on horrible car accidents, serial killings, political corruption, disease outbreaks, air crashes, natural disasters, tragedy heaped on tragedy. But we can’t recall a president of the United States making light of the violent deaths of his fellow Americans. And to make it clear how meaningless those lives are to him, he then, in a breathtaking leap of logic, connected it all to his favorite topic, illegal immigration.

The Democrats “for many years wanted to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on illegal migrants instead of supporting their own struggling communities,” he said.

That’s right. If only the Democrats were less sympathetic to immigrants (or at least supported tens of billions of dollars for a new border wall, one presumes) there would be money for urban renewal. That’s some twisted logic coming from the man who thinks Baltimore has wasted or stolen billions already. But then what does that matter? This is someone who argues both sides, none of it sincerely, none of it truthfully. One moment it’s a lack of federal spending, the next moment he says all that is wasted. Or maybe it’s up to Elijah Cummings, one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, to save Baltimore. What, with a resolution on the House floor? President Trump doesn’t mean a word of it. He’s just lashing out. It’s all a performance. It’s all a show.

This newspaper got some attention six days ago — when Mr. Trump first launched his attacks on Charm City — for describing this president’s shortcomings in unfiltered, unequivocal terms. But that missed an important point that was so vividly on display Thursday: He lacks human empathy. Psychiatry has a name for that condition. It’s called antisocial personality disorder. But taking partisan delight at the suffering of Baltimoreans? That is not the action of a rodent. (As PETA chastised us this week, rats actually care about each other.) Nor can it be explained by mental aberration. This is the behavior of a jerk, a clod, a dolt, a schmuck.

Every American should watch that tape so they may be spared the delusion that Mr. Trump’s criticism of Baltimore comes from a constructive place. He is dancing on graves. He is ridiculing Baltimore along with other big cities for partisan gain. As if the rest of America didn’t have housing problems, or crime, or drug abuse. Yes, Baltimore’s homicide rate is high compared to other communities, but then so is the rate in the rest of this country compared to other industrialized nations. As a United Nations study has pointed out, the U.S. intentional homicide rate is well above all of Europe and all of Asia. A normal president, a person with the ability to understand the suffering of his fellow humans, would not mock victims or communities he’s supposed to be leading.

And what are we to make of an audience that Mr. Trump so often described as “patriotic” yet which views Baltimore with such distaste and indifference? Cincinnati suffers these woes, too. There are murders and trash strewn alleys, overdose deaths and concentrated poverty. Why so little compassion? This was not a game, not the Reds against the Orioles, the Bengals against the Ravens. It was about the carnage on our streets, the 309 people killed here last year, the 197 murdered so far this year. And to reaffirm his own lack of empathy, Mr. Trump had one more trick up his sleeve. When word came out Friday that Rep. Cummings’ home had been burglarized last weekend, Mr. Trump tweeted his disingenuous concern shortly before 8 a.m.: “Really bad news! The Baltimore house of Elijah Cummings was robbed. Too bad!”

One could almost hear the laughter.

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