It is a pretty safe bet that on Thursday the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Harbor East will find itself at ground zero of a protest against President Donald Trump. Expect a full compliment of rat imagery and perhaps extra-long red ties. After all, it was the 45th president who just weeks ago labeled Baltimore and Maryland’s 7th congressional district a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” Now, he’s going to find himself in this contemporary urban hellscape (the Marriott does charge $22 for its buffet breakfast) in order to speak at the House Republican Conference Member Retreat.
Oh, the irony.
We don’t know if President Trump will address himself to Charm City once again. The event is closed to the press. It might depend on his mood. It might depend on his agenda. More likely, it might depend on whether the vacuous hosts of “Fox & Friends” have something to say on the subject Thursday morning. But let’s set the record straight on one point: Most of Baltimore is not upset because the president pointed out the city faces serious problems — they are a daily conversation and focus of much attention in these parts — but because of his extraordinary, bordering on inhuman, lack of interest in doing anything about them. Mr. Trump spent several days this summer describing Baltimore in racist, not to mention apocalyptic, terms merely to embarrass Rep. Elijah Cummings. The chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform had made Mr. Trump’s enemies list by spearheading various investigations into questionable and corrupt behavior by the executive branch and for daring to point out the administration’s failure to properly house, feed and provide other basic services to immigrants detained at the southern border.
If there’s one thing President Trump has made clear on Twitter and elsewhere, he has the same level of concern for Baltimore as a fiddle-playing Nero had for Rome: We are a prop, a gag, a punch line. And in case anyone failed to grasp his indifference, he underscored it in early August, mocking the city’s high homicide rate at a political rally as comparable to “El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala” before asking the crowd in Cincinnati to shout out other examples.
“I believe it’s higher than — give me a place that you think is pretty bad. This guy says Afghanistan," the president said pointing to an audience member with glee. "I believe it’s higher than Afghanistan. In our country, think of that.”
Yes, think of that. At least with Afghanistan, President Trump sought peace talks before abruptly cancelling them. He hasn’t gone that far with Baltimore. What does Charm City have to do to draw constructive interest from the fellow who is allegedly president of the entire country and not just Trump Country? Offer unequivocal adulation? Pay off the Trump Organization in some manner? Stay at Turnberry? Tell Vladimir Putin about a CIA mole in his government? We might seriously consider pledging total fealty to the White House if we thought there was even a remote chance that Mr. Trump would then use his authority to help solve Baltimore’s most pressing concerns, from the crippling impact of poverty, homelessness, job losses and racism to reversing the worst effects of the failed federal war on drugs that helped turn our streets into war zones.
Instead, we get another bumbling Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who can’t understand why the urban peasants aren’t worshipful as they are ignored, mocked or taken advantage of by the powerful and wealthy, all the while racking up the national debt to the brink of ruin. Affordable health care? Too costly. City infrastructure? Let it rot. Human rights? Tear up those consent decrees that spare us from the next Gun Trace Task Force. Cut money for housing or food stamps. And blame it all on city leadership because they can’t solve the ills, so many of which can be traced to white flight or loss of manufacturing or the drug war, or any of those other circumstances that the president chooses to ignore or else finds useful tools for riling up his base.
A little over six weeks ago, we compared the president to a rat. It was, as many readers protested, wholly unfair to rodents. Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. President. Care for a piece of cheese?