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Rat droppings: Five dumb things Trump apologists have said about the president’s anti-Baltimore tirade

Rat droppings: Five dumb things Trump apologists have said about the president’s anti-Baltimore tirade
A boy rides his bicycle this week outside the New Song Community Church in the Sandtown section of Baltimore. In the latest rhetorical shot at lawmakers of color, President Donald Trump over the weekend vilified Rep. Elijah Cummings majority-black Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” (Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

One of the peculiar side effects of President Donald Trump’s days-long social media assault on Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and the city of Baltimore was to spur some die-hard followers to his defense. Most did not attempt to address the inherent racism in Mr. Trump’s “infestation” language, some having used far worse in phone calls, letters and emails launched at this newspaper. (Calling Baltimore a “demon-crap city,” the coinage of a gentleman from South Carolina, was a highlight.) Availing themselves of such awesome resources as internet search engines and following talking points from the usual Fox News talking heads, they attempted a monumental feat — to explain how the president was neither racist nor wrong. Needless to say, it has been an unimpressive effort. Here are the top five stupidest claims we’ve heard so far:

1. This wasn’t about punching back at Mr. Cummings, President Trump just told it like it is. Never mind that the 7th District extends far beyond the city’s boundaries to cover affluent suburban areas where the most troublesome vermin are robo-call salesmen, or that his claim that Baltimore is more crime-ridden than Honduras is about 6,700 annual homicides short, the true imbecility of this claim is its implication that the people of Baltimore had no idea there were problems around these parts. Murders? Unemployment? Urban decay? You don’t say. Perhaps the president might have observed how these — along with some related problems including a loss of faith in the criminal justice system that was so manifest during the Freddie Gray unrest — are at the forefront of public discussion in this district and beyond. Every. Stinking. Day.

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2. There are rats in Baltimore. This is not Captain Obvious territory, this is the four-star General Easily Perceived. Rat eradication is kind of an ongoing war in these parts. Is it worse than in other urban centers? Often, critics point to a “Top Ten” list produced by one pest control company. And they’ve been running a vermin census that nobody told us about? But even if you buy the dubious rankings, the president’s native New York and current address, Washington, D.C., are so much worse.

3. Baltimore has wasted “billions and billions” of federal aid. This one comes up a lot. Usually, as when Mr. Trump made the claim to reporters Tuesday, it is without a shred of evidence. Later, he tossed out the number of $15 billion. Again, without evidence, but the White House did provide newspaper clips about ex-mayors Sheila Dixon and Catherine Pugh and their ethics woes. What a bunch of horse hockey, particularly given the intensive scrutiny given both (particularly by this newspaper). This is a blatant attempt to feed a long-standing narrative that would have certain Americans, chiefly middle class whites in Middle America, believe that non-white urban types are stealing them blind. We believe City Hall has its share of waste, but billions? Not hardly. Baltimore actually runs its government without a deficit while the feds are closing in on a $1 trillion shortfall. Meanwhile, isn’t it our money anyway? Maryland taxpayers sent the U.S. Treasury something on the order of $72 billion last year. We’re the ones getting shortchanged. Do the math.

4. Baltimore is a victim of one-party rule. Yes, Democrats run this city and have for years. But what do you expect when the GOP has no interest in nor agenda for urban America, plus a blatantly racist president? The issue with Baltimore leadership isn’t party, it’s competence. We could use more good leaders no matter what letter they put after their names.

5. The city is irredeemable. We get this a lot, and it makes our blood boil, which is the point, of course. Baltimore’s biggest trash problem isn’t the litter in the streets, it’s the shade cast by those who seek only to antagonize and don’t care about the actual circumstances of this city, the chronic under-funding of vital programs like special education, the legacy of segregation and red-lining, the health epidemic of drug abuse, and so on. For decades, this country has lacked a coherent urban strategy, but it’s gotten demonstrably worse under this president. That’s what Americans should be talking about, not whether rats or trash can be found in the back alleys.

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