Donna Brazile: In Kenosha, Biden seeks to calm tensions and address racism — Trump throws gasoline on flames

Biden visits privately with Jacob Blake family in Kenosha

The contrast between Joe Biden’s visit to Kenosha, Wis., Thursday and President Trump’s visit Tuesday couldn’t have been greater.

Like a firefighter, Biden came to try to bring calm and put out the flames sparked by the Aug. 23 police attack on Jacob Blake, a Black man brutally shot in the back seven times — SEVEN TIMES — in front of his young children.

Trump came to Kenosha like an arsonist pouring gasoline on the flames for political advantage, portraying himself as a tough guy — Mr. Law and Order — standing up to protests that regrettably turned into attacks on stores and caused property damage.


Former Vice President Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, met privately with members of the Blake family for about 90 minutes. Blake — who was shot by a White police officer and left paralyzed below the waist — joined the call for about 15 minutes from his hospital room, with his mother at his bedside.

A statement issued by civil rights attorney Ben Crump — who is representing Blake and phoned in to the meeting between Biden, Biden’s wife Jill, and Jacob Blake’s father, sister and brothers — said that “the family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen.”

Joe Biden then met with a cross-section of Kenosha residents in a church — including protesters from the Black community, a firefighter, and a White business owner who said her store had been destroyed by rioters. Biden spent most of the time listening respectfully.

Once again, Biden made crystal clear that he strongly opposes violence, property destruction and looting. But at the same time, he addressed the issue of systemic racism that still afflicts America like a cancer of the soul — systemic racism that Trump denies even exists.

“Let’s get something straight here, protesting is protesting … but none of it justifies burning, looting or anything else,” Biden said. “So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or burn you should be held accountable the same as someone who has done anything else, period.”

At the same time, Biden — who wore a mask in the church due to the coronavirus pandemic — said Trump is “giving succor to white supremacists” by saying things that are “not only incorrect but immoral.”

On Trump’s visit to Kenosha, the president focused on property damage as the only legitimate concern. He sought to meet with the owners of a riot-burned camera shop, but the owners thought it inappropriate to use their loss as a campaign event and declined Trump’s request. However, Trump’s staff found the former owner of the shop, presented him as the current owner, and used him as a prop.

Trump ignored Jacob Blake and the Blake family — acting as though the brutal attack on Blake, which occurred as he was walking away from police, was irrelevant, rather than the cause of the disturbances in Kenosha.

At his roundtable in Kenosha, Trump interrupted the only two African Americans in attendance and the only ones to address racism in policing by saying: “I don’t believe that.”

Trump has not called for needed police reforms to prevent instances of police brutality that have killed or severely injured other Black people — such as George Floyd, who was killed when a White Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd lay on the ground helpless and handcuffed on Memorial Day.

Trump’s silence on the need for effective police reform and the need to fight racism is telling and disgraceful.

While extolling "law and order," Trump has praised, excused, and glorified lawless vigilantism. This would be like King George III addressing the Boston Massacre as only a policing problem rather than the desire of American colonists for independence.

Trump has made excuses for a young white nationalist outsider who was filmed punching a woman last month, and for his supporters who shot paintballs at protesters Portland, Ore., recently.

Incredibly, Trump has even made excuses for a White 17-year-old who came to Kenosha armed with an assault rifle and who stands accused of killing two people at a Black Lives Matter demonstration. The president suggested that the shooting was an act of self-defense.

Trump’s callous and indifferent response to embedded racism in policing is only making racial unrest worse. And while he is president of the United States, he absurdly claims that nothing that goes wrong is ever his fault — “Democrat mayors” are responsible for creating and quelling the unrest, not him, Trump says over and over again.

Many millions of Americans of all races have taken to the streets in protest since the killing of George Floyd. This is a widespread response by Americans that I didn’t see even during the 1960s civil rights protests, and gives me faith in the sense of justice of the American people.

Trump says falsely that crime is up only in large cities that are run by Democrats. But NBC investigated and found that crime has increased 20% and more in all of America’s largest cities — both Republican-run and Democratic-run.

Crime is up 34% in Democratic-led New York City, but also up 50% in Republican-led Fort Worth, Texas. Law enforcement officials say the crime rise is directly related to the coronavirus pandemic, which has been made worse by Trump’s incompetent response.

The president’s attempts to crush the protests embolden racists, make racism more entrenched, and lead to further unrest. He wants to capitalize on any disorder as a means to exercise military power against American citizens. But only in Democratic cities.

Trump’s only outreach to the concerns of Black people is to mouth platitudes that we want law and order too. It’s true that African Americans want law and order, of course. None of us want to become crime victims, any more than people of other races do.

But we also want good cops to stop being silent about bad cops. We want an America where our sons can go to the store, go jogging, or have a birthday party without worrying about being shot by an out-of-control police officer. We want an America where minor alleged crimes, like selling loose cigarettes, don’t result in death sentences for those accused.

Imagine if Trump had been president when Dr. Martin Luther King was alive, and imagine we had Twitter then. Trump would have ignored the brutal racism that Dr. King fought against nonviolently, and focused his attacks on the victims of racism.

I can just imaging Trump tweeting lies in defense of 14-year-old Emmett Till's murderers in 1955: “Till was a DANGEROUS guy who was about to RAPE that poor woman!”

Or tweeting about the horrific police riot in Selma, Ala., in 1965 to congratulate the state troopers who severely beat the late great John Lewis and other protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge: “We need law and order! John Lewis is a radical MARXIST who wants to destroy America!!”


Or praising Alabama Gov. George Wallace, a segregationist, for standing in the schoolhouse door to keep Black students out of the University of Alabama in 1963: “He’s a REAL PATRIOT and a FINE MAN, like the great Confederate generals!!”    

Trump’s 2020 campaign is a slick, ugly rerun of the worst segregationists of the 1960s. He counterbalances siding with White alleged lawbreakers with claims of support for Black Americans.

But make no mistake: We are waging a battle for the soul of our nation. We are fighting to carry on the work of every patriot who died at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, every American who rests for eternity on a foreign battlefield, every citizen who gave his or her life for the proposition that “all men are created equal.”


We are fighting to determine if our nation continues on the path to racial reconciliation and justice that Dr. Martin Luther King fought and died to create — or marches backward into venerating Confederate generals who committed treason against America to preserve the immoral and racist institution of slavery.

This is what is at stake in the November election. Forward with Biden, or backward with Trump. The choice could not be clearer.

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