Trump likely will have said something new to suck up the media's attention—that 's his habit any time he makes a strong policy speech—but it is still worthwhile pausing a few moments to take note of Trump's fine remarks, delivered Tuesday not far from Milwaukee, where the country's latest anti-cop riots are unfolding, on race, law, and order.
Trump spoke what sounded like common sense on an issue where that has been lacking and needed. Any instances of police misbehavior or racism must be rooted out and prosecuted, of course, but the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and now Milwaukee, should not be framed as justified protests over alleged police brutality that just got out of hand. Trump pointed out what every law-abiding citizen in an inner city neighborhood knows: more policing, not less policing, makes neighborhoods safer (unless, of course, you are a thug).
While many of our political leaders can't resist the childish glamour of siding with the outlaws, Trump called the violence and destruction of Milwaukee what it is: "an assault of the right of all citizens to live in security and peace," adding, "Law and order must be restored. It must be restored for the sake of all, but most especially the sake of those living in the affected communities." And what neighborhoods might those be? Those communities are the inner cities, the poor neighborhoods that can least afford to be turned into safe spaces for those who loot and shoot.
Though the sister of Sylville Smith, the armed 23-year-old black man whose death at the hands of a (black) police officer triggered the Milwaukee riots, took to CNN to urge rioters to "take that sh*t to the suburb," these inner cities are where the violence takes place. Rather than saying that those who want to destroy should have space to do it, Trump says it's time to stop—for the sake of the people who live in these neighborhoods. Some of what Trump said is what we've needed to hear since Ferguson: "The main victims of these riots are law-abiding African-American citizens living in these neighborhoods," Trump said. "It is their jobs, their homes, their schools and communities which will suffer as a result."
A few more snippets: "There is no compassion in tolerating lawless conduct. Crime and violence is an attack on the poor, and will never be accepted in a Trump Administration," Trump said. Trump doesn't romanticize young people who riot—he sees them for what they are: threats to public order, especially public order in poor neighborhoods. As sad as we should be for the lost lives of Sylville Smith, the black youth shot in Milwaukee, and Michael Brown, who was killed in Ferguson in what a grand jury found to be a justified shooting, we should always remember that these young men are not the good role models.
Inner city youth shouldn’t have to live in fear of the police, but they also need opportunity and a better understanding of what a positive future might be and the path of hard work that it will take to get there. “I am running to offer you a much better future,” Trump said.
Trump is delivering the kind of straight talk we missed from former Attorney General Eric Holder, who took the Ferguson riots as an opportunity to reminisce about racism he had experienced, or the Rev. Al Sharpton, who emerged as the Obama administration's point man on racial issues, and who, as night follows day, showed up in Ferguson to make an impassioned oration at the funeral of Michael Brown.
As usual, Trump went too far—he accused his opponent, Hillary Clinton, of being directly responsible for the riots in Milwaukee. She is not and this is one of those missteps like declaring Mrs. Clinton and President Obama the founders of ISIS. Still, he was onto something: while Clinton has no direct responsibility, the policies of her party over the decades since the Great Society, which had a profound effect on the African-American family, do. The last Republican mayor sworn into office was in 1906. In 1912 the Democrats and Republicans put forward a "fusion" candidate to defeat a Socialist.
Trump pointed out in the speech that nearly four in ten single-mother households in Milwaukee are living in poverty, and that the graduation rate at Milwaukee's fifty-five public schools is only sixty percent, despite spending ten thousand dollars a year on every student. Clinton, cozy with the education union, will not rock the boat by promoting charter schools, which do give low-income kids a chance at a better life.
The hand of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, an indefatigable supporter of the police, under whom crime declined in New York, was visible in portions of the speech.
And indeed Trump cited Giuliani. "Imagine how many lives could have been saved," he said, "all across this country, if Democratic politicians hadn’t blocked in their cities what Rudy did in New York City? I’ll make sure we deliver safe neighborhoods here in Milwaukee, and all across this country."
I know Trump's words hit home because liberal commentators are all up in arms that Trump delivered his remarks in a town forty minutes away from Milwaukee and not in the tinderbox itself. A wise choice because he was there to say something important, not to stir riots.
If you're like me, you have a hard time watching some of Trump's antics. But Politico has printed the transcript of the Milwaukee speech, and, while the messenger is flawed, the wisdom is long overdue.