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Trump's snub over Obama portrait is part of a plan (opinion)

The President is suffering one political body blow after another. And his instinct, when cornered, is to fall back on what worked so well in 2016: disruption, distraction and division, writes Errol Louis. What is different is that Americans battling the Covid-19 pandemic have all the disruption we can handle; that leaves Trump with his most basic move.

© Scott Olson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images  CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 24: Former U.S. President Barack Obama visits with youth leaders at the University of Chicago to help promote community organizing on April 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The visit marks Obama's first formal public appearance since leaving office. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Errol Louis, CNN

There appears to be virtually no chance that President Donald Trump, facing a rocky road to re-election, will extend to his predecessor, President Barack Obama, the traditional courtesy of a formal ceremony at the White House to unveil Obama's official portrait.

Any likelihood of that -- however slim to begin with -- has seemingly vanished with Trump's ebbing political fortunes. If this President were presiding over a thriving economy and a contented population, and riding high in the polls, there might have been a chance that he would be magnanimous, and proffered the friendly, time-honored gesture to his predecessor.

But Trump is on the ropes, suffering one political body blow after another. And his political instinct, when cornered, is to fall back on what worked so well in 2016: disruption, distraction and division. What is different this time is that Americans battling the Covid-19 pandemic have all the disruption we can handle. Nobody's looking for a President to turn Washington upside down.

Trump's usual parlor tricks -- picking fights with celebrities, assigning childish nicknames to political opponents -- have gone stale at a time when millions are looking for work and are worried about the health threat to their families.

That leaves Trump with his most basic move: racial division. In 2015, he descended the escalator at Trump Tower and referred to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" ("and some, I assume, are good people," he said). He seemed to revel in religious bigotry during that same year, demanding "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

But the North Star for Trump is the racial appeal of constantly aiming snubs and attacks at the nation's first black president, Barack Obama. Seemingly out of nowhere, Trump and his faithful echo chamber at Fox News have concocted a conspiracy theory he has dubbed "Obamagate."

There's no particular logic to Obamagate, which roughly boils down to a claim floated without evidence that former President Barack Obama led a supposed "coup" to sabotage Trump's presidency. There doesn't have to be logic. Indeed, when pressed by a reporter to explain it, Trump was unwilling to even try.

We're likely to see more attacks on Obama as Trump searches for a strategy to reverse the serious challenges he faces as he tries to get re-elected. Even before reports surfaced of the President -- enraged over falling poll numbers a few weeks ago -- shouting into the phone at his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, it was clear that the odds are not in Trump's favor.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but Trump was recently impeached -- only the third president in history to bear that indelible mark of scandal.

He has hopelessly botched the response to the coronavirus crisis. Reckless on-camera promises in February that the virus "is going to disappear" have been followed by the promotion of quack cures from the White House podium.

Covid-19 has already claimed more than 91,000 lives in the US, is spreading rapidly and is likely to surge once again in the fall, according to Trump's own director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield.

Trump presides over the highest unemployment rate of the last 80 years -- more than 20% -- and knows that a deep economic recession in the election year was politically fatal the last three times that incumbent presidents -- Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush -- were voted out of office.

The President knows he is holding a losing hand, trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national polls and in swing states that Trump carried four years ago, including Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

So it's back to basics for a man whose political career, let us remember, was based on the lie of birtherism -- the conspiracy theory, constantly promoted by Trump, that Obama was born in Africa and never legitimately elected.

Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates nailed it in a PBS documentary. "There was a shocking amount of resentment that a black family had been in the White House for two terms," he said. "I think it would be naive to overlook it -- the irony that one of the legacies of Obama's presidency was an enormous amount of resentment."

Sadly, it never takes much to stoke the embers of racial resentment and hatred in this country. But that is Trump's strategy. He's playing the race card because he's holding a weak political hand.

Read more at CNN

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dearJulius.com News | Breaking News, US News, World News: Trump's snub over Obama portrait is part of a plan (opinion)
Trump's snub over Obama portrait is part of a plan (opinion)
The President is suffering one political body blow after another. And his instinct, when cornered, is to fall back on what worked so well in 2016: disruption, distraction and division, writes Errol Louis. What is different is that Americans battling the Covid-19 pandemic have all the disruption we can handle; that leaves Trump with his most basic move.
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