President Donald Trump (AFP File Photo)
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump boasted on Monday that almost a million people have requested tickets for his Saturday night rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, amid growing concern even among his own associates that the event would send out wrong signals both on the health front (due to Covid-19), and in terms of political messaging because of the city’s association with a massacre of blacks.
Although Trump agreed to postpone the rally that was initially scheduled for a day known as Juneteenth (June 19), which commemorates the emancipation in 1865 of the last remaining enslaved Blacks in the Confederacy, he has doubled down on holding the event in the midst of a pandemic in a state where there has been an uptick in Covid-19 cases – and in a city where scores of African-Americans were lynched by white residents 99 years ago.
Oklahoma is among the 21 states where the average daily coronavirus infections has hit a record-high seven-day-average of new cases. But Trump is dismissing apprehensions that his rally could aggravate the situation. "The Far Left Fake News Media, which had no Covid problem with the Rioters & Looters destroying Democrat run cities, is trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies. Won’t work!" he maintained, amid widespread disapproval of his rally in healthcare circles.
Trump’s Tulsa rally, which is slated to be held indoors in a 19,000-seat arena that has canceled all other events through the end of July, comes even as several polls show him trailing Democratic nominee Joe Biden by a wide margin in the November 3 Presidential elections. A survey in the Economist, which claims to have addressed flaws in polling in 2016 that showed an imminent Hillary Clinton victory, says "if the election were held today, Biden would win in a near-landslide."
But Trump is dismissing such polls, pointing to what he believes is continued enthusiasm for his Presidency and for a second term manifested in fervor at his rallies, which have been on hold for three months now since the pandemic began. While he sees the Tulsa rally as renewed validation of this support, his own associates are concerned that the event could end in a disaster rather than a political windfall.
Reluctant to call out the President directly for going ahead with the rally, some of his aides, notably White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow, have advised that those who are attending the rally should wear masks, amid much hand-wringing from local health officials in Oklahoma.
Trump’s eagerness to press ahead with the rally comes amid growing questions about his competence in handling the health crisis and the racial tensions, and about his own health. Over the weekend, his critics feasted on footage showing him having difficulty which walking down a ramp and while drinking water (he had to use two hands to lift the cup to his mouth), during his visit to the West Point Military Academy, forcing Trump to retort that he was in good health and describing Biden as "weak and shot."
Trump turned 74 on Sunday and Biden is 78, and their age while running for high office is the butt of jokes among some comedians.
More political troubles are looming ahead for the embattled President with two new books critical of due for publication in the next few weeks. One of them is a personal memoir by his niece Mary Trump, in which she reportedly alleges that he contributed to her father’s death from alcoholism, and that his presidency is disapproved by his own sister, her aunt Maryanne Trump Barry, an 83-year-old retired federal judge
Mary Trump herself is a clinical psychologist, and her book, titled Too Much And Never Enough, is due out in August just ahead of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.
Also due for publication shortly is a book by former National Security Advisor John Bolton titled “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” in which he recounts turmoil and chaos in the Trump White House.