President Trump tweeted that it must have been a setup, a hoax when a 75-year-old protester was knocked to the ground by Buffalo police and left with his head bleeding, a claim that sent many of the nation's leading Republicans ducking for cover.
It was just another example of the "Hear No Evil, See No Evil" party that the GOP has become under Trump's presidency, which surely must have been a hoax. It simply couldn't be real, could it?
Well, it is real, just like the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer is real. Just like the tears of his brother, Philonise, were real when he testified today before the House Judiciary Committee and urged lawmakers to "make the necessary changes to make law enforcement the solution and not the problem."
House and Senate Democrats, in the wake of nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd's murder, have unveiled sweeping police reform legislation, and Senate Republicans have a broad outline for their own proposal in an effort led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC, the only African American Republican in the Senate and one of only two in the entire Congress.
GOP Senators Silent
Nevertheless, when asked to react to Trump's suggestion that Martin Gugino, who police knocked to the sidewalk in Buffalo, was part of a "set up," several Republican senators dodged the questions or went silent, CNN reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a stiff challenge for reelection for his Kentucky Senate seat, refused to say whether Trump's tweet was appropriate. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) hustled onto an elevator without responding. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska said he hadn't seen the tweet and that he didn't want to comment as he was heading to a meeting.
"Voters can evaluate that," Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, adding: "I'm not going to give a running commentary on the President's tweets."
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida claimed he didn't see Trump's tweet, but that he didn't know anything about the man who was pushed. "I have no information about that man or who he is," said Rubio.
Why are they ducking for cover? Is it because they don't care about the action that resulted in the man's injury? Or is it because they are simply afraid of crossing Trump?
A Republican strategist quoted anonymously by The Washington Post put it like this: “It’s all about operating outside of the tumult of the moment with him, but leaving yourself in a position for him to rally for you this fall. Look — no one can afford at this point to get on the wrong side of Trump. But you can kind of play it cool and don’t have to comment on everything he does.”
So it's a fine line that GOP candidates must walk. They can't afford to criticize Trump for fear of retribution, but they're afraid his actions and comments will bog down their own chances for reelection and jeopardize the GOP’s three seat Senate majority.
A CNN survey released Monday showing Trump at a 14 percentage point deficit to Biden thoroughly angered Trump, who wrote on Twitter that the CNN survey and others were “FAKE based on the incredible enthusiasm we are receiving.” He added, “Despite 3 ½ years of phony Witch Hunts, we are winning, and will close it out on November 3rd!”
But that survey compares to a May 25-28 Washington Post-ABC News poll that showed Biden leading Trump 53 percent to 43 percent, a margin of 10 points among registered voters nationally. The two candidates had been in a virtual dead heat two months earlier. So a lot of ground has been lost since then.
Trump points out that those same polls showed him losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he proved them wrong. He'll do it again, he predicts.