POLITICS

Donald Trump's Telling Silence On The Kansas Shooting And The Uselessness Of The Republican Hindu Coalition

Sad!

28/02/2017 1:34 PM IST | Updated 28/02/2017 2:30 PM IST
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

I was wrong. When I wrote about the death of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in that Kansas City bar, I said "Trump will no doubt condemn Kuchibhotla's death". After all, this was a man who is on record as saying, "I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India. Big, big fan."

Nearly a week has gone past. The silence of the Twitter-happy president is getting louder by the day. He has tweeted about the "failing @nytimes" and its primetime ad during the Oscars, his "big dinner" with governors at the White House, and about "great optimism for future of US business, AND JOBS." But nothing about the attack in Kansas City.

Nearly a week has gone past. The silence of the Twitter-happy president is getting louder by the day.

At this point it does not matter if he says anything anymore. Everyone has heard the sound of his silence.

"With each passing day Trump's silence is even more telling," noted the Kansas City Star newspaper in an editorial. It pointed out that Trump loves to celebrate all-American heroes. "But he's passed on commending Ian Grillot, a bystander who leapt to take the gunman down before anyone else was harmed."

He had "no words of condolence for the grieving widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla" and he expressed "no sympathy for Kuchibhotla's best friend, Alok Madasani, who continues to recover from bullet wounds and the trauma."

This was for Trump an opportunity to "forcefully declare that this is not who we are". He very deliberately chose not to. The White House press secretary Sean Spicer has reacted, a reaction that was more about passing the buck than anything else.

"I mean, obviously any loss of life is tragic. To suggest that there's any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I'm not going to go any further than that." He wanted everyone to wait for law enforcement to do its job before "jumping to any conclusions".

This was for Trump an opportunity to "forcefully declare that this is not who we are." He very deliberately chose not to.

Today he called "early reports coming from Kansas" as "equally disturbing" while condemning attacks on Jewish community centres.

AFP/Getty Images
The key advisor to Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, Shalabh Kumar gestures as he speaks during a press conference in New Delhi on October 7, 2016. / AFP / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

His boss, the President, did not feel the need to wait before tweeting when an Egyptian brought a machete to the Louvre. His tweet went out within hours.

He tweeted: "A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S."

When a white supremacist attacked a mosque in Quebec killing six people and wounding eight, Trump was silent. Spicer said that the shooting was a "terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes our nation's safety and security".

What everyone noticed is that unlike the Paris incident where he quickly talked about "radical Islamic terrorist" or the Orlando gay club shooting where Trump taunted Obama about not daring to say "Islamic terrorism", this White House has indicated that it treats white supremacism as no ism at all.

When Trump had gone to the rally organised by the Republican Hindu Coalition, he had told the crowd, "If I'm elected president, the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House, that I can guarantee you."

That guarantee just came back, a bounced cheque. Trump showed not interest in even words of condolence and condemnation, even boilerplate concern that comes easily to politicians. Words are cheap. But silence can cost dearly. And Trump has chosen silence.

The administration claims its travel ban is about particular countries, not a particular religion. But the president's tweets definitely show a religious filter. As Max Boot, a fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations tweets "Of course President Trump has no comment. He only comments when the perpetrators are Muslim."

That guarantee just came back, a bounced cheque. Trump showed not interest in even words of condolence and condemnation, even boilerplate concern that comes easily to politicians. Words are cheap. But silence can cost dearly. And Trump has chosen silence.

Trump's avid supporters, the Republican Hindu Coalition has been slightly more vocal. The Republican Hindu Coalition's Shalabh Kumar tweeted: "Terrible what happened with #Kuchibhotla #Madasani & Grillot! Perpetrator should be tried & given maximum punishment allowed under the law." But there is no indication that this well-heeled group that contributed so much to Trump, the man who describes himself on Twitter as "the bridge between Trump and Modi", will even try to use his proximity to Trump to advocate for his own community.

It's clearly a bridge to nowhere except to self-aggrandisement. Even the GoFundMe pages to raise money for Kuchibhotla, Madasani and Grillot are not on their Facebook page. The Republican Hindu Coalition is happier to fill its Facebook page with pictures and clips of Kumar's press engagements in India.

Here's what the Republican Hindu Coalition's Facebook page posted.

"The famous father daughter duo @iamshalabhkumar @manasvimamgai often compared to Donald-Ivanka pair will go live with @ShekharGupta on @Ndtv."

"Trump and PM Modi's common goal is to make their countries great", Chairman Shalabh Kumar told Shekhar Gupta​ on On the Cuff."

Kansas City was the first test for the coalition and make no mistake, it flunked it. Every group that supports a politician demands a price for it. Latino groups want support on immigration policies. Women's groups might want support on freedom of choice. Law enforcement groups want a politician to back them up when they are under fire. The Republican Hindu Coalition acts as a cheerleader for Trump but cannot even push him into delivering a message of condolence.

Sushma Swaraj has tweeted "I am shocked" and said the Indian government would provide all assistance necessary. 25 US state governors and four special envoys went to the Indian ambassador's residence last weekend, in what was seen as a show of support and reassurance, especially in light of the president's silence. India has said the US government has assured them of a full investigation. India should demand that it follows through. If Americans were killed in a terror attack in India, would Narendra Modi not have been expected to speak up?

In an interview with the media, Kuchibhotla's widow Sunayana Dumala asked poignantly "Do we belong?" She said "I need an answer ... I need an answer from the government ... What are they doing to stop this hate crime?"

Tonight Donald "I am a big fan of India" Trump addresses the joint houses of Congress for the first time. One way or the other, Sunayana Dumala will get her answer in that address.

Perhaps Trump will finally address the issue. And then again, he might not. And that too would be an answer.

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