GOP exploitation of dead cops a moral crime
As the son of a law enforcement officer who was on the job for nearly four decades, I would submit there ought to be an 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not exploit dead cops.
It is grotesque that anyone would ever seize on the killing of a police officer for political purposes. Alas, the practice is bipartisan.
On the left, the exploitation takes the form of those who ask that we try to understand the sense of alienation that drives some people to “self-radicalize” to the point where they could kill a police officer. We heard this insane argument from community activists and the liberal media during a rash of violence against cops about five years ago — in cities like Dallas, New York and Baton Rouge.
On the right, when the alleged assailant is an illegal immigrant, we often see a cheap and shrill attempt to turn the grief of families and communities over a fallen guardian into outrage over illegal immigration and “open borders.” Republicans typically use this cynical pitch as a way to accuse Democrats of coddling cop killers.
That’s what the GOP did last January when it put out a devastating 30-second online ad that helped cause the opposing party to buckle and end President Donald Trump’s first shutdown after just three days. Blending high-pitched buzzwords like “Democrats” and “Murder” and “Illegal Immigrants,” the spot — which was titled “Complicit” — blamed Trump’s political opponents for the damage done by a lowlife named Luis Bracamontes. The unrepentant killer of two police officers in 2014 who bragged about wanting to murder more cops became Trump’s “Willie Horton” — a Latino boogeyman intended to scare white people into going along with every crazy anti-immigration idea concocted by the White House.
And, as we know, when it comes to cooking up crazy, the grill at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is on 24/7.
Bracamontes made a return appearance — this time in a television ad released just six days before the November midterms, as the GOP tried to scare up the votes to prevent Democrats from retaking the House of Representatives.
But Trump and Co. was just warming up.
In December, tragedy struck again — this time, in the Central California city of Newman. The day after Christmas, Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh — himself a legal immigrant from Fiji — was gunned down during a traffic stop by an illegal immigrant. The 33-year-old police officer had spent Christmas morning with his wife and 5-month-old son, who will never know his father beyond stories and photographs.
Trump couldn’t wait to jump onto Twitter and take full advantage of the pain suffered by that family and community. And for what? To push his crusade for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border — which may or may not have kept out Singh’s assailant.
It was a shameless stunt. But as we have learned over the past few years, in a variety of circumstances, no elected official in America has less shame than Donald Trump. The president has become a master of ghoulishly utilizing the death of police officers for short-term political benefit.
Personally, I’m deaf to the dog whistle. When I learn that a cop has been killed — whether in the line of duty or off the job — I think to myself: “How old was the officer, and how many years was he or she on the job? Was he or she married, and did he or she have children?”
I don’t think: “Gee, I wonder if the killer was in the country illegally because then I’d really be furious!”
When a cop dies, I’m furious anyway — and heartbroken. Memory immediately transports me back to that day in the mid-1970s when my father, dressed in uniform with his service weapon on his hip, pulled me aside before he left to work. He told me that a man had threatened his life — and that he may not come home, that I should take care of my younger siblings.
So, what kind of conversations did you have with your dad when you were 10 years old?
You see, for me, the concept of dead police officers is personal and painful. It’s not just another issue du jour to be played with. Still, mercenary politicians use it as a chew toy. May they choke on it.