Donald Trump, clearly eager to hold campaign rallies and bask in the affection of his followers, announced last week that he would return to the trail with his first coronavirus-era campaign event, to be held on June 19 in Tulsa. It was immediately controversial for two reasons.
The first was the historical significance of the date and location: the president and his team scheduled the rally for Juneteenth in the same city that had the worst incident of racial violence in American history. Late last week, Trump took a step to resolve that problem.
President Donald Trump on Friday night tweeted that he is rescheduling a Tulsa, Oklahoma, rally that was to take place on Juneteenth, which is the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Trump wrote that the rally would be moved a day, to June 20. Juneteenth is June 19.
And while the change in dates addressed one concern, there's still the other one. The Associated Press reported over the weekend on Team Trump's eagerness to hold a rally, during a pandemic, in an indoor venue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the highest risk events for transmission of the coronavirus this way: "Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area." The CDC recommends cloth masks in places where people might shout or chant. Trump's rallies typically draw tens of thousands of supporters. They usually stand outside in line for hours before passing through airport-style security and cramming into an arena, where they sit side by side or stand shoulder to shoulder. The rallies are typically raucous, with much shouting, cheering and chanting.
The fact that many attendees at Trump events tend to be older only accentuates the hazards. What's more, as the AP's report added, the president's rallies "typically draw supporters from surrounding towns and states. Some die-hard fans travel across the country from rally to rally like groupies for a band."
If the coronavirus itself hired lobbyists to pressure the Trump campaign, this is what the lobbyists would ask for. (There's a reason the president's political operation is asking attendees to sign liability waivers.)
Dr. Bruce Dart, director of Tulsa's City-County Health Department, told the Tulsa World his preference would be to see Team Trump delay the event further. "I think it's an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic," the doctor said. "I'm concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I'm also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well."
I've been trying to think of a way to present the flip side to all of this in a fair way, but I've come up empty. Trump doesn't have much of a political incentive to go to Oklahoma -- it's not a 2020 battleground -- and if he were determined to visit the Sooner State, he could have an outdoor event that took deliberate steps to protect attendees.
What's more, as Rachel noted on Friday's show, the number of coronavirus cases in Tulsa has grown quickly and suddenly of late, making the risks even more acute.
Why do this? The editorial board of the Tulsa World added today, in reference to the president, "We don't know why he chose Tulsa, but we can't see any way that his visit will be good for the city."
Postscript: Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, claimed yesterday that 800,000 people have requested tickets to the president's event in Tulsa. I'm not sure if that was a typo, but the local venue holds 19,000 people.
The population of Tulsa is roughly 400,000.