Why Trump can't shake his strange claim about Cory Booker

Trump seems preoccupied with a bogus claim about Cory Booker and housing policy. The underlying racism is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
Image: Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, speaks at the Black Economic Alliance Forum in Charleston on June 15, 2019.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, speaks at the Black Economic Alliance Forum in Charleston on June 15, 2019.Sean Rayford / Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

Donald Trump used Twitter over the weekend to promote a video of a Black man shoving a White woman on a New York City subway. The text in the missive blamed the incident on Black Lives Matter and antifa.

In reality, the video was from last year; the incident had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter or antifa; and the man featured in the video was charged and had a history of arrests related to public transportation in the city. A CNN fact-check added, "Sunday was not the first time he has amplified videos of a Black person committing a crime against a White person -- nor even the first time he has shared this particular subway assault video."

So why did the president do this? By all appearances because Trump is trying to generate racial tensions -- on purpose, as part of his re-election strategy.

All of this came to mind again last night, watching the president's latest interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham. From the transcript:

"So you have this beautiful community in the suburbs, including women, right? Women. They want security. I ended where they build low-income housing project right in the middle of your neighborhood. I ended it. If Biden gets in, he already said it's going to go at a much higher rate than ever before. And you know who's going to be in charge of it? Cory Booker. That's going to be nice. OK?"

Broadly speaking, there are two key elements to this. The first is the policy matter, which the president has never even tried to understand. At issue is a policy called the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule (AFFH), which was designed to help implement provisions of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As a Washington Post fact-check piece recently explained:

The rule, which was finalized in July 2015 and been in limbo since [Barack] Obama left office, is designed to push "meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics." Put simply, it was designed to help state and local officials provide better access to opportunity, following the original 1968 guideline.

Or put another way, what Trump has described as a policy intended to "abolish" suburbs is actually a federal rule designed to counter segregation in housing.

As for Booker, has anyone raised the prospect of putting the New Jersey Democrat "in charge of" the fair-housing rule? No. In fact, as we recently discussed, the claim doesn't even make sense: U.S. senators are not responsible for implementing federal housing policies.

And yet, the president has insisted, over and over and over again, that Cory Booker will take the lead on this. Do you suppose it's just a coincidence that Trump keeps peddling nonsense about race targeting the Senate's only Democratic Black man?

Last week, the president's allies went to great lengths during their convention to argue that Trump isn't racist, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. This week, the Republican seems eager to prove them wrong.