Trump's Tulsa rally was a flop

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CNN's Brian Stelter talks about the last-minute cancellation of planned remarks by President Donald Trump before an overflow crowd prior to a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Posted: Jun 21, 2020 9:10 PM
Updated: Jun 21, 2020 9:10 PM

President Donald Trump couldn't wait. His presidency is nosediving, with bad news erupting all around him. His answer was Tulsa, a campaign rally in blood-red Oklahoma, the state he won by a crushing 36 points in 2016.

But Tulsa did not deliver. The event that was supposed to trumpet his return to greatness -- and the country's return to normalcy -- instead brought embarrassing scenes of empty bleachers, a dismantled stage and a familiar speech unsuccessfully trying to reignite public fears.

After raising expectations with claims that a million people had requested tickets for his first campaign rally in more than three months, the vacant seats were the biggest story of the night. It was a bad omen for November, and Trump undoubtedly saw it with his own eyes as he scanned a sea of blue seats devoid of supporters on the top level of the arena that he and his campaign had said would be bursting beyond capacity; so full, they expected, that the campaign planned for a second outdoor speech to bring an additional 40,000 people unable to find a seat indoors.

Instead, the outdoor speech was cancelled, the stage dismantled. The campaign absurdly tried to explain by claiming that protesters blocked the entrances. But every reporter there confirmed that was not true.

Maybe Tulsans weren't dying to see Trump during a pandemic, although many thousands did come, possibly risking their lives to follow a president who showed he doesn't value the health of his supporters enough to follow the advice of health experts. They had urged him to postpone the rally. Oklahoma has seen rising numbers of coronavirus diagnoses in the runup to the meeting, and an indoor gathering of thousands -- most of them without face masks -- may be the best possible way to spread the contagion.

The speech covered mostly familiar terrain, old promises, boring attacks and outrageous statements. The theatrical incitement and divisiveness genuinely energized the crowds when Trump first took to the hustings four years ago. Now it's mostly more of the same. We're used to him now. We've heard it all before.

Still, as with so much that is happening in the world today, we have to remind ourselves how abnormal it all is, to hear a president of the United States threaten violence against Americans and traffic in prejudice.

Speaking of recent anti-racism protests, he warned, "our people are not nearly as violent. But if they ever were, it would be a terrible, terrible day for the other side." It's unclear who exactly "the other side" is. The speech was filled with the usual racist innuendo. He called Covid-19 the racist term "Kung-flu," dog whistled, "they want to demolish our heritage," and spoke of the brutality of gangs, claiming that if Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats are elected, "our country will be destroyed."

Does anyone really believe that?

The crowds cheered when Trump attacked CNN or China, but it appeared to me that his effort to make them hate Biden didn't elicit quite so much excitement.

The speech was typically self-centered, with a bizarre more than ten-minute long riff on his ultra-slow descent from the West Point ramp, and absolutely no words of compassion for the nearly 120,000 people in this country who have died during the pandemic.

Instead, Trump repeated the lie that coronavirus numbers are climbing because there's more testing, shockingly revealing that, "I said to my people, slow the testing down, please." Experts say testing saves lives. Slowing the testing leads to more deaths. The White House predictably claimed he was joking.

If this was the great comeback, the relaunch of Trump's campaign for re-election, it was a flop, and Trump most likely knows it. Don't be surprised if heads roll in the campaign.

Instead of a showcase for the great enthusiasm Trump is supposed to engender in his supporters, it left quite a different impression.

Not only did we not see the massive crowds we were promised, we saw something else, something deeply disturbing. We saw a president willing to risk the lives of his supporters in order to garner political support. Six Trump staffers organizing the event had tested positive.

Every image of the crowd of tightly-packed Oklahomans holding Trump 2020 signs made one wonder how many among them was breathing in the coronavirus. How many will contract Covid-19; how many will take it home to their relatives, to their neighbors, friends and co-workers? How many will die because of this Trump rally?

Instead of a triumphant relaunch, we saw a president threaten anti-racism protesters, and that started even before the rally.

Instead of a president confident in his achievements, we saw a man in the midst of a string of defeats. We saw a man unable to recognize the depths of the crisis faced by his country.

Trump is in freefall, presiding over the worst public health crisis in a century, the highest unemployment rate since World War II, the biggest sustained protests in decades. He is losing in the Supreme Court; his poll numbers are nosediving. And in the 24 hours before this rally, his administration launched a shambolic effort to push out a prosecutor who is investigating criminal cases targeting people close to Trump. It was a spectacularly incompetent effort, and one that succeeded in making us wonder why Trump wanted to get rid of the prosecutor; one more wound on a presidency that is bleeding its way to the finish line.

If Tulsa was supposed to salve Trump's wounds and send him on his way to victory, it accomplished nothing of the sort. You cannot count Trump out, but he is certainly down.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
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Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
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Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
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Jefferson296574
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Scott252150
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Jay178828
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Blackford120727
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Newton96832
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Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 978471

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1130371251
Cuyahoga969331881
Hamilton739231067
Montgomery47536923
Summit40720831
Butler35859531
Lucas35802720
Stark29602826
Warren22593275
Lorain22218424
Mahoning19586551
Lake18564332
Clermont18541205
Delaware16614121
Licking15096194
Fairfield14653188
Trumbull14437424
Greene13664221
Medina13531237
Clark12394256
Wood11670170
Portage11140172
Allen10822216
Richland10376188
Miami10065194
Muskingum8244117
Columbiana8174210
Pickaway8096111
Tuscarawas8083232
Marion8021127
Wayne7939199
Erie6972146
Ross6178132
Geauga6118142
Hancock6032121
Scioto600988
Ashtabula6002154
Lawrence527886
Union516741
Darke5052116
Belmont5000137
Huron4862108
Jefferson4843137
Sandusky4800112
Washington475596
Seneca4738111
Athens466449
Mercer459781
Auglaize456682
Shelby442679
Knox4056105
Putnam400593
Madison395755
Fulton383461
Ashland383083
Brown375252
Defiance374088
Crawford360198
Logan357673
Preble354187
Clinton342755
Highland328551
Ottawa325471
Williams303568
Jackson292046
Champaign291149
Guernsey288945
Perry271348
Fayette270143
Morrow261637
Henry247961
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton241156
Van Wert230357
Gallia223938
Adams218339
Pike217328
Wyandot212450
Hocking195154
Carroll182143
Paulding161134
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117637
Morgan102220
Harrison100731
Vinton76713
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