A big part of Trump’s modus operandi is never apologizing, especially when it’s expected or demanded, which always makes it a surprise when he backtracks even a half-step. But that’s exactly what happened in the aftermath of the “send her back” chants at his Greenville, NC rally earlier this week, which were inspired by his own ‘go back’ tweet directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar and others. Yesterday, in the oval office, Trump tried to distance himself from the chant:
President Trump on "send her back" chant: "I was not happy with it. I disagree with it." pic.twitter.com/qEplHgf2vM— CSPAN (@cspan) July 18, 2019
It's not true that he started “speaking very quickly”—he actually took a lengthy pause—but the more important point is that he said he disagrees with the sentiment and “was not happy with it.” When pressed on the idea that they were basically echoing his own words, Trump backpedaled even further, trying to distance himself.
It's a rare sight, and a surprising one. Why did it happen? The Wall Street Journal had at least part of the explanation:
On Thursday morning, Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump's daughter and White House adviser, expressed her displeasure to him about the “send her back” chant at his campaign rally the night before, White House officials said. A group of House Republicans, including members of leadership, also complained to Vice President Mike Pence about the chant at a breakfast meeting, White House and congressional officials said.
It's interesting to see the name “Ivanka Trump” there, because it echoes a number of other issues on which Trump and Ivanka apparently had conversations. WaPo summarizes:
Other things Ivanka Trump has reportedly urged her father to do from behind the scenes? To halt a planned LGBT rights rollback, to issue a strong statement about anti-Semitism after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, to stop the family separation policy at the border and even to withdraw Brett M. Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination amid accusations of decades-old sexual misconduct.
Others, like the Times' Michael Barbaro, see a cynical angle:
For the Xth time, Ivanka Trump spoke with her father about X controversy he touched off, telling him X was problematic, according to X people close to her, who claimed that despite mountains of evidence, this conversation mattered.— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) July 19, 2019
Even if this is partly a PR ploy by Ivanka herself, the disturbing fact remains that she seems to be one of the few people—the only one?—who can actually get through to Trump. When the only barrier between our nation and creeping fascism is the president’s daughter, we’re in a lot of trouble.