After a bruising week for Donald Trump’s administration and ego, the president appeared at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center. The president used the campaign-style event to bash the “dishonest media” and to prop-up his conservative base after last week’s controversial Charlottesville statements. His current approval rate hovers near 36%, according to Gallup pollsters.
It was expected the president might use this opportunity to pardon controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He didn’t tonight, but insinuated he would, “He’s going to be just fine” he told the crowd. Arpaio was recently found guilty of criminal contempt of court for refusing to stop the racial profiling and detainment of Latinos. Arpaio could face up to six months in jail when sentenced on October 5. Carlos Garcia of the Phoenix-based immigrant-rights group, Puente, stated that, “A pardon for Sheriff Arpaio by President Trump is an official endorsement of racism and white supremacy.”
Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton had pleaded with the president to hold off on the rally in light of the events in Charlottesville, stating that, “a delay would be the appropriate action for the White House.” In a Washington Post op-ed, the Phoenix mayor wrote, “America is hurting. And it is hurting largely because Trump has doused racial tensions with gasoline. With his planned visit to Phoenix on Tuesday, I fear the president may be looking to light a match.”
Surprisingly, Trump didn’t use the event to blast Republican Senator John McCain or to campaign against Republican Senator Jeff Flake in their home state. McCain recently gave the decisive vote, effectively killing the president’s hopes of gutting Obamacare. Flake, who recently released his book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle, that was heavily critical of the president, has also been on Trump’s Twitter hit-list in recent days.
Thousands of protesters arrived outside the venue, braving the 108 degree heat, but were kept at a distance from the rally attendees by police. One of the protesters, Anna Ruiz, a teacher from Phoenix said she marched for her undocumented students who were “too afraid.” “I’m here because I’m also gay. I’m here because I’m a woman. I’m here because I’m a Democrat. I’m a veteran. I’m a fifth generation Arizonian. I don’t like what’s happened to my state or my country. I’m so ashamed.”