So what name does President Trump have in mind for Jeremy Joseph Christian? Trump has to be working on something, since name-calling is his weapon of choice when it comes to branding people. If nothing else, Christian, identified by authorities as the perpetrator of last week’s horrifying, hate-filled terrorist attack in Portland, Ore., warrants being called out for the wretched creature that he is.
Trump had no problem doing just that when it came to the terrorists involved in the Manchester, England, attack that killed 22 people. “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term,” Trump said. “I will call them, from now on, losers, because that’s what they are. They’re losers.”
Terrorists most likely don’t care one whit about being held in low esteem by Trump. Their feelings are probably mutual.
The question, however, is what the president thinks of Christian, a 35-year-old white nationalist who stepped onto a Green Line TriMet MAX light-rail train at 4:19 p.m. on May 26. Equally pressing: What does Trump think of the victims of the anti-Muslim attack that Christian is charged with carrying out on that train?
Those questions about the violent incident are hard to answer based on Trump’s tweet, belatedly sent three days after the fact from the presidency’s official account — as opposed to Trump’s main Twitter account to his 31 million followers. Why was the staffed-up official account, with its far smaller audience, chosen over Trump’s personal one, which he uses to communicate his own thoughts? Maybe that’s just one of life’s mysteries.
More interesting is the fact that Trump has had more to say about the Manchester monster than Portland’s homegrown right-wing terrorism.
Even what Trump said in the brief official tweet fell way short of the mark. He called the attack “unacceptable” and added: “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are with them.” Not one word about the killer. Not even a nod toward the two young women of color on the train, one of whom was wearing a hijab, who were the targets of the perpetrator’s shouted anti-Islamic slurs.
One reason that more is called for can be found in the probable cause document signed by Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin. It describes how Christian made his way onto the national news cycle.
According to Lufkin: When Christian boarded the train, he went right after the two young women.
“Get the f— out.” “Pay taxes.” “Go home, we need American here!” “I don’t care if you are ISIS.” “Free speech or die.” He was heard saying something about “decapitating heads.”
The young female victims, scared to death, moved to the back of the train. One of the young women later said, “He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should just kill ourselves.”
Lufkin described the rest as captured on the train’s surveillance system and cellphone video taken by passengers: Christian taunting passengers who tried to calm him down; Christian pulling a folding knife out of his pocket and concealing it in his hand; Christian swinging and stabbing, first one man, then a second, then a third. Next, Christian picking up his belongings and stepping from the train onto the platform, holding out the knife and threatening people, pausing only long enough to grab a bag dropped by the young Muslim woman and then throwing it into the freeway as he exited up the stairs.
Christian was caught several blocks away. The knife was found. Two of the stabbing victims — Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky Best — did not recover. They died: Namkai Meche at the hospital; Best at the scene.
Even under arrest, Christian continued to spew the hate burning within.
While being transported in a police vehicle, Lufkin wrote, Christian offered these thoughts: “Get stabbed in your neck if you hate free speech,” “that’s what liberalism gets you.”
During his brief initial court appearance on Tuesday, Christian shouted: “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism!” He interrupted with outbursts, yelling, “Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place!” and “Death to the enemies of America!”
Earlier in the police car, Christian allowed as how he could now “die in prison a happy man.”
Christian’s happiness is the least of my concerns.
More troubling is Trump’s deafening silence on the young women terrorized by an anti-Islamic rant, and the accused white-supremacist assailant whom Trump chooses to give no name.
That only deepens the tragedy.