There are few easier opportunities for a presidential candidate to look patriotic than by showing up in Manhattan on 9/11 and paying respects to the fallen – particularly with just weeks to go until the election. Joe Biden was at the Ground Zero ceremony this morning, as one would expect. But Donald Trump decided to send Mike Pence instead.
To be clear, Trump didn’t stay home. He went to the memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania instead. So it’s not as if he blew off 9/11 entirely today. But with all possible respect to the people who died in Shanksville, it makes little strategic or political sense for the President to go the small memorial there, while the Vice President attends the big high-profile memorial in Manhattan.
Some will suggest that perhaps Trump wanted to go to Shanksville because it’s in the key swing state of Pennsylvania. But realistically, Trump could have gotten far more widespread national coverage by going to Manhattan – and he needs help in swing states across the country. So this wouldn’t make sense.
Instead we should step back and look at the larger picture. Despite having spent decades living in Trump Tower in Manhattan, Donald Trump has largely tried to avoid visiting New York since taking office. And in the year since he learned that a New York grand jury was in the process of criminally indicting him, he’s avoided New York altogether, to the point of changing his official residency to Florida.
Donald Trump seems afraid to set foot in New York, for fear he’ll be arrested. This represents a lack of understanding of the legal process on his part. There is no indication that the grand jury has actually indicted him yet, and even if there is an indictment under seal, it’s somewhat hard to imagine New York law enforcement trying to arrest Trump while he’s surrounded by federal law enforcement. To that end, if New York really wanted to arrest Trump right now, it could do it in any state.
But Trump’s paranoia about his inevitable criminal indictment in New York seems to have made him afraid to set foot in the state, even now, while he’s still President, and hasn’t yet been indicted. Today was merely the latest instance of Trump going out of his way to avoid the place he spent most of his life calling home.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report