“What the hell is going on in Chicago?” Donald Trump asked a group of law enforcement officers at the FBI Academy on Friday. “What the hell’s happening there?”
Glad you asked, Mr. President.
What’s happening here is that murders skyrocketed in big cities in the United States in 2016 and Chicago is a big city in the United States.
A 59 percent jump over the year before. Quite a lot, though other cities were worse —
San Antonio jumped 61 percent.
Which means what? You can’t judge anything with a statistic as narrow as one year’s increase over another. On that scale, Orlando would be the Murder Capital of America, with 169 percent increase in 2016 over 2015, because of the Pulse nightclub massacre. Crime in Chicago is generally down.
If you look at a more significant statistic, the murder rate — the number of people killed per 100,000 residents — Chicago is behind St. Louis and Baltimore, Detroit and New Orleans, Cleveland and Newark and Memphis.
Not that it matters to the president. Trump doesn’t keep bringing up Chicago to illustrate the knotty problem of urban crime, but to kick something at the headquarters of the FBI, an organization he had been kicking hard earlier that morning.
And why? What scandal caused the president to say that the reputation of the FBI is “in tatters”?
It must have been something awful.
What has the FBI done to merit his relentless criticism? You know the answer: Investigate Russian meddling in U.S. elections.
Trump said the bureau is wasting “millions and millions of dollars” on “a scam.”
Some scam. The investigation has already bagged four former Trump associates: former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who both pled guilty to lying to the FBI and are cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller; plus former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates, who pled not guilty to charges of money laundering and tax evasion.
Who’s next? The president isn’t waiting to find out.
“We’re gonna rebuild the FBI,” he vowed.
Better do it quick, Mr. President, before the FBI rebuilds you first.
Without doubt the president has a soft spot for Russia.
Maybe Trump just likes strongmen. A wannabe tyrant himself, he admires the macho posturing of a Putin, the kill-’em-all, let-God-sort-’em-out approach Rodrigo Duterte brings to battling drug abuse in the Philippines.
No need for any probe to prove that.
It could be mere convenience. The Russians dug up dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump was running against her and flinging dirt with both hands and didn’t care where more dirt came from. The idea that the dirt came from a hostile foreign power seeking to corrupt America’s national election, the bedrock of our democracy, was just not a big deal.
To Trump, that is. To us, to people in Chicago, or anywhere the idea of a free nation not in the thrall of foreign dictators still has allure, it is a big deal. A very big deal. A federal case, if you will.
What the hell is happening in Chicago? Like a lot of big cities, we’re stepping into the moral void created by a president in love with our enemies and openly hostile to our friends and the values we cherish.
We’re waiting, and rooting for decency and democracy to prevail, for the gears of justice to turn. Cheering on the FBI, the good guys. We’ve seen this game before, where Eliot Ness and the feds swoop into a nest of corruption and begin kicking down doors. Al Capone wasn’t happy about it either. He also complained that not only was money being wasted, but it was his money. “It’s pretty tough when a citizen with an unblemished record must be hounded from his home by the very policemen whose salaries are paid, at least in part, from the victim’s pocket,” Capone told a newsman.
“You might say that every policeman in Chicago gets some of his bread and butter from the taxes I pay. … And yet they want to throw me in jail for nothing.”
Capone ended up in a cell. As for Trump, we’ll see.