by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump bookended a free-wheeling rally on Tuesday evening — which featured attacks on the media and incumbent Republicans — with a pair of disciplined speeches both before and afterward that promoted unity, creating a volatile three days for Republicans still reeling from the backlash to Trump’s controversial comments on recent violence in Charlottesville, Va.
The series of speeches extended coverage of his response to the Charlottesville clashes into a second week and coincided with increased scrutiny of his relationship with GOP congressional leaders. Press secretary Sarah Sanders even felt the need to speak out publicly on reports that the lines of communication between Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had frozen over amid tensions that the Charlottesville imbroglio had only made worse.
“He’s literally trying to do three things at once,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said of Trump. “[He’s trying to] pass his legislative agenda, fire up the base and push back on the media narrative that he’s a racist.”
Trump had opened his primetime national security address on Monday with his most forceful call for unity since a white supremacist rally in Virginia turned violent on Aug. 12. But he launched into a lengthy relitigation of the controversy over his response last week to Charlottesville during his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.
And the president reverted back to the formality of Monday’s remarks with a speech in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday dedicated to veterans and national unity.