In the midst of his plan to bring an end to the Vietnam War in 1969, President Richard Nixon called on the "great silent majority" of Americans for support.
His hope was there would be such an overwhelming response from everyday citizens that the war protesters carrying signs, firebombing buildings and kidnapping university officials — and getting the desired media coverage for their exploits — would be drowned out.
It didn't exactly work out that way for Nixon. The silent majority responded in 1972 by overwhelmingly electing him to a second term, but the protests didn't stop until the majority of troops were being brought home from the war.
No one is asking the silent majority today how they feel about the violence in their cities, and we think we know why. Because if the media sought out "average Joes" — those who work for a living, those who are trying to follow the rules during a global pandemic, those who believe the job of law enforcement is to protect them — they would get an earful. And that doesn't fit the worldview of those doing the asking.
We know, after all, how protesters feel and how much they care about preserving cities. They've shown us. We know how Democratic mayors of most large cities feel. They may not want their cities destroyed, but they've made it clear they'll let them burn if it means preventing President Donald Trump from being seen as restoring order. We know how the national media feel. We've seen how they'll go to any lengths to destroy, degrade and deter the president.
So we have Portland, Oregon, where a riot was declared early Thursday morning, where nearly two months of protests haven't been quelled, where the Democratic mayor was booed, told to resign and had to be protected by a security detail to get to safety Wednesday.
We have Seattle, where the Democratic mayor stood by and allowed part of her city to be taken over by anarchists for 24 days, where the city council voted to strip police of "crowd control" gear, where 12 law enforcement officers were injured by rioters throwing objects on just one day last weekend.
We have Chicago, where 63 people were shot and 12 people killed last weekend, where 20 more people were shot Monday, where at least 15 people were wounded in a mass shooting outside a funeral home Tuesday, where the Democratic mayor tweeted about "another senseless tragedy" but declared "under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump's troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents."
Terrorize our residents? What does she think is going on in her streets every day?
So how should a president of the United States react to such violence? Should he stand by and wish them well or should he send federal law enforcement officers to the cities to help restore order?
With Trump, as with practically everything he's done during his term, he can't win. The president, as we have often pointed out, can be his own worst enemy, but either decision he would have made about the cities would not be the right answer.
Were he to have washed his hands and announced he was letting cities fend for themselves, he would be called callow, uncaring and willing for people to die in the streets. As it is, by sending in law enforcement from the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Marshals Service; and Department of Homeland Security, he's being called callow, uncaring and willing for people to die in the streets.
If it seems protecting American cities today has become political, it has.
Having said that, we believe there can be nuances to such protection. Even while having to be personally shielded from violence, the Portland mayor said he didn't want, ask for or need federal officers sent to his city. But, in spite of rhetoric from public officials to the contrary, we have read of "agreements" made in Seattle and Chicago for federal personnel.
In the "good ol' days" of rioting and protesting in the 1960s, Democratic mayors of large U.S. cities were quick to seek law enforcement assistance from the then-Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson.
Today, even if the negotiations are behind the scenes, we believe some sort of agreement for assistance should be in place between cities and federal officials. If no agreement is reached, the president could legitimately say, "After negotiations with federal officials, the mayor of (fill in the blank) has requested no outside assistance for his/her city. We disagree with the decision, but we remain ready to help if we are called."
And we believe any such assistance should be clearly delineated, both who will be present, how they will be identified and exactly what their role or mission is. Portland officials, whether telling the truth or spinning, say they don't know who's there and that many are not identified as law enforcement. Identification should be a minimum for such assistance.
Although the situation — fair or unfair — is a no-win for Trump, we would hope the silent majority in all cities speaks up and lets their officials know what they want: less law enforcement and more anarchy, or reasonable law enforcement and more peace.