Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) stops to talk with reporters before a meeting in Chicago on June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
WASHINGTON – Asked about President Trump’s remarks at Tuesday’s White House Black History Month ceremony, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who hadn’t seen the event, asked PJM if the administration displayed a “lynching tree” there.
“Lynching? What did they have? A tree like out in Alabama they used to lynch with?” Rush asked during an interview Tuesday evening after the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Avoice Heritage Celebration recognizing African-American veterans.
When Rush was told there wasn’t a lynching tree at the White House, he replied, “Oh, they didn’t have that? He didn’t do a replica of a lynching tree?”
The theme of the White House’s Black History Month ceremony was “African-Americans in Times of War.” During the event, Trump reiterated his remarks about a record-low African-American unemployment. The rate in December was 6.8 percent; the lowest previous rate was 7 percent in April 2000. The current trend began falling in June 2013, when the rate was 14.2 percent.
Rush, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was asked if he thinks the low rate is evidence that the administration’s policies are working for African-Americans.
“Oh, absolutely not. The unemployment rate for our whole nation is coming down and it had nothing to do with Trump,” Rush said. “It started years ago under Obama, really before Obama, but during the Obama years. So [Trump] can’t take credit for that. And there are too many African-Americans who are underemployed, and until we deal with the issue of underemployment of African-Americans there’s no reason to rejoice.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was also asked if there is a correlation between the African-American unemployment rate and the Trump administration’s policies.
“I have no factors that would allow me to comment on a random statement about African-American unemployment,” Jackson Lee replied. “I know that in the policy sector, we continue to work to provide opportunities for our young people.”
PJM asked Rush, an Army veteran, if he supports the Trump administration’s efforts to reform the Veterans Affairs administration.
“No. He’s been lethargic in terms of his support for veterans. A lot of it emanates from the fact that he is not a veteran so he can’t really empathize with veterans,” said Rush, who skipped Trump’s State of the Union address.
“He can try to create a national parade down Pennsylvania Avenue so that everybody can salute him,” the congressman added, noting again Trump’s lack of military service. “He has the form and rhetoric for being an advocate for veterans, but he doesn’t have the substance.”
Trump has asked the Department of Defense to plan a military parade that would possibly showcase troops and hardware like the Bastille Day parade the president openly admired in France. White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney estimated today that a military parade would cost between $10 million and $30 million.
Rush said he’s “absolutely not” a fan of the idea “unless you really are going to highlight the veterans who are struggling and the effects of war and not try to mesmerize people with the military war equipment.”
“The human effects of war – that’s what needs to be highlighted,” he emphasized.