If Trump can’t arrange his own meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, how does he unite the country?

The following article by Terence Samuel was posted on the Washington Post website February 16, 2017:

President’s Trump news conference on Thursday turned quickly into a fireworks display of rants and recriminations as the new chief executive blasted away at the media, belittled his detractors and discounted the obvious chaos that has enveloped his White House.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” Trump declared at the outset, ignoring all the controversy that has consumed his first weeks in office.

He took a lot of questions, and many of his answers carried a kind of detached-from-the-common-reality quality to them. But one of the most surreal moments came late in the news conference, when Trump called on April Ryan, the Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks.

Ryan queried the president on his agenda for inner cities and asked if he had any plans to include the Congressional Black Caucus in advancing that agenda. Trump had a question of his own: “Do you want to set up the meeting?”

Ryan seemed stunned: “No — no — no,” she said. The president pressed her more: “Are they friends of yours?”

She begged off: “I’m just a reporter.”

.@AprilDRyan asked Trump if he’ll meet with the Congressional Black Caucus.

He responded: “Are they friends of yours?”

After the questions about Russia, the legal status of his immigrant travel ban and the disarray in the White House, one huge question Trump has faced is whether he can bring some of the 54 percent of people who did not vote for him into his camp so he can govern more effectively. For Trump, black voters would be among the least persuadable of that group, but Ryan’s question was about the level of that outreach.

The odd answer spoke to the president’s detachment on how he might bridge the divide that is now a signature of his early presidency. A Pew Research poll released Thursday showed Trump with a 56 percent disapproval rating, a record achievement compared with the past five presidents.

Trump went on to explain that Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a former chair of the CBC, has refused to meet with him, and suggested that Cummings had canceled the meeting at the suggestion of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) “He probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight … don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics,” The president said.

Cummings seemed stunned by the turn of events: “I have no idea why President Trump would make up a story about me like he did today,” he said in a statement. “Of course, Senator Schumer never told me to skip a meeting with the President.”

The president loves a fight and needs his enemies, which can make any kind of outreach to opponents more difficult. Sometimes even when he tries, the efforts go haywire. A Black History Month event at the White House recently might have ended up alienating more black Americans than it attracted, after the president’s remarks left the clear impression that he was not fully aware of the historical importance of legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass. 

At his Thursday news conference, Trump once again trumpeted his performance among black voters last November: “As far as the inner cities, as you know, I was very strong on the inner cities during the campaign,” he said. “I think it’s probably what got me a much higher percentage of the African American vote than a lot of people thought I was going to get. We did, you know, much higher than people thought I was going to get.”

Given that he was polling near 1 percent with black voters, his eight percent in exit polls clearly outstripped expectations. But with the Pew Research poll finding his overall approval ratings at below 40 percent, last November might end up being cold comfort for Trump, who cares so much about his numbers.