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O’Rourke listens in Lordstown then goes after Trump

Beto O’Rourke came to Lordstown to listen.

It wasn’t a typical campaign stop for a presidential candidate, particularly one who is lagging in the polls and needs the attention.

But the former Texas congressman scored a few points — though he’s likely to be out of the campaign by the time Ohio has its Democratic primary, March 17, 2020.

An idled General Motors plant makes an excellent backdrop — and O’Rourke went to two of them in Ohio. The first was Tuesday in West Chester and then to Lordstown the following day.

O’Rourke spent his time in Lordstown listening to striking UAW members and their supporters about the ongoing issues with GM. He blasted the corporation for not bargaining in good faith and for putting Lordstown on unallocated status. This was O’Rourke’s second visit to the area as a presidential candidate. He stopped March 18 at the United Auto Workers Local 1112 union hall to talk privately to Dave Green, then the union’s president.

O’Rourke made headlines at the Sept. 12 Democratic presidential debate when he said in response to mass shootings, including in his hometown of El Paso, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” The reference was to his support for a mandatory buyback of certain assault weapons.

That led to a Twitter war with Donald Trump. The Republican president called Beto a “dummy” who “made it harder to make a deal” on gun control.

O’Rourke responded to Trump by tweeting he wants the country to “buy back every single assault weapon,” and “the only thing stopping us from ending this epidemic is you & your cowardice.”

Mandi Merritt, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman, said: “There isn’t a single Ohioan who is willing to get behind (O’Rourke’s) radical agenda.”

During his Wednesday stops in Lordstown, O’Rourke never mentioned the assault-weapons issue.

O’Rourke knew his audience. They wanted to talk about GM and the idled Lordstown facility.

About an hour or so later, O’Rourke was in the right place to make comments about gun control.

After leaving the picket line, O’Rourke spoke at Kent State University and focused on that issue. Kent, of course, is where the Ohio National Guard shot at students on May 4, 1970, in a protest against the bombing of Cambodia by the United States. Four students were killed and nine were injured. O’Rourke met with one of the injured Wednesday.

Before the local visit, O’Rourke was in Pittsburgh and brought up gun control and impeaching Trump.

At Lordstown, O’Rourke didn’t discuss the president until I specifically asked him about the White House releasing a transcript earlier that day of Trump askIing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 telephone call. The call has led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump.

O’Rourke has backed impeachment proceedings against Trump for two years.

O’Rourke’s response to my question was: “If there has been any doubt for any member of Congress, any American, any member of the press about the president’s complicity and culpability and very high crimes and misdemeanors then this transcript, these call notes, should erase any and all doubt. The president used his position of public trust and power to ask a foreign leader to involve himself in our domestic elections, not unlike asking (Russian President) Vladimir Putin to do that in 2016 or his obstruction of justice in 2017 and 2018 and 2019, his lying to investigators, his firing of investigators, his urging others to lie to investigators on his behalf.”

O’Rourke was apparently just getting warmed up because he added: “If we as a country fail to hold him accountable, if there is no justice at the end of the day then we will have set the precedent that some people are above the law in this country. Once we do that, we have lost this democracy forever and there is no getting it back. So my hope is that Republicans, Democrats and independents put this country before their party, members of Congress put this country before their next election or their place in the polls. This is a defining, deciding moment for America and the response to that must be to impeach this president so that we get the facts, the proof and ultimately justice.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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