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GUEST EDITORIAL: Halt fiery presidential rallies for public safety reasons

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TNS

Enough with the rallies, Mr. President.

A nation still reeling in horror and disbelief from violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, less than two weeks ago needs time to heal. President Donald Trump can and must aid that recovery by putting on hold fiery arena appearances like the one he held Tuesday night in Phoenix.

These campaign-style rallies serve little practical purpose with the next presidential election not until 2020. Instead, they unnecessarily stoke anger and division at a volatile time, with the rally locations attracting the violence-prone on all sides of the political spectrum.

Clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters have already left one woman dead. It is only by the grace of God that more people didn’t die in Charlottesville. Or that violence didn’t spiral out of control during another gathering last Saturday in Boston.

It’s just common sense to let these tensions settle down and, until then, not offer up another obvious gathering point for extremists itching for action. President Trump should have recognized this before Tuesday’s rally, but making his way through the large, tense and often heavily armed crowd in Phoenix should have really driven that point home. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries Tuesday, but the event clearly strained local law enforcement’s capacity.

It is not clear whether there are future rallies planned. But Trump should understand that halting them for public safety reasons would reflect well on his leadership and go a long way to boost his sagging approval ratings. John Kelly, the Marine general who is now Trump’s chief of staff, ought to be making this pragmatic argument to him right now.

Halting the rallies would have other immediate benefits. These events require considerable resources from local, state and federal law enforcement. Their time and focus could better be devoted to routine patrols and other responsibilities. Keeping the peace among volatile crowds is also hazardous duty, even for well-trained and armed officers. No rally means one less opportunity to be in harm’s way.

There’s a benefit to taxpayers, too. They’re the ones generally billed for the security a rally requires. It’s been reported this week that Trump’s excursions have already wreaked havoc on the U.S. Secret Service budget. Future rallies would further stress this agency’s resources.

The costs of extra security for rallies also quickly add up for local law enforcement agencies at rally locations. That’s no small thing when these agencies are under pressure to stretch taxpayer dollars.

Presidential visits outside election years are normally celebratory moments, with feel-good speeches, starstruck local dignitaries and kids waving flags at the official motorcade. Trump’s pointedly political rallies depart from this cherished tradition. It is not an improvement, especially as the rallies grow dangerous for all involved.

Trump would serve the nation and his presidency well by suspending these rallies until risks and tensions subside.