Don’t Blame Trump for Fargo Rally Costs Unless You’re Also Willing to Blame Anti-Trump Protesters

Gale McCray, 74, of Fort Worth, Texas, holds his sign protesting President Trump on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, at the intersection of Main Avenue and Second Street, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Kudos to Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney for requesting quantification for the expenses related to President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Fargo.

Now that law enforcement officials have had the chance to add the numbers up, we learn that the visit cost about $104,000.

I suspect that figure is a little bloated. According to Helmut Schmidt’s article on the matter, the total includes the salaries of the law enforcement officers who worked security. I’m pretty sure that’s a sunk cost. Which is to say, it’s something taxpayers would be footing the bill for whatever those officers were doing, be it working security at a rally or making routine patrols.

If we’re going to blame our Republican President for the costs of the law enforcement presence attending his visit to Fargo, can we also blame the anti-Trump protesters who contributed to those costs?

Still, it’s always important for taxpayers to understand what their government costs them. And Mahoney, though he’s on the left side of politics, eschewed a partisan reaction to the visit. “I just see it as one of the extraordinary things that happen in our community,” he told Schmidt.

Quite right.

But some are griping about the cost, blaming Trump for taking money out of the pockets of taxpayers for a political rally in support of Republican Senate candidate Kevin Cramer.

It’s a shallow reaction (and it was just as shallow when Republicans made the same sort of gripes about former President Barack Obama’s travel). It’s also a two-edged sword.

If we’re going to blame our Republican President for the costs of the law enforcement presence attending his visit to Fargo, can we also blame the anti-Trump protesters who contributed to those costs? After all, law enforcement also had to monitor their demonstrations, and the cost of that is included in the aforementioned total.

Had Trump’s critics not protested there would have been less need for security.

That’s an absurd argument, of course. The protesters in Fargo, who fortunately were peaceful unlike the anti-Trump protests we’ve seen in other parts of the country, shouldn’t be criticized for the cost of law enforcement.

But then, neither should President Trump.

We all have rights. President Trump has the right to hold a rally in Fargo. His critics have a right to demonstrate at that rally. The cost of ensuring that these various exercises of the 1st amendment are done safely and lawfully is a legitimate one for the taxpayers to cover.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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