Donald Trump was fully aware of the controversy that preceded his Arizona rally and once again he has embraced his instinct for escalation.
His use of the term “Kung Flu” at his under-attended Oklahoma rally has rightly been labelled as outright racist.
His own White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway has, in the past, referred to the term as “hurtful”, “unhelpful” and “offensive”.
When asked why Mr Trump uses the racist phrase, his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany oddly insisted “the president doesn’t”.
She then went on to say that what he’s trying to do (in using that phrase) is point out the origin of the virus.
But “Kung Flu” does way more than that.
For many Asian Americans, it’s a well-worn racist trope used to bully and undermine – about as far from “presidential” language as you could hope to get.
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But this president is not known for heeding criticism. He always favours a doubling down over a considered retraction.
So when, in front of young fans in Phoenix, Arizona, he reached the bit about how many names COVID-19 has been given, you could sense the anticipation in the crowd as to whether the president would go there again.
“I could give you 19 or 20 names,” he mused before running through a list of six.
“Wuhan…coronavirus…” the crowd seemed to be egging him on to deliver and so he obliged, repeating “Kung-Flu” three times. The response was rapturous.
So why is he doing this?
As John Bolton, his former national security adviser, points out in his new book, Mr Trump is solely focused on his own re-election.
As the left continue to pound him, he knows that expanding his support is more of a lost cause than ever.
His coronavirus response has been criticised for being inadequate and slow.
More than 120,000 people have died and half of the 50 states are seeing rises in infection rates.
With a tanked economy and turmoil on the streets, his foundation for re-election is shaky.
Blaming someone else is the crudest but surest way of making sure his base doesn’t desert him when he’ll need them most.
His use of “Kung Flu” is the embodiment of the path Mr Trump has chosen in these divided times.
He is not choosing to be a leader for a multi-racial country in the middle of unprecedented crises.
He is not a uniter.
He is president solely for his largely white support base – repeatedly firing with laser focus at their worst instincts.
But this shouldn’t be seen as just calculated strategy. These are Mr Trump’s own instincts at play.
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His racism has been clearly displayed for decades: his placement of a newspaper ad calling for the execution of five black and latino men accused of rape, who were later shown to be innocent.
His birther campaign against Barack Obama whom he claimed was not born in the US.
As president, Mr Trump has called African nations “s***hole countries”.
He tried to ban Muslims from entering the US and bestowed moral equivalence to white supremacists.
Acts that have consistently sabotaged his own repeated claims to be the “least racist person in the world”.