It was a sad day for our country in Charlottesville Virginia yesterday when white supremacists, including self-avowed Ku Klux Klansmen, Neo-Nazis, Anti-Semites and others demonstrated, resulting in the loss of three lives — one woman killed in a white supremacist terror attack and two Virginia State Police Troopers helping to protect the citizens of Charlottesville died when their helicopter crashed.
I could hardly believe that this was happening in our country. Not so much that such people exist — it is a sad but true fact that they do — but that so many of them came from around the country to impose their twisted vision of America on the good citizens of Charlottesville.
More unbelievable, and vastly more disappointing and troublesome to me, our president refused to denounce the white supremacists and refused to call it an act of terror when a car deliberately plowed into a crowd of peaceful protesters denouncing the white supremacists .
I just happened to see the president’s remarks live, as they happened. Many of you probably saw them replayed on various news stations. The clip most played is the president saying:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”
Watching it closely, and paying attention to the body language, it was clear to me that President Trump was ad libbing the “many sides” phrase. Which he repeated with his characteristic hand gestures usually utilized in conjunction with “believe me.” What is not shown, and astounded me in the moment, was during his prepared remarks, he deviated from the script several times, including a long riff in the middle of his remarks about the unfolding tragedy in Charlottesville to assure us, as a nation, that he was doing a great job.
“Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record — just absolute record employment. We have unemployment, the lowest it’s been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country. Foxconn and car companies, and so many others, they’re coming back to our country. We’re renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker. We have so many incredible things happening in our country. So when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad.”
It always has to be about him.
Not only did he fail his course on Presidency 101 and what to say and do when faced with a tragic event, he totally failed in calling out the white supremacists and in making clear that there was no place for them in our United States. On “many sides” indeed. He doesn’t have the guts to call out Nazis? The KKK? He has the guts to call out the immigrant parents of a United States Army officer killed in action defending our country but not these yahoos? What the heck? My father and father-in-law were World War II veterans, what did they fight for if professed Nazis can carry swastikas in the streets and the president refuses to call them out?
The only answer I can come up with is that he doesn’t want to upset his “base.” One would hope that he doesn’t want white supremacists in his base, but apparently that isn’t the case. Am I hyperventilating? Perhaps. But I am not making this up from thin air. Look at the comments from the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke on the eve of the demonstration.
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”
Was that a one-off? Let’s take another sample from a white supremacist who said the following after the president’s remarks.
“Trump’s comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides! So he implied the antifa [I looked this up — it is short for antifascists] are haters.”
“There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
You get the picture. That’s why words matter and especially from the president. He knows that and if he doesn’t then his staff sorely let him down. But having watched his remarks live, he appeared to deviate from his prepared remarks on several occasions so as not to be specific about the groups behind the hate. I guess he just cannot bring himself to separate from his so called supporters.
As I write, the White House staff is in full damage control mode saying essentially that of course the president denounces all hate groups. Why would they go into damage control mode if the president’s remarks were not in fact totally inadequate? Because he didn’t and he hasn’t actually rebuked these far right-wing extremists and terrorists. How hard is it to say that driving a car into a peaceful crowd to purposely maim and kill is an act of terrorism? He certainly is not shy. Except in these cases. Where is Mr. I’m-not-politically-correct?
Thankfully politicians of every stripe from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex) to former Vice President Joe Biden came out in full-throated condemnation of the white supremacists and also chastised the president for his missed hand slap to the violent white supremacists. There is hope that all of us will stand up for what we believe actually makes America great and not let this behavior continue unchallenged. And we should voice our opinions to President Trump to let him know how badly he let us all down, both as president and as a person.
Clearly these far right-wing nuts think that the president is on their side. With so called alt-right (a nice name for white supremacists) supporters on his personal staff in the White House — Mr. Steve Bannon and alleged doctor Sebastian Gorka to name two — they have good reason to think so. The only way that he can disabuse them of that notion is to clearly, forcefully and unambiguously tell them to climb back into their holes and that he refuses their support in any way, shape, or form. Otherwise, he is not the president of the United States that I know and love.