I made the point a little more than a week ago that “if Ret. General John Kelly, Trump’s new chief of staff, really wants to right the chaos in the Trump administration, he should dismiss the nativists Steven Bannon and Stephen Miller. He will not, because Trump caters to his nativist racist base.” White nationalists making immigration policy in Trump White House.
This weekend, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Neo-Fascists, Neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan and various and sundry other white nationalist organizations — key constituencies of the Trump political base — held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the planned removal of a statute of General Robert E. Lee.
Hundred showed up for a Friday night rally with Tiki torches ablaze that called to mind images of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings in America, and Hitler propaganda rallies in Nazi Germany (really the point they were trying to make).
The Washington Post reports on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va.:
Chaos and violence turned to tragedy Saturday as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members — planning to stage what they described as their largest rally in decades to “take America back” — clashed with counterprotesters in the streets and a car plowed into crowds, leaving one person dead and 19 others injured.
Note: If the driver had been identified as a Muslim, Trump would have been tweeting about Islamic terrorism as he watched it live on cable TV. Domestic terrorism from a white supremacist … silence.
Hours later, two state police officers died when their helicopter crashed at the outskirts of town. Officials identified them as Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., who was the pilot, and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, Va., who was a passenger. State police said their Bell 407 helicopter was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville. Bates died one day before his 41st birthday; Cullen was 48.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who had declared a state of emergency in the morning, said at an evening news conference that he had a message for “all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today”:
“Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You want to talk about patriots, talk about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who brought our country together. Think about the patriots today, the young men and women, who with wearing the cloth of our country.
“Somewhere around the globe they are putting their life in danger. They are patriots. You are not. You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear, we are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
The Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin writes, Enough of the Confederate statues, the alt-right heroes and Trump’s moral idiocy (revised):
Not only [Gov.] McAuliffe but also many other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, deplored the white nationalists and the mayhem they created, many of them telling the president he needed to denounce the hate-mongers.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went a step further, calling for a Justice Department investigation of domestic terrorism. (Later Saturday evening, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the FBI and U.S. attorney would be investigating.)
President Trump and Vice President Pence did not take their advice. Instead, they hid behind ambiguity and moral equivalence.
As news broke of a terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015, Trump immediately tweeted that he was praying for “the victims and hostages.” Very soon after a shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June 2016, Trump tweeted that he was “right on radical Islamic terrorism.”
But he kept quiet Saturday morning as a protest led by white nationalists, who arrived with torches and chants in Charlottesville, on Friday night, turned violent. The cable networks that he usually watches showed footage of increasingly violent clashes between the white nationalists, some of whom looked like soldiers because they were so heavily armed, and the counterprotesters who showed up to challenge them.
When he belatedly spoke up, all he could muster was a vague tweet (“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”) and then a despicable statement evincing the kind of moral equivalence Republicans used to denounce. (“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” In case you missed that, he repeated, “On many sides.”) In yet another tone-deaf tweet, he declared, “Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!” Sad?? His stilted, off-key lines betray his lack of empathy and failure to comprehend the gravity of the moment.
This is not the first time Trump has played footsie with white nationalists. During the campaign, he initially pleaded ignorance of David Duke’s racism in an interview with Jake Tapper. He played to white nationalists’ fears of illegal immigrants, demonized Mexicans, made racist accusations against a federal judge, falsely accused illegal immigrants of causing a crime wave, and refused to apologize for anti-Semitic imagery. Once in office, he hired alt-right darlings including Stephen K. Bannon (who bragged that he had made Breitbart a “platform for the alt-right”) and Sebastian Gorka (High-ranking Trump official has extensive ties to European neo-fascists). As president, he has channeled the white racists’ “blood and soil” concept of nationalism in his speeches and encouraged white, Christian, working-class Americans to think of themselves as victims and to see their religion as under attack — while he championed a Muslim travel ban.
Remember this Roger Stone tweet from the campaign? How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol.
Pence on Saturday was no better, sending out a mealy-mouthed tweet: “Karen & I saddened by the loss of lives in Charlottesville. Thoughts & prayers w/ families of officers & young woman. Also w/ injured victims.”
Trump did not tell the white nationalists to go to Charlottesville or to commit violence. But his campaign and presidency have given white nationalists cover, oxygen and the dream of respectability. And now, when the moment calls for some semblance of presidential leadership and denunciation of racists, he cannot bring himself to criticize a group that is unarguably part of his base (not a majority, but among his strongest fans).
This kind of stomach-turning display of moral obtuseness is precisely what opponents of Trump predicted when they warned that he was unfit for the presidency. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) on Saturday denounced white nationalism as a “scourge,” but he supported Trump even after Trump attacked a federal judge and Gold Star, Muslim parents. What did Ryan think America was getting?
If Republicans are now truly disgusted by the president they supported, they can condemn his embarrassing comments, support the FBI and Justice Department investigation, and urge that Confederate statues throughout the country be taken down. We’ve now erased the fictions that these monuments are about “Southern heritage.” No, they are giant concrete shrines to white nationalism.
“It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, they fought against it,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a memorable speech explaining his city’s decision to remove the statues. “They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement and the terror that it actually stood for.”
If the president doesn’t grasp this, the rest of the country should. It’s time to get rid of the statues and get rid of the alt-right heroes in the White House. As for Trump, the country cannot get rid of him soon enough.
As I said, “if Ret. General John Kelly, Trump’s new chief of staff, really wants to right the chaos in the Trump administration, he should dismiss the nativists Steven Bannon and Stephen Miller” and Sebastian Gorka, and any number of other lesser-known alt-right white nationalists serving in the Trump administration. Fire the whole lot of them, and do it now.
But Kelly will not because Trump needs them in his political base. Trump gives statement blaming ‘many sides’ for violence, refuses to condemn white nationalists:
[Trump] ignored reporter questions asking him to more specifically denounce white nationalism and the apparent terrorist attack that left one dead and at least nineteen injured when a car drove into a group of counterprotesters at high speed, then fled the scene.
He is a contemptible and loathsome little man, and every day between now and his removal from office is a black mark on his party, on Congress, and on America.
And it wasn’t an oversight: A White House spokesman indeed affirms that their administration was condemning “hatred” and “bigotry” from “all sides.”
It was intentional.
UPDATE: The white supremacist web site Daily Stormer called Trump’s remarks “really good,” noting that he “didn’t attack us.” They were also pleased he ignored a question about white supremacists after making his statement. White supremacists cheer Trump’s response to Charlottesville violence.
E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic adds that David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, reminded Trump that he needs them as well. Charlottesville is Trump’s legacy:
David Duke – the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and an avowed anti-Semite, white nationalist and Donald Trump supporter – got it right.
The violence that led to one death and many injuries at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday is part of a natural (or is it unnatural?) progression, what he called the reason “we voted for Donald Trump.”
So Duke was confused by Trump saying, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of violence and bigotry.”
The former imperial wizard tweeted the president:
During the presidential campaign, Trump welcomed the support of the worst David Dukes in our country. Racists. White nationalists. And they expect a return on their investment.
As Duke said of the ugly, deadly rally Saturday, “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 why we voted for Donald Trump.”
After initial news of the horror in Charlottesville was reported, Trump issued a hedged denunciation, saying, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
There are not many sides.
There is a right side and a wrong side.
But Trump – to what should be his shame – doesn’t want to lose the support of those on the wrong side.
Otherwise, he would have spoken out forcefully and succinctly, as many others have done[.]
What happened in Charlottesville occurred because the racists believe it is now socially acceptable to crawl out from under their rocks and assert (with force) their belief that all Americans are not created equal. It’s a fight for the core principle of the country.
Why hasn’t Trump more forcefully denounced the evil?
Because, as David Duke pointed out, our worst demons … vote.
And they comprise a substantial portion of Donald Trump’s political base.
Republicans in Congress have been willing to turn a blind eye to the nativist and racist elements of the GOP as long as it works to their electoral advantage. It’s one thing to post tweets condemning white supremacists, it’s another thing entirely to actually do something about it. Republicans can begin by purging these formerly fringe elements from the White House and the GOP.
UPDATE: Good catch by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo: “[M]any of Trump’s most important speeches were written by white nationalist aide Stephen Miller, who came from Jeff Sessions’ senate office. Miller literally worked with Alt-Right leader (he coined the phrase) Richard Spencer on racist political activism when he was in college at Duke (Spencer was a grad student at the time). This isn’t some vague guilt by association. He’s one of them.