We’re done with the “Well, maybe it won’t be so bad and we should take what we can get” phase of this administration. It’s time for the “he’s a disaster and needs to go” phase. For everybody’s good, Donald Trump needs to not be president, and he needs to not be president yesterday.
I say “yesterday,” not just as an exaggerated form of “as soon as possible,” but referring literally to his disastrous press Q&A yesterday, in which he whitewashed (no pun intended) the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville by claiming that it included plenty of “very fine” people who were just protesting the removal of a statue.
No, really. He repeated that point at length. Here is what he said.
But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.
So—excuse me—and you take a look at some of the groups and you see and you would know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases, you are not. But, many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee…. But they were there to protest—excuse me—you take a look, the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group—excuse me, excuse me—I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name…. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
And since the hole wasn’t deep enough yet, he had to keep digging:
There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest.
The important thing about this is that there is not a scrap of evidence that any of it is true. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. The rally in Charlottesville was called “Unite the Right,” which despite its name made no real attempt to bring together any recognizable strains from the mainstream American political right. Instead, it drew from a spectrum ranging from the Neo-Confederates to the Neo-Nazis to the White Nationalists to the White Supremacists—various ideological shades so indistinguishable from each other that you don’t need a special dispensation from Mike Godwin to just call them all Nazis.
If you’re in any doubt about this, here’s the poster for the event.
Aside from the blatant Nazi style of the imagery, it includes a roster of headliners chosen from various white nationalist groups. So this was a Nazi march from the beginning, planned by Nazis, for Nazis. As to whether any hapless moderates strolled in there thinking this was just about the statue—well, I live in this area and used to be active in the local Tea Party group. I know people who are not white nationalists who oppose the removal of the statues based on high-minded ideas about preserving history. None of them were there, and if they had been there, they would have bolted the moment they saw a bunch of guys with torches chanting “Blood and Soil.”
What’s truly shocking is that Trump refers twice to “the night before,” that is, to the rally Friday night, before the deadly clash on Saturday, as evidence that some of the protesters weren’t white nationalists. But Friday night was the notorious Citronellanacht, the march with all those tiki-torch-wielding marchers yelling “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
It looked like this:
Who told Donald Trump these weren’t Nazis?
No, seriously, who told him? Before leaping to the defense of all of the “fine people” marching shoulder to shoulder with Nazis, Trump made a big production over the fact that he waiting to speak until he had painstakingly gathered the facts. He used the word “facts” about fifteen times in the minute prior to this statement. So from what reliable report, or from which of his advisors, did he get the talking point about how these were just ordinary, upstanding citizens concerned about a statue? What was his source for this “fact”?
The only people I’ve heard trying to make that claim are—you guessed it—the white nationalists who organized the rally. We’ve had inklings before that Trump picks up fake news and conspiracy theories from the Internet and retweets rumors in his Twitter feed, and also that he and his people pick up memes that come through the pipeline of the racist alt-right. (Remember the “sheriff’s star”?) It looks like that’s happening again, while he is president, and in response to a case in which he is specifically called upon to show that this odious faction does not have his ear.
So we can only conclude that they do have his ear.
Trump did say a few things that were true in his Q&A—that “antifa” thugs among the counter-protesters came spoiling for a fight and share responsibility for the violent brawls (as described by multiple reporters and witnesses), or that there is a serious logical question about where you draw the line in tearing down monuments to historical figures. But that just makes it worse. By mixing genuine truths in with an odious lie, Trump merely works to discredit the truth.
He is also working to destroy and discredit the American right, pitting us against one another in vicious internecine arguments. Right now there are otherwise good people who, out of partisan habits or long-borne outrage at biased media, are trying to concoct excuses for why Trump’s Q&A wasn’t so bad and all of the criticisms of it are just fake news.
It’s time for that to stop. It’s time to stop looking at the latest Trump statement in relation to how bad you think the alternative is on the left, or how biased the media is, and instead to compare it to what we should actually expect from a president. In a country where 99% of the population is opposed to Nazis, it should be the easiest thing in the world for an American president to unite the country by appealing to our shared values. Only Donald Trump could take one of the most uncontroversial ideas in American politics, the Indiana Jones Rule, and turn it into a wrenching national argument.
I don’t believe in the supernatural, but if there were a devil, he would be laughing his head off right now as we all whip ourselves into a murderous frenzy against each other.
No, I don’t think Donald Trump is going to resign any time soon. If he were capable of setting aside his personal vanity to do the right thing, we wouldn’t be in this situation. But he needs to be left hanging out there all on his own without support from anyone in his party (or from anyone in the right-leaning media). He is a vortex of destruction, and the only way to survive is to get everything we love as far away from him as possible.