Some people enjoy the spectacle of political renegade Donald Trump sticking it to advocates of diversity.
As a cultural exercise, it might have seemed harmless. Until Saturday. Until we saw what has happened in Charlottesville, Va.
The saber rattling of the far-far right isn’t merely depressed adolescents showing off for each other online, or sad, addled racists whistling Dixie. People died.
Donald Trump did not drive the car into anti-fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville, killing Heather D. Heyer, 32. He did not cause the police helicopter to crash, killing two officers. But it is beyond strange that Trump managed to muster such a weak, mealy-mouthed statement, referring to “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”
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On many sides?
This is not an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand situation. Nor is it a liberal vs. conservative question. This is a matter of what it means to be the children of fathers and grandfathers who stormed the beaches at Normandy, who defeated Hitler’s genocidal war machine, and who liberated Auschwitz.
Many conservative leaders understand that.
“The Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred that they propagate,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.
“We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, tweeted.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was particularly biting, noting on Fox that fascists think they have a friend in the White House. “The president can be clear when he wants to be. He needs to be clear here,” Graham said.
Words matter, but so does policy. Graham and Cruz called for investigations into such groups, and should make sure the Justice Department follows through.
Trump needed to take a stand. But he did not. Instead, he equivocated; he waffled. And his aides were left to spin. But Trump cannot spin away from the embrace of the worst elements of American society. It should not be difficult to call white terrorists what they are.
The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting provided a detailed look at terrorist incidents from 2008 to 2016. It shows 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, most of which were foiled. There were 115 acts of terror committed by right-wing extremists.
It ought to trouble Trump that the vile racist David Duke said the rally was intended to help “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” It should weigh on Trump that a Nazi publication felt vindicated because Trump “outright refused to disavow” their agenda.
The hooligans went to Charlottesville ostensibly to protest a legitimate decision by city leaders to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. We understand that thugs have a First Amendment right to chant Nazi slogans. But these creeps were armed and ready for a battle. One of them brought his high-powered car.
Virginia authorities deserve praise that no shots were fired, even though, as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe noted, many of the outside agitators carried semi-automatic weapons. Trump comported himself less honorably. The nation looks to a president to establish a moral tone. This president failed the people of Charlottesville; he failed America. .