Donald Trump Has His “Why Won’t He Say It” Moment, First Big Moral Test; Fails Bigly

Donald Trump Has His “Why Won’t He Say It” Moment, First Big Moral Test; Fails Bigly

By now, everyone should be aware of the events that transpired in Charlottesville,Virginia over the weekend. In case you aren’t, here’s a brief recap:

A rally operating under the moniker of Unite The Right was planned for Saturday, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville Park. The night before, a group of about 100 torch-bearing White Nationalists, mostly dressed in the manner of vacationing Donald Trump with white polo shirts, khaki pants, and red ballcaps, marched on the University of Virgina’s campus chanting Nazi slogans before they were dispersed.

On Saturday, they gathered at Emancipation Park, with many of them again dressed as vacationing Donald Trump; but many of them were also wearing Klan costumes, camouflage, and many of them carrying swords, shields, and firearms. A counter-protest also showed up. This rally was also dispersed by local police.

After the dispersion from the park, the White Nationalist groups, some of them carrying flags emblazoned with the Nazi swastika, began to march through the streets of Charlottesville. They were heard chanting many racist, anti-immigration, and anti-Semitic slogans, including, “One people, one nation, end immigration,” as well as shouting racial slurs at bystanders and passersby, such as, “Go the fuck back to Africa, nigger,” at a black woman who only happened to be walking down the street.

The Unite The Right group then moved to McIntire Park while the counter-protesters moved to the courthouse. As the counter-protesters were marching down the street, at or about 1:45 pm, a car, allegedly driven by James Alex Fields, Jr. of Maumee, Ohio drove through the crowd at a speed great enough to send the people that he hit flying into the air. Dozens were injured and one person, Heather Heyer, was killed.

At 2:00 pm, Donald Trump tweeted the following

An hour and a half later he tweeted this

An hour after that, he made some brief remarks during a signing ceremony relating to VA reform. 

During these remarks, Trump blamed the violence on “hatred, bigotry … on many sides, on many sides.” He also categorized the situation as “very, very sad,” before he went on to talk about the “wonderful things going on in our country.”

Among other blabbering remarks he made, apparently after deciding to forgo the written remarks that were prepared, likely by an intern; he claimed that he wanted to “study” the situation to learn “what we are doing wrong.” 

He also claimed that his administration was “restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens,” and then followed this up with, “but, our citizens, must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another.” 

“So, important,” he said, “we must respect each other; ideally, we have to love each other.”

He then took no questions and ignored requests to specifically condemn the actions of white supremacist groups and the so-called alt-right, who were the ones waving Nazi flags, giving Nazi salutes, and shouting, “Heil Trump!” less than four hours before.

It would be another three hours before he acknowledged the death of Heather Heyer, again in 140 characters or less.

So sad, indeed. 

At the time of this writing, 1:00 am on Monday, these are the only things that Trump has publicly said about the incident, and the only thing he has said at all about the innocent woman who was needlessly killed while protesting a gathering of Neo Nazis from out of state in her hometown.

To say that blowback was quick is akin to saying that the sky is blue. Almost immediately, White House aides began damage control. 

Unfortunately for Trump, the blowback didn’t just come from the “liberal left,” or the “FAKE NEWS,” or whatever other group he likes to attack – clearly and succinctly, I might add. Some of the strongest condemnations of the Nazi group came from within his party, and even from his own family. Some of them even criticized Trump for not strongly condemning either the group or the person directly responsible for this death.

Senator Orin Hatch released a statement that his brother didn’t sign up to fight Nazis in Europe just to see them operating here. His own daughter, the one that he actually likes, even tweeted that there is no place for these groups in America. Members of his own cabinet swiftly labelled the incident as an act of domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists.

And still, Trump is silent.

This was Trump’s first big moral test as the executive of the country. 

When tragedy strikes, when crisis looms, the people often look, rightly, to their president. They look for a sense of assurance, a sense of resolve, an indication that justice will be served. They look for a leader who will combat the darkness and show us the way to the light. They look for strength and consolation. The people found none of that in Donald Trump on Saturday.

What they found was a doddering old fool who is still genuinely surprised that most people don’t like him or his divisive brand of rhetoric. 

What they found was a mess of a man and the weakest person to stand behind the podium emblazoned with the Great Seal of these United States who tried to deflect and cast blame on the victims of violence, a violence that he himself has encouraged. 

They found an impotent shell of a man who is either incapable or unwilling. And they were rightly repulsed. 

Indeed, the only group of people who took any form of comfort or solace from his words were the people responsible for the actions that lead to the death of an innocent women in her early thirties, younger than I am, who believed in the promise of this country.

The Daily Stormer, an alt-right internet publication that takes its name from Der Stürmer, a Nazi newspaper during the Third Reich, published the following after Trump’s speech

Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us … 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.

Trump, of course, was one of the voices in the chorus always questioning why Obama would never say the words, “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” This is, of course, in spite of the fact that he did say those words. Often. 

But now, Trump has a why won’t he say it moment of his own. Why won’t he condemn radical white nationalism? Why will he not say the words that even his top advisers and former employees are urging him to say? Why the obfuscation, the attempt to find a moral equivalence between those who espouse racism to the point of annihilation and those who denounce such evil?

It would be easy to say that it is because Trump knows who butters his bread. After all, it was the David Dukes and the Richard Spencers that catapulted him into the White House. They were the ones who held the rallies where it was proclaimed that Trump speaks for them, and that he would bring their promises to fruition. 

Trump himself campaigned on hatred and division. He has referred to people of different races, religions, and ethnicities as “vermin” and “animals.” His own son, Eric, has referred to those who oppose him politically as “less than human.”

And, of course, Trump has a history of saying and doing things that suggest that he believes this. His first claim to fame in the 1970s was because he was being sued by the federal government for civil rights violations as it related to housing discrimination. 

He has made statements that “blacks are inherently lazy,” and that he only wants Jews counting his money.

The hard line of truth in all this is that maybe Trump refuses to denounce the KKK, the white supremacists, the xenophobic, and the anti-Semitic not because he knows they are his voting base, but rather, it is likely that he is one of them. 

When given the opportunity, a golden opportunity at that; to act, look, and sound presidential; to show that he is indeed capable of sympathizing with victims; to show that he condemns violence based on race, religion, or any other demographic or class; to step up and lead, he chose to blame everyone for not believing in him enough, and took no questions. 

He rambled through a three minute string of nonsequiturs and then retired to his golf course.

Trump had his first big moral test as the leader of this country, and he failed. He didn’t just refuse to use the words, “Radical White Nationalism,” or “white supremacy,” or even “Neo Nazi.” 

He failed to show that he fully understands even a smidge of the division in this country. A division that he himself has happily exploited all the way to the bank and to the White House. And he failed to show any remorse for doing so. Why won’t he say, “Radical White Nationalism?” 

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because he’s one of them.

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