Trump fails test of leadership, chance to unite nation
It would be an understatement to describe President Trump’s comments this past week in the aftermath of racist rallies and ensuing violence in Charlottesville as tone deaf.
His initial response gave enough reason to shudder but on Thursday, in an all-too-familiar barrage of tweets, he sadly accented his already troubling response to a volatile situation by lamenting the loss of “beautiful statues and monuments.”
He was referring to effigies of Confederate leaders, which further fanned the flames of racial divisions.
Discussion about racial tensions in the United States always requires significant deference, nuance and finesse — things often missing from President Trump’s speeches and Twitter storms. But there is a rightful expectation that the president of the United States thoughtfully engage in words aimed at quelling tensions and uniting an already divided country. He failed, and deserves the continuing political fallout.
When a rally brings together white supremacists, the KKK and Nazis, the job of the president on that day is to forcefully condemn the rally and the message of hate it breeds. In that moment, a president’s job is to remind the American people that our diversity as a nation is one of our greatest strengths, that we are created equal, and that we should fight hatred with tolerance and love.
We could dissect every aspect of President Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville, but what most have rightly criticized him for is his use of the phrase “both sides,” referring to who is to blame for the violence.
Some have defended his remarks, arguing that violence was perpetrated by counterprotesters, particularly Antifa, a radical leftist group with socialist and communist underpinnings that combats fascism and the radical right.
But the reason counterprotesters were there in the first place was because of some of the vile message being promoted by rally participants.
That’s not to condone any violence or Antifa, which has perpetuated numerous vile acts. Like the white supremacists, Antifa is a cancer infecting our country. Even still, in the aftermath of Charlottesville, the only side that mattered was the side that initiated the conflict, the one that hosted the rally, and that reopened deep racial wounds in our country.
The so-called other sides didn’t matter because they did not host a rally that reminded the nation of some of our darkest days — and the greatest stain on our country’s history.
President Trump has a bully pulpit (and a bully Twitter account) to raise any issue, at any time, making it global news. After Charlottesville, it should have been singularly focused on racism. He could have addressed his other concerns at another time.
His errors in judgment this week have diminished his administration. This time is different from other Trump administration controversies, as evidenced by the criticism the president has received from fellow Republicans and business leaders, people who aren’t necessarily prone to reject everything he says or does, people who, in fact, support his agenda, or key parts of it.
This is weakening him, and his administration’s chances of doing important things, and it’s a problem he created unnecessarily.
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