One after another, the nation’s most powerful Republicans responded to President Donald Trump’s extraordinary remarks about white supremacists. Yet few mentioned the president.
The Senate’s top Republican, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, condemned “hate and bigotry.” House Speaker Paul Ryan charged that, “White supremacy is repulsive.” Neither criticized the president’s insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a violent weekend clash between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators.
The nuanced statements reflect the party establishment’s delicate dance. Few top Republican officeholders defended the president in the midst of an escalating political crisis. Yet they are unwilling to declare all-out war against Trump and risk alienating his loyalists. And as the 2018 elections begin to take shape, the debate over Trump’s words appears to be taking hold in GOP primaries.
Trump on Thursday attacked some of the Republicans who have directly criticized him.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who doesn’t face re-election until 2020, said the president “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally” and the people demonstrating against them.
“Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world,” Graham added, referring to the former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Trump shot back on Thursday on Twitter: “Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer.” He was referring to Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when she was struck by a car driven into the crowd.
“Such a disgusting lie,” Trump said of Graham’s remarks. “He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember.”
For seven months, President Donald Trump giddily has ignored the norms of his office and tried the patience of those who had more than a passing knowledge of its history.
But during Tuesday’s press conference, before the gold-plated bank of elevators inside his Midtown temple to himself, the President defended those linked to white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist corners of American society in a display that defied any historical precedent. So striking was his bold protection of a small but vocal part of his political base, many reporters in the marble foyer dared to interrupt the President. If he was breaking with custom, so, too, would they.
“If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said of the Friday night march around the University of Virginia campus. That torch-lit procession featured white nationalists chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Saturday, August 12th, will go down as a dark day for America. A coalition of white nationalists attempted to rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Young and old donned swastikas. White militia in full camouflage and many openly carrying weapons set out to “protect” the demonstrators. Angry men and women screamed vile and racist slogans. Violence broke out with counter-protesters. Then James Alex Fields, Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio, decided to plow his car into a peaceful crowd protesting the racist spectacle. Heather Heyer of Charlottesville was killed and at least 19 people were injured. Cornel West, who joined the counter protests with a group of clergy, witnessed it all and told me, “I have never seen this kind of hatred.”
If these were normal times, even if you believed a press conference to be typical American racial theater, you would expect the President of the United States to condemn unequivocally the hatred and bigotry of the white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville. But these aren’t normal times.
Instead, Donald Trump offered a mealy-mouthed response. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
During her Tulsa speech at a Donald Trump rally last week, Sarah Palin addressed what she deemed “the elephant in the room”: her son Track‘s domestic violence arrest.
Palin’s son––a 26-year-old Iraq veteran––was arrested after an alleged incident of domestic violence against a woman and possession of a firearm while intoxication. He has been charged with assault in the fourth degree.
At a Donald Trump rally on Friday, two protesters from North Carolina gained worldwide attention.
Rose Hamid, a Muslim woman from Charlotte, and Marty Rosenbluth, an attorney from Durham, still have the yellow stars they wore to the rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“My goal going in was to be as respectful as possible,” said Hamid.
They said they stood in place as the presidential candidate spoke about the current White House and radical Islam. Hamid and Rosenbluth were escorted out and, on way to the door, Hamid said a Trump supporter yelled at her.
“He was in my face, and he was saying ‘Do you have a bomb? Do you have a bomb with you,’” said Hamid. “I kept a smile on my face and I said ‘No, I do not have a bomb. Do you have a bomb?’”