I wish that I hadn’t written about Donald Trump last week.
Believe it or not, I’d rather write about something or someone else. Last week’s comparison of his vacation to mine seemed appropriate.
But, alas, this week a Trump piece feels even more as if it must be written. This may have been the worst week of the Trump presidency to date.
It seemed like, perhaps, the Donald had made a rare good move when he named John Kelly to replace Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. Maybe, I thought, the gaffes and lapses in the president’s judgment would end. Maybe the tweets would grow fewer and Trump would make a turn toward presidential.
Alas, judging from last week’s happenings, I was wrong.
First, after promising North Korea “fire and fury,” Trump went even further down the road toward a nuclear confrontation by doubling down on his original statement, saying perhaps it “wasn’t tough enough.”
But the real kicker came Saturday, when a group of white supremacists, led by former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon David Duke and infamous alt-right devotee Richard Spencer, marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, presumably to protect a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which was scheduled to be taken down.
Duke, Spencer and his minions were met with formidable opposition from both protestors of the alt-right groups and law enforcement.
At one point, a Dodge Challenger driven by James Alex Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio, plowed into a group of people at the protest, injuring at least 20 and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal. A state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was called in to assist and two more were killed – state policemen monitoring the scene from a helicopter when it crashed a few miles from the protest.
When Trump initially publicly addressed the death and unrest in the quintessentially Southern college town, did he mention the alt-right? No. Did he mention neo-Nazis? No. Did he mention white supremacists? Once again, he did not. His daughter, Ivanka, did, but not our president.
Trump, who so roundly criticized Barack Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” would not call what happened in Charlottesville “domestic terrorism” or call those who perpetrated it by any of their appropriate names even though domestic terrorism has claimed almost as many lives in the U.S. as has radical Islamic terrorism.
(Trump finally got around to calling the protestors in Charlottesville what they are on Monday, but many found his rush to save face a day late and a few dollars short. Plus, he buried the lead, beginning his remarks about the performance of the economy when he should have put his emphasis more squarely on mourning the death of an American innocent to gangs of racist thugs).
Hatred ruled the day on Saturday in Charlottesville. It was an ugly sight, as hatred always is. To believe one’s superiority to another due to skin color alone is hatred of the basest variety.
It took Donald Trump almost two full days to call hate and domestic terrorism what they are. In contrast, it took him a matter of less than an hour to react – via Twitter, of course – to the resignation of Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier from his American Manufacturing Council in protest of Trump’s reticence on the Charlottesville affair.
Coincidentally – or perhaps not – Frazier is African-American.
Why is our president so careful not to offend the alt-right in America? Why does he continue to employ in his administration people like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller? These men are anathema to everything that is the America that I believe in. Yet they seem firmly entrenched in the Trump administration.
No, Bannon and Miller aren’t as overt in their beliefs, but it’s men like them that can give cover within this administration to the David Dukes and Richard Spencers of the world.
And it is men like Bannon and Miller who may give the next Charlottesville a wink and an approving nod.
Granger is the managing editor of the Elmore County newspapers for Tallapoosa Publishers.