What a sickening display of racism, anti-Semitism and all the rest the “white nationalists” served up in their demonstration over the decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville. According to the New York Times, the planned rally was promoted as “Unite the Right,” attracting groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis and movement leaders like David Duke and Richard Spencer. NBC News has a good summary of events in Charlottesville yesterday here, as does the New York Times here.
“Evil losers” may be too strong a phrase to capture this crew, but it comes to mind in connection with the vehicular assault on “counter-protesters” that resulted in one death (at present) and 19 injured, five in critical condition. One James Alex Fields, all of 20 years old, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder and additional counts for those injured. The FBI and the Department of Justice have opened a civil rights investigation into the incident. As if this weren’t bad enough, two Virginia State Police officers were killed in a helicopter crash related to the events late yesterday afternoon.
New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg was on the scene yesterday. She noted on Twitter: “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” The “evil losers” formulation comes to mind here as well.
Byron York reviews the events and finds President Trump’s statement condemning events in Charlottesville yesterday wanting. Byron writes: “Nobody has an obligation to denounce every kook and racist in the country. But when a prominent racist declares, at a rally featuring people wearing your campaign slogan, that he is carrying out your agenda, and you are the president of the United States, there is an obligation to speak out.” This seems fair to me.
Trump has an important contribution to make going beyond the condemnation of hatred and bigotry on “many sides” that he issued yesterday (video below). More needs to be said, if not just about the “white nationalists” and their ilk.
Incidentally, the left liberal Garry Wills said goodbye to his former friends on the right in his 1970 book Nixon Agonistes. Wills had been driven to the left by the convulsions of the 1960’s in general and the civil rights movement in particular. See, e.g., Michael McDonald’s brilliant New Criterion essay “Wills watching.”
Wills presented Robert E. Lee as a sort of moral exemplar in his chapter on the perils of Wilsonian universalism. Speaking of Lee’s decision to resign his command in the Union army and accept the Virginia governor’s request that he lead the troops of Virginia, Wills writes (pages 482-483): “It is impossible to think this an immoral decision, especially when we read the anguished letters he wrote to friends justifying it[.]” Like any good man of the left, Wills must have kept his opinions in tune with the times. I’d be curious what he has to say about Lee today.
UPDATE: Via Politico Playbook: “A WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON put out the following statement in response to questions about President Trump’s remarks yesterday, per pooler Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner. ‘The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.'”