What Is Wrong With President Trump’s Statements On Charlottesville? [with comment by Paul]

As Scott has noted, President Trump has come under fire for not singling out white supremacists for condemnation following the violent clashes in Charlottesville. Trump has made several statements about those events, both orally and on Twitter. He condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

His tweets have mostly been calls for unity:

Today the White House released an additional statement that specifically addressed white supremacist groups:

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

Trump’s various statements have failed to satisfy just about everybody, including many Republicans–Scott, for one. Trump’s position may or may not be politically wise, but I am sympathetic to it. What his critics want him to do is denounce white supremacist groups to the exclusion of anyone else. The problem with his statements, in the eyes of critics, is they are too even-handed. Trump’s denunciation includes both the white supremacists in Charlottesville and the fascist “antifas” who counter-protested, as well as other hate groups.

This seems entirely appropriate to me, as the Charlottesville violence resulted in large part from the fact that the “antifas” showed up, spoiling for a fight. The videos I have seen suggest that the “antifas” were at least as responsible for the violent clashes as the white supremacists. Both deserve to be repudiated, and fascists who riot and try to shut down other people’s speech are just as reprehensible as racists.

So why are the critics so eager to force the president to single out the white supremacists? Because they want to tie him to the “alt-right.” They want an implicit admission from President Trump that the nuts who marched in Charlottesville and the man who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters had something to do with him. The Associated Press says:

Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.

What “racially tinged rhetoric” is that? The AP doesn’t say. It quotes one such critic, the Mayor of Charlottesville, who explicitly ties the president to the white supremacists:

I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.

This is, I think, an outrageous slander, and I am sure the president agrees.

The Democrats are eager to take advantage of the fact that James Fields, who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing at least one, was one of the white supremacist demonstrators. His act was reprehensible and those of us who still favor capital punishment would likely find him eligible for it. But where were the Democrats when James Hodgkinson tried to assassinate Republican Congressmen, grievously wounding Majority Whip Steve Scalise?

Hodgkinson wasn’t a member of some obscure left-wing fringe group. Rather, he was a union activist, rabid Democrat and Bernie Sanders campaign worker. Did the Democrats tell us that his act was symbolic of life in Bernie Sanders’ America? No.

The reality is that there is far too much political violence. It is all unacceptable–fascist “antifas” rioting at the inauguration of President Trump, left-wing students and hangers-on rioting and committing assault at places like Berkeley, Middlebury and Claremont, mainstream Democrats like James Hodgkinson trying to assassinate political opponents, murderers inspired by Black Lives Matter killing policemen, and fringe fanatics like James Fields similarly committing murder. I am evidently in the minority, but I think President Trump is right to condemn all political violence rather than singling out the one incident that Democrats want to talk about, while whitewashing the rest.

PAUL ADDS: I’m with John on this one for the reasons I gave yesterday. In addition, as John says, the assertion that President Trump needs to condemn alt-right hate groups because some members have expressed support for him is basically a call, witting or not, for Trump to give credence to the slanderous narrative that these groups have something to do with him.

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