Today, President Trump tweeted:
Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.
I disagree that taking down statues of and monuments to Confederate generals and soldiers rips apart the history and culture of our country. Our history doesn’t change when a monument is removed. And how we view history inevitably changes from generation to generation, and should, whether we remove monuments or not.
Many of these monuments were erected long after the Civil War. Did their erection rip apart our history and culture? It did not. Neither will their removal.
Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!
Washington and Jefferson are easily distinguished from Lee and Jackson. The first two never led men into war against the United States.
Still, Trump isn’t wrong to worry that memorials to Washington and Jefferson will become targets of the left’s purge. We’ve already seen such stirrings. However, this concern isn’t a sufficient reason to retain statues of different sorts of historical figures deemed by the local community to be unworthy of celebration.
In sum, I disagree with the thrust of Trump’s tweets. However, the reaction to them has been over the top, as usual. Politico breathlessly reported that “Trump’s Confederacy fight threatens GOP agenda in Congress.”
Really? Trump’s stance on Confederate statues is going to affect how GOP legislators deal with the debt ceiling and tax reform? Even though more Americans disapprove of removing statutes of Confederates than approve of doing so.
Either the authors of the Politico story or congressional Republicans are idiots.
And there was this from the New York Times:
Mr. Trump made clear that he has no intention of stepping back from his assertions about the Charlottesville rally that have drawn widespread condemnation. In three tweets, Mr. Trump defended Civil War-era statues, using language very similar to that of white supremacists to argue the statues should remain in place.
This is very deceptive reporting. There is nothing “white supremacist” about Trump’s tweets regarding the statues. I have already quoted two of them — the one about ripping history and culture apart and the one about the slippery slope of Washington and Jefferson. I disagree with Trump’s arguments, but they certainly don’t express racism.
Trump also tweeted: “The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” and “”You can’t change history, but you can learn from it.” Where’s the expression of racism in these statements? It doesn’t exist.
If white supremacists are using this language to defend the statues, it’s because they are trying to mask their racism by making respectable arguments, in the hope of broadening the appeal of this cause. Therefore, it is dishonest, but all too characteristic, of anti-Trump zealots Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman to make this back door attempt to associate Trump’s tweets with racism.
Would it be politically wise for Trump to move on from this dispute? I don’t know. I think I know why he doesn’t want to move on. He hates the media and won’t be intimidated by its braying.