I’m going to interrupt my regularly scheduled posts — shut up! — to get back into something, hopefully briefly, that I’ve tried to avoid for the past six months.
President Trump (hereafter, just Trump) is talking and tweeting, still. He won’t stop. He can’t stop. As it is now and always has been with all top dogs in the executive branch — and always will be — what a president says is newsworthy. Depending which side of the fence you graze on, politically speaking, how newsworthy is a big question.
The latest: A crazed white supremacist rammed his car into a group of people in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, killing a 32-year-old woman. It was the kind of tragedy that makes you wonder about the future of our country (not to mention the present), the kind that called for a reassuring statement from the leader of the country.
From his golf club in New Jersey, reading off a Teleprompter, Trump said this:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump said, then repeating, “On many sides.”
The repeated words, seemingly off-script yet so, so on-Trump, were what really killed.
The statement, of course, set jaws dropping. A neo-Nazi, white supremacist, hate-filled group, complete with vile chants and torch-carrying white men (and, I guess, women), descended upon a mostly liberal town looking for a fight, got into street skirmishes, one of their sympathizers (members?) ran over a counter-protester, and Trump is blaming both sides? Both the hate group and those standing up to the hate?
Seems big news, right? On Sunday, after Trump’s statement, I took a couple of screenshots of the two biggest news sites on the Internet. Here’s Fox:
And here’s CNN:
You can click on the images to get a better view, but let me go ahead and give you the down-low. Fox News, the preferred outlet of Trump (though he wouldn’t deign to read the website … it’s mainly cable TV news for our CiC), did not carry Trump’s words at all at this time. Not one headline on the front of the site leads to what he said.
CNN, on the other hand, claimed that Trump’s statement showed a “toxic failure to lead” and that he “flunked a test” when he “fails to condemn white supremacists.” The next-to-last headline under the soon-to-be-iconic photo hits at the heart of what many thought at the time: “Cillizza: It’s hard to imagine a less presidential statement.”
Again, Fox had nothing. Nothing. Not even an acknowledgment that Trump spoke at all.
I’ve been over the News Wars we’re having in this country and the difficulty in determining who to believe, given politicians’ slants (read: lies) and the very real slant of many, many news organizations. This might seem an extreme example. It’s not.
The point here, regardless of what Trump said and whether he was right or wrong in what he said and how he said it (more on that after the break), is that sometimes it’s easier to figure out which news site is giving it to you straight than other times.
Trump says something. It outrages the more liberal news outlet. The more conservative one is silent. Completely, deadly silent.
Fox didn’t defend. It didn’t. Even. Report it.
(Later, of course, as more people objected to Trump’s words, the site jumped on, reporting the criticism and actually offering some of its own. But, immediately, the reaction was to act as if the President of the United States — Trump — said nothing.)
You figure it out.
Oh, my God, was Trump wrong. Dead wrong. And anyone who disagrees, who blames the “fake news” for blowing it out of proportion, need only open their eyes — I know it’s scary out there, but you can look, for a second — to see that. Republicans blasted him. Democrats (of course) blasted him. It’s the only thing they’ve agreed on in decades.
Trump came out, in a prepared statement a day later, and finally denounced white supremacists, who are clearly in love with what they think he represents. (“How can it be that I’m an evil guy,” David Duke says to Trump in a video on his twitter page, “because I say a lot of the same things that you say?”)
But then, a day after his prepared statement denouncing white nationalists, Trump being Trump came out again in an unscripted press conference and again blamed both sides for the violence.
Won’t stop. Can’t stop.
Again, yes, there was violence on both sides in Charlottesville. Takes two sides to fight, after all.
But, again, one side is for hate and discrimination. The other side is standing up against that.
(A note here, too: In the middle of all the violence in Charlottesville, we should all admit, are a group of people that nobody wants to acknowledge. The ultra-violent who get off on adrenaline-buzzes. The punks itching for a street fight. The guys who are just there to raise hell. Yes, on both sides.)
(But a point here: If the Nazis wouldn’t have been there sashaying their hate in front of everybody, the other side, including the thugs, wouldn’t have been there, either.)
Last bit — because my “hopefully briefly” part has been shot to hell — is Trump’s assertion that some “very fine” people on the Nazi side of things — swear to God, he said “very fine” — were there just to peacefully protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. (“Very fine” people do not associate with skinheads.) And that removing those statues — monuments to people who fought against the U.S. and fought for the right to own slaves — somehow destroys our history and culture.
Again, Trump. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
First off, history is history. You can’t, as Trump conceded in the post below, wipe out history. Culture … well, I’m never gonna believe anything Trump says about culture. (I love the little limos that Barron is playing with in this photo … Trump and his family are so all about the working man in this country, aren’t they?)
Anyway, a statue of a warrior who fought to destroy the U.S. so a part of the country could own other human beings … I’m OK with losing that culture.
History judges. It does not look kindly upon the Confederacy or its long-dead “heroes,” and it shouldn’t.
Trump also tweeted this, which he said in his wild presser, too:
The Washington/Jefferson part made me think. They were slave owners, he’s right. If we’re taking down Confederate statues, are we gonna disown them, too? Take a wrecking ball to half of the city of Washington, and trade in most of our money, too?
I thought about it, see his limited point, but I agree with many others who point out that Washington and Jefferson, for all their faults, established a nation in which all men are believed to be created equal. They had faults, yes. No doubt. But if we’re reserving spots in parks and city centers solely for monuments to perfect men and women, we’d better order more benches and fountains.
Just imagine, if you would, what it must be like for African-Americans in this country who have to walk by statues or drive down streets honoring so-called “heroes” that gave their lives to keep their ancestors enslaved. In Atlanta, Confederate superstars Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Lee are carved into the side of Stone Mountain, which also was the place the KKK was founded. It’s the South’s Mt. Rushmore.
Stone Mountain also is Georgia’s most visited tourist attraction. More than 4 million people stream through there every year. Go someday, if you will. You won’t see many African-Americans.
History can’t be erased. It shouldn’t be. Keep the stories in the books and the reminders in the museums.
But I say bring down the statues. Sandblast the mountain. It’s time to stop honoring a part of our history that is so dishonorable. Truth be told, there never should have been such a time.
As for Trump … yeah, history will have its way with him, too. And it won’t be kind.