How a President May Have Squandered ‘Any Claim to Moral Leadership’
Many incisive comments have been made over the weekend – by Democrats and Republicans alike — about Trump’s refusal to “call evil by its name.”
In his “, Trump’s big Charlottesville violence statement fail…” Joe Gandelman provides an extensive roundup of such condemnations.
One of the most striking statements, however, comes – in my opinion – from the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne Jr.:
A president who cannot bring himself to say this immediately and unequivocally squanders any claim to moral leadership.
By “this,” Dionne is referring to Trump’s shameful embrace of moral equivalence by not being able to muster the “moral clarity” to say, “Racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination and white supremacy are unequivocally wrong.”
In his “After Charlottesville: End the denial about Trump,” Dionne says,
It should not have taken the death and injury of innocents to move our nation toward moral clarity. It should not have taken President Trump’s disgraceful refusal to condemn white supremacy, bigotry and Nazism to make clear to all who he is and which dark impulses he is willing to exploit to maintain his hold on power.
Dionne adds, “…the mayhem in Charlottesville called forth passionate condemnations of blood-and-soil nationalism across the spectrum of ideology.”
Instead we got a cowardly, generic, milk-toast statement which Dionne attributes – “as is always true with Trump” – to Trump’s “self-interest”: “Under pressure from the Russia investigation, he is reluctant to alienate backlash voters, who are among his most loyal supporters.”
Dionne points out that the proper response for Democrats and Republicans would be to “force a vote in Congress condemning the president for his opportunistic obtuseness and making clear where the vast majority of Americans stand on white supremacy.”
He calls such important, “For make no mistake: No matter how accurate it is to say that neo-Nazis and Klansmen represent a repugnant fringe, the fact that our president has consistently and successfully exploited white racial resentment cannot help but be taken by citizens of color as a sign of racism’s stubborn durability.”
It is reported that Trump will be making a statement shortly to try to clean up his mess.
But as Gandelman says,
… the moment was lost: Trump seemed to be either timid or calculating a possible loss in votes as he made what most blasted as a false equivalency (counter demonstrators being on the same political level as neo-Nazis, the KKK, and alt-right).
Trump can make amended statements, the Justice Department can and has now opened a civil rights case — but he will never undo the damage of his glaring omission.
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