Alt-Fact of the Week

Pres­i­dent Trump’s se­rial de­fenses of racists and anti-Semites af­ter Satur­day’s vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville pro­duced some real whop­pers

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS -

Our view:

There’s a say­ing in pol­i­tics that the first thing you should do if you find your­self in a hole is to stop dig­ging. On the is­sue of Char­lottesville and Civil War stat­ues, Don­ald Trump is ap­proach­ing Lu­ray Cav­ern depth, and he’s still shov­el­ing away. What be­gan as a fool­ish re­ac­tion Satur­day, an at­tempt at cor­rec­tion Mon­day and then a full melt­down Tues­day con­tin­ues to yield that now-fa­mil­iar Trumpian com­bi­na­tion of blus­ter, coun­ter­at­tack and bla­tant rewrit­ing of his­tory. As the Great Eman­ci­pa­tor might have said, it’s al­to­gether fit­ting and proper that we should gather to­day to bury Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­tin­u­ing de­fense of the neo-Nazis and white su­prem­a­cists who marched in Vir­ginia.

But be­fore we re­call the pres­i­dent’s im­mor­tal im­promptu news con­fer­ence at Trump Tower, we should also pause to note that Bal­ti­more re­turned to Mr. Trump’s sights. This morn­ing, a day af­ter Mayor Cather­ine Pugh’s sur­prise re­moval of Bal­ti­more’s four Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues, Pres­i­dent Trump­is­sued a se­ries of tweets writ­ing it was “sad to see the his­tory and cul­ture of our great coun­try be­ing ripped apart with the re­moval of our beau­ti­ful stat­ues and mon­u­ments.” He named Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jack­son and equated those two men who nearly ripped the na­tion in half to two men who cre­ated it, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton and Thomas Jef­fer­son. “So fool­ish!” Hetweeted. “Also the beauty that is be­ing taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be com­pa­ra­bly re­placed!" The “beauty” claims were kind of novel since most of his past ref­er­ences to Charm City have sug­gested it’s a neg­a­tive place, such as claim­ing he was “ir­ri­tated” to learn Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod J. Rosen­stein was from here (he ac­tu­ally isn’t; he just had a job re­quir­ing his pres­ence), de­clin­ing to speak to the NAACP­con­ven­tion here or ac­cus­ing the city of hav­ing rov­ing gangs of il­le­gal im­mi­grants (which it doesn’t).

The glass-half-full in­ter­pre­ta­tion? Pres­i­dent Trump thinks Bal­ti­more had beau­ti­ful parks at one time. Well, that was kind of nice. Too bad he fails to see that it is the pres­ence, not the re­moval, of those stat­ues in places like Bal­ti­more that causes the coun­try to suf­fer and how tributes to Con­fed­er­ate gen­er­als dis­tort, rather than il­lu­mi­nate, our his­tory.

That takes us back to the Tues­day news con­fer­ence, which was a lot like the Get­tys­burg Ad­dress — had Abra­ham Lin­coln shown up at the battlefield to talk about U.S. in­fra­struc­ture and then de­scended into mad­ness and a shout­ing match with Mathew Brady. Here are some of the Trump claims that merit Al­ter­na­tive Fact of the Week con­sid­er­a­tion:

“The state­ment I made on Satur­day, the first state­ment, was a fine state­ment.” That’s true only if by “fine,” he meant that it was a state­ment that re­ceived near-universal con­dem­na­tion be­cause it failed to sin­gle out neo-Nazis and their ilk for crit­i­cism and in­stead faulted “many sides.”

“Not all of those peo­ple were white su­prem­a­cists, by any stretch. … Those peo­ple were also there be­cause they wanted to protest the tak­ing down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.” Mr. Trump also claimed there were many “fine peo­ple” in the group, but if they weren’t all white su­prem­a­cists, they were peo­ple per­fectly happy to march shoul­der-to-shoul­der with large num­bers of white males shout­ing, “Jews will not re­place us” or the Nazi slo­gan, “blood and soil.” Is there re­ally much of a dis­tinc­tion there?

“And I’ll tell you, we’re spend­ing a lot of money on the in­ner cities. We’re fix­ing the in­ner cities. We’re do­ing far more than any­body has done with re­spect to the in­ner cities. It’s a pri­or­ity for me, and it’s very im­por­tant.” Is such a claim even worth se­ri­ous anal­y­sis? Mr. Trump has pro­posed cut­ting agen­cies that help cities like HUD and has at­tacked so­cial safety net pro­grams from job train­ing to aid to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. There’s sim­ply no con­ceiv­able way to make that boast true.

And then there’s the mat­ter of the “alt-left” and Mr. Trump’s con­tin­ued cas­ti­ga­tion of those who came to protest the white su­prem­a­cists as be­ing equally to blame for the vi­o­lence (con­ve­niently ig­nor­ing that it was a su­prem­a­cist who drove a car into a crowd, killing one woman and in­jur­ing 19 oth­ers). Af­ter Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham de­nounced such “moral equiv­a­lency” Wed­nes­day, Pres­i­dent Trump shot back to­day, tweet­ing, “Pub­lic­ity seek­ing Lind­sey Gra­ham falsely stated that I said there is moral equiv­a­lency be­tween the KKK, neo-Nazis & white su­prem­a­cists and peo­ple like [crash vic­tim Heather] Heyer. Such a dis­gust­ing lie. ”

Per­haps Mr. Trump sim­ply doesn’t un­der­stand the con­cept of moral equiv­a­lency, but he ought to; he’s been do­ing a lot of it lately. He ought to at least know the mean­ing of the word, “lie.”

KAL/THE ECON­O­MIST

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