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
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.”