Donald Trump’s mouth-foaming press conference is turning out to be a very good thing for this country.
Yes, a good thing. For decades now, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Confederate wannabes have existed on the far flung fringes of society, occasionally popping up at rally here or a parade there. They seemed like cartoon characters – ridiculous and inconsequential, just like the original Nazis. Few paid them any mind, figuring they were simply vaguely pathetic figures who would quickly recede into the worm-holed woodwork from whence they came.
The Charlottesville rally would have been just another one of those forgettable moments, except for two things – the murder of Heather Heyer, run over by a white nationalist, and Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of the hate groups.
From beginning to end, it was a stunning thing to witness from the president of the United States.
Asked why he waited so long to denounce the hate groups, he said, “I wanted to make sure — unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct … You don’t make statements that direct unless you know the fact.”
Oh, really? This from a man who insisted that Barack Obama was a Kenyan and Sen. Ted Cruz’ father might have been involved in Kennedy’s assassination.
Next he said, ““I think there is blame on both sides,” ignoring the fact that one side was there to foment hatred of Jews, blacks and others while the other was there to counteract it.
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis,” he continued. “I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”
Which is ridiculous on its face. These were people who came from all over the country to march, carry torches and chant “Whose streets? Our streets” and “Jews will not replace us.” If that’s not white supremacy and neo-Nazism, I’d sure like to know what is.
Finally, he said, “You have some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides … you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest — and very legally protest, because you know- I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.”
It was such a ludicrous statement that Twitter – Trump’s medium of choice – immediately brimmed with mockery, including this tweet from comedian Patton Oswalt over an image from the movie of Indiana Jones beating up a member of the master race: “Liberal arts college professor brutalizes Nazi, who has a permit. More alt-left indoctrination.”
Many people have called the president’s comments a low point for this country, and I agree.
But they have also forced many to publicly choose sides. For decades now, the Republican Party has softly courted the alt-right vote, in the process legitimizing them. That’s over and done now, I expect.
It’s also forcing the rest of us to wake up to and confront a real and growing threat from a slowly coalescing coalition of alt-right fringe groups. And if you don’t think that’s happening, all you have to do is look at the name of the Charlottesville rally.
It was called “Unite the Right.”
Image credit: Donkey Hotey