It must almost be regarded as a sort of skill for Donald Trump to fail to say things in the particular manner he does. When violence broke out at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA earlier today, Trump took to Twitter, as one does. He wanted to make himself heard, as befits the office he currently infests, leading the nation in a plea for unity and and end to the violence.
Not the white supremacist violence, of course. No no. The violence from “many sides.”
It took him all of two words to ensure that the dog whistle was in place, and white supremacists took note. Unfortunately for Trump, much in the same way that humans can’t hear the dog whistle, we can still see the twitchy dog and guess what’s afoot. As dog whistles go, it wasn’t even particularly sly – to put a violent and murderous attack with a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters in terms of “many sides” is to effectively blame the counter-protesters for being present to get hit with a vehicle. Furthermore, it takes the agency and purpose away from the attack, turning it into “just one of those things” – a product of a tumultuous protest gone out of hand.
As a presidential candidate, Trump loved to go after Obama and Clinton for refusing to “properly” label terrorist acts as “radical Islamic terror.” One need not wonder what candidate Trump would say of his present self, of course (the only things Trump ever says about Trump invariably invite comparisons with autofellatio) but if it is ever useful to highlight the incessant hypocrisy of the man who would be king, we can certainly add this to the towering spire of sins atop which he teeters. The Trump administration appears to have an unwritten rule in place preventing it from using the term “domestic terror” or connecting white supremacist crimes to white supremacist motivations. This is not the first time, and of course there would be another recent example.
Earlier in the week, the White House decided to correct its own deafening silence regarding an attack on a mosque by saying that characterizing the crime would be premature. White House flunky Sebastian Gorka came forth to suggest that crimes of this sort might be false flag operations performed by the left to denigrate the right. Once again, congratulations must be issued to the Trump administration for taking a terrible situation as an opportunity to become even more contemptible.
Mind you, that contempt depends on your attitude toward white supremacy; sites catering to that sort crowed that Trump did right by them, refusing to condemn white supremacists or call these attacks by their proper name: domestic terrorism. To the Trump administration, “terrorism” is a crime committed by a person of color. White men need not apply. This attitude, broadcast from the highest podium in the land, reinforces the appalling narrative given voice during this “Unite The Right” gathering that casts white supremacists as vigilantes, guerrillas, minutemen; a homegrown resistance force striking out for justice against the forces of leftism, political correctness, immigration, and every other faceless “other” undermining the America of their modern reimaginings.
By blaming “many sides,” Trump is telling his loyalists that their actions are in effect justified by the enduring “stranglehold” of an establishment culture that refuses to normalize their views or suck up to the childish man they idolize. He also blames the victims – if “many sides” are to blame for the violence, then those who were injured or died in the attack are surely reaping the rewards of challenging the Unite The Right protesters during their march. If you would just knuckle under, we wouldn’t need to keep kicking you; this is the mentality of the bully, and let it never be said that Trump is no bully.
Trump, of course, couldn’t take a stand if he wanted to; polls show him alienating independents and establishment Republicans on a daily basis, as though he’s required to take a swing at every pitch that comes across his plate – even the ones that will go foul or fly right into the glove of the first baseman. He attacks his own team, and no one is safe – not professional bootlicker Jeff Sessions, not key legislative ally and malevolent America-hating turtle Mitch McConnell, and certainly not John McCain the political ettin.
If you’re going to swing at everything, your only hope is to hit hard enough that when you do connect, your team forgets the rest of your sins. Trump, of course, has never been too valuable to fire, and of late he’s just been desperate to get on base by any means necessary. As his furious swings fail to find the ball, as he strikes out over and over again, Trump has seen the easy pitches coming and is afraid to go for them. Why?
Why indeed? The answer, of course, is that Trump is a craven, narcissistic bully who never imagined that the endless adulation of the campaign would end. He is incapable of governance, beholden to the most destructive elements of American society in a way that challenges his allies to justify. Increasingly, they aren’t interested in trying; when Trump bunts, they recognize that there’s no sense in running – he won’t be making it anywhere, and we all know it.
Trump has nothing to say on Russia, nothing to say on mosque bombings, and nothing to say on white supremacist violence. This shouldn’t really surprise anyone, since he’s never actually had anything to say – it’s just that now he’s being faced with topics he can’t even usefully bluster on in a way that Republicans will back up. Governors, Representatives and Senators from his own party have lined up to say what Trump refuses to – that this attack was domestic terrorism, perpetrated by neofascists, by neo-Nazis, by white supremacists, and that the attitudes of these people are not reflective of American values. What’s more, they have taken the time to personally address these comments to Trump himself, to highlight his weakness and pigheaded refusal to do the right thing.
Sen. Cory Gardner put such comments directly to Trump. Sen. Marco Rubio said that it was “very important” for the nation to hear these terms coming from the White House. Sen. Orrin Hatch took it further: “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideals to go unchallenged here at home,” he said. Sen. Tim Scott joined the fray, as did Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Chuck Grassley, and Sen. Rob Portman. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a longtime Trump ally, declared that “everyone in leadership must speak out” against “the racism and violence of white nationalists” while Gov. John Kasich shared similar sentiments.
It’s not much of a bar to clear to condemn a murder committed by racists, but it’s one that Trump has failed to leap. At least he’s got Mike Pence on his side – the embattled Vice President is still in full suck-up mode after ending up on his boss’s naughty list earlier in the week. It’s nice to know that when the Republican Party experiences a divide due to the needs of basic sanity, the cravens will stick together.
I’m told it takes a rather extraordinary bunt attempt to fly over the batter’s own head and end up in the catcher’s glove; for those less versed in baseball, this is a minimum of effort so flawed as to put the baseball directly behind oneself while attempting to hit it away in any forward direction. Perhaps we can call it another one of the Trump administration’s world record attempts? In any event, we know better than to expect presidential leadership from Donald Trump; apparently, we must now lower our expectations even further.