Why won’t Donald Trump condemn white nationalism?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Why doesn’t President Donald Trump just unequivocally condemn white supremacists?

It’s a jarring question to ask about an American president. But it’s also one made unavoidable by Trump’s delayed, blame-both-sides response to the violence that erupted Saturday when neo-Nazis, skinheads and members of the Ku Klux Klan protested in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has faced such a moment before — one that would have certainly drawn swift, almost predictable condemnations from his recent predecessors, regardless of party. As a candidate and now as president, when racial tensions flared or fringe groups rallied around his message, Trump has shown uncharacteristic caution and a reluctance to distance himself from the hate.

At times, his approach has seemingly inflamed racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows.

On Saturday, as Trump read slowly through a statement about the clashes that left dozens injured and one woman dead, he condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides.” The president was silent when journalists asked whether he rejected the support of nationalists groups.

Virginia State Police cordon off an area around the site where a car ran into a group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

That silence was cheered by the white supremacist website Daily Stormer: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

Trump denies that he’s racist or sympathetic to such groups. Son-in-law Jared Kushner, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, are among those who have defended the president against those charges.

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 23, 2017, shows Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, senior adviser to Trump, arriving at Rome's Fiumicino Airport. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE

Still, he has a history of engaging in high-profile, racially fraught battles.

Early in his career as a developer, Trump fought charges of bias against blacks seeking to rent at his family-owned apartment complexes. He long promoted the lie that the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. As a candidate, he proposed temporarily banning Muslims from the United States. He retweeted a post from accounts that appeared to have ties to white nationalist groups. And he was slow to reject the endorsement of former KKK leader David Duke.

White nationalist Richard Spencer, center, and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Lee Park after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

Some of the president’s friends and advisers have argued that Trump is simply refusing to bend to liberals’ desire for political correctness. A boastful, proudly disruptive politician, Trump often has been rewarded for saying impolite and impolitic things. Some supporters cheered him for being someone who said what they could not.

Democrats frequently assert that Trump sees a political advantage in courting the support of the far right.

Indeed, he has benefited politically from the backing of media outlets such as Breitbart or InfoWars. They have consistently promoted Trump and torn down his opponents, sometimes with biased or inaccurate reports.

Charlottesville’s mayor, Democrat Mike Signer, said Sunday that Trump made a choice during his campaign to “go right to the gutter, to play on our worst prejudices.”

“I think you are seeing a direct line from what happened here this weekend to those choices,” Singer said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Steve Bannon attending a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House where Neil Gorsuch was administered the judicial oath, April 10, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/JTA)

White House senior adviser Steve Bannon ran Breitbart before joining Trump’s campaign, and several of the president’s other aides believe Bannon continues to have influence over the website. In “Devil’s Bargain,” a new book about his role in the Trump campaign, Bannon is quoted as saying that attempts by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to tie Trump to the alt-right and nationalists did not move voters.

“We polled the race stuff and it doesn’t matter,” Bannon said, according to the book.

But there’s no reliable public polling on the scope of Trump’s support among those with white nationalist leanings or the percentage of the electorate they comprise. The reaction from Republicans following Trump’s statement Saturday suggests there may be greater political risks for the president in aligning himself with bigoted groups.

“The president needs to step up today and say what it is,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who was one of several GOP lawmakers urging Trump to be more strident in calling out the nationalists and neo-Nazis that gathered in Charlottesville. Gardner said plainly: “It’s evil. It’s white nationalism.”

By Sunday, the White House was scrambling to try to clean up the president’s statement. The White House issued a statement saying the president does condemn “white supremacists, KKK, neo-nazi and all extremist groups.”

Advertisements

One comment

  1. Regardless of your politics it would take an extraordinarily obtuse person to not see that the Trump option has resulted in a deeply divided society. Some US citizens might not have noticed that polls by PEW and numerous surveys of major nations outside the US (with the exception of Russia and Israel) show a deep distrust of the current presidency. Again it is not so much a question of who is right. It is more that there is now overwhelming statistical evidence to show the White House presents a message that doesn’t appeal to those in other nations.
    In terms of making America great again even the US polls show that a majority of US citizens don’t accept Trump is taking the country in the right direction. It is all very well for Trump supporters to protest this is not fair. It is simply what has happened.
    How the White House may try to recover the situation before it is unrecoverable is of interest but thus far it doesn’t look as if President Trump is going to be part of the recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s