Donald Trump refuses to name the problem of white-supremacist violence

His remarks on violence in Charlottesville were ignorance to the point of callousness.

White nationalists rallied in Charlottesville this weekend. White nationalists attacked counter-protesters on Friday night, punching and kicking them and (reportedly) pepper-spraying them. One counter-protester was killed and several were injured when a car rammed into them after accelerating for over a block.

President Trump blamed both sides.

In a statement read before a scheduled VA bill signing, he did everything but say “All Lives Matter” to avoid talking about who had perpetrated the violence. And he left plenty of opportunity for people who are inclined to assume that the problem lay with counterprotesters to do just that.

Here is how the president began his statement:

We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.

What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

This is not just a failure to condemn the white nationalists who were responsible for the bulk of the violence and disorder in Charlottesville with the same vehemence that Trump condemns “radical Islamic terrorism” during any attack of any size in the US or abroad. It is an actively misleading account of what happened.

It implies that both rally-goers and counterprotesters were equally to blame for violence, leaving the door wide open for Trump supporters to assume that “the left” started it. It implies that the “hate and division” are equally distributed, and that the counterprotesters seeking to stand up to the rallygoers are every bit as hateful as the rallygoers sporting swastika pins. And by calling for the “swift restoration of law and order,” it implies that the problem is disrespect for police — encouraging the misinterpretation that this is somehow the fault of anyone else but the white nationalists themselves.

Trump took a tangent in the middle of his remarks, braggng about his record on jobs and trade.

Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record — just absolute record employment. We have unemployment, the lowest it’s been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxconn and car companies and so many others. They’re coming back to our country. We’re renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker.

This characteristic Trumpism, in context, was an insult. It’s an insult to the Americans who have felt unsafe since Trump was elected to office, and to whom he has never offered any acknowledgment of their fear. All he has told them — during his inauguration, and again today — is that they have to put aside their own prejudices just as much as anyone else, and come together as Americans, and everything will be hunky-dory.

The president’s unwillingness to understand the rise of the “alt-right,” overt racism, and street violence as anything other than a need for “both sides do it” head-shaking and finger-wagging isn’t just obtuse. It leads him to say things that, inadvertently or otherwise, end up signaling to the white supremacists that he is on their side.

When President Trump says that Americans have cause for unity because “We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are,” he’s using the same words that the people who are trying to “protect” American “identity” from non-white and non-Christian Americans use. When he says “we must cherish our history” in response to a rally that was initially convened to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, it sure sounds like he’s siding with the people who want to keep the statue.

In the mouth of a more deliberate president, one would have to call these deliberate dog-whistles. After all, Trump loves his base, and is always very wary of doing anything that might upset them — and acting as if there is any connection between the “alt-right” and Nazis, or any case in which the right engages in unprovoked violence against the left, would do just that.

But it’s not clear that Trump is deliberately sending signals to the alt-right that he’s still on their team. It’s not clear he thought that much about it. That’s exactly the problem.

Six months into a presidency in which he has shown less concern for governing on behalf of people who did not support him politically than any president in recent memory, President Donald Trump still appears sufficiently unconcerned with a threat to the well-being of US citizens to understand it or name it.

Someone died in Charlottesville today, and the president refused to name the killer.

Here are his remarks in full:

We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.

What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

I just got off the phone with the governor of Virginia, Terry Mcauliffe, and we agree that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true — really, I say this so strongly, true affection for each other.

Our country is doing very well in so many ways. We have record — just absolute record employment. We have unemployment, the lowest it’s been in almost 17 years. We have companies pouring into our country, Foxconn and car companies and so many others. They’re coming back to our country. We’re renegotiating trade deals to make them great for our country and great for the American worker.

We have so many incredible things happening in our country, so when I watch charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad.

I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia. Incredible people. Law enforcement, incredible people. And also the National Guard. They’ve really been working smart and working hard .They’ve been doing a terrific job. Federal authorities are also providing tremendous support to the governor. He thanked me for that. And we are here to provide whatever other assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able.

Above all else, we must remember this truth, no matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our god. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are,

So we want to get the situation straightened out in charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country where things like this can happen.

My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally we have to love each other.

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