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Trump -- once again -- fails to condemn the alt-right, white supremacists

Dan Merica, CNN | 8/12/2017, 7:25 p.m.
President Donald Trump, a man known for his bluntness, was anything but on Saturday, failing to name the white supremacists ...
President Donald Trump CNN photo
CNN

Trump addresses Charlottesville clashes (full)

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump, a man known for his bluntness, was anything but on Saturday, failing to name the white supremacists or alt-right groups at the center of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Instead, the man whose vicious attacks against Hillary Clinton, John McCain, federal judges, fellow Republican leaders and journalists helped define him both in and out of the White House simply blamed "many sides."

Trump stepped to the podium at his New Jersey golf resort and read a statement on the clashes, pinning the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. ... It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama," he said. "It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America."

Fellow Republicans slammed Trump's lack of directness and attempt to inject moral equivalence into the situation of chaos and terror.

"We should call evil by its name," tweeted Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the most senior Republican in the Senate. "My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."

"Very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists," tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, a competitor for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism," tweeted Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican.

Scott Jennings, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush, said Trump's speech was not his "best effort," and faulted the President for "failure to acknowledge the racism, failure to acknowledge the white supremacy, failure to acknowledge the people who are marching around with Nazi flags on American soil."

In his decades of public life, Trump has never been one to hold back his thoughts, and that has continued in the White House, where in his seven months as President it has become clear that he views conflicts as primarily black-and-white.

Trump's Twitter account has become synonymous for blunt burns, regularly using someone's name when he feels they slighted him or let him down. Trump, in just the last week, has used his Twitter account to call out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by name, charge Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal with crying "like a baby" and needle media outlets by name.

His campaign was defined by his direct attacks. He pointedly attacked Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq in 2004, for his speech at the Democratic National Committee that challenged his understanding of the Constitution, suggested federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel was unable to be impartial because of his Mexican heritage and said in a CNN interview that then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever" after she questioned him at a debate.

Even before Trump was a presidential candidate, he was driven by a guiding principle imparted on him by Roy Cohn, his lawyer-turned-mentor: "If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard."