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the presidency

A President for the Worst of Us

Violence "on many sides, on many sides". He had looked up from the lectern and some viewed it as off-script, an ad lib. By suggesting there was an equivalence on both sides — neo-Nazis and white supremacist bigots on one side and those who had come to Charlottesville to protest against their toxic message — President Trump begin three days of disgracing the presidency with progressively worse arguments and stunning unawareness of what country he lives in.

He condemned "in the strongest possible terms this display of egregious hatred, bigotry and violence" without naming the groups or even which groups he was talking about, his primary concern being not to offend his white nationalist base. He was prompted by the press to say more, with one asking "do you want the support of these white nationalists", but he passed up the opportunity and simply left the room.

The neo-Nazi group, the Daily Stormer, was exultant:

"He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him."

Former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, tweeted:

"Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa"

He was referring to Black Lives Matter and the anti-fascist group.

His advisers pressed him to make a stronger statement. Not until the Monday after the Saturday did he call out any of the groups by name — "the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremace [sic] and other hate
The torchlight procession the night before the rally. An unmistakable echo of Nazi Germany

groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans" — reading from a script. He evidently thought that three sentences — read grudgingly at that and two days later — should be all there was to it. When the media furor continued, he tweeted:


That anger boiled over on Tuesday when he went entirely off script. In a presentation that was supposedly about infrastructure he again became the persona he is known for: his own worst enemy. Winston Churchill once said of John Foster Dulles that he was a bull who carries his china shop around with him. Were he alive today, Churchill would substitute Trump.

"What about the alt-left? They came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right. Do they have any semblance of guilt?"

For him those counter-demonstrators against Nazis and bigots are extremists now to be known as the alt-left, and note that the alt-right only exists "as you say".

It was his characterization of the groups that had come to Charlottesville to protest the removal of the statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee that was most astonishing.

"I looked the night before [Friday]. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue...people who were very fine people, on both sides."

The fine people on one side were marching on Friday night in a torchlight parade unmistakably copying the symbology of torch-carrying Nazis of the Third Reich, some of them issuing raised arm Nazi salutes, uttering fascist watchwords such as "blood and soil", and chanting "Jews will not replace us". What, for Trump, was the equivalence on the other side?

And yet, reported the Associated Press, "The president told associates he was pleased with how his press conference went, saying he believed he had effectively stood up to the media".

A week later, he went to a rally in Phoenix where he recited his earlier disavowals of hate groups, but he left out the "many sides" and "fine people" phrases with which he had elevated the white supremacists and neo-Nazis to parity with those protesting their bigotry. The Phoenix crowd, roaring their adulation, showed no signs of knowing the difference.

nothing new

When Trump challenged the legitimacy of Obama's presidency with doubts he had been born in the U.S., he chose to join the right-wing conspiracy mongers who were outraged that a black man had become president. He may have foreseen this only as a canny political move, a wedge issue to win the support of that contingent, but who would be comfortable taking that tack other that someone who held those views himself.

His televisions series, "The Apprentice", had won him a strong black following — there were black contestants on the program and one had won in season three — yet Trump was ready to throw them over now that his ambitions moved up a notch. Taking the lead of the birther movement, he sent a signal to white bigots that — as he would later say at the nominating convention — "I am your voice".

He was not shy in his pursuit of a white following, pressing the issue on television. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here”, he said of Obama on NBC's "Today Show". “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” he asked on ABC’s “The View.” “I want to see his birth certificate,” he told Fox News’s “On the Record.” Trump told Meredith Viera, host of the "Today Show", that he had sent investigators to Hawaii "and they cannot believe what they're finding". There were no investigators, of course. The Hawaii state registrar said he had "no evidence or recollection of Mr. Trump or any of his representatives" ever requesting records. But the trick worked to sow doubt in gullible minds. We would much later learn how at ease Trump is at spinning lies.

He insinuated that President Obama held back after the Orlando terrorist shooting, saying on Fox News that Obama doesn’t understand Islamic terrorism, or “he gets it better than anybody understands…or has something else in mind”, a dog whistle to those in his base who think Obama is a Muslim and a Muslim sympathizer. In 2014 he tweeted, "…because president Obama has done such a poor job as president, you won't see another black president for generations".

He infamously accused Obama of "wire-tapping" Trump Tower in New York. He has engaged in a campaign to unravel every one of Obama's accomplishments. Is that just childish revenge for Obama having paid back the birther slurs when he ridiculed Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, or is Trump bent on removing every trace of a black presidency?

From early on, Trump was no racial innocent. He was involved in a discrimination dispute at age 27 when Trump Management Co., run by his father, Fred Trump, was sued in 1973 by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for schemes to prevent renting its housing units to black families. Some employees said they had seen no such practices. Others said rental applications were coded to indicate black persons or income requirements were doubled to turn them away. One employee was told by Fred Trump himself to screen applicants and not “rent to blacks”.

Young Donald called the charges "such outrageous lies”. The case was resolved in a consent decree whereby the Trumps admitted no wrongdoing but were prohibited from “discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling.”

never wrong

In 1989 five black and Hispanic teenagers from Harlem were accused of beating and raping a white woman jogger in Central Park. The outraged Trump spent $85,000 on full-page ads in the New York newspapers calling for the death penalty. “Muggers and murderers,” he wrote, “should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes”. The Central Park Five had served from 5 to 13 years in prison when exonerated by DNA evidence but Trump has never apologize and, as someone we now know is too lacking in morality ever to admit he is wrong, still insists they are guilty.

During the campaign, Trump was confronted by CNN's Jake Tapper, who three times asked him to condemn and decline the vote of white supremacists and David Duke. Trump feigned ignorance of both. "I don't know anything about David Duke. I don't even know anything about what you're talking about, with white supremacy, or white supremacists." Asked again, "I don't know what group you're talking about".

Tapper finally said, "I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here" to which Trump answered, "…honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him".

Those were several lies. In 2000 he had considered running for president on the Reform Party ticket. But so had Pat Buchanan and his supporter David Duke. Trump withdrew, thinking it ill-advised to be in the same company. He hadn't yet intuited that embracing white resentment and white nationalism would be his path to the White House; he knew enough of Duke to call him “a bigot, a racist, a problem”.

otherness

Trump's animus has been directed at not only blacks but at every non-white race and ethnicity. He infamously opened his campaign in 2015 by calling Mexicans coming into the U.S. criminals and rapists.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Just some. He would claim he couldn't get a fair trial in the class action suit for fraud against so-called Trump University from a Mexican judge — a judge of Mexican lineage but who in fact had been born in Indiana.

He spoke of deporting all 11 million Latinos and once in office his Immigration and Customs Enforcement units would be set to work raiding homes with less concern about breaking up families than Obama's program of deporting criminals, his Justice Department would threaten to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, and what is expected to be a vast purge of voter rolls would begin, its assumed intent being to eliminate Democratic-voting Hispanics, moving well beyond the restrictive laws enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country to hinder blacks and Latinos from voting.

Trump's calling marchers carrying torches and chanting against Jews "fine people" brought to mind his tweet of a picture of Hillary Clinton on top of a pile of cash and a six-pointed star. In a speech last October he warned that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and that “a global power structure” is conspiring against Americans, tropes that historically have forewarned of a worldwide Jewish takeover plot. The final ad of his campaign had an "elders of Zion feel to it" for Senator Al Franken, depicting three "people who don’t have your good in mind" — George Soros, Janet Yellin and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Saks — all of them Jewish.

Blacks, Latins, Jews and days after taking office, Trump imposed a 90-day travel ban on the people of seven countries, making good on his campaign promise of a "Muslim ban". The professed reason was a pause for developing "extreme vetting" protocols to safeguard national security. That lie traded on public ignorance of a vetting process already so extreme as to take two years which made legal application for entry to the United States for the least sensible way for an al Qaeda or ISIS terrorist.

The courts blocked that as well as a second attempt against six countries that tried to scrub inferences of Muslims to get past the Constitution. Trump persisted until the Supreme Court let the ban go forward pending review this fall. But the 90 days had come and gone twice over, giving the lie to the extreme vetting fiction. It's a travel ban against Muslims.

the company he keeps

As president he has chosen as advisers a triumvirate of white nationalists, nomenclature which may be an understatement: Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka. Gorka has been implicated in alleged ties to a Nazi-linked group in Hungary. Bannon, who formerly ran Breitbart News, which inspired the term alt-right, has a waiver allowing him to communicate with the former employer that he turned into a propagandist for the hard right. Gorka evidently a waiver, too. In an interview just before the weekend "rally", he was at Breitbart lashing out against a New York Times reporter:

"It’s this constant, 'Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.' No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman".

His message: We should look abroad and not be concerned about the racists intent on tearing the country apart from within.

Miller called Trump's anti-immigration stance "magnificent", having worked alongside Jeff Sessions to disrupt the bipartisan "Gang of Eight"'s bill in 2013 that would have given 11 million immigrants a path to citizenship. Bannon at Breitbart was the other agent of the immigration bill's doom, reporting that waves of Central American children were pouring across the U.S.–Mexico border, overwhelming border officials and detention centers. With these three xenophobic advisers at his side, small wonder that Trump has announced a plan to cut immigration in half.

The question is, what are three white nationalists doing in the White House on the national payroll? Put differently, if they remain, proof enough that Trump is one of them. Which is the inescapable conclusion of all the evidence and incidents that have gone before with Donald Trump that so many chose to ignore in a Faustian bargain's belief that he would be worth it if he swept the government clean and got things done. We now need to face the shame of having elected a white supremacist as president of the United States.

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