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The Words of A Coward

Words matter. What is not said matters as well. Trump found some words this weekend for the violence in Charlottesville:

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.

“On many sides… for a long, long time.” A cop-out. And the words left out: any mention of the perpetrators, the issue, even the name of the city.

Then, our president found more words. Given the context, these strayed into the bizarre:

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…

A failure to clearly condemn the antagonists, wrapped up with ego-stroking talking points about his presidency.

Maybe we who expected more are the fools.

More significant, Trump failed to acknowledge the terrorist attack several hours later in which a man drove a car into the crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one woman and injuring nineteen others. Contrast the lack of any response by the president with his hair-trigger tweeting about past terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists or even suspected extremists, whose tactics this killer in Charlottesville copied.

Among our Republican leaders, the immediate response to Charlottesville was tepid or non-existent, though there were some exceptions, some directed right at Trump.

Senator Corey Gardner of Colorado:

Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida:

Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas:

I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute today’s grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

Even Anthony Scaramucci (remember him?) laid into Trump:

I think [Trump] needed to be much harsher as it related to the white supremacists and the nature of that… I applaud General McMaster for calling it out for what it is. It’s actually terrorism. Whether it’s domestic or international terrorism, with the moral authority of the presidency, you have to call that stuff out.

Courage, we know, means doing what should be done – what is right – despite the repercussions. Trump and many Republicans are simply cowards. Keeping their political support is more important than speaking out for what is right. The best case you can make if you don’t believe they agree with these hate groups is that Trump was treading very gingerly by his silence in order to avoid alienating the vile constituency in his base which includes the “alt-right,” the bigots, the KKK, the neo-Nazis.

Like many politicians, Trump is a candidate for the canonical example of someone we, in the days of our misguided youth, would call a pussy.

White supremacists noticed all of this. They took comfort in Trump’s equivocation. The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website wrote:

Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us… No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, [Trump] just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.

At least they got it. Many right-wing apologists would not. Mike Huckabee, for example, said with a straight face:

Donald Trump, I thought, was very explicitly clear in condemning what happened.

But Trump wasn’t explicit, clear, or “very explicitly clear.” Huckabee, Vice President Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and others all cited a follow-up statement attributed to an unidentified “White House spokesperson” to prove the intent of Trump’s previous remarks. Trump, however, actually remained silent about it.

John Kasich almost nailed it, but let us down by referring to “a lot of people” which, presumably, included the president:

There are a lot of people who are just not comfortable with the issue; perhaps they are afraid it would aggravate their base.

David Duke, however, the leader of the KKK, was not about to miss:

I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.

The KKK… good company, eh?

This afternoon, after blowback from all sides of the political world, Trump read a prepared statement from the teleprompter. Had he the stones on Saturday to stand up tall and deliver what should have been the easiest speech anyone on his team could have conceived, for a situation for which it was so appropriate, despite the certain disappointment from the minority of his supporters who hide in the shadows and stoke fear and bigotry among themselves and lesser humans, he could have risen above this and begun to unite the decent among us. But being two days late to respond, his words were wasted. His words rang hollow, like a reluctant apology from an impetuous kindergartener who was caught pulling another kid’s hair and realizing there would be no snack time:

Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law and we are equal under our constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry, strike at the very core of America.

Lest anyone think that was Trump finally metamorphosing into an adult, he soon followed it up on Twitter with this:

Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!

Yes, the media jumped all over him, as did politicians in his own damn party, and continued piling on. And Trump, this hollow man, this shell of a leader, yet the most powerful man in the world, got on Twitter and whined, as he typically does. An imbecile. He cannot rise above the fray and lead us to a better place. His best moves are to hunker down, sulk, and hurl insults. Any time he is presented with the opportunity to rise up, he goes low.

The right words, and all of them. They were there on Saturday. Trump could have used them then, the obvious words that everyone saw. But he chose to ignore them. Two days later, those same words fell like duds.

The words of a coward. They always end with shame.

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