It was fictional U.S. President Jed Bartlet from The West Wing who once said “Every once in a while, there’s a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts.” He was, in essence, referring to days like this one. It’s why I find myself agreeing today with people with whom I share almost no common political ground. Yet Donald Trump still found a unique way to blow it today.
Here’s what Donald Trump could have said today: “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.” But it fell to Paul Ryan to say those words instead. Here’s what else Trump could have said today: “I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute today’s grotesque act of domestic terrorism.” But instead those words were spoken by Ted Cruz, marking the first (and probably last) time I’ve ever agreed with anything he’s ever said. Because while today was very difficult to stomach, it was very easy to figure out what side to be on.
And then there was Donald Trump. It took him far too long to say anything about the matter. And even then, he blew it by insisting that this kind of violence happens on “many sides,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. The closest he could bring himself to condemning these Nazis and white supremacists was to call the whole thing “sad.”
That’s because he knows today’s attack was a direct result of the vile racist garbage that he’s been spewing for as long as he’s been in politics. Further, he knows that those racists are part of his core base of support, and he’s afraid of losing them now. And so on a day where things were so clear-cut that even someone as far out to lunch as Ted Cruz knew the right thing to say, Donald Trump instead found a way to blow it, and on a level that only he could.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report