The Week on Planet Trump: Bannon is Out But the Racism Stays in the White House

Monday: Why Can’t Trump Denounce White Supremacist Terrorism

Trump, in his remarks on Saturday, refused to align himself against the so-called alt-right protest movement. His decision to maintain a neutral stance on the activities of the racist and anti-Semitic right has opened him to charges of hypocrisy; Trump is now refusing to speak plainly about the nature of a particular terrorist threat, a sin he continually ascribed to his predecessor.

But the issue here is substantially larger than mere hypocrisy. Obama carefully measured his rhetoric in the war against Islamist terrorism because he hoped to avoid inserting the U.S. into the middle of an internecine struggle consuming another civilization. But the struggle in Charlottesville is a struggle within our own civilization, within Trump’s own civilization. It is precisely at moments like this that an American president should speak up directly on behalf of the American creed, on behalf of Americans who reject tribalism and seek pluralism, on behalf of the idea that blood-and-soil nationalism is antithetical to the American idea itself

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

Tuesday: A New Civil War?

Anxiety over deepening schisms and new conflict has an outlet in popular culture: in April, Amazon selected the dystopian novel “American War”—which centers on a second U.S. civil war—as one of its best books of the month. In a review in the Washington Post, Ron Charles wrote, “Across these scarred pages rages the clash that many of us are anxiously speculating about in the Trump era: a nation riven by irreconcilable ideologies, alienated by entrenched suspicions . . . both poignant and horrifying.” The Times book reviewer noted, “It’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.” The book’s author, Omar El Akkad, was born in Egypt and covered the war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, and the Ferguson protest as a journalist for Canada’s Globe and Mail.

Before Charlottesville, David Blight, a Yale historian, was already planning a conference in November on “American Disunion, Then and Now.” “Parallels and analogies are always risky, but we do have weakened institutions and not just polarized parties but parties that are risking disintegration, which is what happened in the eighteen-fifties,” he told me. “Slavery tore apart, over fifteen years, both major political parties. It destroyed the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party, and divided the Democratic Party into northern and southern parts.”

“So,” he said, “watch the parties” as an indicator of America’s health.

Robin Wright, The New Yorker

 

Wednesday: Trump’s Horrifying Take Three

The president did something absolutely horrifying in that press conference. He bristled at the use of the term “alt-right” by a reporter and demanded to know from her what she meant by it. He drew a distinction between the neo-Nazis — “very rough” — and the members of the alt-right who rallied with torches on Friday night, chanting “Jews shall not replace us.”

It was this group, these alt-rightniks, that Trump said featured “some very good people.” By saying this, he was not only committing an infamy. He actually seemed to be doing constituent service for a group that supported him.

As David French writes, “When Trump carves [the alt-right] away from the Nazis and distinguishes them from the neo-Confederates, he’s doing exactly what they want. He’s making them respectable. He’s making them different.”

That such words could actually emerge from the mouth of the president of the United States is one of the most disheartening facts of my lifetime.

John Podhoretz, New York Post

Thursday: Silence is Not an Option

Free speech and a glorified heritage were irrelevant. Make no mistake about it — the hate groups were here to provoke violence and get attention. When a few Klansmen showed up a month ago, they attracted hundreds of counterprotesters who drowned them out. With an impressive show of peaceful resistance, Charlottesville proved it has no tolerance for hate.

That incident was well reported and no doubt inspired the Unite the Right brain trust to plan an even bigger event. They issued the call, and their comrades came from far and wide to make trouble. They now claim they were provoked while trying to assemble peacefully, but the real provocation was their hate-filled message.

Tensions are now easing, and the streets are quiet again. Funerals are being planned. Physical wounds are healing. Emotional wounds will take longer. We hope and pray our town returns to normal — it will if left alone. But twice this summer, Charlottesville has proved that in the face of intimidation and hate, silence is not an option.

John Grisham, Time

Friday: White America Has to Make a Choice

A few days before the chaos in Charlottesville, the editorial board of the Daily Progress—the city’s daily newspaper—gave its view of the turmoil around the statue of Robert E. Lee. In an unsigned piece, it blamed the upheaval on local leaders who questioned the memorial and called for its removal, labeling one such figure—the only black representative on city council—an “agitator” who is “largely responsible for the conflagration that continues to escalate.” Other voices made similar points, slamming “identity politics” for the actions of white nationalists.

But this is wrong. It presumes that these monuments were never controversial and that the narratives they represent were never contested. They were. They always have been. And the reason we have this fight is because for more than a century, too many white Americans were content with narratives built on exclusion and erasure. The question now is whether they’re still content, whether they still believe this is a white country, or whether they’re ready to share this country, and its story, with others

Jamelle Bouie, Slate

Saturday: Bannon Out

President Donald Trump ousted chief strategist Steve Bannonon Friday, as newly minted Chief of Staff John Kelly sought to bring order to an administration riven by infighting and power struggles, and increasingly at odds with congressional leaders.

Mr. Bannon’s departure marked the fourth senior official in five weeks—and sixth in seven months—to leave the Trump administration, which has been unable to take advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress to push through its legislative agenda.

A former investment banker and media executive, Mr. Bannon was most closely aligned with the president’s “America First” agenda, which he described as economic nationalism. Mr. Bannon supported the president’s defense of Confederate symbols in recent days, and has been a leading voice inside the White House for more protectionist trade policies.

Michael C. Bender and Peter Nicholas, The Wall Street Journal

Sunday: Bannon Out

The proximate cause of Bannon’s dismissal was the president’s halting response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that left a woman dead. While Trump’s senior aides huddled at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, urging him forcefully to condemn the agitators—some of who were waving Trump-Pence banners and wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats—Bannon was pushing him in a different direction. The president’s most enthusiastic supporters, he told Trump, opposed the removal of Confederate monuments—a cause that became the ostensible pretext for the neo-Nazi rally that spun out of control.

It was a message the president delivered in a topsy-turvy news conference on Tuesday, where Kelly—standing behind Trump—made his displeasure visible to all. “So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Bannon emerged later that day to support the president, telling the New York Times that Trump “connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions.” Trump himself was pleased—but Bannon’s remarks cemented Kelly’s sense that he exacerbated the president’s worst tendencies.

Eliana Johnson, Politico

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