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Trump's Statements on Charlottesville Reveal a Deeply Flawed President at His Worst

Demonstrators carry Confederate and Nazi flags during Unite the Right rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Emily Molli/NurPhoto, Sipa via AP Images)

Donald Trump has repeatedly made the argument that international terrorism by jihadists will not be defeated unless we are free to name the enemy responsible: radical Islamist terrorism. But when an act of domestic terrorism by neo-Nazis, the KKK, assembled members of the alt-right, and white supremacists took place, his response was a tepid few lines read at a scripted news conference dedicated to honoring veterans, in which he said there was violence on “many sides.”

On Monday, three days later, Trump finally issued a pointed condemnation of these groups — only after major Republican political figures had already done so. “Racism is evil,” Trump stated. “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.” It is too little and too late.  Trump made Monday's remarks only because there was nothing else he could do.

That the rioting caused by the white nationalists resulted in the death of a young woman rammed by a car driven by a neo-Nazi only compounds the tragedy of the situation. Condemning “violence on many sides” is not sufficient. The event in Charlottesville was organized by the racist white nationalists; many of them came in military gear, fully armed with AK-47s or the equivalent, wearing camouflage uniforms as if prepared for battle. They had legal permission for a peaceful rally; what they wanted and got was mayhem and rioting.

That Trump’s initial words were not sufficient was appreciated by those racists and neo-Nazis who support him. The Nazi website Daily Stormer tweeted the following from its chief, Andrew Anglin:

Trump comments were good. He didn't attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.

He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate...on both sides!

So he implied the antifa are haters.

There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.

He said he loves us all.

Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.

No condemnation at all.

When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.

Anglin’s statement reveals a disquieting fact: these white nationalists were and are part of Donald Trump’s base. They represent a small but vocal group of white working-class voters who, in despair, saw the Trump campaign as something they hoped would, if Trump won, alleviate their suffering. That they were Trump supporters is not in dispute. Many of them wore Trump “Make America Great Again” red hats. They marched alongside those bearing both Nazi swastikas and KKKK and Confederate flags. Is there any other reason Donald Trump hesitated to attack them until today, other than that he did not want to alienate some of his base?