President Trump's comments so far on the violence in Charlottesville have been denounced by those on both sides of the political aisle. A sampling of columnists' takes on his response:
- In the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb says this is one of the weakest responses to Nazism America has seen. Even the eventual White House clarification wasn't much better than Trump's original response. "When questioned about the rationale for Trump’s evenhandedness, the White House clarified that both the protesters and the counter-protesters had resorted to violence. This is notable in that the United States was once a country that did not see Nazis and those willing to fight them as morally equivalent."
- At CNN, Timothy Stanley says Trump failed this test. The president likely sees "not a prejudice problem but a crisis of law and order" when he looks at what happened in Virginia, just like many conservatives consider the KKK and Black Lives Matter "as bad as each other." But "Black Lives Matter, for all its faults, sees a truth that Trump does not: America operates an unjust racial hierarchy in which people of color are relegated to the bottom. When African-Americans protest, they are expressing their powerlessness, they are punching upwards. White supremacists, by contrast, enjoy power and authority. They are punching downwards out of irrational hate."
- At FiveThirtyEight, Julia Azari points out why it's interesting Trump isn't specifically condemning white supremacy. His "comments are striking for a couple of reasons. For one, Trump repeatedly denounced his predecessor, Barack Obama, for refusing to use the phrase 'radical Islamic terrorism' to refer to attacks by Islamist radicals. For another, denouncing Friday’s white supremacist protest and Saturday’s (apparent) attack should have been comparatively easy for an American politician."
- Michael Gerson acknowledges at the Washington Post that it's difficult to find the right words in the face of a tragedy like this, but Trump is, apparently, completely incapable of doing so. "The flash point in Charlottesville was the history of the Civil War," and "the oppression and trauma that led to Appomattox did not end there. Ghosts still deploy on these battlefields. And the casualties continue. But Trump could offer no context for this latest conflict. No inspiring ideals from the author of the Declaration of Independence, who called Charlottesville home. No healing words from the president who was killed by a white supremacist. By his flat, foolish utterance, Trump proved once again that he has no place in the company of these leaders."
- In the New York Times, conservative writer and radio show host Erick-Woods Erickson weighs in. Though he considers the "social justice warriors" of the far left and the white supremacists of the far right to be "two sides of the same coin," Erickson points out that a white supremacist was allegedly to blame for this violence. "On a day that saw one person killed during the Charlottesville violence, the president did not need to play the 'both sides are culpable' game. No side would be protesting in Charlottesville had not the white supremacists decided to march."
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