If you're wondering where President Trump sits on the question of whether America's Confederate statues should be taken down, wonder no more. Trump earlier addressed the topic in his Tuesday press conference, and returned to it Thursday morning in a three-part tweet. He writes, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You..... / ...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also... / ...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!" Reaction and more on the subject:
- Maine Gov. Paul LePage offered comments that aligned with Trump's in a Thursday interview with WGAN-AM. The AP has his comments: "How can future generations learn if we're going to erase history? That's disgusting. ... Listen, whether we like it or not, this is what our history is. To me, it's just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that."
- Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen formerly ascribed to "learn from history" thinking, having advocated to keep the city's two Confederate statues outside its old courthouse and just add signs giving context. He explained his change of heart on Tuesday: "Defenders of Confederate memorials like to argue that moving or removing them amounts to rewriting history, but they are wrong. Fact is, these monuments were themselves attempts to rewrite history, to make racism honorable and disguise white supremacy as 'Southern heritage.'"
- So how many of these statues have been removed? "Only a tiny fraction," per FiveThirtyEight, which cites data from the Southern Poverty Law Center that shows there are more than 700 public Confederate monuments standing. Most were constructed in the 20th century, and as recently as 2012.
- Trump called them "beautiful"; Foreign Policy doesn't use as flattering a word in a piece that looks at how post-Nazi Germany and post-Soviet Eastern Europe dealt with their "heinous" statues, specifically zeroing in on a huge statue of Stalin in Budapest and Hitler's Zeppelin Field grandstand in Nuremberg.
- Soledad O'Brien tweeted a photo of one of the "beautiful" statues Trump was referencing, with a call to read its inscription. In part: "United States troops ... reinstated the usurpers but the national election November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state."
- Breitbart swings back at calls to take the statues down with an argument that those rallying for their removal must also take down a dozen memorials to other Americans who had "a penchant for racism": among them Presidents Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and LBJ, it argues.
- At Vox, Matthew Yglesias offers a counter-argument: Jefferson Davis, Lee, et al. "aren't noteworthy historical figures who also happened to benefit from the institution of slavery. They are historical figures who are noteworthy almost exclusively because they led an insurrection ... whose primary purpose was to perpetuate slavery." Yes, Jefferson's owning of slaves is a "dishonorable part of Thomas Jefferson's legacy. But it’s the entirety of Davis's legacy."
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