President Trump's first test as Healer In Chief did not go as planned. When the mayhem that erupted after armed white nationalists descended upon Charlottesville, South Carolina to protest the removal of a Confederate monument turned deadly, Trump had an opportunity to perform one of the Presidency's time-honored functions of restoring moral order by appealing to a fractured populace's better angels. Instead, officials from both parties are criticizing the President for his faint condemnation of the violence, for not calling out white supremacy by name, and for seemingly suggesting a sort of equivalency between the the protestors, who had neo-Nazi affiliations, and the the counter-protestors.
At a press conference, Trump said that the "hatred, bigotry and violence" was due to actions on "many sides." His other statements and tweets all shared one common denominator: no specific mention of white nationalism, or that the Charlottesville affair involved white supremacists, or that the death of Heather Heyer was due to being intentionally run over by the driving of James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, who was charged with driving a car into the gathering of counter-protestors. (His high school teacher tells the Washington Post that he "was a Nazi sympathizer.") The protestors, marching in defense of Robert E. Lee, included well known white nationalists like David Duke and Richard Spencer.
Both Republicans and Democrats have called on the President to identify and speak out against the white nationalist current in Charlottesville. Senator Cory Gardner [tweeted]:(https://twitter.com/SenCoryGardner/status/896472477844385792)
Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
Marco Rubio spoke up:
Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose confirmation was jeopardized by his uneven history with civil rights, released an emphatic statement: "The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice ... When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated."
So why hasn't the President? Per David Duke, whose support President Trump was slow to denounce during the campaign:
I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists. https://t.co/Rkfs7O2Ykr— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 12, 2017