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OPINION: America wanted their leader to heal them, Trump sought to win an argument

Wednesday - 16/08/2017 20:08
DONALD Trump was right on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump speaks in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. Picture: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Donald Trump speaks in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday. Picture: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

When he used an off-the-rails press conference inside Trump Tower to assert that both the Right and Left were violent at a rally that turned deadly at Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, he was essentially correct.

Virginia police chief Al Thomas backed this up when he said that there were “mutually combating individuals in the crowd”.

US President Donald Trump fields questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
US President Donald Trump fields questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

And it is fair to say that there are extreme views on both sides of the argument in this incredibly divisive issue that draws in notions of race, freedom of speech and political correctness.

But, Donald Trump, as the President of the United States and the nation’s supposed political and moral leader, should have risen above this interminable debate.

After the horrific violence at the weekend, Mr Trump had the perfect opportunity to unite the nation, to explicitly denounce racism and heal the nation’s wounds with his words.

There have been rolling protests outside Trump Tower in New York this week. Picture: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
There have been rolling protests outside Trump Tower in New York this week. Picture: AP Photo/Andres KudackiSource:AP

Instead, he squandered that opportunity and chose to roll in the mud of a semantic debate.

On Saturday, he offered an equivocal statement, denouncing bigotry but saying there was violence on “many sides”.

He copped unrelenting criticism over the next two days for not specifically condemning the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups that organised the rally.

He bowed to pressure from the media and his own advisers to make a more explicit denunciation of these groups on Monday, but it was clear he was doing so through gritted teeth.

US President Donald Trump has shifted his views on the Charlottesville rally since Saturday. Picture: AFP/Jim Watson
US President Donald Trump has shifted his views on the Charlottesville rally since Saturday. Picture: AFP/Jim WatsonSource:AFP

Then, on Tuesday, during a press conference ostensibly about infrastructure policy, the President went rogue and gave it to the media with both barrels, slamming journalists as “fake news” and reverting to his earlier stance that there was “blame on both sides”.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Mr Trump asked.

“What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs — do they have any problem?

White nationalist demonstrators guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. Picture: AP Photo/Steve Helber
White nationalist demonstrators guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. Picture: AP Photo/Steve HelberSource:AP

“As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day … you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent — and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it now.”

Mr Trump was clearly angry at Tuesday’s press conference. He had a point to prove.

He wanted to chastise the news media, defend his Saturday statement and win the argument.

But America was begging for their president to rise above this kind of pointscoring. They wanted Mr Trump to speak without equivocation and not side with a ragtag group of alt-right citizens whose essential core belief is that America belongs to white people.

Donald Trump has gone to war with the media over his stance on Charlottesville. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
Donald Trump has gone to war with the media over his stance on Charlottesville. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFPSource:AFP

Instead, he used his presidential megaphone to exacerbate division in the country. While he did repeat his earlier assertion that neo-Nazism and white supremacy was “repugnant”, he chose to stand up for some people on the Right who gladly stood beside people brandishing swastikas, chanting “Jews will not replace us” and repeating the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”.

John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio who ran against Mr Trump for the presidential nomination, is among those from the President’s own side to condemn his stance forcefully.

“The President has to totally condemn this,” he told the US’s Today show.

Failed Republican presidential candidate John Kasich. Picture: AFP/Yuri Gripas
Failed Republican presidential candidate John Kasich. Picture: AFP/Yuri GripasSource:AFP

“And this is not about winning an argument. This is about the fact that apparently now these folks are going to go other places and they think that they’ve had some sort of a victory.

“There is no moral equivalency between the KKK, the neo-Nazis and anybody else.

“I want Donald Trump to understand it’s not about winning an argument, it’s about bringing the country together.”

Protesters shout slogans and hold signs against President Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower. Picture: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
Protesters shout slogans and hold signs against President Donald Trump in front of Trump Tower. Picture: AP Photo/Andres KudackiSource:AP

Contrast what Mr Trump said with his Vice President, Mike Pence, who struck the conciliatory tone the President struggled to find.

“W e’re praying that in America we will not allow the few to divide the many,” he said on Wednesday while in Chile.

“The strength of the United States of America is always strongest, as the President has said so eloquently, when we are united around our shared values.”

US Vice President Mike Pence has backed up Donald Trump but struck a calmer tone when discussing the violence in Virginia. Picture: AFP/Martin Bernetti
US Vice President Mike Pence has backed up Donald Trump but struck a calmer tone when discussing the violence in Virginia. Picture: AFP/Martin BernettiSource:AFP

Democrats and Republicans alike have lined up to criticise Mr Trump, and the President’s strongest support has actually come from the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, which is a dubious endorsement to say the least.

Ultimately, Mr Trump’s incendiary comments will only serve to exacerbate the deep-seated conflicts in America. They will embolden the left and give new voice the right, who already have a host of “free speech” and “white lives matter” rallies planned for the coming months.

Mr Trump could have stripped these hate groups of their power. Instead, he implicitly defended what some of them believe and gave them new impetus to carry out their agenda.

With some well chosen words, he could have brought the nation together. Instead, he chose to stoke the fires of division. And America is worse off because of it.

Source: News Corp Australia Network:

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