President Trump on Aug. 15 said that "there's blame on both sides" for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

On Monday, I declared that President Trump had neither the moral core nor the moral authority to respond properly to the openly racist horror that took place in Charlottesville. I said flat out that I didn’t believe him when he mouthed words that fell short of what was required for a moment so pivotal. Trump’s denunciation of “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” later that day was as forced as the confessions from the Central Park Five.

On Tuesday, he proved my gut feeling right.

In the lobby of his tacky tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the president of the United States defended the torch-bearing racists who lit up the night sky on the University of Virginia campus as they chanted “white lives matter.” He reiterated his “both sides” blasphemy, equating the racism and violence of the bigots who rallied last weekend with the counterprotesters who gathered to uphold the ideals of this nation. And he defended the cause of the Confederacy by siding with those trying to prevent the removal of statues that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu correctly called “murder.”

The damage Trump has done to the presidency is unmistakable. The damage done to the nation is incalculable. He is unfit to serve.


A vehicle plows into a group of protesters in Charlottesville. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress)

Up until Trump’s election, the American people sent to the Oval Office men (thus far) who were a reflection of our better selves. None was perfect. All had shortcomings. But they revered the Constitution and its ideals. Expanding their support to buttress their moral authority to make decisions on behalf of all Americans was paramount to preserving national unity. Those men understood that the presidency was bigger than themselves. Not Trump.

He is siding with racists who want to turn the clock back to the 1800s. He is giving comfort to bigots who want to “take our country back” with racial violence. He is fueling the hate that allegedly drove James Alex Fields Jr. to plow his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. He doesn’t see how doing these things is tearing the country apart. And he doesn’t care. Rather than a reflection of our better selves, Trump is a cancer on the presidency.

In his book “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” journalist Joshua Green notes the lesson Trump learned in 2011 while pushing the racist birther lie against then-President Barack Obama.

Trump, who has an uncanny ability to read an audience, intuited in the spring of 2011 that the birther calumny could help him form a powerful connection with party activists. He also figured out that the norms forbidding such behavior were not inviolable rules that carried a harsh penalty but rather sentiments of a nobler, bygone era, gossamer-thin and needlessly adhered to by politicians who lacked his willingness to defy them. He could violate them with impunity and pay no price for it. …

Privately, what amused him the most, he later told a friend, was that no party official in a position of power dared to stand up to him.


Participants in the Unite the Right rally march into Lee Park in Charlottesville. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

Trump must be held accountable for his false moral equivalency and his willingness to exalt the treasonous Confederacy at the expense of our union. The “harsh penalty” that escaped him in 2011 must be visited upon him now. People of good conscience must speak up and stay vocal. More Republicans must stand up to him now and do so boldly. They have to put the country before party or some longed-for policy that pales in comparison to the preservation of our ideals. And if Trump succeeds in surviving this unbelievable affront to all we say we are, he will not be to blame. We will.

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