There are times in my life I have invested in purchases that did not turn out. A bunch of other people are feeling the same way about now. President Donald Trump’s odd-beyond-the-pale press conference at Trump Tower earlier this week may have been a watershed. The President talked about certain CEOs of major companies leaving his manufacturing council. He got into a discussion of that, then the dialog turned to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virgina. He was asked why he waited so long to clarify his initial remarks. Heather D. Heyer, 32, was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the White Nationalist rally being held. Twenty others were injured. From Vox, here is what the President said in response:
Trump: I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement.
The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement but you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. It is a very, very important process to me. It is a very important statement. So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.
If you go back to my statement, I brought it. I brought it. As I said, remember, saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America. I went on from there. Here is the thing.
Excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here is the thing.
When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. A lot of the event didn’t happen yet as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent.
In fact, the young woman — who I hear is a fantastic young woman and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through I guess Twitter, social media, the nicest things. I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine, really actually an incredible young woman. Her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said. Honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. Unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
That response would have sufficed, if only the President had reined in his thoughts as questions persisted. A reporter asked about CEOs who have abandoned the manufacturing council. President Trump responded and then reverted back to the matter of Saturday’s events. Again from the transcript posted on Vox:
I would do it the same way, because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. There was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters. I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. The facts, as they started coming out, were very well-stated. Everybody said his statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good.
I couldn’t have made it sooner, because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important — excuse me, excuse me. It was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things — excuse me. There are still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I want to know the facts.
Q: Was this terrorism? Can you tell us how you are feeling about Steve Bannon?
Trump: I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country. You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer. What he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
He did not answer the question about Steve Bannon, his advisor, but returned to the Charlottesville episode. He wasn’t finished with it, getting back shortly. Responding to another question from a reporter:
Q: Said that the alt-right is behind these attacks and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
Trump: I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. When you say the alt right. You define it. Go ahead. Define it for me. Let’s go.
Q: Senator McCain defined them as the same group.
Trump: What about the alt left that came charging at, as you say, at the alt right? Do they have any assemblage of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. That was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute. I’m not finished. I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day. I will fell tell you something. I watched that very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now. You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.
Q: Do you think what you call the alt left is the same as neo-Nazis?
Trump: All of those people — i’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee.
You take a look at some of the groups and you see and you would know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases, you are not. Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop? You take a look. The night before. They were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.
Infrastructure question. Go ahead.
The topic continued to come up:
Q: Do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office with regard to race relationships?
Trump: They have been frayed for a long time. You can ask President Obama about that. He would make speeches about it. I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our countries. I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations.
We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin, just announced. We have many companies, I would say, pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge positive impact on race relations.
You know why? It is jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. When they have that, you watch how race relations will be. We are spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We are fixing the inner cities. We are doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It is a priority for me.
Q: Mr. President, are you putting what you are calling the alt–left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
Trump: I am not putting anybody on a moral plane. You had a group on one side and the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch. There is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want. That’s the way it is.
Q: You said there was hatred and violence on both sides?
Trump: I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object both on both sides. I have no doubt about it. You don’t have doubt about it either. If you reported it accurately, you would say that the neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville. Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me. Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down his statue. He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? It is fine. You are changing history and culture.
You had people and i’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists. They should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
Q: You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly?
Trump: No, no. There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure there were some bad ones.
The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest. I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.
So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.
Does anybody have a final question? Do you have an infrastructure question?
My cutting and pasting from the Vox transcript leaves the dialog a bit chopped up, but there is something you can take from it. Two sides to the story? Yes, that’s what the President said. To get an angle on one of the sides, I pulled up an interview with somebody who was there. Here is Pastor Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ. She was interviewed on MSNBC:
Trump is lying about Charlottesville, says witness
According to Rev. Traci Blackmon, who protested the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the president was lying when he defended the behavior of the alt right marchers and blamed “both sides” for the violence.
Lying. That’s strong language to levy against the President of the United States. The video is from an interview by Joy Reid on MSNBC. Here is a partial transcript. You can watch the video to get the full picture:
Joy: Donald Trump said that the night before the Saturday melee there were good people who were quietly marching in Charlottesville, and he was talking about the White Nationalist protesters. You were inside that church. Did you hear people quietly marching?
The church is apparently on the grounds of the University of Virginia.
Blackmon: … No. And I say these words with the utmost seriousness. I rarely use these words, but they apply here. Donald Trump is lying.
Whoa! A black woman I never heard of before is calling the President of the United States a liar. And I am expected to believe her? Most interesting is that I have no problem believing her. She may as well have told me the sun was coming up in the east. This is a most unusual period in American history. And some are at long last beginning to experience regret.
But first it’s helpful to know more about what the Reverend Blackmon had to say. In her interview she told of participating in a worship service Friday night in the church with a number of others. The place was standing room only. There were Christians, Jews, Muslims, and even some like me. They had one thing in common and that was opposition to the message brought to town by the White Nationalists. Then more happened.
As the time approached for the group to leave came a message they had to shelter in place. There was a mob approaching with torches. The people were chanting slogans.”Blood and soil.” “You will not replace us.” “Jews will not replace us.” “White lives matter.” Thirty minutes later, when the worshipers were allowed to leave, they had to make their way out the side and back door(s) for fear they would be assaulted if they went out the front. They had to make their way through the alley. Exiting the area by car, Blackmon noted the White Nationalists on the sidewalk along the street. They were wearing the famous “Make America Great Again” baseball caps. Some carried both baseball bats and torches.
As a background note, the slogan “blood and soil” is an echo from 80 years ago:
The slogan blood and soil is an English translation of German: Blut und Boden, a nineteenth century German idealization of a racially defined national body (“blood”) united with a settlement area (“soil”). By it, rural and farm life forms are not only idealized as a counterweight to urban ones, but are also combined with racist and anti-Semitic ideas of a sedentary Germanic-Nordic peasantry as opposed to [specifically] Jewish nomadism. The contemporary German concept Lebensraum, the belief that the German people needed to reclaim historically German areas of Eastern Europe into which they could expand, is tied to it. Because of its connections to German nationalism, the phrase has been taken up by twenty-first-century neo-nazi groups in North America as a rallying cry.
“Blood and soil” was a key slogan of Nazi ideology. The nationalist ideology of Artamanen and the writings Walther Darré guided Nazi agricultural policies which were later adopted by Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Baldur von Schirach.
Not quite as American as apple pie.
Blackmon further responds to President Trump’s assertion the White Nationalists were set upon by others with “clubs and other implements.” Here is an account of the President’s remarks:
On Wednesday — as mourners gathered in Charlottesville to remember the woman killed when a white supremacist from Ohio allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters — Trump’s characterization of the anti-racists drew a mixed response of confusion, anger and, among some of Trump’s supporters, plaudits.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’” Trump said in attempting to describe the mayhem. “Do they have any semblance of guilt…. What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs?”
Here is what Blackmon says about that statement. From the video:
Again, Donald Trump is lying.
Wow! This woman is calling the President of the United States a liar. And who is to doubt her? She further charges, by implication, that the White Nationalists threw full cans of soda, full bottles of water, and urine on the counter protesters. She says their permit to hold the rally did not include a permit to do those things. She challenges President Trump’s characterization of the counter protesters as Alt Left: Here is a quote of the President’s remarks:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
Blackmon rejects that characterization. She describes the people in the church as “faith-based.” She further describes the people who came to Charlottesville to rally for white nationalism. She says violence was expected from these people and notes the fliers that were distributed prior to the event.
How much more innocent can they be? On another point, here is something apparently for an earlier event:
I am guessing the graphic alludes to the Robert E. Lee statue at the center of the controversy.
Apparently this is a lot more than some people signed up for. Big business (with exceptions) is a traditional base of support for conservative politics. Fewer government restrictions, better tax rates for rich people. All this bought candidate a lot of support. The down side is that President Trump is exerting a drag on half a basket full of famous brands:
Some CEOs have discovered that mouthing even anodyne support for Trump can have a really negative impact on their business relationships and stock price. In February, Kevin Plank, the CEO of apparel-maker Under Amour and a member of the manufacturing council, said “to have such a pro-business president is something that is a real asset to this country.” In response, some of the company’s leading endorsers, including Stephen Curry, expressed their anger, customers rebelled, and the stock was ultimately downgraded.
Other CEOs have discovered that while the policies of Trump and the GOP may be theoretically good for “business,” they are really bad for their particular business. Duh. Musk was the first to bail from Trump’s manufacturing council after Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The upshot has been a nearly complete desertion from Trump’s advisory councils. In characteristic response, Donald Trump dissolved two of these in a preemptive strike:
President Donald Trump dissolved two of his economic advisory councils Wednesday after a rash of CEOs resigned in the wake of his response to a white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, that occurred Saturday.
Buyers remorse is showing real consequences. There’s going to be more about this. Keep reading. And, Jesus, stay out of this.