August 17 at 7:04 AM Follow @JamesHohmann Hundreds marched peacefully last night as part of a candlelight vigil in Charlottesville. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: It’s not enumerated in Article Two of the Constitution, but consoler in chief has always been one of the most important responsibilities of the American president. Playing this part has only become more important in the television age, and Donald Trump — who became president partially because of his mastery of the reality TV medium — has utterly failed to offer moral leadership during the biggest test yet of his seven-month presidency.
Think about Barack Obama’s 2015 eulogy when a white supremacist massacred African American churchgoers in Charleston , his 2011 speech after Gabby Giffords was shot in Tucson or his tearful comments after kids were gunned down at a Connecticut elementary school in 2012.
Bill Clinton encouraged Americans to “overcome evil with good” after 168 people were killed at the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. “Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness: Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind,” he said.
“Justice will prevail.
After millions of schoolkids saw the Challenger explode in 1986, Ronald Reagan spoke straight to camera from the Oval Office. “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery,” he said.
“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”
Think back to the way Lyndon Johnson and then, a decade later, Gerald Ford worked to rehabilitate the country in the days after they inherited the most powerful job on Earth.
As John F. Kennedy said in Germany a few months before he was assassinated, “Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”
— George W. Bush really set the standard after Sept. 11, 2001. He projected steely calm on the night of the attacks, addressing the nation from the White House when his security team wanted him to stay away from Washington.
He spoke out poignantly against targeting Muslims in anger. But his best moment came when he visited the World Trade Center site on Sept.
14. Workers at Ground Zero were yelling that they couldn’t hear him. Holding a bullhorn, Bush replied: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.
And the people … who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!” Recalling that moment still gives us chills 16 years later.
Three days after Charlottesville, Trump also flew to New York and made an off-the-cuff statement about a national tragedy. But instead of rallying the country behind a common goal, this president infected the wound. He offered a window into the depths of his soul, and his false moral equivalency is now generating fresh scrutiny of his checkered record on race .
Asked if he puts neo-Nazis on the same “moral plane” as liberal counterprotesters, Trump replied: “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible.”
As Trump continues to dig in his heels and becomes increasingly isolated, Bush yesterday released a joint statement with his father , George H.
W. Bush, from Kennebunkport. “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” they said.
“As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights.
We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative magazine National Review, writes in a new column : “Over the past few days, Trump hasn’t spoken as the leader of the country, or even leader of one party, but as a leader of an inflamed faction . In general, Trump’s news conference was a tour de force of whataboutism, one of the most important rhetorical tools of the pro-Trump internet. The ‘alt-right’ marched on Charlottesville? Well, what about the ‘alt-left’? Robert E.
Lee’s statue is coming down. Well, what about George Washington? … [They] were used, as whataboutism so often is, as cover for Trump’s failings and to obscure rather than sharpen distinctions.
Charlottesville highlights how the problem with Trump is not the crudity of his expression. This, at times, can be part of his charm and makes him a distinctively powerful communicator. It’s the crudity of thought and feeling. ”
Journalist Howard Fineman sees something even more sinister. “Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, [Trump’s] aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way,” Fineman argues on HuffPost . “ Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. … The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble.
And ‘winning’ is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office. It’s not only an emotional imperative for Trump, it’s a deliberate ― and thus far successful ― strategy.”
— Trump’s continuing unwillingness and inability to console the country has created a huge void. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the American people yearn for someone who can powerfully restate our core principles in the face of the wickedness and hatred we saw last weekend. With Trump’s failure to lead, others are stepping up to say what Trump will not — to clarify that what we saw in Charlottesville is not who we are.
Besides the Bushes, here are nine other people or entities who have shown this week that you don’t need to be president to offer moral leadership for the country:
The mother of Heather Heyer gave an extraordinarily touching eulogy about her slain daughter during a memorial service in Charlottesville yesterday.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” said Bro, sparking a standing ovation that lasted nearly a minute and a half.
More than that, it was a call to action for the 32-year-old’s life to not be lost in vain. “I have aged 10 years in the last week,” Bro said. After struggling up the stairs to the podium, she urged everyone watching to fight against intolerance “as Heather would do.
“I’d rather have my child, but by golly if I got to give her up, we’re going to make it count,” she said.
“Moments later, as the service ended, Bro implored a protester in the audience to stop her critical comments about President Trump by asking the woman to be respectful of her daughter. The woman, who called Heyer a hero, complied, and there were no other outbursts,” Ellie Silverman, Arelis R.
Hernández and Steve Hendrix report from Charlottesville .
“In her remarks at the service, Bro described a determined, argumentative and passionate woman who made an impact on her community despite never going to college. She implored those who wished to honor Heyer to pay attention to social events in the way that her daughter had taught her and others to do.
Citing a Facebook post of Heyer’s, Bro said: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’”
The Veterans Affairs secretary, a holdover from the Obama administration, said yesterday that he is “outraged” by what he saw from neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville. “Shulkin, who is Jewish, spoke to reporters and said that although he serves Trump, he does not speak for him,” Dan Lamothe reports .
“I do feel like as an American and as a member of the Cabinet, that I can speak for my own personal opinions on this, and I am outraged by the behavior that I have seen with the Nazis and the white supremacists,” Shulkin said.
“I am outraged on the use of violence — to be able to put one’s ideals, and force them upon others.”
Shulkin said it is “a dishonor to our country’s veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.” He then Quote: d the famous poem by Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller that begins, “First they came for the Socialists.”
“I strongly believe that, and I believe that history teaches us that if we don’t do that, we’re going to get ourselves down a road that isn’t consistent with what America stands for,” Shulkin said. He added that “staying silent on these issues is not acceptable,” and that he will continue to speak up for things that he believes are important.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr. speaks to reporters at the Pentagon. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff:
The commanders of each service branch of the military, who normally steer clear of anything that has even a whiff of politics, have each spoken out strongly against racism this week.
The chief of Naval Operations:
Events in Charlottesville unacceptable & musnt be tolerated @USNavy forever stands against intolerance & hatred..
— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) August 16, 2017 From a Post satire columnist:
I found the protester who just loves statues and doesn’t even know what racism means but it was just a bunch of pigeons disguised in a coat
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) August 16, 2017 From a Wall Street Journal reporter in Berlin:
Berlin Stands with Charlottesville demonstration tonight before the Brandenburg Gate (chanting: “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA”) pic.twitter.com/HkMWhqE3AR
— Sara Germano (@germanotes) August 16, 2017 HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Obama’s administration requested a Bikeshare station at the White House.
Trump’s team just had it removed,” from Perry Stein : “The District’s Department of Transportation confirmed Wednesday that it removed the nine-slot Bikeshare station this week at the Trump administration’s request. Unlike every other Bikeshare station in the region, this one was not accessible to the public and could only be used by commuters who had access to White House grounds.
The Obama administration requested the station in 2010. It’s unclear why the White House wanted it removed …”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Urine Art Show Aims 200 Gallon Stream Of Dissent At Donald Trump in SoHo,” from Patch : “An exhibit going on show in SoHo next month is designed to aim a stream of dissent at President Donald Trump’s administration – and it consists of 200 gallons of the creator’s own urine. Transgender artist Cassils’ installation comments on Trump’s February decision to rescind protections for transgender students.
The gallery described the piece as a ‘minimalist structure’ filled with all of the liquid that the artist has passed since Trump revoked the Obama administration’s instructions to schools to allow students to use the bathroom of their choice.
Trump is in Bedminster, N.J. This afternoon, he will have lunch with the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, before meeting with the administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Quote: OF THE DAY:
At Heather Heyer’s funeral, longtime friend Justin Marks, 30, said he watched a live-stream with her on Friday night of the hundreds of torch-wielding marchers. “She was just saying how crazy it was that this was happening in our town,” Marks said.
“She didn’t think what they were chanting was peaceful.” But she didn’t hate those people, he added.
“Heather didn’t have to stand up for anybody’s rights. She was a straight white woman. She didn’t have to show up that day,” Marks said. “I hope that speaks to people in the same position.” ( Ellie Silverman, Arelis R. Hernández and Steve Hendrix )
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Humid and cloudy with some storms ahead, per today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast : “Partly cloudy this morning with mostly cloudy conditions this afternoon.
Temperatures advance into the middle to upper 80s for highs. Moderate to high humidity causes heat indices to register well up into the 90s. Scattered afternoon and evening thunderstorms could deliver some heavy downpours at times.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert calls Trump the first “racist grandpa” president:
Jimmy Kimmel shows us a preview of Trump Tower, the movie:
He also interviews Kellyanne Conway:
See Seth Meyers’s take on the moment:
Conan O’Brien gives us celebrity surveys with Trump and Bannon:.