Since Donald Trump is so obviously an emotional toddler, let’s use a parent-child analogy to illustrate why anyone who is giving Trump credit for his badly belated statement about racists and Nazis is grossly misguided.
Suppose that you’re the parent of a child who, while on a school playground, walked up to a child of a different ethnicity, unleashed an offensive and ethnicity-based insult, and then poked that child in the eye. Called upon to apologize immediately, your child merely said, “Well, there are two sides to this, so we should both say sorry.”
After you drive the child home from school (lecturing him the whole way about how egregiously he has misbehaved), he runs into his room and slams the door, refusing to come out for two days. Finally, after you make it clear that his continuing failure to behave like a big boy will result in lost access to his every electronic gadget, the child relents and agrees to read a note that you wrote to the victim of his misdeeds.
How much credit should your child’s victim give your child for begrudgingly reading a statement that he didn’t write himself after being browbeaten into submission with relentless parental threats and cajoling? My answer would be none: the little menace should never get his gadgets back.
Leaving aside the macro-level impact of Donald Trump’s depravity, is there any meaningful difference between the child’s behavior in this hypo and Donald Trump’s behavior after the Charlottesville attack?
On Saturday, Trump winked at racists and Nazis and poked every decent American in the eye with his moral indifference — an indifference that humiliated our country in the eyes of the world, betraying the coarse ignorance that has become our defining national characteristic. Then Trump explained that there were “many sides” to blame for bigotry — presumably including the anti-bigot side.
Immediately chastised for his misbehavior, Trump then sulked for two days while the media, fellow Republicans, and people in his own orbit browbeat him into submission, convincing him that if he didn’t read a statement written for him by actual grownups, he was going to lose something he craves more than anything: poll points — lots of them.
Only then, after already having assuaged racists and Nazis with the dog whistle that was his silence, did he feign human decency by purporting to condemn white-supremacist hate groups by name.
We have arrived at a place where many feel compelled to congratulate a president of the United States for condemning Nazis and the KKK and white supremacists days after he should have — as though this were some extraordinary act of political courage rather than the caving in of a rank coward.
Trump, enabled by the ignorance and malevolence of his voters, has precipitated a collapse of American moral authority more swift and stunning than any of America’s enemies could have conjured in their most starry-eyed fever dreams.