At multiple times during his presidency, Donald Trump has described himself as one of the most successful presidents ever. His response to the terrorist attack in Charlottesville seems to have clarified what he meant.
President Trump called the beginning of his administration “just about the most successful in our country's history.” He touted that “with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office.” He says he has “great chemistry” and “great relationships” with international leaders.
On what planet — other than Trump’s fantasy world reinforced by the many sycophants who surround him — would Trump be considered a success?
Despite Republican control of both the House and the Senate, he’s had no real legislative victories. Besides a Supreme Court pick, his so-called accomplishments have been in the form of executive orders — many of them tied up in the courts, or awaiting actual directives for implementation. He has yet to replace the Affordable Care Act with something “wonderful;” hasn’t created the “safe zone” he promised for Syrian refugees; hasn’t ripped the deal to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms and in fact recertified the agreement; and he signed a waiver keeping the U.S. Embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv despite his vows to move it to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, President Trump has taken actions that have left millions of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, and their families living in fear of arrest and, worse, deportation; is doing everything he can to undermine health care, willingly risking that millions won’t be able to afford health insurance; is weakening the Environmental Protection Agency, rolling back improvements to our air and water quality made in recent decades; alienated some of our closest allies; reversed progress on LGBTQ and civil rights; displayed stunning ignorance about and disrespect for our constitutional government; put in place a chief strategist who has ties to white supremacists and has vowed to “bring the destruction of the administrative state;” and achieved record-low polling numbers.
Trump reactively tweets nasty attacks on virtually anyone who criticizes him or with whom he disagrees, including Gold Star parents, members of his own party -- even mocking war hero Senator John McCain -- and is quick to condemn any mass attack as terrorism. That is, except when it’s a car driven by a white supremacist into counter-protesters at a neo-Nazi/white supremacist march in Charlottesville. When Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier announced Monday morning that he was resigning from president’s American Manufacturing Council in response to Trump’s failure to immediately condemn those neo-Nazis and white supremacists for carrying torches and swastikas, it took Trump just moments to blast Frazier on Twitter.
Yet, it took days and pressure from top Republicans for the president finally to state that those who cause violence in the name of racism “are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.” However, the next day he rushed to inform the public that he was not happy with his revised statement. Then in a Tuesday afternoon at a press conference, Trump doubled back and doubled down on the claim that there was “blame on both sides.” He even said that those gathering in support of white nationalism included “some very fine people,” while expressing sympathy for their protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. His clarification was praised by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who graciously thanked him for his “honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville.”
Few positions are more anti-American than being soft on neo-Nazis; yet, here, we have a president of the United States who has trouble unequivocally speaking out against them.
Not once in that statement did he call the driver of the car that murdered one woman and injured dozens of others a terrorist, nor did he condemn the marchers for their racist and anti-Semitic chants or their swastikas, confederate flags and “Diversity = white genocide” signs.
The U.S. presidency is often considered as the position of the leader of the free world. But, Trump’s statement two days ago was late and weak enough to prompt the alt-right leader Richard Spencer, an organizer of the Unite the Right demonstration, to call it “kumbaya nonsense.” “Did he say ‘white nationalist?’ ‘Racist’ means an irrational hatred of people. I don’t think he meant any of us,’” the racist leader said.
This is all on the heels of the Trump administration deciding to pull a grant awarded to a group committed to combating white supremacists.
Among neo-Nazis, white nationalists and the broader alt-right community President Trump finds some of his strongest supporters. While American values and leadership are currently crumbling during Trump’s time in the White House, he continues to be soft on admirers of Hitler. That is about as anti-American as it gets.
For the president of the United States, that is no success at all.