Will Congress rid us of this national nightmare?

Trump at press conference on August 15, 2017
Donald Trump at a contentious press conference in Trump Tower on Tuesday, August 15

| Democrats warned us: Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president. Hillary told us. Obama told us. Democrats by the dozens told us. Yet Donald Trump was elected. Now we are paying the price.

We all knew who and what Donald Trump is. It was clear from the moment he descended that elevator and declared that Mexicans were rapists, drug dealers and criminals. It was clear when he told Billy Bush that if he felt like it he could grab women by the p***** because "when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything." It was clear when he concocted a Muslim ban and pretended it was for our security. It was clear ... I could go on for several pages, but it's unnecessary to do so. You know what he's done.

And until last weekend it looked as if he might have been right: he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Ave and shoot somebody" and not lose any support. Then Charlottesville happened. White supremacists, the Klan, and neo-Nazis descended on the city for a parade and "Unite the Right" rally, all under the pretext that it had something to do with removing a statue of Robert E Lee. A counter demonstration materialized, and in the violent melee that followed, a deranged young white man from Ohio slammed into the crowd with his car, killing one woman and injuring dozens of others.

Finally, after a telling silence, Trump made a public statement from his golf course in New Jersey in which he condemned a "display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides."  It had not been "many sides" that drove the weaponized car. It had not been "many sides" that marched through the city à la KKK with torches, chanting "Jews will not replace us." It had not been "many sides" brandishing Nazi symbols and performing Nazi salutes.

The blowback was immediate and it was vociferous, so the White House trundled Trump out to the microphone to make a statement — two days too late and way short — read uncomfortably from a teleprompter. It was obviously not a sincere statement, but it had been made.

Trump with copy of earlier statement in his pocket
Trump pulling out a copy of his statement on Charlottesville at a press conference supposedly about infrastructure

Then on Tuesday, back at Trump Tower in New York, Trump came out to give a statement on infrastructure, but he was carrying in his suit pocket a copy of the statement he had made before. It was clear he had something to say and he was going to say it. Members of his cabinet and staff stood by helplessly as Trump savaged the press and went back to reverted to his moral equivalence argument, "I think there is blame on both sides." He criticized "alt-left" groups for being "very, very violent," claiming that they had been "swinging clubs" while "charging at, as you say, at the alt-right." Buying into the alt-right talking points, he wondered, rhetorically, if statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would be the next to be pulled down. He excused his delay in giving a response to the tragedy by declaring "I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters."

John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff
The expression on Chief of Staff John Kelly's face says it all.

It is a disgrace that we have a president who does not know the difference between founding fathers and the leader of an armed insurrection. He clearly does not know or care to understand that these Confederate statues were not put up to celebrate any kind of "southern heritage" but as a way to remind uppity black folks to know their place. Most of the statues were put up between 1895 and World War I by the Daughters of the Confederacy (Washington Post, Aug 16, 2017), against the backdrop of Jim Crow and violence against African Americans (read "lynchings").

The election of Trump has allowed hate groups to come out from under their rocks. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are now 917 hate groups active in the US, mostly in the south but in almost every state. The SPLC Hate Map is a sobering reminder of the proliferation of hate in our country.

I escaped the Nazis once
I escaped the Nazis once.

Demonstrations broke out everywhere after Trump's performance. One photo quickly went viral, showing a grandmother holding a sign, "I escaped the Nazis once. You will not defeat me now."

So many CEOs on Trump's advisory boards resigned their posts that Trump was forced to disband both the Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Council. Trump's response was to attack them on Twitter.

The usual expressions of outrage came from across the political spectrum, with even Mitch McConnell saying "there are no good neo-nazis."  

But here's the thing: putting out a tweet is easy. But we're now past that. It is time for elected officials to recognize that irreparable harm is being done to our nation by a rogue president, and it's time for actions, not more words. It's time for the delegation from the Hill to go down to the White House and have a come-to-Jesus meeting with the president.

I would also say it is time for General Kelly, Trump's new chief of staff, to search his soul. There was a lot of hope that when Kelly took the job he would be able to impose some discipline on the White House, and perhaps on his boss. That's clearly not working. He needs to decide if he wants to have his reputation ruined by association with Trump. Were he to resign, the second chief of staff in as many months, it might just be a game changer. Similarly, if some on Trump's cabinet were to do so. But probably not going to happen.

Unfortunately, there's another reality that gets in the way of our politicians doing what they know is the right thing to do. It is this: while Trump's overall approval numbers are in the basement, his approval among Republicans is around 75%. Furthermore, in the current climate, a lot of minds have closed and are not changing. Two polls just out make that perfectly clear.

 
Marist poll, August 2017
The scales are dropping from the eyes of many people, who now feel embarrassed to have Trump as president and who feel he has weakened the US position in the world
Monmouth University poll, August 2017
On the other hand, Trump has his 25% who approve of him and won't change their opinion of him. It is that 25% that Trump has directed all his energy toward, with everything from his outrageous statements, his hard-right positions (often at odds with what he campaigned on), and above all with his campaign-style rallies where they can show the love.

It is simply depressing to think that in these troubled times, sometimes the best comments come from those whose job it is to entertain us in the waning hours of the day. Seth Meyers was eloquent and spot-on.

 
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Last updated on Aug 16, 2017

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