Condemn the White Supremacists, Mr. President

The Editors, National Review, August 13, 2017

When he was running for president, Donald Trump often dinged his opponent for her failure to forthrightly name the preeminent threat to our national security: Islamic terrorists. Now that he is president and has been confronted with a different variety of terrorism in Charlottesville, President Trump has become vague and equivocal. His original statement deploring “violence on many sides” was weak, and the halfhearted expansion of that statement — from an anonymous White House aide, not from the president — is insufficient.

Of course President Trump is correct that there has been violence on both sides during the current season of protest theater, from the black-shirted rioters and arsonists in Berkeley to the white-shirted white supremacists in Charlottesville. In the latter case, the president’s denunciation of hatred and bigotry, while welcome, fell short. It is important that he join Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, et al., and call this what it is: an act of terrorism conducted under the auspices of a white-supremacist movement that has embraced terrorism and political violence.

This is somewhat awkward for President Trump because the cracked and malevolent young men raging about “white genocide” are his people, whether he wants them or not.

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Just as leaders on the left have a special responsibility to acknowledge and publicly reject the armed violence of the so-called antifa — who did indeed commit their own share of violence in Charlottesville — those on the right who are touched and sullied by factional overlap with the white-power ranters owe it to themselves, and to the principles they purport to advocate, to make it entirely clear where they stand.

And Republicans, for the most part, have done exactly that after Charlottesville. But as we have seen in the reaction from the Nazis and their allies, they do not much care about the denunciations coming from mainstream Republican figures and conservatives. They are keenly interested in what President Trump has to say.

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We, too, thrill to the sight of a rebel banner: the one raised by George Washington, the one that stands for the most subversive revolutionary creed the world has ever seen — that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

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You can have the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, or you can have your ridiculous race cult.

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