Opinion

Donald Trump is giving Americans exactly what they voted for: Neil Macdonald

Surely some of them are looking in the mirror, reflecting on the part they played in unleashing this hatred

Trump

Each new lie, each putrid outburst, every carefully coded racist or sexist utterance, has to somehow be squared with the title he holds. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

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There's a weary sameness now to the coverage of President Donald Trump, not that it's the fault of the people doing the covering.

How many times can you ask and answer the same questions? Is he a hypocrite? Does he lie?

He is, and he does. Hypocrisy oozes from him like pus from a septic infection.

And what were once silly mendacities about crowd sizes or being secretly bugged by Barack Obama have now become uglier, more seditious things, reminiscent of his racist lie about the Obama family's secret conspiracy to conceal the fact that their son was born abroad — somewhere, you know, black and Muslim — and therefore was ineligible for the presidency.

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Trump said there was plenty of blame to go around for what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Were Trump still merely one of the business world's foremost mountebanks, or a cheapjack TV star, the matter would be settled, and unremarkable. There are many such people, and it's easy to turn your back and ignore them.

But Donald Trump is a man of unequalled power. He can, and probably will, attack other countries. He occupies an office Americans hold in almost religious regard.

So each new lie, each putrid outburst, every carefully coded racist or sexist utterance, has to somehow be squared with the title he holds.

Put bluntly, the slight minority of Americans who voted for Trump are getting exactly what they asked for.

Surely to goodness some of them must be looking in the mirror and reflecting on the small part they played in unleashing tribal hatreds in their Shining City on the Hill.

They wanted a man who would courageously stand up and shout "radical Islamic terror," a term the pusillanimous establishment politicians tried to avoid, for fear of further encouraging religious hatred.

Well, they got him. And he shouted that phrase to the heavens. But when a clean-cut young racist, one of those people who complain that America's "white European" (read: Christian)  heritage is threatened, murderously aimed his powerful car at a crowd, seeking to advance a political agenda, precisely as the "radical Islamic terrorists" have been doing lately in Europe, what did Trump have to say?

Asked if it was terrorism, he oozed this reply: "You can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. … Is it murder? Is it terrorism? Then you get into legal semantics."

Uh-huh. By Trump's method of crudely defining and categorizing people, it was radical Christian terror, or at least radical terror by a man raised in a Christian family. But of course that cannot exist, because no real Christian would do such a thing.

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The white supremacists and neo-Nazis, according to Trump, were attacked by the "very, very violent" members of what he called the "alt-left." (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Trump then returned to his original reaction: that there was plenty of blame to go around for what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend, when hundreds of neo-Nazis, angry people "of European descent" and garden-variety racists marched into the university town yelling about Jews and the need to maintain white ascendancy.

Trump, to the utter astonishment of decent-minded Americans, actually conflated this herd of swine with the protesters who met them. It was an exercise in moral equivalence, a semantic trick conservatives despise when the left uses it.

It reminded me of the oily pronouncements Yasser Arafat and his satraps used to issue whenever a nail-packed bomb would erupt in a Tel Aviv discotheque or a Jerusalem pizzeria, leaving the corpses and body parts of children and teens strewn knee-deep on the street.

We denounce all violence of all kinds by all sides, they would say.

Or: We do not condone it, but we understand it.

(Israeli authorities used more or less the same language after some atrocity by extremist settlers or soldiers).

It was meant to be clever, and reassuring to their base, but to anyone with a shred of decency, it stank of incitement.

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Prominent members of Trump's own party are turning from him in disgust over the Charlottesville episode. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Trump's weekend reaction to Charlottesville was no different. True, his advisers persuaded him later to issue an anodyne denunciation of the white supremacists who adore him so deeply (many in Charlottesville wore his demagogue-y  "Make America Great Again" cap), but he quickly and angrily returned to moral equivalence by Tuesday.

The white supremacists and neo-Nazis, according to Trump, were attacked by the "very, very violent" members of what he called the "alt-left," who, he said, arrived "swinging clubs," intent on criminal mayhem.

Well. It is true the so-called Antifa movement does not follow the teachings of Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, counting on meekness and absorption of violence, or pacifism, to defeat violence. Some of them push back, hard.

But Antifa tactics fall far short of driving a car into a crowd, and they don't show up with assault rifles on their backs and bandoliers of ammo (although they might consider it, just for self-preservation, because sooner or later some of those heavily armed far-right "militia" types will open fire in the name of white European-heritage rights).

Trump also questioned why Charlottesville would want to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the fight to preserve slavery.

Who will be next, Trump asked? Jefferson? Washington?

Trump calls out ‘alt-left’ for Charlottesville violence 3:06

That was actually a good question. Both of those former presidents owned slaves. Jefferson sired a child on one, which had to qualify as rape, given a slave's inability to form proper consent.

But expunging history, as some on the left demand, is impossible. The correct path is to let its artifacts stand and serve as reminders. Auschwitz, for example, has not been bulldozed.

Recently, the New Yorker ran an analysis piece suggesting that Americans are so divided and filled with loathing for each other that a civil conflict is probably inevitable.

I tend to agree. And if that does happen, it will without question have been egged on by the current president.

Prominent members of his own party – House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham, along with a slew of lesser-known Republicans – are turning from him in disgust over the Charlottesville episode.

Trump either ignores them, or issues threats and insults.

Deeply conservative writers like Charles Krauthammer call him a disgrace to the office. Trump yells, "fake news!"

The captains of industry on two of his business advisory councils distanced themselves, so Trump, after lashing out at a few of them, shrugged and disbanded the councils.

Soon enough, he will be alone, surrounded only by his admiring fellow racists. But he will still be governing from the Oval Office.

It bears repeating. Americans got what they asked for. And it oozes.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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