America neither deserves nor can it afford a president who does not care to understand that one of his most important duties, if not the most important, is to promote unity.
President Trump so far in his admittedly infant administration has failed miserably in that regard, but worse than that, he has shown no sign of wanting to improve.
It was bad enough when he refused to blame the racist alt-right movement for the death of Heather Heyer, 32, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Charlottesville, Va.
James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of deliberately plowing his vehicle into protesters who supported the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Trump on Saturday condemned what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” but he blamed it on “many sides.” His umbrella finger-pointing soothed the feelings of racist groups, “He loves us all,” declared a post on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. “God bless him.”
The bulk of America, however, was rightly appalled by Trump’s remarks, including prominent members of his own Republican Party. “We must call evil by its name,” tweeted Sen. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), “These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
Trump seemed to realize his mistake, and in a hastily arranged media event Monday declared, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacistsm and other hate groups.”
But in typical Trump fashion, he changed course the next day, apparently fed up with the notion that he could ever say anything wrong. Trump blamed the “unfair” media for not accurately portraying people “other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists” who also don’t want Confederate monuments removed.
“You’re changing history. You’re changing culture,” argued Trump. Perhaps if he properly studied American history, he would know it was the die-hards who erected statues to Confederate generals, primarily in Southern states, who attempted to change history.
Unable to accept that their heroes were traitors to the United States who rebelled to perpetuate the enslavement of fellow human beings, they erected statues of Confederate generals like Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and even Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.
It was also Southern “culture,” as Trump put it, to fly the Confederate flag at their state capitols; some even used it as a model for their state flags. Those vain attempts to legitimize the treason of their rebellious ancestors were also efforts to distort history and discourage civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s.
As president, Trump should want no part of the lie that the Confederate statues dotting the South and elsewhere try to tell. He should abhor the affection of alt-right groups. Instead, he goes out of his way to shift attention from the latest deplorable act that can be laid at their feet.
A president who can’t find the strength within himself to put aside ego and personal or political gain for the good of his country has no business being president.