By J.D. Munch
On Tuesday, August 15, Donald Trump gave a news conference that should remove all doubt about the nature of the man who was elected President in 2016. We’ve had eight months of back and forth. Trump at times will pull back from Twitter for a few days, letting others speak for him, delivering speeches and managing not to ad lib, managing, if not to fully seem presidential, at least pulling off not fully un-presidential. He can go at times a few days, once or twice even about a week—before his next unhinged Twitter rant takes him right back.
On Tuesday, though, he delivered an in-person rant for the ages, making clear that he equates angry white supremacist racists with people who oppose them. He took a question about the alt-right, argued about whether such a thing exists, and then blamed the “alt-left” for their role in the violence of the day. He was angry and defensive, and he demonstrated in terms as clear as one could ever expect that he is unfit to hold the office of President of the United States.
Those in the resistance movement have of course known this all along—and all but the most obtuse of his supporters has known too. It should never have had to reach this point. Now that it has, though, it is time for those who care about this country, in government and outside of it, to rise up and demand Trump’s resignation or his impeachment. Trump is an embarrassment to our country, and he cannot remain in office.
Trump as Leader of the (Racist Sexist White Male) Free World
We have years of evidence demonstrating Trump has no interest in the concerns of minorities or women. His “grab ‘em by the pussy” moment should have removed him from any consideration for President, but that was just the most memorable in a long line of misogynistic statements about women. His feuds with women inevitable come back to their appearance; he even suggested that one of the many women who accused him of sexual assault had to be lying because she wasn’t attractive enough to assault. And even when paying respect to a woman—whether his own daughter or a foreign leader’s wife—he turns to physical attributes as the source of the woman’s worth. He represents the basest, most disgusting ways that men objectify women in this country, and cannot represent them.
His record is similarly clear on race. His properties notoriously discriminated against African Americans in the 1970s, when he specifically told his property managers not to rent to Black tenants. He attacked Barack Obama with the race-baiting and completely invented birther controversy, only admitting last year that Obama was born in the United States. He called for a ban on Muslims from entering the country, and couched the racist appeal in a transparent Executive Order that purported to be about national security. He continues to cry out for a border wall to keep out Mexican “drug dealers and rapists.”
And now, with his defiant, angry, barely coherent position on Charlottesville, in which he declared some of the people who dressed for war in the name of white supremacy as “fine people,” he has all but officially declared what most of us already knew: “Make America Great Again” is not a slogan that will lift the nation up. It is a dog whistle meant to inspire the fanatical, racist far right. It harkens back to the “good old days” of the Confederacy and Jim Crow, to a time when African-Americans knew which drinking fountains to use; where to sit in a restaurant or a bus; and how to keep their mouths shut or suffer a beating—or worse—in the middle of public square.
In this light, we can look to comments from Trump before about punishing any criminal activity related to the violence in Charlottesville. The implication most took from this is that the white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved would be punished. But on Tuesday, Trump noted that those repugnant people were “peaceful” and “quiet”—evidence to the contrary be damned—and distinguished between their having a permit for their protest and the lack of a permit for the counter-protestors. This sets the stage for a potential prosecution aimed at those who gathered to oppose racial hatred! The unmitigated gall Trump presented in his statements should disturb anyone, regardless of party, who cares about the freedoms and rights this country—Trump notwithstanding—continues to fight so hard to protect.
Trump as Schoolyard Bully
Donald Trump supplements his encouragement of hate groups with a general attitude that befits a grade school bully much more than it does the President of the United States. His press conference put this on display, when he shouted over reporters, engaged in his favorite name-calling (“you’re fake news!”), and ran roughshod over everyone there. One could see his staff in attendance tense up when he put away his prepared notes, and he quickly demonstrated why they should react that way. The rest of the conference consisted of statements about how great everything he has done was, angry lashing out at questioners, and a standing up for the rights of the bullies who had descended on Charlottesville. He put blame on those who stood up in the face of hatred and threats of violence, because the one thing a bully hates most is someone standing up for themselves.
Again, this is not new. The name-calling was a staple of Trump’s campaign through the primaries and the general election, from “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Crooked Hillary.” The names become particularly ridiculous when you consider that Trump is such a small man whose lying and ethical failures rise far above the levels of any other President in recent memory—including even Richard Nixon. Where others might seek to persuade, Trump instead attacks in the most visceral terms. He is unworthy of any public office, much less the highest office in the land.
So Why Now?
In a dark moment for the National Football League, a videotape emerged in late 2014 of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out and dragging her from an elevator. His team and the League knew about the incident; the NFL issued a 2-game suspension after an initial video that showed Rice leaving the elevator but not the punch itself. It was only months later, when the tape of the full encounter emerged, that the Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract. The league claimed that the initial punishment came without its seeing the tape that included the punch.
The Trump news conference of August 15 falls into a similar category. Everyone has known, or should have known, that Trump is a sexist, racist, xenophobic, ill-tempered bully who attacks as soon as he feels remotely threatened by anyone. His violent rhetoric with North Korea presented a frightening iteration of this with a potential nuclear war at stake. Still, when his words are reported and tempered or pulled back by his staff, people who want to explain it away can do so. Until we see everything firsthand, we feel a distance that allows some people to defend it and sleep better at night.
The news conference, then, was a punch in the face to the country Trump purports to lead. His rashness, his belligerence, his bullying, and his racism came not through a Twitter account or a late-night comedy explication, but through his own disgusting, spittle-flecked lips. His staff could only look on as Trump attacked the standards of the office and the country with evil intent. No one can deny the reality of what just happened: President Donald Trump aligned himself with white supremacists and Nazis.
In the aftermath of this debacle, the White House sent a memo of talking points to Republicans in Congress, urging them to back Trump up on his “both sides are at fault” position. Some are falling in line, but others are stepping forward to condemn the notion that fascists and those who oppose them are on any kind of moral common ground. As we see some dissension within the ranks of what has been a mostly united GOP, we as citizens of this country need to stand and push them to vote not with an unthinking loyalty to country, but with an eye to the heart of the nation. President Trump is a power-hungry fool who seeks to exclude large swaths of our people from the benefits of citizenship under a Constitution he only understands as Fox and Friends bullet points. In a nation of, for, and by the people, this cannot stand.
No longer can we muddle through with a system of party-line clashes and willful ignorance toward the personal, professional, and moral failings of a man completely unqualified for the office he holds. He foments hatred and defends its purveyors, and he is no longer mustering any attempt to hide it. The press conference laid bare what many knew and the rest suspected. Trump endangers the nation and its people with every utterance from his mouth or his fingertips. The politicians who have been willing up until now to explain away his Russian connections, his obstruction of justice, his constant lying, his self-dealing, his racism, and his misogyny can no longer avoid the truth: this man is as unworthy of the presidency as anyone who has ever haunted the Oval Office. The time for action has arrived; we must impeach Donald Trump.