Donald Trump’s vacillation on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia has rocked his administration. Speculation has been rising that many top officials may be looking for a way out, including Gary Cohn, the chief financial adviser to the White House. Wednesday morning saw more than a dozen of the nation’s most powerful C.E.O.s joined a conference call. After a brief debate, an accord was reached. The Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forums were to be disbanded. This is a blow to a president who came into office boasting of his close ties with business leaders.
A whole galaxy of business executives broke ties with Trump on Wednesday. The day before, he enraged the nation by assigning blame to white nationalists and counter-protesters in equal measure for the riots over the weekend that left Heather Heyer dead. For many, that was the final straw.
America does not like Nazis. Foreign radicalism has never taken deep root over here. When fascism was running rampant like wildfire in all parts of Europe, a couple of organizations tried it here, like the Silver Shirts and the German- American Bund(which slapped a swastika over the face of George Washington and called it a flag). Their leaders ended up in prison for sedition and fraud, and that was the end of that. Many Americans, including the author of this article, had family members who fought to topple Hitler from his perch in Europe. Some of them did not come back.
However, not everyone is reacting with the sadness and shock the event deserves. On Thursday, following the wake of the Barcelona attacks that left 13 dead, the president was quick to condemn it as terrorism, but refused to apply the same word to the van that ran down Heather Heyer. “Call it whatever you want”, he said dismissively. Justin Moore, the Grand Dragon for the Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan, said he was glad Heyer died in the attack. And sources close to Steve Bannon told NBC News that he feels on safe ground amid the turmoil surrounding the Charlottesville murder.
All of this is said to have many in the president’s close council in a highly uncertain state of mind. The gist of it seems to be, “How much more can we take?” Many leaders involved in the administration thought Trump’s statement on Monday was sufficient. He condemned the hate groups by name. However, they were livid and sickened with Trump’s follow-up remarks on Tuesday, according to the offices of two CEOs. It seems likely that more resignations will follow.
Other Republicans, both in the government and in the business community, have expressed serious concerns that the president will be able to bring to the table the focus and will to enact tax reforms. The realization of this cherished issue, which many have considered the keystone issue of the presidency, is considered by them to be imperiled. This is almost certainly true. The presidential support required will be hard to muster, coming as it does at a new low of trust and cooperation between Trump and GOP members in Congress.
The term “draining the swamp” does not belong to Trump, but it has been made extremely famous by him in recent times. It refers to the cutting down of big government, a traditional goal of industry. It has not traditionally meant the leaving of 85% of government positions unfilled completely, though, as they were as recently as June.
The discipline many were hoping to see General John Kelly impose upon this unruly administration is proving to be a flop as well. Kelly was photographed on Tuesday during the president’s controversial press conference, head down and grimacing, as the president stood at his podium informing us that there were some “very nice people” among the neo-Nazis throwing up Hitler salutes and running down young women. The transcripts of the speech are a sickening jumble of evasions, half-truths, and attempts to change the subject. It does not seem unreasonable that we ought to expect better from the occupant of our highest office.
With each passing day, the process of governing the country is producing greater friction. The number of neutral people is growing very low. And the one heartening point of the week’s events so far has been the unbelievable turnout against racism, Nazism, and hateful extremism of all shapes and sizes. Richard Spencer has been having all his rallies cancelled. Confederate statues have fallen en masse from shore to shore(in spite of the President’s laments as to their absence), and bipartisan disgust has arisen in gigantic number.
This whole Charlottesville event, touted as the biggest white power rally in decades, will be chalked up as the worst net loss for Nazism since V-E Day in 1945. Far from empowering their base, and garnering support for themselves, they have accomplished nothing more than the committing of an atrocity and the destabilizing of their large orange Fuhrer’s already tenuous legitimacy. They have become the architects of their own destruction.