So who’s up for another round of being lectured by celebrities? (Though in today’s case we may be stretching the term “celebrity” at least a small bit.) Montel Williams, the one time talk show host, took time out of his busy schedule of endorsements and infomercials to let the nation know that some of the President’s recent comments denouncing anti-Semitism and hate crimes were simply not good enough for him. In an opinion piece published by USA Today, Williams takes Trump to task for… something.
I’ve had it with Trump’s reluctance to issue a strong condemnation of the recent wave of bigotry in America. I’d hoped that Trump would follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan who famously, on television, made clear that bigots were not welcome in the party of Lincoln. Why couldn’t Trump— who spends every waking hour on Twitter — have shared a link to this powerful speech, under the words “this goes double for me”?
The answer is obvious: Trump is afraid to alienate a wide and rabid portion of his base — the bigots — whom he’s been mobilizing and emboldening for over a decade. With his approval rating at around 40%, Trump simply can’t afford to lose 25% of his base, even if they espouse despicable views. No president in modern times has built a coalition around this group of people. The fact that the first one to do so now sits in the Oval Office is incredibly dangerous.
What is it exactly which would pass muster as a “strong condemnation” in the mind of Montel Williams? He starts out with the usual disclaimers, saying that he’s been a friend of Donald Trump for years, has always respected him etc. He further insists that he heard the recent remarks but then seems to pretend that they were never uttered. Just as a reminder, let’s go back and look at what Trump actually said.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Horrible. Painful. Root out hate and prejudice and evil. In a separate interview he stated that these anti-Semitic attacks, “had to stop and are going to stop.” Exactly how much more forceful was Trump supposed to be? Was Williams expecting him to throw in some F bombs or threaten to start dragging people out into the Rose Garden and personally shooting them? It all sounded fairly forceful to me.
This is another sad reminder of something which I explored during the 2016 election on more than a few occasions. If you are in office or running for office as a Republican it’s really not worth your time to stand around answering all the calls from the press which demand that you denounce or distance yourself from this person or that person. Everyone with an R after their name is tracked and if one of them (no matter how obscure or deranged) says something inflammatory it’s expected that you will immediately stand up and disassociate yourself. It’s a fun game that the media plays which can keep a politician endlessly busy and distracted from the many other stories which the press would probably rather not be talking about.
And don’t even get us started on some of the hypocrisy inherent in these complaints and questions. Remind me again which party it is that continually supports and defends Israel? And which party is the one which seems to endlessly call for boycotts, sanctions and divestment from the Jewish state? None of that matters. In the eyes of the media nothing is ever going to be good enough. Trump has made his statement and from this point on he should feel free to simply ignore any of these celebrity excoriations.
For an additional reading assignment, check out Jeff Dunetz on why Trump isn’t an anti-Semite.