We’re arriving at the anniversary of the Charlottesville protest where a deranged white supremacist rammed a car into a crowd of people. You might think this would be a suitable moment for reflection on how far out of hand some counterprotests have gotten and the lack of civility in political discourse. Or you could follow the lead of James Hohmann, writing for the Washington Post’s Daily 202 newsletter, and instead, use it as an excuse to build a case claiming that the President is an unrepentant racist.
We hear the “Trump is a racist” chant so often (and have heard it since he announced his candidacy) that it’s almost become an afterthought in the media. The phrase has nearly replaced the comma in their style guide. But every once in a while it’s worth looking at the evidence they put forward to support the claim. This time the lead item is a reminder that Trump “botched” his response to the aforementioned Charlottesville affair, followed by links to a few of his recent tweets. It’s billed as the “big idea” of this “think piece.”
THE BIG IDEA: One week before the first anniversary of his botched response to the fatal violence in Charlottesville, President Trump again sparked controversy this weekend with personal attacks on the intelligence of three prominent African Americans: basketball great LeBron James, CNN anchor Don Lemon and 13-term California congresswoman Maxine Waters.
First of all, the only supposed “botch” in Trump’s response to Charlottesville was that he referenced violence “on both sides” in these protests. If you wish to continue denying the extensive history of violence from the left at protests around the country, up to and including attempted assassinations, that’s on you, not the President. But what about those tweets? The next “evidence” comes from the fact that the President made less than flattering comments about three people… LeBron James, Don Lemon and Maxine Waters. Later, the author tosses in Colin Kaepernick and a few others for good measure.
Of course, the reality is that Donald Trump calls his political opponents and high-profile critics “dumb” and any number of other unflattering adjectives all the time. Feel free to criticize that as unpresidential language all you like, but let’s not pretend that it’s exclusive to black people. He said the same sort of things about Marco Rubio back during the campaign, so I suppose that means he’s racist against Hispanics. And there’s an unending list of insults he’s hurled against Hillary Clinton so let’s add women into the mix. Of course, he also went after Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and a host of white men. Have we covered everyone yet? Oh, wait… he said the same sorts of things about Chuck Schumer so I guess he hates Jews too, right?
What Hohmann is really saying here is that if the President criticizes someone who happens to be black, it can’t be because he disagrees with them or is angry with them or just feels like taking his usual potshots at his critics. It must be because they’re black, right? This is the built-in insurance policy that liberal writers have when discussing their political opponents. No person of color can be criticized for any reason because if they are, the speaker is a racist.
Personally, I don’t think Maxine Waters is stupid. I think she’s crazy. But that’s just me. The point is, these endless charges of racism begin to ring hollow when you pick and choose the President’s tweets to build your critical narrative of the day. It’s actually more offensive when you decide to use the anniversary of an actual tragedy to sharpen your partisan knives.
It’s the same as when Trump was labeled a racist for his comments about rapists, etc. coming from Mexico during his initial campaign launch speech. That couldn’t have been a comment on the sorry state of border security and criminal illegal aliens, could it? Nope. It had to be about race. It eventually becomes tiresome enough that the public begins to tune out these endless complaints.
Do I think the President is a racist or an antisemite? Nope. I think he uses aggressive, harsh language which many people don’t care for, though his base eats it up and he knows it. It may not be my cup of tea or anyone else’s, but this political opportunism from his critics in the form of playing the race card has long since worn thin. Remember, folks… when everything is racist, nothing is racist. You should portion out your attacks a bit more carefully.