Monday, August14 was a big day in a developing story, the political blowback from the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday by a neo-Nazi who used his automobile as his weapon.
This murder, and reaction to President Trump’s initial jejune reaction to it, dominated the news cycles of Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the matter took a couple of new turns.
In the early afternoon, the President tried again to find his voice on this point. He spoke in the Diplomatic Room, and said the key words, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Later in the afternoon, Richard B. Spencer gave a press conference of his own. Spencer is the man generally credited or blamed with inventing the term ‘alternative right’ or just ‘alt-right.’ He also both promoted and attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. He spoke to reporters and sought to put his own spin on events.
Right Wing View
As to the President’s statement, Spencer was not taken aback by it, for a couple of reasons. First, Spencer played word games. The President didn’t say “white nationalist,” in his list of “criminals and thugs.” And though the President did say “racism,” since that word denotes an “irrational hatred,” which Spencer does not think “any of us” alt-right folks possess, that doesn’t really count either.
Second, though, beyond the word games, Spencer took Trump’s statement with a lot of salt because Trump’s own heart didn’t seem to be in it. Trump was reciting prepared lines like a child in Sunday school, Spencer said, and “only a dumb person would take those lines seriously.”
But the Charlottesville events appear to have been a tipping point for Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post. She believes that conservatives Republicans should go into campaign mode, preparing to nominate someone outside of Trump’s circle for President in 2020. They should also have an “open mind” as to avenues that may remove Trump from office before then.
John Podhoretz, too, has taken a very anti-Trump position in his reactions to Charlottesville. He writes that the instinct of the President is “do not attack white supremacists,” and that he violates this instinct, as for example in Monday’s statement only when, for whatever reason, he cannot have his “druthers.” Spencer, Rubin, and Podhoretz all agree on that much, though of course only Spencer among them prefers the Saturday Trump to the reluctant Monday Trump.
Ben Howe, in RedState.com agrees that Trump’s heart wasn’t in the Monday address, and he draws the lesson that the alt-right is incompatible with a healthy right, and that accordingly Trump must fire Steve Bannon, the important representative of the alt-Right who sits in the White House. The “non-scumbag Trump supporters should want Steve Bannon gone,” Howe writes.
Scott Adams, the conservative pundit best known for the Dilbert comics, finds humor in the situation, humor mostly at the expense of those who have expressed their unhappiness with the President, as illustrated by this tweet:
Left Wing View
It didn’t help Trump’s cause, or the cause of his supporters, that on Monday evening, after his speech condemning the KKK, neo-Nazis, etc., the President retweeted a conspiratorial tweet from one Jack Posobiec. Posobiec has written, “39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?” In this case, of course, the answer to “why” is that not all deaths are journalistically equal, and that Heyer died as a victim of domestic terrorism. By passing along Posobiec’s tweet, Trump signaled that he doesn’t understand that, or doesn’t want to understand that, just hours after he had done his best to say that he does understand that.
Also, observers on the left immediately picked up on the name “Posobiec”. This is another key alt-Right figure. A photo of Posobiec and Spencer standing together with chummy smiles on their faces at the Republican National Convention this year immediately ricocheted around twitter:
The general leftward instinct as reactions continue to unfold will be (a) to make the term alt-Right as much a slur as possible, and (b) to spread it as widely as possible, so the alt-Right becomes the right.