Donald Trump crossed a red line on Tuesday night. It’s not the first red line he’s crossed and it’s probably not the last, but it is nonetheless a stark line that will divide the present from the past, the before from the after.
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Before, one could pretend that Trump was being misunderstood, that he simply wouldn’t be pressured, that he’ll do the right thing in the end, as long as he does it his way. After, there’s nowhere left to hide. The President of the United States is an aider and abettor of Nazis, anti-Semites and racists. He is their hero. There are no two ways about it.
Trump’s tirade at a press conference in New York supposedly devoted to infrastructure and manufacturing was either incredibly stupid or intensely insane or both. But here is also a third possibility: That it was completely calculated and entirely premeditated, that it will go down in history as the moment when the leader of the free world revealed his true inner self; When he burned political correctness at the stake; When he looked America in the eye and said yes, I’m an enabler of white supremacists. I’m an apologist for slavery and Confederate history. I can see some “fine people” among those who shouted Sieg Heil in Charlottesville and threatened the Jews. I am indeed the worst that’s been said about me, and more, now come and do something about it.
While it may be premature to declare this the final unraveling of Trump’s Presidency, his astonishing apologia for the radical right brings his administration to a crossroads. People of good conscience who are serving Trump out of patriotism will have to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror. Responsible Republican lawmakers who had hoped to educate Trump or tame him will be forced to examine whatever is left of their conscience. Corporate leaders and people of stature will be measured against the CEO’s of Merck, Intel, Wal-Mart and others who decided to abandon Trump in protest. Those that will stand behind Trump from this moment onwards, from Vice President Mike Pence through John Kelly all the way to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be stained by the ugliness that spews from his mouth.
Trump could come out tomorrow and read another statement that his increasingly desperate advisers and aides will ram down his throat. Perhaps it will relieve some of the fury that is now being directed at the White House. Perhaps it will supply Trump’s toadies with a fig leaf big enough to keep on pretending. And perhaps Trump intends to “Unite the Right”, as his new groupies David Duke and Richard Spencer have urged, from neo-Nazis to Alex Jones to the fringes of Fox News, with Steve Bannon and Breitbart News somewhere in the middle. They can call it the Jefferson Davis revival or the Charles Lindbergh uprising or the Donald Trump resurrection or the Heinrich Himmler maneuver. With Trump, today as never before, anything is possible. Even the Lost Cause, it seems, is never truly lost.
Trump will continue to serve as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of its armed forces despite having provided ample proof this week, as if any was needed, that he is eminently unfit for his job. He will continue to do so for as long as Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which deals with impeachment, or the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the Vice President and the cabinet to temporarily remove a President from office, are not invoked, or for as long as Trump isn’t persuaded to resign. , Given that most GOP politicians haven’t qualified yet for inclusion in the Profiles of Courage, it seems safe to assume that cowardice and expediency will prevail, as they usually do.
Nonetheless, this day will live in infamy. Not because the President proved himself incompetent, which he did, but because he has revealed that his heart is with America’s dark side, with its evil demons, with the white supremacists and the ethno nationalists and the people who have yet to accept that the Confederacy lost the war not only because it was outgunned and outmanned, but because it represented pure evil. Trump has told America that nightmares can come true and when they do, waking up is hard to do.