Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon gave the most disgusting public performance in the history of the American presidency. Framed by the vulgar excess of the lobby of Trump Tower, the president of the United States shook loose the constraints of his more decent-minded advisers and, speaking from his heart, defended white supremacists and by extension, their credos of hatred. He equated with those thugs the courageous Americans who had gathered to stand up to the racism, anti-Semitism and doctrine of violence that won the cheers and Nazi salutes of the alt-right hordes to whom Trump felt such loyalty.
After several days in which Trump and his advisers wrestled with what should have been a straightforward task — condemning the instigators of the unrest that rocked Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend — Trump revealed the reason that finding those words was such a struggle. He, too, is an extremist.
No one who values the best of what the United States has stood for could watch without feeling revulsion, anger or heartbreak. No one who comes from a past such as mine, which includes similar mobs rising up and ultimately collaborating in the murder of dozens of my family members in Hitler’s Europe, could view Trump’s performance without a degree of fear as well. Certainly, the same must be true for African Americans who have watched such mobs lynch their family members and seek to deny them the most basic rights.
That is why condemnation of what happened in Charlottesville came so quickly and naturally from leaders of conscience worldwide. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has stepped up to fill the void as leader of the West created by Trump’s moral bankruptcy and incompetence, immediately called the actions of the white supremacists in Virginia “horrifying” and “evil” and stated, “It is racist, far-right violence and clear, forceful action must be taken against it, regardless of where in the world it happens.” She also swiftly displayed humanity and sensitivity by expressing sympathy to the family of Heather Heyer, killed by an extreme right-wing act of terrorism in the streets of Charlottesville. Trump has yet to speak to Heyer’s family directly or visit the site of the attack, steps he took, for example, following an incident at Ohio State, when the attacker was Muslim.
From the United Kingdom to Italy to the Vatican to China, the violence in the United States and the racism of the extremists were decried by leaders who seemed to grasp the values for which the United States has fought throughout the past century. This tracks with a broader trend in which foreign leaders, some once seen as the United States’ closest allies, have found themselves having to distance themselves from the inflammatory language and actions of the American president.
Some of us have long been urging people to see that the Trump presidency was “not normal.” But we are past such discussions now. There is only one conclusion that any American patriot of either party can draw. Trump must go.
It has been perfectly natural during the first few months of this presidency for commentators and political leaders to treat Trump, his statements and actions like those of his predecessors. But in the past week, the dangers of his reflexive behavior have become even more crystal clear. In a matter of days, the president’s reckless remarks have triggered fears of nuclear war with North Korea, he threatened military action against Venezuela, he continued his quiet war against the environment and the U.S. public health system and then, in response to Charlottesville, he revealed his true colors and that he is not preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution as his oath requires. Rather, he is at war with it and its values — from a free press, to an independent judiciary, to equal protection for all under the law.
Since the Team of Sycophants will never invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him, the responsibility lies with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to reveal his wrongdoing. A great task is upon whistle-blowers in the government to challenge Trump’s attacks on American institutions, upon Congress to investigate not only his ties to Russia but also his possible corruption, and ultimately, upon the American people to vote out Trump supporters and enablers on Capitol Hill, and then, ensure a suitable replacement for him in 2020.
Every day Trump remains in office is a victory for the extremists. But in that same moment on Tuesday, Trump made it clear that to defeat the champions of hatred in the United States, he must go. That he also must go to preserve the United States’ standing in the world, to ensure the safety of our people and our way of life has also been made clear in the past week. It is now time that we follow his dangerous words with our own actions. It is why Heather Heyer was on that street in Charlottesville. We owe it to her and to ourselves to remove him from office as soon as the law permits. Trump himself has demonstrated the price of each day of delay.