Writing in the Washington Post, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, hammered President Donald Trump for “babbling in the face of tragedy.”
Following the death of one woman and the injuring of nineteen others by a white nationalist who drove a car into a crowd of protesters in Virginia on Saturday, Trump addressed the nation and blamed “many sides” which has led to criticism of the the president across the board.
According to conservative Michael Gerson, who wrote speeches for George W. Bush, Trump’s response was “Trite, infantile and meaningless.”
“One of the difficult but primary duties of the modern presidency is to speak for the nation in times of tragedy,” Gerson wrote. ” A space shuttle explodes. An elementary school is attacked. The twin towers come down in a heap of ash and twisted steel. It falls to the president to express something of the nation’s soul — grief for the lost, sympathy for the suffering, moral clarity in the midst of confusion, confidence in the unknowable purposes of God.”
“Trump’s reaction to events in Charlottesville was alternately trite (‘come together as one’), infantile (‘very, very sad’) and meaningless (‘we want to study it’). ‘There are so many great things happening in our country,’ he said, on a day when racial violence took a life,” he continued.
“Ultimately this was not merely the failure of rhetoric or context, but of moral judgment. The president could not bring himself initially to directly acknowledge the victims or distinguish between the instigators and the dead. He could not focus on the provocations of the side marching under a Nazi flag,” Gerson added. “Is this because he did not want to repudiate some of his strongest supporters? This would indicate that Trump views loyalty to himself as mitigation for nearly any crime or prejudice. Or is the president truly convinced of the moral equivalence of the sides in Charlottesville? This is to diagnose an ethical sickness for which there is no cure.”
Noting Trump’s campaign rhetoric that “dehumanized” immigrants, Gerson wrote, “Trump has been delivering the poison of prejudice in small but increasing doses. In Charlottesville, the effect became fully evident.”
“What do we do when he is incapable of outrage at outrageous things? What do we do with a president who provides barely veiled cover for the darkest instincts of the human heart?” Gerson asked, before concluding, “These questions lead to the dead end of political realism — a hopeless recognition of limited options.”
You can read the whole piece here.