Charlottesville: Trump’s revisionist history

President Trump is “trying to gaslight you,” said Robert Tracinski in TheBulwark.com. Stung by Joe Biden’s condemnation of Trump’s infamous response to the deadly 2017 white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Va., the president— and his allies—are now insisting that he never said there were “very fine people on both sides.” Trump says he was actually talking about people who were peacefully protesting the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The trouble with this dodge is that there was no second group of protesters, said Jane Coaston in Vox.com. The Unite the Right Rally wasn’t a “spontaneous outpouring from Confederate statue enthusiasts.” It was organized by prominent white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler and branded with explicit anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery. The people Trump claimed were “protesting very quietly” marched through the streets with torches chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.

Still, Trump’s Charlottesville response has been distorted, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview .com. In the same remarks where the president made his “very fine people” comment, Trump also said the following: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis or the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neoNazis and white nationalists, OK?” True, the president was wrong about this—there were no other protesters. But he “pretty clearly meant to defend garden-variety supporters of the Robert E. Lee statue, and there are a lot of them in Virginia.

Trump’s “doublespeak” was no mistake, said David Graham in TheAtlantic.com. “Making a rational political calculation,” he delivered a rote denunciation of white supremacists, but winked at racists by blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He quite deliberately drew a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis armed with guns and clubs and the liberals who protested their invasion of Charlottesville. Trump’s strategy hasn’t changed, said Eugene Scott in The Washington Post. This week he called Lee “a great general. Whether you like it or not.” Actually, Lee was a brutal slaveholder who broke up families and encouraged overseers to torture those who tried to escape. Then, he led a treasonous war against the U.S. to preserve slavery. In defending Lee, “Trump is just defending a different kind of white nationalist.”