By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s like watching a spinning top wobble on the edge of a table.
The question isn’t whether it will fall, but how far, in what direction and how much damage will be done when it does.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
President Donald Trump’s response to the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrate that he has all the constancy of a weathervane in a tornado and a backbone as stiff as a strand of soggy spaghetti.
Over the weekend, he deemed the counter protestors who showed up in Virginia bearing signs and prayer beads every bit as culpable as the racist protestors who came carrying guns and torches.
On Monday, lashed by criticism from the left, right and center for failing to condemn racism, anti-Semitism and hate of all stripes, the president finally did so, but grudgingly, with all the conviction of a dedicated drunkard preaching temperance.
On Tuesday, he was back off the wagon once more, again finding fault with the folks who showed up to oppose hate, bigotry and violence.
Perhaps he did so because KKK leader David Duke shrieked with horror at the president’s Monday statement condemning hate groups as, well, hate groups and threatened not to send any more gifts in white sheets to the White House. Perhaps he did so because the inner petulant two-year-old boy who seems to lurk at all times within this president and serves to drive so many of his decisions and actions managed to slip away from adult supervision once more and indulge in yet another self-satisfying temper tantrum.
Impossible to know for sure.
What is certain, though, is that the dwindling band of Donald Trump defenders now must be sporting neck braces in order to deal with the repeated instances of whiplash their leader’s constant about-faces have caused.
Perhaps they don’t care about the moral pain and spiritual pain Trump’s causing, so infatuated are they with his brand of bluster and bull.
Trump’s Tuesday pirouette was a prime example of how cavalierly he treats both the truth and his responsibilities as president. He asserted, without evidence, that the blame for the horrors in Charlottesville was shared equally by both sides.
That’s like saying that the people who were killed and injured by the car driven deliberately into a crowd are just as guilty as the bigot who had his hands on the wheel and his foot stomped on the gas pedal.
That’s nonsense, but it’s what passes for moral conviction in this White House.
In Donald Trump’s world, solid reporting that is meticulously sourced and scrupulously documented is “fake news” if it suggests that he is anything other than a mighty, mighty man, one who can bend rivers and alter history simply by pursing his lips.
But any half-baked wish or whisper, unsubstantiated or even wholly made up, that adheres to his grandiose estimation of his personal gifts is gospel in Trump land. Even cartoons altered (illegally) from The Indianapolis Star that play into his carefully nurtured sense of grievance are advanced as legitimate.
The president’s fantasies are so highly evolved that he doesn’t even realize when he’s contradicting, even undercutting, himself.
At almost the same time that he called for national unity in the aftermath of the horror in Virginia, his campaign released a new ad attacking his “enemies” in Congress, in the press and in the streets and homes of America. The ad said real Americans just want to let the president “do his job.”
The irony of the timing – asking for space for the president to go to work while he’s enjoying a prolonged vacation (as the country burns) – seemed to be lost on Team Trump.
More important, though, was the message.
Nothing good happens when an American president stops speaking of fellow citizens who disagree with him as opponents and starts considering them “enemies.”
That’s the way the folks who came to Charlottesville with the guns and torches feel about other Americans. That’s what they call those who disagree with them.
The Trump top now is wobbling out-of-control along the table’s edge.
The fall – and the attendant damage – may not be far off.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.