The political aspect of the president’s failures this week is to reveal him as increasingly isolated. He is not without supporters, but it’s down to roughly a third of the country and one senses soft around the edges. That is not a base, it’s a core. A core can have an impact, but a president cannot govern if that’s all he has.
.. Donald Trump is binding himself down with thick cords of rhetorical inadequacy. People felt let down, angry and in some cases frightened by his inability to make clear moral distinctions when he addressed the events in Charlottesville, Va. There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured. It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated—clearly, unambiguously, immediately.
.. In times of stress and fracture, people want a president who’s calm in the storm, who speaks to the nation’s moral conscience, recalls first principles, evokes what unites us, honestly defines the contours of an event, and softly instructs. Mr. Trump did not do any of that.
If a leader is particularly gifted he could, in a moment of historical stress, succeed in speaking to the nation’s soul and moving its heart by addressing its brain. This kind of thing comes from love—of the country, our people, what we’ve been.
.. It struck me this week as he spoke that his speeches and statements are peculiarly loveless. The public Mr. Trump is not without sentiment and occasional sentimentality, but the deeper wells of a broader love seem not there to draw from. Seven months in, people know they can look to him for a reaction, a statement, an announcement, but not for comfort, inspiration, higher meaning.
.. After the church shootings in Charleston, S.C., two years ago, the great and immediate moral leaders were the victims’ families, whose words at the shooter’s bond hearing spread throughout the country within 24 hours. “I forgive you.” “We are praying for you.” It was the authentic voice of American Christianity, of Wednesday night Bible study, of mercy and self-sacrifice. It quieted the soul of a nation: We’ll be OK. This is who we really are.
.. When a nation tears down its statues, it’s toppling more than brass and marble. It is in a way toppling itself—tearing down all the things, good, bad and inadequate, that made it. Or, rather, everyone. Not all of what made America is good—does anyone even think this?—but why try to hide from that?.. Condi Rice said it well, before the current controversy. She did not agree with the impulse to tear down. “Keep your history before you,” she said. Keep it in your line of sight.And once the tearing down starts, there’s no knowing where it will end. On this the president is right. Once the local statues are purged the Tear-Downers will look to Statuary Hall, and the names of military bases, and then on to the Founders, to the slave-holding Washington and Jefferson. Then, perhaps, to their words and ideas. In what way will that help us?
.. Leave what is, alone. Be a noble people who inspire—and build—more statues. I’d like one that honors the families of the victims in the Charleston shooting.More statues, not fewer; more honor, not more debris. More debris is the last thing we need.
“Whatever personal qualities they might have had, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are known to history for one reason: and that is they lead the armies of the Confederate States of America,” said Melvin Ely, a history professor at William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Va.
“Washington and Jefferson, for all their flaws, achieved many things in their careers which have proved crucial to the development of the United States as a democratic republic,” he said.
.. While defenders laud the statues as testaments to Southern bravery and memorials to lost lives, detractors consider them inseparable from the violent movement to fracture the U.S. and keep African-Americans in bondage... Many of these local decisions have followed acts of violence. In the aftermath of the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting in 2015, for example, Nikki Haley, the state’s governor at the time, helped lead a move to remove a Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds... Each state gets to display two statues to commemorate notable people. There are about 10 Confederate soldiers and politicians in the Capitol, including a statue of Lee, placed in the Statuary Hall collection by Virginia...Two great-great grandsons of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson urged the mayor and monument commission to remove the statues in a letter Wednesday.
“Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists,” wrote William Jackson Christian and Warren Edmund Christian.
“Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols,” they wrote. “Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy.”