Let’s start with how Trump’s braying about the good people in the alt-right, white sepremacist movement, and how that energizes said hate groups. It’s not just that he empowers such folks, but, in the process, he inflicts self-mutilation on the White House and the office of the president.
NY Times reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman show how Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost. And the body language in this photo illustrates just how bad the WH staffers have it when Trump goes public with his defense of white supremacists and other alt-right groups. Is John Kelly’s WH clock running? It looks like it.
WASHINGTON — President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
Never has he gone as far in defending their actions as he did during a wild, street-corner shouting match of a news conference in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower, angrily asserting that so-called alt-left activists were just as responsible for the bloody confrontation as marchers brandishing swastikas, Confederate battle flags, anti-Semitic banners and “Trump/Pence” signs.
“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth,” David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wrote in a Twitter post shortly after Mr. Trump spoke.
Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist leader who participated in the weekend’s demonstrations and vowed to flood Charlottesville with similar protests in the coming weeks, was equally encouraged. “Trump’s statement was fair and down to earth,” Mr. Spencer tweeted.
Many sides to blame
On Saturday, in his first comments on Charlottesville, Mr. Trump blamed the violence on protesters from “many sides.”
After a storm of criticism over his remarks, Mr. Trump’s aides persuaded him to moderate his message by assigning explicit blame for the violence to far-right agitators, which led to a stronger denunciation of hate groups — emailed to reporters and attributed to an unnamed “spokesperson.”
When that failed to quell the controversy, aides, including Mr. Trump’s new chief of staff, John F. Kelly, pressed him to make another public statement. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, urged him to take a more moderate stance, according to two people familiar with the situation. But as with so many other critical moments in Mr. Trump’s presidency, the two were on vacation, this time in Vermont.
So he did. But then he reverted to the Real Donald Trump.
But his unifying tone, which his staff characterized as more traditionally presidential, quickly gave way to a more familiar Trump approach. No sooner had he delivered the Monday statement than he began railing privately to his staff about the news media. He fumed to aides about how unfairly he was being treated, and expressed sympathy with nonviolent protesters who he said were defending their “heritage,” according to a West Wing official.
He felt he had already given too much ground to his opponents, the official said.
So, given that Trump must always win, …
The president’s fury grew Monday as members of a White House business council began to resign to protest his reaction to Charlottesville. As usual, Mr. Trump found his voice by tweeting angrily about the news media.
More on that below.
By Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump’s staff sensed the culmination of a familiar cycle: The president was about to revert to his initial, more defiant stance. As Mr. Trump approached the microphone in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, aides winced at the prospect of an unmediated president. With good reason.
“Alt-left” groups were also “very, very violent,” Mr. Trump said early in his exchange with reporters.
He went on to assign “blame on both sides” — echoing his comments on Saturday, and reigniting a fight that has sunk staff morale after a brief bump in enthusiasm that followed the hiring of Mr. Kelly, who was to impose discipline on a chaotic West Wing.
Trump disbands CEO councils
The NY Times reports how Trump Ends C.E.O. Advisory Councils as Main Group Acts to Disband.
President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday after the president’s controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, rather than put “pressure” on executives.
That’s sort of like “you can’t quit - you’re fired”.
The quick sequence began late Wednesday morning when Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum.
On the call, the chief executives of some of the largest companies in the country debated how to proceed.
After a discussion among a dozen prominent C.E.O.s, the decision was made to abandon the group altogether, said people with knowledge of details of the call.
Two additional chief executives — Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M — had announced Wednesday morning they would resign from the manufacturing council.
Here is A STATEMENT FROM DENISE MORRISON, PRESIDENT AND CEO. “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the President should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point. Following yesterday’s remarks from the President, I cannot remain on the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. I will continue to support all efforts to spur economic growth and advocate for the values that have always made America great.”
The defections left Mr. Trump all but isolated from the business leaders whose approval he covets.
BTW - check out the Campbell company’s site for the alt-right letter writing campaign against Morrison’s action and her company.
John Cassidy at the New Yorker offers additional observations about those who did not resign prior to being fired - Corporate America Loosens Its Awkward Embrace of Trump
Before the Trump disbanded both groups, a majority of the corporate bigwigs who served on them—sixteen members of the manufacturing council, and sixteen of the White House’s Strategy and Policy Forum—hadn’t resigned. What stopped them? Perhaps some of them privately agreed with some of the sentiments Trump expressed. More likely, they were still fearful of incurring his wrath and retribution. If this was the case, then, as Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary, noted in a withering blog post, “it is a damning indictment of the President and of their own cowardice.”
Summers ended his post by asking the C.E.O.s who hadn’t distanced themselves from Trump to wrestle with their consciences, and with Edmund Burke’s famous admonition that evil triumphs only when good men do nothing. The Jewish sage Hillel had an equally apposite quote: ”If not now, when?”
So let’s take stock. Trump has burned bridges in the Senate (warring against Sessions and McConnell), diminished his respect as Commander in Chief (negative command reactions to transgender tweet and command opposition to discrimination), unsettled our allies (attempts by the McCain and others to reassure them), gone to war with the media, and now alienation of the business community - CEOs of large companies at least. What else does he have to do to convince America that this guy is seriously bad news? And that news ain’t fake, bubba.