What Trump Said About the Proud Boys Was Unconscionable
COMMENTARY

October 1, 2020 by John Kass
President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, right, participate in the first presidential debate, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/TNS)

President Donald Trump’s failure to loudly and forcefully condemn white supremacists in his debate with Joe Biden was an unmitigated disaster that may have cost him a chance at reelection.

What Americans witnessed in the chaotic dumpster fire of a debate was this: an angry, stubborn and inarticulate Trump, putting his metaphorical foot in his own mouth, and chomping down to leave the stump twitching on the floor. Metaphorically.

Some Republicans blamed the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News. But it wasn’t Wallace who bit Trump’s foot off. Yes, Wallace did appear to run interference for Biden, which noticeably irritated Trump. Wallace may have helped to push the foot back in there, near the presidential molars, but it was Trump who bit down hard, with his own jaws, for all to see.

During the debate, Wallace asked Trump to condemn white supremacist and right-wing groups who showed up amid protests in Portland and Kenosha. Wallace didn’t mention a left-wing antifa supporter accused of shooting a Trump supporter to death in Portland.

This seemed to send Trump over the rhetorical edge.

Trump said he was willing to condemn the groups: “Sure I’m willing to do that, but I would say, I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing. If you look — I’m willing to do anything. I want peace.”

Biden quickly demanded that Trump denounce the far-right group Proud Boys, which has been linked to white supremacy organizations, and Trump said:

“Proud Boys. Stand back, and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what: Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”

Proud Boys. Stand back, and stand by?

Stand by for what? What would they “stand by” for?

And it was done.

To be clear, what the president did wasn’t merely some dumb thing blurted out by an inarticulate man under severe pressure. It was unconscionable.

The Proud Boys, validated by a president, loved it. The Democrats loved it too. On CNN, the network of the establishment Democratic Party, David Axelrod and other operatives mused that Biden should not participate in the last two debates. It would be the smart political move. Cynical, yes. But it would protect Biden from himself. He “won” this one. Why risk others?

While many media hot takes are still steaming, what might be needed here is a large bag of ice.

By refusing to condemn the Proud Boys group, Trump could hurt Republicans campaigning for other offices. Trump voters in key suburban swing districts will feel pressure to remain silent in the last weeks of the campaign, lest they be painted by the same Proud Boys brush. Black voters and suburban women, already a tough sell for Trump, may have been irrevocably turned off.

But we already can see critically important issues now being obscured by Trump’s validation of an extremist group. And this, at least for me, is an American tragedy that eclipses the personal ambitions and flawed personalities of Trump and Biden and goes to the foundation of the republic.

One important issue is the Democratic Party’s threat to pack the Supreme Court in response to the president’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Neither Biden, during the debate, nor his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, have felt media pressure to answer yes or no on court packing

Trump and his Proud Boys remark, giving cover to a fringe group that promotes violence, takes the spotlight away from the issue.

The other key issue is unfolding in hearings in Washington that should be the most important political story in decades but isn’t: the apparent political weaponization of the Obama and Biden administration’s FBI and intelligence services against a political rival.

That the rival is Trump, strongly supported by about half the country and reviled by the other half, doesn’t make what happened any less serious.

But this story isn’t tracking with voters. Americans are exhausted with politics and seem ready to turn the page. And the establishment Beltway media — particularly The New York Times and The Washington Post, which received Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the much-discredited Russian collusion story — loathe Trump.

Having led “the resistance,” are they eager to “speak truth to power” (their own) and publicly examine their roles in carrying the water for it all? It doesn’t seem so. The Department of Justice is investigating the extent to which federal law enforcement was used as political muscle, and U.S. Attorney John Durham is preparing his report on the matter. But it’s all being brushed off as Republican Party talking points.

Getting away with leveraging the FBI for political purposes would set a dangerous precedent. A future president might want to use those same law enforcement and intelligence tools against a rival. And why wouldn’t some future president do just that, seeing how America is mostly ignoring it now?

The tragedy is that if that happens, the republic is done.

And the republic is more important than Trump’s reelection or Biden’s victory. If elected, Biden will be expected to have it all painted over, perhaps with a thick, solid beige. And it will have been downplayed at a key moment in the campaign because Trump was stupid and angry and would not condemn the Proud Boys, as he should have.

Republicans were left to suggest, lamely, that he misspoke.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only Black Republican in the Senate, was asked about it.

“I think he should correct it,” Scott was quoted as saying in The Wall Street Journal. “If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak.”

Little things help turn elections. But this is no little thing.

And Trump knows it.

© 2020 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

Fossil Fuel Investments in Africa are Necessary for Economic Growth and Climate Resiliency
Opinions
Fossil Fuel Investments in Africa are Necessary for Economic Growth and Climate Resiliency

The Biden Administration has made climate change one of its core policy priorities. Understanding the global nature of the problem, as well as U.S. leadership in technology exports and international markets, the reality of the crisis demands that we confront global warming emissions both abroad and... Read More

What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic
Opinions
What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic

Memorial Day Weekend will be the first time millions of Americans have traveled in 14 months, signaling the possible end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But another virus, this one causing a cyber- attack on one of the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline, nearly upended these... Read More

To Build Back Better, Look to the States
Opinions
To Build Back Better, Look to the States

The continued implementation of the American Rescue Plan across the country reflects exactly the type of bold and aggressive action from Washington that candidate Biden promised when he told the country how he would lead us through this challenging time. It also illuminates the huge role... Read More

Can Companies Really Talk Politics at the Dinner Table?
Opinions
Can Companies Really Talk Politics at the Dinner Table?

With American adults spending over 2 hours per day on social media sites, businesses are no longer just anonymous entities that supply goods and services.  They are influencing people on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, participating in conversations with clear personalities while expressing opinions. The most successful... Read More

Employers Beg for Workers: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’
Opinions
Employers Beg for Workers: ‘It’s the economy, stupid’
May 12, 2021
by John Kass

Have you ever wondered what happens to flat-earthers? Not all spend their days eating pudding with plastic spoons and rewatching old sitcoms — or as fabulists hanging at the end of the bar, boasting of their heroic exploits until closing time. Some become president of the... Read More

We Must not Forget that Republicans Tried to Overturn the Election
Opinions
We Must not Forget that Republicans Tried to Overturn the Election
May 10, 2021
by Robert B. Reich

America prefers to look forward rather than back. We’re a land of second acts. We move on. This can be a strength. We don’t get bogged down in outmoded traditions, old grudges, obsolete ways of thinking. We constantly reinvent. We love innovation and disruption. The downside... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top