In most of President Trump's unpresidential moments, he speaks when he should remain silent. On Saturday, as Nazis and white supremacists — many dressed and armed as militias — brought down havoc and death upon Charlottesville, Va., Trump committed the opposite sin: He did not say what needed saying.
Trump, who blasted President Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign for their reticence to call "radical Islamic terror" by its name, on Saturday resorted to incoherent and intentionally vague platitudes instead of condemning by name the perpetrators.
"We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for," Trump wrote nonsensically on Twitter in his first statement of the day. "There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!"
Senators and governors of his party, in contrast, had no problem naming and condemning the white supremacists.
After a police helicopter crashed killing two officers, Trump extended condolences to those police deceased, but he failed to mention the young woman, peacefully protesting the white supremacists, who was mowed down by a car in an apparent act of terrorist murder.
In a sense, Trump's most glaring sin of omission was his refusal to renounce those of the racists who waved his banner. Trump's "make America great again" hats reportedly covered many of the heads marching for white supremacy.
Far worse, professional lifelong racist David Duke reportedly declared at a Saturday rally in Charlottesville, "We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump" to "take our country back," yet Trump said nothing to denounce and reject Duke.
Nobody has an obligation to denounce every kook and racist in the country. But when a prominent racist declares, at a rally featuring people wearing your campaign slogan, that he is carrying out your agenda, and you are the president of the United States, there is an obligation to speak out. It's not hard. Ronald Reagan, as usual, did it right.
"Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse," Reagan wrote after the Ku Klux Klan endorsed him. "The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood."
White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members today believe they are carrying out Trump's agenda. Trump has a moral obligation to publicly and forcefully condemn them and reject their support. The horrors in Charlottesville provide him the opportunity to do so.