Making close to the correct statement on the violence in Virginia 48 hours after will not make up for your failure to do that in the first 48 hours. It’s not because the media are “fake news,” it’s because the people expect the President of the United States to be their moral leader. The media in this case are simply reflecting the values of the country.
When you hesitate on a moral issue, it says a lot about your own morals. Morals are not something you hesitate on. You instinctively react with them. And the country thinks your Saturday statement reflected your instincts -- to not condemn the worst among us.
Your self-praised “great instincts” aren’t as great as you think. Sure, with your base they may be – but as we see in the polls your base, or most of it at the moment, is all you have with you. You are far under 40 percent approval rating and the base can’t save you electorally or popularity-wise at that number.
Your bad instincts are telling.
A guy who understands the media would see that the “narrative” for him is someone who is seen as an intolerant bigot. Someone who plays to the further right fringe to keep them under your tent.
This is a strategy credited to your “chief strategist” Steve Bannon, who likely is the walking dead in the White House. My guess is you will think at some near point that throwing Bannon overboard will be seen by the great populace as you jettisoning a guy who was a lead propagandist of the alt-right. That by eliminating him from your circle shows you are not a bigot. But there are more like him in your White House, and the sense is that you are the key alt-righter there, whether you accept that or not. I know, I know, you have Jewish grandchildren. But it’s not like you had a say in that, is there?
When you do toss Bannon to the wolves, you will lose support among the white supremacist, racist portion of your base. Trust me. They are not that loyal either.
Your delayed reaction over Charlottesville is read as a dog whistle to the worst among us that you are their guy. Mr. Trump, if being the guy of white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers is your goal in life, you achieved it. If being a positively remembered President is your goal, you aren't going to reach it at this pace.
If going up on Mount Rushmore truly is your symbolic goal, you are not on that path.
You won a lot by making the media your enemy. Without your beating up on them, the media do not enjoy great popularity in this country. They weren't exactly the most popular before you pummeled them when they are down. And, yes, Kellyanne, I see that the media often are lower in the approval ratings than the President. But if arguing that your guy isn't the worst is the best you can do, your political prowess is as strong as I thought it was.
Moral high ground, though, is the turf Americans expect from their President.
If not him, who?
By protecting your base, you are not, thankfully, positioning yourself for a second term. You are guaranteeing you won’t get one. I know that in your eyes you can do no wrong, but your vote isn’t the one that will make the difference if you get the chance to run again.
That’s among the things your great instincts don’t get.
Coming across angry as you do the right thing subtracts from your actions. You seemed to begrudgingly admitting that you were slow on the empathy trigger, and you were.
Taking two days to choose sides between classic American values and racism and bigotry does not add to your appeal, it reinforces what the majority of Americans think about you.
It isn’t them, Mr. Trump, it’s you.