I believe the appropriate maxim is, “Better late than never.”
President Donald Trump applied multiple layers of criticism to precisely the right targets in comments Monday morning after a weekend of being slammed for not doing it Saturday.
“Racism is evil,” he said in addressing the bleak events in Charlottesville, Va., “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
There, that should do it. In some alternate universe. In the one where we live, the goal posts moved immediately.
I heard Republican critics of Trump call the expanded comments forced and unconvincing, while liberal voices lunged for familiar index cards. He may have said the right things at last, said some, but his administration is still rife with racists and he still seeks the approval of white supremacists.
Right. That’s why David Duke blasted him for “attacking” his buddies with the Saturday remarks that spoke out against hate and bigotry broadly. This would be the David Duke whom many Democrats want you to recognize as Trump’s 2020 campaign manager.
Conservatives should not have to spend long hours rebutting charges of racism. But we do, and we must, because sadly, there are plenty of reckless people spreading such charges, and plenty of inattentive people who will believe them.
By the way, that is precisely the reason Trump should have called out specific hate groups Saturday. His generalized remarks were appropriate, but incomplete, creating an open door for the attacks of enemies and another unnecessary explanatory burden for supporters.
So list me among those who wish his Monday words had been his Saturday words. Why the delay? Was it because Trump shares views with the racist thuggery on display in Charlottesville? Is it because he seeks to curry favor with them as a valuable part of his base?
Those are the fantasies of his haters. The real reason, though, creates some heavy lifting for supporters: He toyed with us for a couple of days because he knew his critics would go nuts, and they did.
He put a 48-hour time delay on striking the right tone so that his posturing Republican critics would take predictable potshots while Democrats wove delusions of a White House infested by Klansmen.
So as California Congresswoman Maxine Waters was coining her latest gem – that the White House is now the “White Supremacists’ House” – Trump was biding his time, preparing to disarm his shrillest detractors with exactly the words needed to achieve levels of proper revulsion.
So the word games are over, or should be. The Trump administration is bringing every investigative lens to focus on what happened to create the tragedy of Charlottesville.
Virulent racism is obviously part of the fuel. So are counter-protesters who showed up willing to exude violent intent before the car ever plowed into the crowd.
In the aftermath, the attempt to smear Trump with his most hateful voters is vicious dishonesty of the highest order. Did Bernie Sanders deserve the reputational stain of having a fan who sought to assassinate a slew of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice?
The investigative wheels will now properly turn, surely accompanied by the soundtrack of craven opportunism from Trump critics who will seek to festoon his presidency with the imagery of white hoods and swastikas.
It is a valid opinion that the president took too long to say the right thing. But the claim that this is a sign of kinship with hate groups is unhinged slander.
Mark Davis is a radio host and frequent contributing columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Reach him by email at email@example.com.